I spent much of Saturday exploring the Delaney Project, and came across two reminders of the cycle of life and death that plays out in the natural world.
As I walked through a stand of white pine along the edge of the wetlands, I glimpsed a red-tailed hawk being pursued through the trees by a single, angry crow. The hawk seemed reluctant to leave the area, flying to the next tall pine, only to be set off again by his attacker. Both finally flew off, and the forest returned to silence.
A minute later, I came across the still-warm body of a gray squirrel lying dead at the base of a pine. No doubt the hawk had caught the squirrel only moments before, but had been forced to abandon his meal when set upon by the crow.
Curious to see what would happen next, I took a two-hour detour to pick up a camera and left it monitoring the site. I half-expected the hawk to have returned for his dinner, but he had moved on.
Later that day I came across another kill site closer to the wetland edge. Here the weathered rib cage and vertebrae of a white-tailed deer lay half-buried in the oak leaves. Had this deer been killed by coyotes? Broken a leg crossing the ice? Or had it simply run out of food at the end of winter and collapsed in starvation?