Dan is always up earlier than I am, but especially this morning, as I’d stayed up late last night to download a large file (something we can’t do during the day because of our download threshold limits, but we have an unlimited-transfer window in the wee hours of the morning). So I was still snoozing in bed when he came in and woke me up, and told me to grab my camera because there was a Sharp-shinned Hawk at the feeders. A bit bleary-eyed and foggy-brained, I still hopped out of bed quickly, reluctant to miss such an interesting sighting. I switched out the lenses on my camera, and then joined Dan in the studio where he was looking down on the feeder ensemble.
Sitting on a small stump amid the tangles of the raspberry canes was a small accipiter. Its back was to us, and to the feeder, but facing the open direction of the steep slope. It was a bit lower than the feeders, slightly downhill. It was constantly vigilant, turning its head back and forth, looking over its shoulders, and up at the feeders above. Given the bird’s relatively small size, I figured it was probably a male. He’s a youngster, hatched last summer – you can tell by the brown back and yellow eye; an adult would be blue-gray with an orange eye.
Despite an ongoing scolding by the chickadees in the area, they remained their bold, cocky selves, still continuing to come in to take seeds. After running off a few shots (all of which looked pretty much the same from the vantage we had), I lowered the camera and just watched him sitting there. Dan got out his video camera and grabbed a short clip of him. Half a minute later, a chickadee or some other bird that had come in to the platform caught his eye and he swooped off the stump, into the open downhill, then made a quick u-turn and flew rapidly up the slope, over the feeder (startling the little bird, who zipped off), and around the corner of the house after his intended prey, out of sight. We don’t know if he caught it or not.
I certainly don’t begrudge having the hawks come and visit our feeders. This is the first one we’ve seen hanging around out there this winter, though Dan also had one do a fly-by a few weeks ago. Many people don’t like seeing the “ugly” side of nature happening in their backyard, but it is simply that, just nature. The hawks need to eat, too. And if we’re putting out food for the little birds, it seems a bit prejudiced to allow one group of birds to eat in your yard but not another. Because he’s so young, he is probably still honing his hunting skills. I’m quite happy to have him practice around here where we have the privilege of watching him. Also, it will be a little easier for him to get enough food when it’s so concentrated in one area; out in the rest of the forest, it’d be a daily struggle finding enough nutrition to survive the cold.
After the chase we found him again sitting in a tree behind the house, but he then flew off down the road and wasn’t seen again. He’s welcome back anytime, though, we’d love to have him around.