Seldom have I seen a valley as a hawk does. As I approached one of the many crests on a steep fire road in Fort Ord, a former military reserve now open to the public, a hawk slipped over me on the breeze. I turned to watch it coast down the length of the whole valley, curving from ridge to ridge like a skier, never once flapping a wing, just riding the drafts as they effervesced over the slopes. It cruised over hills faded from green to brown like worn velvet, smudged with lavender from the distant lupines, circled over a small wetland and gained altitude again, effortlessly.
The dense woods of Oregon, which I love, would never offer a show like this. The bird would appear briefly overhead and vanish behind dense boughs, its path a mystery. Each raptor would have its own strategy: the California hawk glimpsing prey from a great distance and approaching with stealth, the Northwest bird employing lightning-quick reactions to nab a creature unseen until the very last moment.