Tag Archive 'hawk'

May 08 2022

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Predatory Nature

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A couple years ago, we got serious about attracting songbirds to our feeders. Judy did some research, found out what certain birds like, and purchased the good stuff. As a consequence we are visited daily by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, mourning doves, and scores of goldfinches. Hummingbirds come around during the summer. Other birds stop by, as well. Grey squirrels scurry about beneath the feeders, eating what the birds drop. It’s busy out there.

The local sharp-shinned hawk has taken notice. He stops by occasionally to see if he can grab a winged meal. The songbirds scatter when he shows up, of course. Judy has taken some good photos of that beautiful raptor. We’ve seen him make several attempts to catch a songbird, but without success. Then one day, from the kitchen window, I saw him make off with a goldfinch in his talons. I must admit, I was a little horrified by it. Hawks have to eat, too, but my sympathy was with the finch.

Twice now I have found a patch of mourning dove feathers on the ground near the feeders. I’ve seen this during walks in the woods many times and know exactly what happened. Someone caught and ate those birds on the spot, or started to anyhow. Maybe the doves, so commonly associated with peace, put up a fight. It’s hard to say. But as I gathered up those feathers, it became clear to me that those two doves don’t exist any more.

Several weeks ago a red fox suddenly appeared, chasing a terrified squirrel up a tree. Judy and I cheered a few days later when that same fox hunted down a field mouse. The mice have gotten into our garage and have done some costly damage to one of our cars. We now keep the garage closed up and a dozen mouse traps in there. Still one gets in occasionally.

Last week I shouted to Judy to grab her camera when I saw the fox in our backyard again, chasing a squirrel. This time he caught it. We aren’t particularly keen on squirrels, that like to poop and pee all over our patio furniture, but there was something tragic about seeing that rodent meet such a violent end. It took a while for the fox to subdue the squirrel and haul it off. Sustenance for hungry kits waiting in a nearby den perhaps? That’s what we’d like to think. But the fact is, everyone has to eat and not all living things are herbivores. That’s nature for you. And it’s on full display right in our backyard.

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Mar 26 2022

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Birding with a Passion

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Despite the fact that most of the lakes and ponds here in northern Vermont are still full of ice, Judy and I have done a lot of birding lately. We took a trip down to Dead Creek in Addison County ten days ago and have gone out locally three times during the past week. Judy has bird fever, and I’m reveling in early spring.

At Dead Creek we celebrated the return of the Canada geese. They were there by the hundreds, filling up narrow leads of open water. Before heading home, we stopped by South Slang Creek to see if we could catch the bald eagle nesting there. We did. Judy took some good pictures of it, but what we really wanted was to catch the migrating birds. We got into more of them earlier this week. We found common and hooded mergansers floating in slender patches of open water along the shores of Lake Champlain. We also spotted on land robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds that have arrived recently, along with the cardinals that have wintered over. The cardinals are calling out loudly from the treetops now. Ah, yes… it’s that time of year.

All this is great, but biggest surprise so far this year happened right in our back yard. A sharp-shinned hawk swooped down on the many goldfinches at our feeders, scattering them everywhere. We’re pretty sure we’ve seen this same bird before. It showed up here last fall, and I spotted it in the neighborhood once before that. Judy got some excellent shots of it right through the sliding glass door leading out to the patio. It wasn’t more than twenty feet away! She called up the stairs, so I was able to see the hawk out the window of my study before it bolted. I was writing at the time and usually don’t want to be disturbed while I’m doing so. But this was an exception to that rule.

Judy is on a roll. She has taken some great photos of all the birds mentioned. She has taken bird photography to the next level after learning the best settings for her camera. She has a passion for it that is a delight for me to witness. I assist her however I can. Mostly I drive the car, spot the birds with my binoculars, and identify them whenever possible. We’re a good team, I think.

All this said, my passion for birding doesn’t match Judy’s. I’m into wild nature in all its manifestations, and thoroughly enjoy a raw, early spring day even if there are no birds around. I got all excited the other day when I saw a red fox out the kitchen window, chasing a squirrel up a tree. Judy managed to photograph that fox, but I would have been just as happy if she hadn’t. Judy’s an artist with her camera, while I simply enjoy the moment. It’s all good.

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