My bike ride home from work takes me up Milvia Street. It’s a gradual uphill all the way to Berryman at which point the road swoops suddenly down and then back up again in the span of half a block. The street is quiet and shaded by big trees and I usually zoom along enjoying the rush of air and the quick burst of speed that comes with the downhill.
One evening this summer, just as the momentum was about to give out, a very fat rat fell out of the sky and landed, unmoving with a soft ‘plop’ a few feet in front of me in the middle of the street. Almost before I could register that it was raining rodents, a screeching hawk came plummeting after it with talons extended and wings raised above its head. I caught flashes of tan fur, yellow feet, and a rush of red and white-banded feathers.
I swerved to avoid the rat and then swerved some more to avoid the bird. The hawk hadn’t taken a cyclist into account when it started down after it’s dinner and I think I surprised it almost as much as it surprised me. It didn’t get a good grip on the rat and before I could blink, it had flown off empty-handed almost as fast as it had arrived.
Suburban Berkeley has its fair share of wild animals – deer walk down the sidewalks to nibble on front lawns, flocks of turkeys stand on street corners like they’re waiting for the bus and raccoons, possums and skunks treat backyards like their own personal playgrounds – but this was definitely a first.
I stood there stunned as the hawk flew away screeching its annoyance and then I looked around hoping for another eyewitness so I could say “ Holy sh*#t! Did you just see that?!” But the street was deserted and it was just me and the rat left to bear witness to the sudden appearance of the wild kingdom on Milvia Street. The rat, which upon closer inspection appeared to be missing his head, declined to comment.