This is my friend, Leonard. I'm not sure the feeling is reciprocated, but that's understandable. He's a bird, I'm not a bird. I have two eyes in the front of my head. That makes me a predator. I'd like to put Leonard in the same or similar category, but I'm not sure he qualifies. Doesn't look particularly raptor like, doesn't appear to hunt and catch from the sky, but he sure is feisty. If you've ever seen a Great Blue Heron beak-spearing a good size fish from the water and then wolfing it down like a St. Bernard with an entire chicken carcass, you might be hard pressed to remove his predator status. Leonard's eyes are dubious. They aren't entirely on the side of his head, but they aren't straight facing like raptor. Maybe he's some sort of hybrid.
But my eyes do me in for sure and he's certain to have noticed. It's one thing to be perfectly still and view the dude from a distance, and another to stalk him with an iPhone. He was not amused. It took me awhile to figure out why he was playing this hide and distract game.
Where I live cannot possibly be called rural; not in any sense of the word. My neighborhood is house to house, four on each side of a short square block, a few more on a dead end (NOT a cul-de-sac for certain). It's all pavement and sidewalk with mostly tiny yards. There are rows and rows of spectacular streetlights and four-way stop signs at just about every intersection. There's really no reason to put in a speed bump; behave egregiously and one of those kids will slam their bike into you at the very first opportunity. Speed limit is 25 mph, average actual speed is about 15. We are ALL terrified of that child horde. There is also a pair of young ladies (between 12 and 14?) who will stare you down from the middle of the road until you're reduced to a crawl.
Depending on how you exit the neighborhood, you will walk/drive straight into the industrial section of Thornwood, or go up the very steep hill on Sunnyside and find yourself in a transformed world. Down here on the Flats, they call it Chappaqua South and I kind of get that. There's a sort of windy route that drops you at the top of Wheeler Avenue. This route is Pleasantville's terribly dirty secret; its very own industrial neighborhood.
There's one other way to exit. If you turn left at the end of my street, you'll wind up at Broadway, right across from the Shopping Center of Choice. This is also Thornwood, which makes me sort of happy. If you're walking, which you should , if you can, because it's just about half a mile and the sidewalks are currently spectacular, you'll pass American Legion, Post 1574. The American Legion has a mid-size parking lot and a good size recreational field. Nanny Hagen Brook, which appears to originate in someone's back yard (google say so) runs south of the field and eventually joins the Sawmill River. The fact of Nanny Hagen Brook, in addition to the marshland makes the American Legion location very attractive to water and marsh loving creatures. There were a pair of Mallards living in the marsh last year. They were ridiculously tame. By tame, I mean nobody flinched when I got up close. I just got this look, Lady, really? You're in our personal space.
This behavior, including Leonard's was new to me. I don't think anyone was feeding them either; I think there might be a honey badger or two in the family.
Leonard, as it turns out, most likely had a honey sitting on a nest in that marsh and it was Leonard's job to keep that nest safe.
I liked to walk in the morning. I'd find him standing guard about two thirds of the way down the field. Always in the same place, always surveying the field as if he'd attended the Carl Spackler School of Predator Elimination. To be fair, I've never seen Leonard flying around with explosives in his beak. Even so, he surveyed the field as if he had a dozen grenades with their pins half pulled. Opposable thumbs or no opposable thumbs, Leonard can do some serious shit.
Leonard let me walk right up to him. Not as close as the ducks, but close enough to surprise me. I had the video going and that dude didn't take off until I was about ten feet away. He flew about thirty feet downstream and went back about his business. Sort of. I followed him. He looked at me like I was an idiot, seemed to shake his head and up he went. Leonard was freaking BARKING. Later I found out that's what they do; at the time I thought he was possibly defective.
He didn't fly away, he doubled back onto the field; went all the way to the far end of the diamond and just stood there. I gave up and headed toward home. About ten yards from the parking lot, Leonard reappeared and perched himself on the far side of the brook. The far side of the brook is maybe ten feet at best. Before he settled into the appropriate perch, he mucked about a bit, up and down a couple of branches until he found just the right spot with an odd viewing angle. He wasn't staring downfield as I'd expect. He was staring at the parking lot.
I didn't see a problem with the parking lot and he wasn't looking at the brook. I got as close as I could without crossing the brook (that seems to piss him off) and took close to a gb of portrait attempts. He issued three or four commanding barks and took off toward the parking lot. He landed on the sidewalk. I had to run to catch up with him. He looked impatient and maybe a little worried.
And THEN, the dude starts walking UP the sidewalk toward the neighborhood.
And THEN, I finally caught on.
Go home, Bitch! Go home!
Sigh. OK. Leonard. I'm going but I'm gonna come back because you have to learn to SHARE that field. Leonard left, barkless.
Every time after, I found Leonard at his post. I never stalked him again. I took some more pictures, but I gave him a pretty wide berth. Once, I needed to pass within twenty feet to get into the far end of the brook. He didn't seem to mind and I didn't press my luck.
I really am going to miss Leonard and I really do hope he comes back before I leave.