Posts Tagged ‘Cooper’s hawk’

It has been a while since I made a bird report about activity at the Havens.   I feel a trifle derelict in my duty, since the stated purpose of my land is to provide me (and my family and friends) with organic food while also providing a  suburban wildlife habitat.  We’ve been pretty successful as habitat landlords, with a few notable exceptions.

One was the great skunk escapade.   I can report that we have reliably excluded them from our crawl space.   Finally.   They still live around here, and I find their modest grub foraging holes around the yard regularly.

Last summer we had a ground hog move into the pile of dirt the covers our root/storm/wine cellar.   I don’t think I wrote about that little episode.   I was happy to have him live there, there was lots of clover and stuff for him to eat, but he decided that the vegetable garden was far superior in the gourmet offerings, and spent no considerable effort digging under the fence to get to it.   We countered his efforts with a trap, which he rather insolently reacted to by digging in at another place.   So we got a second trap and he dug a third tunnel.   It didn’t take us long to figure out that this whole exercise was one in futility, and so our next gambit was to buy chicken wire (much cheaper than live traps) and install it along the back fence where he was digging through.   Attached to the board of the fence, it extended out along the ground about two feet.   So, he figured out he could weasel his way under it anyway.

We were on the point of the next escalation, which involved electric fence installation, when I went out to the garden one fine morning and found Sir Ground Hog busily eating my beans.   Of course, Ruby was with me, and when the ground hog saw her he went bustling off to his tunnel, and exited the garden precipitously.   Ruby was in hot pursuit, of course, but she couldn’t go through the tunnel so she dashed out the gate and around the fence.   Meanwhile, the panicked and bean fattened rodent had gotten himself entangled in the chicken wire in his haste to leave the premises.   He managed to get free before Ruby got there — not that she would had done anything other than bounce and bark at him, but he didn’t know that.  Anyway, that very morning he packed his bags and left for a less exciting neighborhood, much to my and the beans’ relief.

I believe that the skunk has appropriated that abandoned burrow.    This suits me just fine.

Of course we have tons of rabbits, which has resulted in great horned owls and barred owls hunting in the yard.   This is partly why my cats live inside.  The other part is that I did not go to a lot of trouble to create a wildlife habitat just so I could introduce an exotic predator.   Domestic cats are one of the major predators of song birds, and my cats do not need that food source in their diet, they are plenty well fed as is.

Yesterday morning as we arose at the crack of dawn, we heard a most lovely bird song right under our bedroom window, one that we did not recognize.   Very melodic and sweet, it rang out a couple of times, and was answered from the redbud tree.

“Who is that?” we asked each other in unison.   We moved to the window and gently raised the shades so we could get a better view.   Imagine our astonishment to observe the the birds that were singing this beautiful dawn song were a pair of catbirds.    I have only heard their “Cat! cat! cat!” call, and the plaintive meowing call that always makes me want to look for the lost kitten until I realize I have been fooled by bird song.  What a nice surprise to learn they have a beautiful courting song.   I must investigate those shrubs to see if they have taken up residence there.

We have brown thrashers raising a couple of youngsters in the yard, as well as cardinals.   The grackles are being followed by importunate chicks, who would much rather have their parents stuff bugs in their maws than find food for themselves.   Yesterday I observed a mama grackle demonstrating how one gets a drink at the bird bath, after which she showed her youngster the benefits of bathing as well.    Neither process impressed the young grackle in the slightest, and in disgust the mother hopped down onto the ground and began foraging again, assiduosly ignoring the brat following her around making demands for more dinner.  “I’ve done my best,” she seemed to be communicating.   “Find it yourself, I’m busy.”

I have been amused by the robins.   First they made a nest in the crotch of the wisteria, successfully raising three babies.    This was the most disturbed robin’s nest I’ve seen in a while, since the owner thought that our regular use of the path just 4 feet from the nest was excessive and just plain wrong.   So their next nest was in the elm tree by the garden shed.   Fine.

Now we have new construction, again in the wisteria.  Apparently, the first nest wasn’t close enough to the path.   Can you spot the nest in this picture?

Here, let me give you a clue.

Yes, that is it, right there on the corner of the arbor, where the mama robin feels compelled to flee every time I go out to the garden, or carry laundry to the line, or come back from one of those excursions.   Then she and her husband sit over on the wood shed and scold me.   Like I wasn’t using that path on a regular basis the whole time they were building that nest.

