As I pulled in, relieved to be free of the terrible rain-bound traffic on I-5 tonight, I noticed a flock of forty pigeons wheeling in the gathering dusk over the arc-lit asphalt of the filling station.

Thinking nothing of them, I proceeded about the business of filling my tank. I fiddled with my wallet and selected a credit card, and fumbled with the pump’s keypad, and dropped my gas cap, and so on.

Once a firm connection had been made between my car and the Earth’s carbonaceous past, the rattle and whoosh of wings drew my gaze up. The same flock wheeled over the lot, now over the intersection, now circling a skeletal tree. The birds’ orbit was compelling and curious.

After a few laps, some settled on the roof of the station’s car wash, only to excitedly leap skyward, clapping and rattling as they launched. I stepped out from the covered pumping area to get a better look as they considered and then fled another bare tree.

As I watched them bank off in another direction, a larger bird, all alone, settled into the tree through the drizzle. He plumped his feathers irritably and shook off the water as he turned his head, eye on the flock. The redtail hawk had squab in mind this evening, and they knew it.