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The hawk’s call means change

The first I noticed the hawk’s call was around July 4. I fetched binoculars and spotted it perched high in the tree across the road.

Meanwhile, the sweltering heat-wave and drought tested survival skills. The season’s alarming earliness gave way in Spring to eternal Summer. Shriveled native perennials didn’t waste energy on flowers. Potatoes and snow-peas failed. Lettuce struggled to germinate, then quickly bolted.

Former patterns in the natural world, around which we’ve made business decisions and organized our lives over 16 summers, were altered. A Monarch butterfly, anticipated in August, fluttered by in early April; peeper frogs appeared a month early; baby birds fledged in May, a month early, and parents nesting in the vineyard were seen starting new clutches.

All July, the hawk called, as if questioning some loss. Mate? Young? It shrieked for hours at a time. Crisscrossing the vineyard, calling in the woods below the winery, its mournful wail became a melancholy summer soundtrack. Did it not sound desperate?

Grapes, too, are ripening earlier, with many migratory birds, especially robins, still present. In the previous 14 years, they never ate grapes because they departed before the grapes turned purple in August.

But last year, another early-starter, robins, took 10 percent of the crop and over the last seven years I had been transitioning the vineyard to an earlier ripening grape that thrives in Alpine climates.

Some say being so smart and technological, we can adapt to climate change. How can we be so certain?

One daily walk to Glade Run in the valley, all of life seemed suspended in heat and thirst. Giant Joe-Pye tops sprouted brown. Cracks opened in the field. Minnows jammed hat-sized pools. Beside the trickle, we heard the hawk — plaintive, close. Eyes scanned the crispy meadow to a lone tree 40 yards away where the bird cried.

Next day, another scorcher. In the vineyard, I saw a red-breast light… another nest, more feathered babies.

Sweat beaded. Anger pulsed. But most of all, a fear, of where this will all lead. I stood, wondering, for 10 minutes in the sun. Should I scoop them up and throw them as far as I could, or go inside and research costly, stupid bird-netting?