Apparently the disturbance hasn’t been so great that it precluded some successful mating activity.  Nosy neighbor that I am, I got out my kitchen step stool and climbed up there to investigate the situation.   Needless to say, my activities were NOT approved of by the parents.

Lets see, the wren chicks have fledged both on the back porch and in the garden, and now that they are successfully out on their own, their parents have embarked on a new clutch.   One of the sets of babies met each other and evicted the english house sparrows from the next box out by the vineyard and have been discussing housing arrangements quite vociferously.

We netted the last of the rows of grapes yesterday.   While we were doing it, a robin left the vicinity.   I distinctly heard him damning us as he left.  They know how effective the net is, and don’t like us for excluding us from such a delicious and convenient food supply.

In other bird news, both the rock doves and ring necked doves have increased their populations to the point where they are flocks rather than small groups.   That is just fine with me.   I also have a large group of cardinals using the area.   The gold finches and house finches are all around the place right now, enjoying echinacea and liatris seeds in addition to the niger seed I have in the feeder.

In addition to the chickadees, we have sparrows flitting about the place:  song, field, fox, white throated, white crowned and chipping.   A few years ago I would not have been able to tell the difference, but practice has made me a better bird watcher.

Blue jays are ubiquitous.  Right now they are keeping the yard cleared of June bugs, a hunt that amuses me as I watch them pursue the flying beetles until they catch them.   Then they take them to a branch and pound on them to open their hard carapace.

I found some of their moulted feathers the other day, and was fascinated to realize how different the colors are on their wings as opposed to their bodies.   The first image is a small chest feather.   The second is a wing feather next to the same chest feather.

The red tailed hawk dropped a wing feather the other day.   I found it while I was walking Ruby out at the conservation area.   A couple of days later I saw her hunting, and noticed the gap in her wing where the feather had been lost.  She’ll grow another soon enough.

I was captivated by the grass shadows cast by the rising sun on the white part of the feather.

Another denizen of the Havens habitat is the Cooper’s hawk.   She hunts here on a regular basis, and last year I even got to witness a hunting lesson for her fledgling which resulted in the demise of one of the house finches.   Success for the young hawk; not such a great outcome for the finch.   I’m not too sorry; I have know for years that I have a multi-tiered bird feeder.   I feed the seed eaters which are prey for the small hawks.   It’s all good.

I haven’t seen the hawk lately, but I know she has been around.  I have seen several meal sites in the area, scattered with tossed feathers.  She lost a tail feather just last week.    I imagine she either caught it on a branch has she was jinking and turning in pursuit of breakfast, or it was time for it to be moulted and she yanked it out while perched.  Anyway, it was on the ground under the elm where the niger seed feeder is.  I moved it for a better shot.

Right this minute I hear a hummingbird scolding out by my hostas.   As I jump up to look out the window, I see it is a mama with a baby, showing it the ropes of foraging.

How cool.

I believe I shall go out to the garden and see what’s happening out there.   Maybe the ants will have left.   Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  As if.  Maybe a flock of flickers will have come by and eaten them all.     Hahahahahaha.

I can dream, though, right?

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Today we awoke to snow falling, and it has continued all day.  Nice for it to actually feel like winter, actually.   I am happy to have some cold weather arrive to give the fruit trees pause for thought about whether they really should be budding quite so early in the year.

At any rate, it has given us a lot of fun both inside and out, what with bird watching and Mallory watching.

The birds are very much appreciating the feeders in this weather.   We filled the feeders about four hours ago, and they are already empty.   Not surprising, with the large population availing themselves of the resource.

Crowding at the feeder, hopping about on the ground or waiting their turn in the trees, all that bird activity makes the yard  a very busy place today.

That is what is making Mallory watching fun.  There are so many birds to watch she just doesn’t know which window to sit in.  In between her marveling and chittering at all the bird activity, she sits quietly and pensively studies the snow.   You can almost see the wheels turning in her little cat brain as she tries to figure out how the world became so vastly different overnight.

Yesterday I took Ruby out to Bennett Spring again, with the express purpose of capturing the ice out there in all its myriad forms. It has so many.

There are the icicles, of course, spangled and sparkling as they refract the sun.   Some of them enthrall me with their bulbous and sculptural forms.

As the ice freezes on the ponds and puddles, it makes more than one sort of pattern.   There is a very angular one that seems to form on still waters.

There are very curved forms, sculpted by the flowing water that freezes on the brooks.

Another sort of curvaceous frozen form occurs in the frost flowers, where the capillary action of the soil around the base of plants forces the water out into freezing air.   Here the pressure behind the ice formation causes all sorts of delicate and intricate whorls.

