Thursday, December 13, 2007

Backyard Hawk

He's back. And somehow he just doesn't seem very happy to see me. Now why is it that this guy just attempts to stare me down, unlike every other hawk that visits who flees at the sight of me? Is it because he's young? Or is it because he's been around for some time but I rarely noticed him when the trees were leafed out and he's used to my being around the yard without being a danger? A giant bore in being present maybe, but not a danger.

I'd been hearing the whining of a squirrel, and realize he's right in Backyard's face. Though when comparing their sizes, I don't think Backyard is going to be taking out many squirrels. I wonder if he's tried and is responsible for my visually challenged group of squirrels?

Yow! Suddenly he transforms into an unmistakable Accipiter. Rather like those little dinosaurs in Jurassic Park that seem cute and then they transform and do in the unscrupulous computer guy.

He preens but his gold eyes don't rest.

He focuses, mid preen.

Then glares again. Wow, grumpy. Am I getting in his way?

Stolid, he stares back at the park.
Did I mention that it's cold? And I do mean cold. It's around 11 degrees F. and dropping.

A little more preening but on the anterior this time. Still his eyes are collecting information. I find Cooper's eyes ever so much creepier than those of a Red-tail. Just think of Pale Male's, and Junior's, and Tristan's (PM III), round innocent looking brown eyes, their fluffy pale heads, though raptors and carnivores, they just don't look the part nearly so intensely.

Look! Legs! This is no stocky bird after all, he's just been keeping his long legs warm

A stretch.

And a quick turn.

He's back covering his legs. I told you it was cold.

He stares fixedly at the birds at the neighbor's feeder. She told me she's caught Backyard sitting on the feeder itself. He's looking very very interested about something.

I really am beginning to think he does not like me at all. Perhaps I am interfering and he doesn't want to come out of the tree while I'm here. Hey guy, Cooper's can take prey in the air, but then again they are secretive and he's been being quite exposed already.
I've now been out here about thirty five minutes, and my hands are beginning to be so cold it's getting downright painful. And me without those little chemical hand warmers nor Backyard's blood flow to my appendages either.
As he seems annoyed, I'll look at something else.

There's are two doves in the next tree above him. Notice how this one has sandwiched herself between two branches. Defense against attack in the way that Pale Male always sleeps with a branch over reaching his head? There have been no birds visible in my yard and only one or two in the neighbor's. Connie, the neighbor, has a section of close meshed wooden fence in front of her feeder and behind it a good sized bush. The birds must feel more protected over there.

I really do feel like I'm turning into an icicle myself.

Oh dear, did I bring his attention to the two doves? I do hope not. I can't take the cold any more. I really really need to warm up. Besides I'll bet I can get a view of him from inside the house.

Oh yes, being in the house is going to be better and there he is. Perfect.

Then suddenly he swoops off the branch and out of sight. Where did he go? He was just waiting for me to go into the house now wasn't he? Not so perfect.
I get around the table, pull open the door. Wings flash over the Spruce with speed and head into the far distance. Well, that looks like that.
A few minutes later I walk past the kitchen window. DRAT! There he is on the ground in the neighbor's yard with prey in his talons. His head whips around, he sees me, and he's off, zipping through branches to the east and High Street.
Fine! I've been wanting to see how he eats and where. Back on goes the coat, the boots, and all the rest of it. I grab the equipment and head out onto the icy snow. Unfortunately the ice on the surface isn't quite strong enough so that one can walk on top, crunch, sink, crunch, sink.

I take to the unshoveled path in the park and head east. The birds still haven't come out of hiding though males of different species are sitting on high perches checking the surrounding area. I hear a repeated, tic, tic, tic, tic. Almost like a fingernail striking a wooden table. I look up. Is the Junco making that sound with his trachea or am I actually hearing his beak tapping together? I walk a good way to High Street searching the trees or any other likely eating spot. Nothing. No squirrel whines, no Crow calls, not a thing.
Then small groups of Juncos and House Finches start coming my way from the direction I'd just been. There are Crow calls from the south. I turn round and start back, crunch, sink, crunch, sink. By the time I get back to the yard, there are no danger calls. I see the neighbor, who's yard was the site of the hawks most recent catch. She's up on a twelve foot ladder that's leaning against her roof with a very large hammer, bashing the ice in her rain gutter. Bash, bash, smash. Ice flies in all directions. I ask what she's doing and she explains the concept of ice dams in gutters and how they make your windows leak. Bash, bash, smash.
Wow, who knew? I'd have been in big trouble if I'd gotten an ice dam, now wouldn't I?
I tell her I saw the hawk in her yard with prey and ask if she saw him. She says no, but come look under her feeder.

She'd seen the feathers yesterday lying in the snow. I suddenly remember that I'd seen a feather in the snow as I'd walked into the yard, but I'd been concentrating on what Connie, had been whacking on her roof.
I go back to look and yes, there they are.

Feathers in the snow, then I see more, and more, and more. Had they been here when I walked the same ground on my way out of the yard while scanning the trees to find the Cooper eating? They belong to a Mourning Dove.

What is that phrase from Tennyson that Marie Winn, author Red-tails In Love, often quotes, " Nature, red in tooth and claw".
The Juncos returned to the feeder as they often do during civil twilight, busily eating, going about their Junco business, before a dash to the Spruce trees to roost for the night.
Then they too were gone. When it was almost completely dark, I began to pull the curtain on the glass door against the night, and there was Doorstep Dove pecking seed on the patio.
I'm so glad she's smart and waits until the hawks have gone to bed before eating at the end of the day.
It was so very good to see her.
Donegal Browne


Karen Anne said...

Lincoln has a closeup of what I assumed was a young redtail on his web site at the moment, golden eyes. Do the eyes of all redtails change to brown as they get older?

Donegal Browne said...

Yes, an immature Red-tails eyes are yellow and they become darker over the first few years, until they are a usually a dark brown. Some experts are able to age a young RT as to whether she is two or three years old by eye color.