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Friday, March 05, 2010

Looking Sharp!

Throughout the winter months I’ll sometimes notice that my backyard gets very quiet, devoid of the busy activity usually found around my platform and hanging feeders. Then I’ll often notice the distinctive profile of an Accipter perched in a nearby tree or on the fence. I mainly get Sharp-shinned Hawks but also sometimes see a Cooper’s Hawk lurking or actively diving into my spruce trees to bust out birds seeking sanctuary in the dense boughs. Sometimes I’ll find a scatter of feathers beneath a perch where a hunt reached a successful conclusion. I’ve found a few such piles of Eurasian Collared-Dove feathers recently- certainly not from a Sharpie but perhaps a gnarly Cooper’s? The reason I wonder is that there have been a few reliable reports of a Goshawk in my end of town this winter, raising hopes that I might someday add that big bad ‘un to the yard list.

Anyway, as I went out to fill the feeders last weekend I was accompanied by my frequent helper, Garrett. I noticed an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk hanging out in an ash tree next to our biggest blue spruce, no doubt deciding on a strategy to get at the House Sparrows and Finches deep within (earlier in the week I heard and then saw the same Sharpie deep within the spruce, playing tag with the House Sparrows.) Garrett didn’t see the hawk and proceeded to walk almost right beneath it. Amazingly the Sharpie didn’t fly away despite the proximity of a pre-schooler cavorting below. I took this as a sign to go get my camera and ended up with some nice close-ups as the bird was remarkably tolerant of close approach.

Raptors are smart cookies and I think that the Sharpie was hoping we’d flush out a sparrow or finch. I went around the fence to the patch of open space behind our yard to get some pics of its belly side and heard birds nervously calling and shifting around in the brush pile I’ve made there, which really drew the Sharpie’s attention. The next thing I knew, the hawk flew seemingly right at my head but passed just overhead. It must have been a false start because it broke off any chase, swooped up and landed in the cottonwood. A few minutes later, though, a House Sparrow made a dash from the brush pile and the Sharpie pursued it out of sight around a corner, gaining fast. No wonder Bill Thompson III calls these birds Death Rockets!


Jason Kessler said...

Yikes! Those close-ups are incredible, Really illustrative. Thanks.

randomtruth said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. I've never seen Sharp-shinned, but have seen Cooper's rocketing through the understory in hot pursuit of a winged meal - it's very impressive.

DaveABirding said...

Great shots, I especially like the first tight crop on the face.