Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lurking Danger

Ed called to me from the bedroom to bring the binoculars. I wasn't expecting much since frequently by the time I arrive at the window whatever there is to see is gone. That was not the case this time.  I had lots of time to look at the gray hawk perched in the locust tree. I could see that this individual had a few white spots on his back, white under his wings and  reddish brown speckles on the white under his chin. While the bird was in this position, the garden was empty of other birds. Even the red squirrels seemed to have ducked into their tunnels under the snow. I  hoped the bird would turn around so I could get a better look  at his front. Instead of that he moved into toward center of the tree. His gray back was perfect camouflage against the trunk of the tree. He sat there for a long time waiting. Slowly the blue jays and mourning doves landed in the top of the tree. They didn't notice the hawk pressed up against the tree trunk. In a flash the hawk was chasing the birds, weaving in and out through the branches at amazing speed. He was not focused enough as everyone escaped.  The hawk flew across the garden to land in a big pine tree. This caused an immediate exodus of crows that had been perching there.  Thinking the show was over, I dragged out all of my bird identification books and tried to figure out just who this visitor was. It turned out that the likely candidate was the same as the bird recently flying in the Library of Congress, a Cooper's hawk.

Slowly the bird activity at the feeders returned to normal. There must have been at least a dozen mourning doves in the tree and more on the ground under the bird feeder. This time the hawk swooped across the garden  in a fast dive.
 The birds scattered and although the hawk flew fast, everyone escaped again. This time when he perched in the tree I got a good look at his front side. The yellow spot at the top of his gray beak made the identification positive. He was indeed a Cooper's hawk.  A Cooper's hawk is built for maneuverability. His tail is long and flexible, his wings short and wide.  Right after I took this picture the bird left. This afternoon things  at  the bird feeders back to normal, but danger is lurking out there somewhere in the form of a beautiful Cooper's hawk.

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