I've not gotten out much lately, and I know the reasons why. I will blog about this soon. I could say it right now but it might take away from this blog.
As you can tell, I like to take photos. I'm not a pro. I'm not a die hard about it. I don't like to be called a photographer. It's not my purpose. The photos started way back in the early days of birding in order to help ID certain birds. Capturing them with the camera allowed me to take the image home, a secure image on a device compared to one in my memory that could easily distort over time until I got to a bird guide.
Every picture tells a story, captures a memory, and while most of mine I can think back to a place and timeline, some stand out a little more and allow me to share a story. I have a lot of such photos and hope to be able to share a moment with you from just one photo. I'd like to start with this one...
Here is a Sharp-shinned Hawk. I know I've blogged about her before. I named her Shirley. I don't really know if this Hawk is a female but I like "Shirley Sharpie".
Shirley showed up religiously every Fall for a few years. I knew it was her just by her actions. I've never seen such a bold Hawk before. She's fearless, even of me.
The morning I took this photo, she was really at it, giving hell to all my backyard creatures. She was a great hunter. For her to take out a Mourning Dove wasn't much of a problem. I'd seen her on a few over the years. Maybe to some that doesn't sound all that impressive, but Sharp-shins are a small species of Hawk, comparable to the size of a Blue Jay... and a Mourning Dove.
Mourning Doves range in weight of 96 to 170 grams. A Sharpie ranges from 87 to 218 grams. The overall length of a Mourning Dove ranges from 23 to 34 cm. A Sharpie ranges from 24 to 34 cm. The average wingspan of this species of Dove is about 45 cm. The average wingspan of this Hawk species can be from 43 to 56 cm. I got all this info from Cornell's site. So as you can see, these birds are rather equal in size and while the Dove is not a fighter, it's not small prey for this Hawk.
No Mourning Doves were to be seen on this day of the photo. All the Sparrows were in hiding. The Juncos had not arrived to our area yet for the cold season. The Jays were absent, who aren't afraid of Sharp-shinned Hawks. Angie and I have witnessed some pretty crazy battles between the two, sometimes lasting for well over an hour. The flight displays of the Hawk are something to witness!
The Pigeons, a much larger species of bird, did come in a few times that morning. The weight of a Pigeon ranges from about 265 to 380 grams. Remember the Hawk's (see above)? The funny thing is the Pigeons, despite being much heavier, still don't take chances with this type of Hawk around. The Pigeons flee for their lives at the first alarm call from any other bird.
The Pigeons would fly in, shit would hit the fan, and away they would go. A short bit later, some would return, soon after realizing things are still not safe and away they would go. Shirley would attack the Pigeons. Was she that hungry and desperate? Did she really have such a bold attitude and think she could take one down? Or did she not like these birds in her hunting grounds and was trying to get rid of them? I'm in favour of either of the last 2 suggestions.
One of the "flushing of the Pigeons" moments had her on their tails as they left the property. This one poor Pigeon didn't get the height it needed to go over the house next door and ended up striking the neighbour's upstairs bedroom window. I was outside watching this all. The bang of the bird on the window was so loud! I am surprised the window did not break.
I watched the Pigeon spiral to the ground, being stunned by the impact. Shirley took notice of this as well. She landed on this rail not too far off and watched. The Pigeon lay still for a few moments before finally rising. I could tell he was still stunned. He walked like he was intoxicated.
Something else got Shirley's attention and away she went.
I hopped over the fence to the yard next door and gathered up the Pigeon. He was stumbling up the side of the house and I did not want him wandering out to the street. I set him up on our deck, under the table, and put a towel over to give him a time out.
Whatever Shirley had gone after, got away from her. She now returned to the area and back on this rail. This when I took this photo. She's looking at me and everywhere else. Shirley, as I mentioned, is not afraid of people. She stood her ground there with me.
We both take notice to the Pigeon coming out from under the table on the deck. He had his bearings now, or mostly. He still seemed a little wobbly to me. He walked off the deck and fluttered to the ground. In the blink of an eye, Shirley rocketed from this perch and went after the Pigeon. I thought that was it for the bird. But he took flight. Shirley connected with him and they fought. She really tried to pin him. And he fought to get away. The Pigeon got some air and flew up over our little chain fence. Shirley was still on him. They fought like mad up between the houses. I am standing there watching in awe. I couldn't even raise my camera at the action. I was frozen!
The distance between our house and the one next door is probably about 8 feet (not much). I watched the birds duke it out and make their way out to the open space at the front of the houses. It reminded me of the old cartoons, watching some characters have a fight, and it's just a flurry of action, occasionally seeing a fist (or wing in this case). I swear they even bounced off the brick walls a couple times. In no time, they were out front and with the open space, the Pigeon got his break and away he went. Shirley gave chase until they crossed the street, then she backed off and returned to the backyard.
She spent the rest of the time sitting in a tree out back until I had to go to work.
I have a few stand out stories about this bird. I may share another some other time.
We have a Sharpie hitting the yard this year. Sometimes I think it's Shirley, other times not so. Bold one day, not so much others. I am certain Shirley did spend at least 3 winters with us.
I hope you enjoyed this tale. Back again soon!