Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finally, the Red-tail in the Backyard

First there was one Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel; then I saw one about a third the size of the original--a baby! Before I knew it every time I stepped out the back door it seemed that at least a dozen of them raced for their holes. And it wasn't just my yard, the neighbor was vainly setting live traps for them with very little success.

That's when I realized that likely with all this bounty, sooner or later, a Red-tailed Hawk would make an appearance, and today was the day.

Today, doing a nearly unconscious scan as I do whenever walking through the dining room, I got a jolt into consciousness. Hey! There's a Red-tailed Hawk circling in my back yard! Red tail gleaming in the sunlight.

By the time I ran to the living room for the camera and opened the door--nothing. Wait something is hot winging it to the north obscuring itself with the tree branches. I can't tell if it's the same bird or not. Click, click, click. Is it a Red-tail? If so is it the same or different?

Looking at the photographs the answer to the first question is yes. See the dark patagial bar on the fore-edge of the wing? Is this bird mature or not?

I can't tell. See him just skimming the left most branch of the maple?

He's out of focus but if you look carefully there is a belly band.

Then he was GONE. I ran around to the other side of the trees, nothing in the sky. No hawk shapes in my branches. Drat.
He likely skimmed the tree line and then slipped unnoticed into one of the evergreens a few houses over. No squirrels gave him away. This bird does stealth well. I often have at least ten squirrels knoshing at the feeder so the neighborhood has more than it's share but this guy got past all of them And Wisconsin is nearly bereft of Blue Jays due to West Nile so not help there either.
I did discover something from scrutinizing the photo though. Look in the top right corner.

Doorstep and Friend were up in the tree watching the whole thing.
Good thing Wisconsin Red-tails tend to be rodent eaters (or perhaps Doorstep and Friend do pretty good stealth too) or this hawk may have just crashed through the branches as Pale Male has been known to do with pigeons and made a grab for one of them.

But all was well and I've no doubt that eventually the visitor had ground squirrel for dinner-a much more substantial meal than a vole.

Donegal Browne

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