A Hawk, a Chipmunk and So Much More

Written by Ken Leinbach
    Thursday, 30 April 2015
A Hawk, a Chipmunk and So Much More

“Look! Up there, high in the tree, perched on that branch,” an environmental educator directed his class of students to where a Cooper’s Hawk sat in a tree in Riverside Park.

Just moments before they spotted the hawk, a chipmunk had darted across the path in front of them. Out hunting for signs of spring, the class was thrilled at the sighting because chipmunks are hibernators and only awaken from their deep slumber when the weather warms just enough – a true sign of spring!

But now, they realized they were not the only ones on a hunt. The Cooper’s Hawk had snatched the chipmunk up and held him in the grip of her strong talons.

The students watched intently as she munched on her early spring lunch, fascinated by witnessing the food chain playing out in from of them. The educator leading this group snapped a few photos to capture the moment.

Later, when looking back at the photos the educator noticed a small metal band around one of the hawk’s feet. That’s when our Research and Community Science team started to investigate. They enlisted the help of Bill Stout, a hawk researcher in the area. They remembered that in 2010, a whole gaggle of mesmerized kids watched in awe as Bill brought down a nestlings Cooper’s Hawks from the nest so they could see as he put a band on their ankles. Could this be one of those nestlings?

After looking up the band number, Bill reported back that the hawk is a female and was banded in Riverside Park in 2010 when she was just one year old. It was one of those nestlings! And with this sighting, they were able to update the data on the now mature female hawk and add another chapter to her story.

An amazing thing happened that day. A group of young students were ecstatic to witness something fairly rare, and in doing so, they learned a very important lesson about our natural world. That’s the essence of the Urban Ecology Center – moments of amazing experiential education in action, dedicated ecological analysis, astute awareness of important detail, inspired learning and curiosity. We might have inspired a few scientists that day!

Just as in the food chain, everything in nature is related and depends upon something else to survive. These special moments are made possible by your generosity and commitment to environmental education. Thank you for inspiring future scientists!

Cowritten by Cassie Mordini, Donor Relations Manager and Ken Leinbach, Executive Director

Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach is a nationally recognized science educator and leader in community-based environmental education. From a trailer in a high-crime city park, Ken has had fun facilitating the grassroots effort to create and grow the Urban Ecology Center which is the topic of his first book.

Striving to live with as little environmental impact as possible, Ken lives in the community in which he works and, not owning a car, commutes by bike, unicycle, roller blades, and occasionally even by kayak on the Milwaukee River.



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