Mother's Love

MOTHER’S LOVE

The bond between mother and child is something special, which goes far beyond the commercialism of Mothers Day, and just one day of the year.
For most of us, it is an unconditional, unbreakable bond, and I guess you have to be a mum to fully appreciate it.
But it is not unique to the human species and I once learned through experience that it can be just as strong in the wildlife kingdom.
It was some years ago that I heard a commotion in a tree in our front yard and found a young crested hawk low down in the branches, calling frantically to its mother who was hovering nearby.
The young male bird had one wing hanging low on its side and it was obvious it couldn’t fly so I wrapped a towel round my hand for protection from its sharp beak and grabbed it. Now, you’d imagine it would be panicking and trying to bite me through the towel and claw me with its talons, but amazingly it didn’t then and it never did.
So began my acquaintance with “Bobby” (who I named after another famous Hawke of silver plumage) and his mother.
It’s the sort of thing I’ve been doing all my life, bringing home injured wildlife as a kid and earning the nickname “Jungle Boy” from my siblings. During my boyhood and over the years since then I’ve cared for animals ranging from a young goat which had lost its mum and strayed from the herd, to orphaned wallabies and numerous birds.
However, my relationship with Bobby and his mum came to be very special and unforgettable. After I discovered the young bird, its mother landed in a tree close by and watched intently as I dropped the towel and cradled her offspring in my bare hands, stroking his feathers to calm him and examining the drooping wing. I found it was swollen from an infected cut on the underside, so a trip to the vet was in order.
Fortunately he confirmed there was no break in the wing, and asked if I wanted to hand the young hawk over to a registered wildlife carer. No, I had seen the concern in the mother’s eyes and I did not want them separated so I took the injured bird back home, along with some antibiotic powder.
He seemed to develop an instant trust in me, and took up residence on a branch I rigged up in our back sunroom, looking out over what was then bushland. Bobby kept watch for his mother who never strayed far from our home. She returned at regular intervals throughout the day and we established a pattern and ritual which would be maintained over the next few months.
Bobby would hear her first and answer in an excited high pitched call and much wing flapping.
Then, with the hawk perched on my arm or shoulder, we would venture out to the backyard where mother would be waiting in a tree with a juicy stick insect or grasshopper which he would hungrily swallow. She showed no fear at my approach and her piercing eye contact seemed to acknowledge that my wife Cathy and I were sharing in the task of caring for her injured son.
One quick trip to town leaving Bobby waiting for his mum outside on a winter’s day, almost ended in tragedy when we returned to find him floating soaked and bedraggled in our swimming pool. But a towel and Cathy’s hairdryer soon revived him.
As his wing healed and he grew stronger, his mother started giving him flying lessons from tree to tree in our yard then one day, calling encouragement, she flew off.
He followed her and it was a strange feeling of sadness and elation as we watched them disappear among the bush gums.
But that was not the end of the story. During his time with us Bobby’s mortal enemies were the kookaburras that I think may have caused his original injury, and a few days later I heard a great raucous cackling over in the gums.
I feared the worst and found Bobby was down on the ground with the kookaburras diving and pecking at him so I waded in, rescued him and took him back home.
Fortunately he wasn’t injured and once again his mother returned each day for about a week until finally they took off together for the bush once more.
We would see several hawks circling high overhead after that and we were sure Bobby and his mum were among them, then one day, sure enough, they both paid us a visit as if to say thanks and goodbye.
A couple of months later we moved down to Tannum Sands beach and rented out our Glen Eden home on the outskirts of Gladstone. I thought that was the end of the story.
But several years later I went back to do some work before putting the house up for sale. I was cleaning the pool when suddenly a magnificent fully-grown male crested hawk swooped down and landed on the fence nearby, his bright golden eyes fixed on mine.
“Hello Bobby, it’s good to see you again.” I said with a lump in my throat.
He watched me for some time before flying off and catching a thermal, which carried him high into the clear blue sky.
That was the last time I saw him but I hope the rapid development around Glen Eden hasn’t displaced the resident bird life and that Bobby has provided his doting mum with lots of little grand-chicks in the skies over the rolling brown hills.

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Mother's Love

John Mikkelsen

Tannum Sands, Australia

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Artist's Description

A true story of love and devotion in the bird kingdom.

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