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Monday, October 1, 2012

The hunter

Working in the backyard today, I heard the sound of a kerfuffle and looked up in time to see a male Northern Cardinal streaking across the yard. Now, if you have observed cardinals, you will know that they do not streak. They normally fly in a rather leisurely undulating fashion. But this guy was streaking for all he was worth. He dived into the wild hedge along the back fence and was followed closely by a brown blur. The Cooper's Hawk was hunting again.

The hawk's projected lunch escaped her clutches. She (I think it's a female.) sat and looked into the tangle of vines and branches for a moment but there was no way she could extract the cardinal. Then she flew up to the branch of my old crape myrtle tree, where she was half hidden from my view by leaves and branches.

I've tried and failed repeatedly to get a picture of this bird. Usually, I either don't have my camera when she appears or she speeds across my line of vision so fast that I don't have time to react. Today, my camera was close at hand, and even though she was partially obscured, I decided to try to get a recognizable image. I reached very slowly for the camera, not wanting to spook her. I didn't dare move from my location to try to get a clearer shot for fear my movement would send her flying. Here's what I was able to capture with the camera.

 Even partially blocked by the leaves in front of her, I think you can see what a magnificent bird this is.

She sat in the tree for several minutes, probably scouting the area for another likely menu item.

She turned and was looking back toward the spot where the cardinal had disappeared, perhaps hoping he would break cover. I'm sure his black eyes were watching her just as carefully and he was not about to move as long as she was in the area.

In another minute, you could almost see her heave a big sigh of disappointment and she flew off to an area beside the garden shed. I know there are rodents there so maybe she was able to grab one of them. Mammals are not these birds' first choice for a meal. They are built to chase and catch birds and that's what they clearly prefer to eat, but they will catch and eat other things if they are hungry enough and the birds are not cooperating.

You may not be impressed with these pictures but they are actually the very best I've been able to get so far, but, just like the bird, I am undaunted and I will keep trying for a better image.    


  1. I saw a red-shouldered hawk flush a colony of white-winged doves out of a mature pine tree the other morning. It wasn't just the doves that were upset; all the noise of the flapping wings gave me quite a startle, as well. It's neat when these processes of nature can be seen so close around our homes.

    1. I can always tell when the Cooper's Hawk is around because the yard suddenly gets very quiet and still. The birds are always on the alert for her (or him)and they are aware of his presence long before I am. You are so right - it is a fascinating process to witness.