I happened across another sort of ice entirely, the man made form, towards the end of the walk where I neared the picnicking areas in the park.   Apparently, someone had a wedding or other romantic event, one of the guests finished their drink, and poured out the ice on the ground.

Very seasonal, don’t you think?   A sort of wintry Valentine’s greeting.


Another very different meaning of the word “iced” (the assassin’s referent) occurred yesterday in the yard.   We happened to look out the window just as the Cooper’s Hawk was sitting in the elm tree consuming her breakfast.   I managed to steal out and catch her there, not really unaware of my doings, it seems.

She fixed me with her fierce glare, and then flew off, breakfast complete.   The evidence of her rapacious devouring of the purple finch that made her repast lay scattered below her perch.

All of that is covered by snow now.

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Lately life around The Havens has felt a little like this picture:

In case you can’t tell what that is a photo of, our resident Cooper’s hawk was perched on the fence outside the bathroom window, being harrassed by no fewer than five blue jays.   At the point I took this shot, she was hunkered down in the gap which someday will have a gate, with three jays on the fence near her and another couple in the red bud tree on the other side of the fence, all squawking what amounts to “We don’t like your kind around here,” or words to that effect.

Too bad all you can see is the window screen and blur.

I’m not feeling quite so beleaguered and confined today, however.   For one thing, a therapist has entered our lives, and even though the work has only just begun, just the fact that there is someone who can direct our efforts towards the big pile of stuff on our plates and help us be more effective in dealing with it makes a huge difference in the atmosphere.  To those who have supported us and sent cyberhugs and love during this rather difficult period, we send deep thanks and love right back.

I especially want to thank Syncopated Eyeball, who took a risk, and actively encouraged us to seek professional assistance.  I think that her message was the last grain of energy and sense that finally started the ball rolling in that direction for BOTH of us, and for that I am deeply grateful.  I just wanted her to know that she did a small thing that made a huge difference for us.

Fall has finally made its appearance, and things are cooling off around here.   We finally had the first fire of the season, and Mallory proved that she is a true feline.

It took literally no time at all for her to discover the proper place for a cat is toasting her belly in front of a fire.

I moved the plants back inside, and she also has discovered that she really is a jungle animal, and there are beasts lurking in the jungle that must be attacked and dispatched.   Too bad most of those beasts are imaginary, the hunt and kill is fairly detrimental to the jungle and we have been trying to discourage that behavior.   Unfortunately, the disciplinary device (kitchen spray bottle) only seems to add verisimilitude to the rainforest experience.

She has also discovered the flush toilet, a modern convenience which most of us may not realize is actually a cat mind-boggling entertainment device.  If anyone tries to actually USE the toilet without her in attendance, there are vociferous complaints outside the door, because she wants to Be There for the Flush!   The water goes down and THEN!! it comes Back UP!!    WOW!   As you can see in the above photograph, the cat is not lacking for play items, but there is always room for more entertainment in Mallory’s life.

We had our first frost, in preparation for which we pulled up all the basil and made the last batch of pesto.

It was late enough in the season that we didn’t find any spiders in this batch.   We wound up harvesting basil three times this summer, and have quite an excellent supply of it on hand for the winter.   Some of it wound up on the pizza Jim made the other night.

The Stroll Garden is winding down.  In this shot, you can tell that it had been dry.

I got my water bill yesterday too, and that proved it as well.

From a distance, it all looks a little sere and not very interesting, but close inspection reveals that there is actually quite a lot going on.

The clematis are doing their fall review.

On the rue plants, the caterpillars of the Missouri Woodland Swallowtail butterfly are grabbing a last meal before chrysalis.

The agastache (hummingbird mint) is going great guns.   I hope it proves to be winter hardy, I really like the way it performs.   It is a drought tolerant perennial in addition to being not palatable to rabbits.  I didn’t notice the hummingbirds cared much for it, they were way too enthralled with the canna lilies and the purple hyacinth beans.

The bittersweet vine has berries.

The native aster in the rain garden is bee heaven right now.  The frost has not tamed it.

I’m sure I have shared my fossilized spirals with you before, but I still love them, and the light is always different.

Still have a few colchicums around the place.

I’m awaiting the arrival of the fall crocuses, which have their noses up but haven’t bloomed yet.   Now that there has been a frost, perhaps they will emerge.  Not everything likes it hot.   Some thrive in the cooler times.

We survive too, to thrive again.

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