Sad day yesterday as one of my beloved Pigeon visitors fell victim to a Cooper's Hawk. I named her "Mickey"
Don't ask me where I get my names from, they just come to me sometimes. It has nothing to do with that celebrity mouse though. Maybe because of a wonderful Budge we had in our household when I was a young boy? Even I don't ask myself where/why the names come from. But I will admit I do get a little help at times from Angie and friends.
Just last week I posted on social media about Mickey. We were going into our 3rd year of being "friends". She's probably been around longer than that but it was February of 2014 that I really took notice to her, and she to me, picking up on where to hang out behind the house to really get my attention... the back door, on the clothes line post, just like Pierre.
It was funny to watch Mickey develop over time. She was such a sweet heart and a very docile bird in the beginning. But she changed. She got attitude. She got mean. She turned into a real bitch. She had no problem beating on any other Pigeon that came in. She was very vocal and those wings of hers packed a punch. It didn't matter the size of the bird, Mickey stood her ground. Heck she even copped attitude with me a few times. I always say "You will always know where you stand with a Pigeon". It's true! But Mickey was my friend, as friends go between a man and a Pigeon. She trusted me. Of course when it boils down to it, it was always about the food, the good food, but she would hop on me and hang out, go for walks down back to the shed if I didn't have seed by the back door.
She was a welcomed addition to our flock. Plain and simple. She was a unique bird, standing out from the dozens that come to visit day in, day out.
Anyone who follows my blogs knows it's been odd the last few months with my Pigeon visitors. They've all been disappearing for long periods of time. 50+ days! First Pierre's flock. Now the Jerseys have been MIA for a week and counting. I know they've found another feeding spot. I wonder where? I wonder what they are being fed? As long as they are happy, healthy and safe is all that matters to me. I do enjoy the surprise drop ins as I never know when they are going to come, or who it will be. Pierre started this all, and the Jerseys were a gift in his absence. Then all of them have been MIA and Mickey picked up as of last week.
If you look at that photo above, you can easily identify her from the masses with that prominent eye ring. Also, look for the small Pigeon beating the hell out of the others. LoL!
We've had some Hawk activity lately. Red-tail grabbed a Pigeon not too long ago (think it's posted in my last blog about Pierre) and then a Squirrel this week. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was here on Monday and nailed a Starling. Then a couple days with a Cooper's Hawk. I think I jinxed things when I shared a crap shot of the bird on Facebook's Ontario Birds page and wondered out loud what was on it's menu.
Sharpie on a Starling.
The Cooper's Hawk.
They do blend in.
Yesterday was a bizarre day as I think about it. That Cooper's Hawk was here all morning while I was home. It sat in the tree down back. Chickadees and Nuthatches squawked occasionally at the bird's presence, then went back to their own business. A small group of Pigeons, maybe 6 at the most, including Mickey came in and out numerous times. I had given Mickey a few handfuls of sunflower chip but it was never enough it seemed. Weird as our cat Molly also had a voracious appetite yesterday. Must be the return to winter weather?
Usually Mickey has a good feed and then is gone again for the day. Not this day.
The Pigeons were even feeding under the feeder pole with the Cooper's less than 30 ft from them. I chalked it up as the Hawk had probably gotten his feed for the day and was just chilling. It wasn't even observing the activity around it, including me out there observing it and taking a few photos.
Almost 6 hours of it hanging out, not moving. I thought how odd. It was time to go to work, I did wish Mickey to leave as I did, and obviously she did not.
Three and a half hours later, Angie comes home, and felt this need to go out back. She didn't know why but she went with it. She found a dead Pigeon near our back deck. She did not who it was but texted me a quick snap of the body, informing me of her find, and that she hoped it was not one of my friends. I could not really get a view of the face but the wing pattern sure looked familiar. I suspected it was Mickey. While her eye ring is what really stands out to me, they all have distinct marks elsewhere if one really pays close attention to them.
I was having a pretty crappy day at work and this made it all the more crappier. I wanted to be home now even though I knew there wasn't a damn thing that could be done.
Angie did notice a Cooper's Hawk way at the back but it never came down again for the rest of the Pigeon. She later bagged it for me to check if it was a bird I knew.
This stayed in my head the rest of the night. I could not wait to finish my shift.
I get home, play with the cats for half an hour or so, who are very happy to see me. Then I put my head lamp on, go to the shed and investigate. Sadly, there was that prominent eye ring. Fuck!
