Calgary Mailman Arms Himself With Tennis Racket to Fend Off Hawks

Surveying the treetops through black binoculars from her front step, Pat Rendle swivelled her head as the hawks began circling.

“Here comes the mailman,” said Rendle.

Holding a tennis racket high with an outstretched arm, Rick Tobin rounded the corner looking poised for an overhead serve.

With bundles of envelops tucked under his other arm, the Canada Post worker kept his eyes to the sky, skirting along Lake Bonavista homes delivering letters.

The hawks take turns circling — and screeching — before dramatically swooping down on him.

After a post man was repeatedly dive bombed near Lake Newell Crescent S.E. earlier this month, Canada Post suspended mail delivery as a safety precaution.
This week marks the slow return of door-to-door service.

“Usually, we have a grace period when they’re feeding,” said Tobin, armed with a tennis racket Wednesday morning. He switched from the baseball bat he used the day before because neighbours didn’t like the look of it.

Tobin, an area superintendent, and another carrier are teaming up until full service resumes when the hawks fly south for the winter.

Despite nixing their telltale satchels and ball caps Wednesday, the raptors spotted them a mile away.

“I know he doesn’t want to hurt me. He wants to scare me,” said Tobin.

“He likes to warn us. You learn to watch out. You look for shadows on the ground.”

Mail carrier Reuben Hawkes says he gets a kick out of the encounters.

“He swoops me lot. They’ll try to distract us. They’re quite clever,” he said.

The ears of most residents welcome the birds’ ear-piercing screech, blood-curdling to some.

Rendle says her tree-lined Lake Bonavista Street has transformed.

It has become Wild Kingdom.

“Anyone in a uniform is a target,” she said.

The family of four Swainson’s hawks are nesting atop a towering spruce tree on a homeowner’s front lawn.

Residents have been enjoying the powerful raptors’ presence.

“Just watching them grow and how fast. The parents taking care of them, teaching them how to hunt. It’s just amazing,” said Rendle.
The nest is nearly the size of an exercise ball.

Grandmothers pushing babies in strollers and teenagers cloaked with hoodies amble past unimpeded, but not unnoticed.

Experts encourage construction workers to paint eyes on the backs of their hard hats, and other tricks to ward off the swooping birds.

“Generally, just keep your eyes open, and a good idea is putting your sunglasses on the back of your head,” said Phil Marasco with Fish and Wildlife.

“They’re not a fighter jet. They’re a bomber. They make big arcs down, and if you hang out near trees they won’t hit,” he said.

“They haven’t made a whole lot of contact. It’s really an intimidation thing,” said Marasco.

The hawks should be leaving soon, he said.

“By the end of August they should be starting their migration to Argentina. They’ll move sooner rather than later.”

About 70 homes have been picking up their own mail at a depot since early August.

After a post man was injured by a swooping raptor protecting its nest, Canada Post suspended service “due to a health and safety issue that is impeding our ability to go door to door in your neighbourhood,” a letter read.

It’s the third year in a row postmen have halted home delivery to stay safe.

Canada Post says worker safety is important.

“Unfortunately, they continue to be swooped by the hawks each time, which is why two are going out as one person serves as a spotter,” said Canada Post spokesman Phil Legault.

“Also, as they have to time the delivery at irregular times of the day, we can’t say we have resumed regular delivery full time.”

In 2010, raptors were so aggressive in the community of Bayview, a postman was forced to wear a bicycle helmet for safety.

But a hawk attacked with such force, it broke the helmet.

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