Sunday, September 23, 2007

Blakeman on Quicksilver and Cooper's Hawks, plus Guess Who Came To Dinner Tonight?

Quicksilver's expression after the fly-by of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on her way to the feeder. I was sitting still; Silver was sitting still and so she seemed to take no notice of either of us. She zoomed right past Silver's face. As to his facial expression, I highly doubt he'd ever seen a hummingbird, not even on TV, and I imagine he's attempting to figure out which categories it belongs in. Generally whether it's dangerous or not and specifically just what kind of thing it is.

Who says birds don't have facial expressions?

Also note the raised feathers, a cue for strong emotion. Yes, I said emotion. I'm not sure what else to call what makes it happen. His feathers rise due to fear, aggression, surprise, sometimes even relief.

And below an email from Ohio Raptor Man, John Blakeman, with concern for Silver's safety when he's out of doors.


Nice discourse on Quicksilver. A really fine bird, indeed, one with quasi-human personality. My hawks have none of this. Raptors have "personality," but it's nothing human-like and is pretty narrow. Falconers and raptor biologists can take no delight in clever utterances or behaviors (except those regarding the cunning of prey capture).

I would caution you, however, regarding the somewhat remote (but not absent) chance of a predatory encounter with some neighborhood Cooper's hawk.

As I saw the photos of the parrot in the tree and out on the yard furniture, I cringed a bit when considering that any local Cooper's hawk would be attracted to the strange and partially sedentary behaviors of this bird. In a flash, a local Cooper's hawk could swoop in and nail the parrot before anyone could do a thing.

If you remained, as I presume you did, within 10 or 20 feet of the bird, it was probably safe. But if it ever sits outside unattended, for even a moment, it would be a Cooper's hawk target, I'm sure.

Be advised. Cooper's hawks (as you know) are everywhere these days and commonly prey upon birds of all sizes concentrated at backyard bird feeders. Cooper's hawks no longer restrain their activities to distant and deep forests. Today, they have adapted to the profuse avian offerings of American backyards, both urban and rural.


John A. Blakeman

(As usual when raptor cognition comes up, I have a wee friendly bone to pick with Mr. Blakeman about his opinion that "falconers and raptor biologists can take no delight in clever...behavior"--but we'll get to that tomorrow.)

John is correct in that I do stay within a few feet of Silver while he's outside as I did wonder if the Cooper's Hawks who were around earlier in the season might take a hankering to him. Though it's always good to have someone validate the fear so that I wouldn't sometime in the future be lulled into a false security and just go inside "for a second" to get something and end up with a few grey feathers where Silver used to be, for which I'd never forgive myself.

And because I was outside with Silver, and the other birds aren't really sure what he is and therefore don't hang around to be photographed, I started looking at the flowers. And as I was outside for some length of time, I began to think about how the context of the view of flowers makes a lot of difference. I daresay, a difference in the feelings, the visceral response of the viewer.

Looking with the vignette around the plants makes for distance and there is a pull to be closer perhaps? It's more mysterious, unknowable.

While zooming in, but not so much as to see the stamen, anthers, and the like for the biological view, there is, at least in this view (the camera position be identical to the one above) a highlighting of textures.

My feeling at least with the California Poppies is that the vignette in their case, highlights their simplicity. Of course, as this sort of thing is no doubt at least partially in the eye of the viewer, I'm not at all sure how the changes may strike other viewers.

Eventually I convinced Silver if were to have dinner, we had to go into the house.

And when we sat down to dinner, yes, Silver did trot over to the screen door and call, "Dinner, dinner", but he did not become nearly as agitated about the lack of response as he had yesterday though the audience was bigger.
At first I thought that Friend and Doorstep might have brought the kids to check out the weird bird yelling "Dinner" out the screen door, but on closer scrutiny, I realized it was Friend with three youngsters. And they all look to be close enough in their level of maturity to be from the same hatch.

Friend is standing in front. See the blue skin around his eye? The immature behind him does not have the blue and neither do the others watching from the bath.
Where is Doorstep? I'm not sure, but considering, she deserves a night off.
Donegal Browne

1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

I am not sure a nearby human presence would deter a hawk. Some time ago my (indoor only) cat was carrying on for no apparent reason, and I finally happened to look thru the sliding doors onto the deck, and there perched on a railing about six feet away from me was a humongous hawk of some kind.