Then to add to all of this, I can't help but notice Mickey's body was barely consumed. I will describe what I saw, it's not pretty, but I promise you I am not adding a gross photo. I can't. So, from neck right down to her bum was all exposed. Exposed as in all the skin and feathers were gone. But all her insides were still intact. The only damage was what I am guessing is her crop was opened up. I could see white millet seeds in this area. But everything else, still intact.
Obviously the Hawk was working on her body when something must have disturbed her. The house next door is a rental and the landlord was over late in the day with some contractor doing a fence repair. This is the only thing that I can come up with. The section they were working on is between our houses and where Mickey's body was found, was less than 20 ft from it. The Hawk got spooked and abandoned it's kill. I'd seen something like this once last fall. Cooper's grabbed a Pigeon, was working on it, and the Squirrels all rushed the Hawk while it was on the ground finishing off the bird. The Hawk flushed, leaving the dying Pigeon there, but it returned less than 10 minutes later after the Squirrels spread out. The Hawk quickly grabbed the Pigeon and flew off to a safer spot to "enjoy it".
I was overwhelmed with sadness. I'm going to miss that bird. She was a highlight to the backyard. And to think that her death was a waste in the end.
I'm not angry at the Hawk. A Hawk must eat too. It's all a part of nature.
Mickey got cocky. Or maybe too comfortable about it's presence? Perhaps even forgetting that such a threat was there since it sat for over 6 hours doing nothing.
I put her back in the bag, closed the shed door, went inside, hugged my cats and made myself a little night cap. It wasn't whisky Wednesday but I sure felt like one now. I kicked back, played some tunes, drank my drink and eventually fell asleep.
Today I wake up and ponder what to do with her body. I just can't throw her in the garbage. The ground is too frozen to bury her.
I look out the kitchen window and see the Cooper's Hawk is back in the same tree as yesterday.
I have an idea.
I go outside, slowly making my way to the back. Of course I have my camera in hand and snap a few photos of the big beast. It's just up there looking around, occasionally down at me, but it's not flying away.
I go to the shed, the frozen plastic of the doors makes a loud crackling sound as I open them and the Hawk leaves our yard. It flies to a tree a few yards over.
I brought Mickey's body out to the lawn and set it down. I'm hoping that the Hawk will find it's kill from yesterday afternoon and take it. Please let's not have Mickey's death be a waste. I also don't want the Hawk starving on this bitter cold morning (-18c windchill).
I come back inside, put the kettle on, make a coffee and start this blog.
It's been over an hour now since I started keying this. I almost forgot about Mickey's body still being out on the grass. I decide to have a look out the window and this is what I see.
The Cooper's Hawk has found it's kill and is eating it. The Squirrels are ignoring the Hawk now, busy looking for their own morning sustenance.
From the deck. Leaving the Hawk be. Mickey isn't there anymore, this is just her shell. She's not suffering. She died about 18 hours ago.
I am having a real mix of emotions right now. I am very sad. But I also feel a sense of relief. I feel closure. It's a little fucked up. One of my bird pals has died, it's being eaten as I key this, and I have two very different feelings about it all. It's clashing but also working out somehow. It's the stuff I've thought about over the years since I've made friends with some of these visitors and now it's happening. Others have just disappeared, never to return again, and I can only wonder what became of them. I will never have to wonder what happened to Mickey.
It's almost 2 hours now since the Hawk found it's kill and it's still feasting away. No need for any more photos. Nuthatches, Cardinals, Woodpeckers and a Red-winged Blackbird have flown in. I can see a small flock of Pigeons on a tv tower a few yards over, they aren't convinced the coast is clear.
I've taken a break from the blog and 30 minutes later I see the Hawk is gone, it's taken whatever remained of Mickey's body with it. There's a pile of feathers on the lawn now, slowly blowing away in the strong winds. How symbolic.
I love my Pigeon friends. I am happy to bond with them. I am happy I can help them along in life because Pigeons really are very dependent on us humans for survival. But they are wild birds. I can never cage them to keep them safe. Sure they would be free from all the dangers they face living in the city, but they would also lose their freedom, and their happiness. This is their life as cold and cruel as most ends for them will be.
Thanks for all the memories Mickey. We will always have that crazy ice bucket challenge moment.
Macro moment with Mickey.