This past week has been an exciting but also tragic one in our birding community. In a snowstorm, a bird was spotted on its “kill” under one of our pine trees at the front of the house, but what breed was it!? At first, I thought of a Kestrel or Merlin, it had some bars in its tail feathers. On sending some pictures to a friend, he pointed out that the eye colouring was wrong for a Merlin, so once more back to the books! Well, maybe it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, which he agreed might be nearer the truth, but I didn’t let it rest there, so I consulted with Hawkwatch International to see what they could tell me. Agreeing that identification between either of these hawks is difficult, they concluded that it was, in fact, a Coopers Hawk. What a relief to finally get the answer to my query which quite often happens, as you may well know, when trying to name the bird that you have just spotted that looks looks a little different to you, personally. I got some reasonable “still” and “movie” pictures of it through the snow, and it was from these that the identification was made. However, that wasn’t to be the end of my current Hawk experiences, because a couple of days later there was another one!
Yes, there right before my eyes, on a much clearer day, under a different tree, was another hawk on its “kill” – another unfortunate Pigeon! What a beautiful bird this Hawk was too, as it went about its business with vigour, unfortunately for its victim, but the Hawk’s first “strike” is usually a very quick one and its prey probably didn’t know too much about it! I was able to once again get some good pictures of it as you can see.
During its feed, it was disturbed a couple of times by passing traffic, during which time it spread its wings over the food, presumably to ward off any other interlopers from seeking food as well. Its final act was to pick up its catch and fly towards my neighbour’s fence. I took this opportunity to try and follow it to get closer, even though it was drizzling and I didn’t have my coat on! I was successful and managed to get to within ten feet or so of it without being detected, and get a few more closer shots of it before another vehicle scared it off with its prey still clutched in its claws.
Quite the exciting week for me and my wife and all in our own garden, viewed mainly through our front room window. You can’t beat that, can you? Maybe you can, but even if you cannot, don’t give up; there are lots of things to see out there that nature provides for free! Stay safe and enjoy.