Meena eats worms for a living.
Although, “eat” conjures “chewing” and chewing is not in her nature. Gulping. Meena gulps worms for a living, tugging them from the moist earth, their blind heads probing up between grass blades. Meena snatches their pink ends, though snatching is unnecessary—languorously selecting would better serve her purpose but, Meena snatches nonetheless. She snatches other creatures too: beetles, crickets, butterflies, so the technique works.
Meena jealously guards what she takes from the earth. Other Meena-like creatures try to steal her hard-won prizes but Meena rebuffs them with flashing slaps from her wings. There is one, though, with whom she cannot compete.
Hawk broods at the edge of the field, talons wrapped around the fence rail that borders the meadow’s high side. Below, Meena and dozens of her sisters and brothers bob, stop and snatch breakfast from between their feet. Hawk scans the group, watching for the telltale motion—the arched back and long pull of a worker extracting a mature earthworm. With eyes that can spy the metalic green bands that a few Meana-likes wear around their legs, he waits until he sees the dark line of a worm get stretched taught. Then he leaps and takes flight.
He glides low, his outline blending with the treeline behind the fence. Meena-likes startle and dart for cover as the kite-like menace passes overhead. They are not his target. Nearly too late, Meena senses the darkening of the sky. She struggles for a moment with thoughts of abandoning this fine meal but, her innate sense of self-preservation sparks instant action, she releases the worm and escapes Hawk’s descending strike.
Hawk steals worms for a living.
It’s only a part-time gig. He’d been soaring over this part of the country and noticed the shapes of dark-grey bodies flitting randomly in a field below. He fanned his vast wings to a halt and landed on the lightening-killed branch of a tall fir. From there he observed the spectacle below. Small birds made poor prey, his size and limited agility precluded them from his diet. But these dark worms the workers fed upon, they intrigued him. He decided to taste one.
As he learned later, his presence distracted the workers, dispersing them in frantic retreat from his approach. He finally managed to scare one in mid-flight who dropped its meal. Swooping around he located the worm, plucked it from the grass and ate it whole. It squirmed a bit going down, and was but a fraction of a meal but, in numbers…
Eventually he worked out his technique. Surely new rabbits would be born soon and he would resume his hereditary lifestyle. But, until then, he’d exploit the situation to the workers’ disadvantage.
As soon as he’d swallowed the worm, Hawk launched his heavy frame, beat to gain height and vanished back over the fence. He’d learned to initially disappear and observe from a distance, returning to his spot on the railing only after he’d seen renewed activity in the field.
Meena looked on from the brush nearby. This was the fourth meal she’d lost to Hawk since the rain had quit, two days past. But what could she do? Surely her brothers and sisters had no ability to fight, no will to risk their lives and no mind to organize.
But, enough was enough. She would get the robins of the meadow to rebel. Meena did her best to rally the troops and form a committee of sorts. How to combat this thief? Direct assault was out of the question, though, together, they could incessantly annoy and distract. The threat to any one soul stymied consensus. No one wanted to risk their lives for the betterment of the whole.
Discussion came to a snarl. Above them, the silhouettes of a pair of ospreys, a hunting couple, flashed their shadows below. Meena had a thought. She burst from cover and rose in tighter and tighter circles to the elevation of the raptors. There she danced midair enticing the handsome pair with flashes of her orange breast. Her teasing worked.
Down she plunged, barely in the lead. She spotted Hawk nodding at his fence-post station and made for his position. He awoke at the shriek of the male osprey. Meena cut to Hawk’s left and flew exhausted toward the trees.
Too late, Hawk realized his situation. He leapt and dodged but the osprey couple strafed the lumbering bird of prey with needle-sharp talons designed to pierce skin, fur and feather. Hawk dove for cover, but the nimble osprey followed him across the field, tormenting him with deafening screeches and threats of further injury. Safe in the trees, Hawk found a private stoop and hunkered in to recover. The osprey circled once and left the scene, heading to the river.
All the Meena-likes, poised in the bushes, waited in rare silence. Meena joined them and within minutes, witnessed Hawk drop from his roost, angle across the meadow and vanish over the far treetops, never to be seen again.