Earlier this week I had the most exciting memorable moment with a Cooper's Hawk in our backyard. In over 10 years of backyard birding and seeing this species of Hawk, this particular morning will stand out in my memory for a very long time.
It's funny because I had just finished a blog about local raptors that are in the area once again for the "winter season". I even lightly touched upon seeing this Hawk at the end of the blog. It had just caught a House Sparrow and while that is a small meal for a Cooper's Hawk, I thought that was going to be it. Boy, was I wrong.
Early morning catch as the snow fell.
It looks like a male House Sparrow.
Then about 90 minutes later I see the Hawk is back. And he's got something again.
I watch from the deck as he seems to pounce up and down on his prey. The bird is still alive. He flits it across the lawn a couple inches and jumps on it again. I've never witnessed what seems like playful behaviour from a Hawk on it's prey. Maybe this is a young Hawk? He picks up the bird and flies down back behind the shed. You'd think it wasn't even in the same day or morning from these two photos. The full sun quickly melted much of the snow away.
Clearly here the Hawk has a female House Sparrow.
He took his 2nd kill up to the trees to eat it in peace as a Squirrel came in and gave him some grief (which I watched from the comforts of the window enjoying a 2nd coffee).
So now he's devoured two House Sparrows this morning. That must be it. Right? HA!
About 2 hours later, I'm preparing to go to work when I see out the kitchen window that the Hawk is back again. He's on top of my brush pile, bouncing around, looking into it from above. I put on my jacket and boots, grab my camera and step out the front door, sneak up the side of the house to the back and make my way to the holly bush where I feel I can watch and not be invasive. Normally I stay well back, hiding at the corner of the house, peeking around the wall to the action, keeping my distance. But since this bird already ate 2 Sparrows this morning, I bent the rule and moved further into the yard. Boy am I glad I did.
I've watched this play out in past days with this bird hunting the brush pile. He will come to ground after a look from above. He will then pace the exterior of the pile. Then he will move in closer. Click on the photos to go full screen.
He goes in deeper.
Then he disappears. I know he cannot get right in the pile but there is some space between the pile and the raspberry bush as the Skunks and Opossums have cleared a way with their nightly roams.
On Sunday I witnessed the Hawk walk back out with a House Sparrow in his beak. This Tuesday morning, after 2 successful catches that were maybe or maybe not from the pile, he comes up empty.
I'm about 20 ft away, behind my holly bush, but he pays no attention to me. This bird is on a mission.
I had been second guessing myself on making the brush pile. Since he was plucking hiding birds right out of it, did I just make a death trap? Let's leave out the fact that what I've witnessed for kills has been the not so popular House Sparrow.
I felt better as I watched him now walk, not fly, but walk over to the honeysuckle shrub and do the exact same thing as he did at the brush pile.
In he goes.
He would disappear, surface slightly, disappear again.
No birds in here either. Damn!
He leaves the ground and flies up to a nearby fence post. He's not much more than 10 ft in front of me now.
I'm in total awe at this close encounter. I don't move. I don't see how my photos are turning out, I just snap away. A big "F**K!" came out in my head when I finally looked at my screen.
I change my settings. I take a couple more pictures. Then I just watch him with my own eyes and not through the camera for a short bit. I really need to leave my spot, get back in the house and finish getting ready for work. A couple more shots before I go.
Something has his attention.
A lone Pigeon has flown into the yard, landing behind me. A second later and the Cooper's Hawk is rocketing from this post, right over my head and after the bird.
I turn around to see the Pigeon race away. The Hawk almost has him a couple yards over. As soon as the Pigeon has an opening beyond the houses, he makes a sharp left. The Hawk gives up in the open space, veers right and comes back to the yard. I take this as my time to leave the yard and get on with my day, allowing him to get on with his hunting despite there not being another bird around.
Early yesterday I managed to witness a Sharp-shinned Hawk fly in and nail a House Sparrow on the lawn. It stunned me how fast it happened. The Hawk quickly took his catch elsewhere to eat. The yard remained eerily quiet the rest of the morning.
Today, the feeders are still barely touched after the last 2 days.
I was once asked if I watch the nature channel. I replied with "no, I have my own live channel at home".
We are fortunate to have a house with a backyard here in Toronto. It's amazing what we can see right here at home. Being home and idle allows me to see things that I probably would not encounter exploring parks and woods in search of birds and wildlife.
Birds of prey play an important role in the wild world. Some people really need to accept this fact. I worry over my other birds coming in, especially some backyard favorites as my friends know. But I acknowledge that this is their way of life (and death).