Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Take-out Lunch

On the way home the other day, my route took me through the meadows, where I love to linger to look for, and look at, the wonderful variety of birds that can be seen there.

On this cold day, a quick glance around showed little action across the landscape: all I could see was the usual flock of feral Rock Doves and a few crows winging their way toward the woods that bordered the meadow.

Nonetheless, I scanned the area with binoculars, hoping against hope that I might spy one of the Snowy Owls that have irrupted into our area in spectacular fashion this winter. Or perhaps I might find a Northern Harrier to delight me with its swooping flight. Scan, scan, scan…nothing.

But wait, what was that? Feathers floating on the wind? A fresh kill by …

… a Sharp-shinned Hawk, our smallest accipiter, one that breeds in general to our north and comes to our area during the winter months. 

We see them occasionally around our feeders, though Cooper’s Hawks have largely displaced them as the most common accipiter.

But yes, here was a lovely Sharpie, feasting on a luckless member of the aforesaid pigeon flock. There’s some poetic justice, I suppose, when a native raptor takes out an invasive species.

I watched for about half an hour, snug inside my car, parked at the vegetable stand (closed for the winter). If I had stepped outside the car, the bird would probably have flown off, and I was not about to deprive it of its hard-earned dinner just so I could get a better photo. I was happy just to watch.

As the bird picked the pigeon apart, feathers wafted on the wind and occasionally stuck to its bill. The pigeon grew smaller as the hawk’s crop began to bulge, as shown in this series of photos. The pigeon died…the hawk will live another day. Such is life…and death. Nature is neutral.

As I sat there, about a hundred cars drove by. Perhaps a few occupants of the cars noticed me looking at something through binoculars…Did they wonder what I was looking at? Certainly no one slowed down to look. I often wonder how many people who are not birders even notice much about the landscape as they drive past.

These photos are poor-quality, taken with the IPhone at full zoom, plus binoculars. But they will remind me of a really interesting half hour with a beautiful bird.

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