Saturday, January 02, 2016
Enter the birdie pile.
There on the front yard Birdie Pile is a Cooper's Hawk.
By the time I spot her all the birds at the feeder have spotted her well before and taken a flying dive for the birdie pile. Yes the Cooper's has perched on it but all the songbirds are sitting tight in the dense areas of the thick overlapping branches below.
According to research study after research study, the meals of Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks are almost always birds who are diseased, or incapacitated in some way.
The upshot is that these hawks cull incapacitated birds from the flock which helps keep flocks healthy.
It is a little gruesome for us humans but better for the birds at large.
After a few minutes, the hawk notices me, sees that none of the little birds are going to break their cover and off she goes.
Now to the next visit.
1:06 pm I see the feeder birds flee to the Birdie Pile and the Cooper's Hawk fly in. I grab my camera and run up the stairs to a second story window. Everybody in the drama is less likely to see me there.
A word of caution....the thing about rushing out when a hawk appears to "save" your feeder birds is that your interference could cause one of the smaller birds to flee as well and the Cooper's Hawk may nab them on the way out.
Coop looks at all the little birds deep in the tangled twigs. They fit but she won't. (Make your birdie pile DENSE.)
Coop squeezes between the outer twigs but can't get close enough as the little guys go for the very dense areas for cover. And they are far more mobile inside the pile than the larger bird is.
See her tail left? She scrambles in hope of flushing and grabbing a smaller bird. No go.
She backs out and starts a circuit.
She stops...stares...cocks her head to listen intently. Disappears for a moment...
Then back round she comes. Still eyeing the pile and listening intently.
She comes round the pile and peers in. See how low she is looking. The small birds are deep down in the heart of the pile. Also note she has a blood stain on her right foot. It has not been very long since she has last eaten.
Here is the real view from the second floor. She's still in place. Note the frost on the bottom of the window. My house is an old 1850's cream city brick house much larger than I need, so being conservation minded and frugal besides, I don't heat the upstairs in winter. Hence the film of frost.
Cooper's waits for a few more minutes...
Then takes to her wings and appears to be heading for the fence and feeder area.
She brakes for a landing.
And she's down peering into the ground feeding area inside the fence. Note a soul inside the fence either.
Then she may have spied me as she was immediately off again out of my current window's view. I head for another window.
Though I can't see her, I click away hoping to spy her in the photograph later. Can you find her? See the squirrel snugged up to the tree trunk on the left side?
Here's a hint. She's in the top right quadrant of the picture
There she is winging her way south.
In the meantime...the squirrels have been laying low as well. Though Cooper's don't tend toward squirrels as prey they certainly would take one if it weren't too much trouble and could be managed, which appears to be not very often. Squirrels are spunky with sharp teeth and they have very tough skin besides.
And to the East two more squirrels on the Ponderosa Pine have been watching the Cooper's Hawk fly into the distance as well. Though one now appears to be watching me. Speaking of squirrels...
Daughter Samantha who just graduated with honors from Brandeis with a double major of Environmental Science and Theatre and is now working at Brooklyn College to ready herself for the grad school push informs me that this winter's squirrels are the fattest they have been since records have been kept.
What seems to be the most obvious reason is that with global warming they haven't been sleeping many of their winter days away in their dens or drays living on their accumulated fat.
They just keep eating.