Throughout the year, but especially in winter, you can see hawks flying low over the marsh. These are Northern Harriers, formerly called Marsh Hawks. The males are silver-white with black wingtips. The young and females are brown. Both have long narrow wings and white patches on their rumps. They fly with a slow floppy flight using their hearing as well as their sight to hunt rodents in the marsh. Late 19th century ornithologist E.H. Forbush noted that as a harrier "bounds up and down in the air, it seems to move more like a rubber ball than a bird." William Quayle, early 20th century author, bishop and professor, described the harrier's flight as looking like it had "just bought a new pair of wings and trying out what sort of wings they were." In spite of these uncomplimentary descriptions of their flight, harriers inspired the name of a military fighter jet. But not all "marsh hawks" are slow erratic fliers. During migration, stunningly sleek, fast-flying falcons dive into flocks of birds like missiles seeking their target. Their pointed sweeping wings propel them toward their prey. Merlins, and the larger Peregrine Falcons, can reach speeds of up to 175 mph while in a dive. If you see large flocks of shorebirds or ducks suddenly take to flight, scan the skies for a falcon pursuing them. Watch the falcon dramatically match each twist and turn of the flock in an avian dogfight rivaling Top Gun fighter jet combat. The most common falcon along the Nature Trail is the small blue and orange American Kestrel. Watch for large hawks with white breasts sitting on telephone poles. Most of these are Red-tailed Hawks. Their tails are not really red, but adult birds do have a rather rusty colored tail. Such hawks are not "chicken hawks" as some people call them, but rather they eat mostly mice, snakes, and other small prey. Red-tailed Hawks serve an important function by helping control rodent populations. Thoreau noted that there is majesty in the flight of these "large-souled" birds. Take the time to let them inspire soul - soaring spirit in you as they leisurely wheel overhead on their wide wings.