Yesterday morning, I parked my car on Montrose Avenue and Racine as I always do and walked down Racine Avenue to class at Truman College. About halfway down the block, I saw a large bird out of the corner of my eye landing on a railing. By the large size, I assumed it was a crow, which are plentiful around here. As I turned to look closer, I realized that it was not a crow, but some kind of hawk. For once, I didn't have my camera with me, but I remembered, for a change, that my phone has a camera in it. I fished it out of my pocket, and as I was trying to get the zoom adjusted, the hawk flew away. I was struck by how big the hawk was; the wingspan had to be about five feet.
As luck would have it, I happened to be on my way to my Biology class, so I told Roberto, one of my classmates what the bird looked like. He told me that I was describing a Red-tail Hawk, but that it was unlikely I'd seen one; they rarely go into cities. Still, there are two large cemetaries with lots of trees just a few yards from where I saw the bird, and Illinois is well within the area the hawks range, so I thought it might have been possible.
I got called in to work last night for someone who was sick, and I told my boss Dan about what I'd seen. He told me that one of his neighbors who is an avid birdwatcher told him that a Red-tail Hawk took residence in the area about six months ago.
Back last fall, I spotted a coyote sitting in Lincoln Park as Kim and I drove down Lake Shore Drive. I spotted another one in the city a couple of weeks ago, after I picked up Adam at my ex's house. I was driving down Lawrence Avenue, between Cicero and Pulaski, when I saw a coyote ambling across a railroad bridge that spanned Lawrence Avenue.
I haven't seen a deer in the city in a while-- years ago, I saw one crossing a railroad bridge on Foster Avenue, near a forest preserve-- but deer are regularly spotted in the city, sometimes taking up residence on people's lawns. We used to have a bit fat possum that used to waddle down our block, and racoons and skunks are occasionally spotted-- we live about a block from the north branch of the Chicago River.
I've been intrigued by Alan Weisman's best-selling book After We Are Gone, a book about an imaginary abrupt departure of human beings from the earth. Weisman pictures a world in which our infrastructure quickly falls to entropy without our maintenance, and plants and animals quickly retake the land we clawed away from them. Lately, it seems like the animals are coming in ahead of our departure. Maybe they know something we don't.