The Circle of Life

The drama of life and death played itself out in a remarkable way in our yard this morning. A caveat: these pictures aren’t the best because they’re shot through our screen door which has both screen and internal blinds. A second caveat: the third picture is not for the faint of heart; if you have a “Bambi” attitude toward how nature works, don’t scroll down.

Brenda saw a sharp-shinned hawk (possibly a Cooper’s hawk, but they’re quite rare, so I’m guessing the former) sitting in our back yard. He had clearly just made a kill.

Before he was done eating, he had made quite a mess of things.

We were curious just what he got. A rabbit or mouse? More likely a bird, but what sort? When scrolling through the several dozen pictures I shot of the scene, I discovered it was one of our favorite visitors to the suet holder: a red-bellied woodpecker.

From corn fed cattle to suet to red-bellied woodpecker to sharp-shinned hawk … The circle of life goes on.


Battle Royale

It seems the hawks are still in the neighborhood. The report in the previous post was erroneous. But the crows are back from wherever they go in the middle of summer, and as it turns out, crows and hawks don’t get along.

For the last hour (and it goes on as I write), there are four crows and three hawks fighting for the front yard. The crows move from the trees to the ground and back. The hawks sit in the trees. If the crows are in the trees the hawks will land on the branch beside them and they will go at it beak to claw, wings beating as they settle toward the ground. If the crows are on the ground the hawks will glide in, often all three in formation but sometimes singly, talons outstretched toward the crows. At the last minute the crows will deftly jump out of the way and parry with their beaks.

No pictures. The action is so fast and the front yard still dark enough that pictures are not possible with my little camera.

I have spent quite some time trying to identify the hawks, but they rarely come out in the open and when the patrol the orchard behind the house they are out of sight. They seem too fast and not bulky enough to be a buteo but not quite sleek enough to be a falcon, but they are fast. So I’m leaning toward them being accipiters. When they’re around the song birds tend to disappear — another indication they might be accipiters, since buteos are rodent eaters. My best guess is that they’re Cooper’s hawks, although the tail seems a little broad and short for a Cooper’s hawk.

The neighbor lady just came out to get her newspaper and that seems to have caused a cease fire for the moment.

Summer in Siouxland

My laptop has been down in Texas getting its memory fixed. So, this has been sitting around for a while. Back on Aug. 25 we joined a group that hiked to the top of Spirit Mound, near Vermillion, SD. Lewis and Clark hiked up the hill on Aug. 25, 1804 (thus, the date of the hike).

We’ve had a cool August, but it had warmed up on the 25th so we only had to bring sweaters and not jackets or rain gear. A perfect night for a hike.

Standing around on the top of Spirit Mound. The little white dots in the background are the parking lot.

Look dear, we’re in Kansas!

No, I’m pretty sure this isn’t Kansas anymore. … Is this sunflower glaring at me?

Birds have been growing up and leaving the nest around our house. Most of the summer we’ve had a whole flock of hawks hanging around. (I counted six all together in the front yard one morning.) We assume a breeding pair had their young in the neighborhood. Every morning we would wake up to the constant call of hawks outside our window. But now their gone.

As a result, the other birds are willing to come out in the open. Mommy and daddy birds have been teaching their young to fend for themselves Bush and Obama style and eat out of the feeder we’ve provided.

High dive!

Here’s a goldfinch – barely out of diaper down by the looks of it – sitting atop the bird bath. (Same picture, the second one is cropped.)

Hawk House

We have hawks at our house. I think there are at least four. They’ve been hanging around for over a week so they seem to have taken up residence.

One sits in the big tree outside my bedroom window and wakes me up in the morning. We have seen a couple sitting beside each other on the fence behind our house. At about any time of day, if you look hard enough, you can find one sitting in a nearby tree eating a rodent.

We hope they’re eating moles.

It’s all great fun to be in the midst of these birds of prey, listening to their calls, seeing their great wings spread from an overhead branch, watching them tear apart a mouse or a mole.

The one’s I’ve seen through the binoculars seem to be adolescents, and all adolescent buteos look pretty much alike, so I don’t know what kind they are. When I learn more I’ll update.