I managed to get distracted tonight and didn’t get a chance to prep the images for the running post I promised last post. The weather was outstanding tonight actually turning cool enough to put a coat on. That translates to the perfect conditions to get half my yard trimming down – by half I mean literally upwards of 2+ hours to get the upper portion of the lot done. The lower will take an equal amount of time but I’ll let that go a bit more. Since I am just sitting here watching for ticks to start randomly appearing on my skin, figured it would be a good time to get another post out (helps keep my mind off the fact there is likely a tick crawling somewhere on my body – shudder). Lucky for me I can always go back to the bird well for content so like last offering, today features another +1 from the Chain O’ Lake State Park birding outing with my brother Ron.
This is one of those sets that came out a tad soft, but based on the conditions, a lot better than expected. Just before we located the Fox Sparrow from last post, we noticed the bird pictured circling above where we were standing. Unfortunately, it was quite a ways up and at the time we were not really sure what it was. My first guess was a Northern Harrier based on seeing them there on numerous trips. I remember telling Ron to try and get the white strip on the top of the tail so we could quickly identify it later. At the same time something seemed odd about this particular specimen (assuming it was a Harrier). First off, Harriers tend to hang in the air a bit while hunting prey (that being one of the special abilities of Harrier). This one just kept circling more characteristic of the Red Tails seen so often around here. The other thing I couldn’t seem to figure out at the time but later confirmed was the wing shape. This one was a bit thicker and the head seemed pulled back a bit into the wings.
Hit the jump to find out what we decided this bird was
Once home and the pictures were properly processed, Ron and I set about trying to figure out what it was. I think Ron was the one who actually had the initial confirmation (kudos for that). A quick check back with my reference books and Cornell confirmed it for me that this was a Cooper’s Hawk. Get the chalk out boys and girls, time to add another entry to my Birding Life List. Quite the surprise since I originally was just taking a few shots to add to my Harrier collection. Thanks again to my golden rules about ALWAYS taking a few shots of everything that even looks like a bird regardless of whether I have it already (or at least think I do) because you never know until you start digging into the details. I’m working on my Rules for Birding post thanks to having to put in ground rules for the birding competition my brother and I happen to be in (he has a tendency to bend and push the gentleman’s rules forcing me to compile competition guidelines – for instance last Saturday I had to add a brand new rule stating that taking pictures of taxidermy specimens at the visitor center does not count as a sighting .. sigh).
I really need to get that rule list posted before out next outing! Anyway, I did manage to get a number of shots as it continually circled while climbing higher and higher with each loop. Keeping The Beast pointed up at that angle for long periods of time starts to zap my strength causing more motion in the glass that desired – thus the softness of the shots (combined with the sheer distance we were from it). Eventually my arms gave up and the bird had sufficiently drifted out of range. Pretty sure Ron got some decent shots as well which ended up being a +1 on his list as well so no distancing there on our counts. The following shot was kind of interesting. The Beast was tacking it as it was midway through one of its circles when all of a sudden I saw it literally brake in midair. No clue why it did this – no other birds in the area and it was looking out into the distance so it wasn’t like it flew past prey. The shot below was slightly late on the trigger but you can see it dropping the flaps back. Note, it also shows the pull back of the neck in flight that was mentioned earlier.
Ooops, running out of shots. Better get to some facts stat. First off you can see from the shot below that it does not have the standard white stripe across the back for the Harrier which pretty much ruled out that potential identification. Sounds like these Coopers prefer the slow kill method. Cornell indicated they grab their prey and repeatedly squeeze it until it dies. Get this, if that isn’t brutal enough, they’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stops moving. As soon as they figure out how to use handguns we are all doomed! I was surprised to see their main diet was birds – specifically medium sized birds like Doves and Robins. They leave the smaller birds alone so the little ones do not have anything to worry about. Oh, they actually eat Jays as well – please eat Blue Jays, please eat Blue Jays .. repeat at nausea. Cornell’s site also indicated they are submissive to their larger statured females – bring food, making sure they are welcome before coming to close and doing almost all the nest building. Best fact of all is they carry a Least Concern Conservation Status so yeah!
That’s all I have for you tonight. Hope you enjoyed reading about my new addition to the list. Another pleasant surprise from a great day of birding!