Monday, February 11, 2008

Sharp-shinned Surprise


You never know when life is going to drop a gift in your lap, but that's what happened to me today. It is right after breakfast and I am busy doing laundry. The Gambel's quail are scratching merrily outside the window at the quail block. Birds are chirping and tweeting all over the place. The mourning doves are cooing their mournful songs. It's really a peaceful day, when I hear an explosion of wings, then silence. I look out the window and all my birds are gone, but I can't see why. I continue to load the wet clothes into the dryer before heading back down the hall to the rest of the house. As I pass the den window I stop in my tracks. There perched on the fence not more than 20 feet from me is a hawk! Having the camera has made me lazy in some respects. Instead of stopping to figure out what I am seeing, I grab the camera and start shooting. I know I will be able to decipher field marks later when I upload images to the computer.

The hawk stares around itself sharply. It's almost comical the way it keeps looking at the ground as if it expects some poor bird to offer itself up in sacrifice. It turns its head this-way and that looking for prey. I've put my tea kettle on to boil and now it is whistling madly at me. I snap off a few more photos before I can't stand it anymore and I walk over to the stove and turn it off. When I come back I think the hawk is gone, but walking over to the window I discover it has just moved farther down the fenceline. I'm able to get a few more photos before this immature sharp-shinned flies away. The immature is recognized by it's course vertical brown striping on the breast. An immature Cooper's has thin dark streaks. Note also the hawk's sharp shins, the bit of an eyebrow and though it is young, it still has that hooded rather than a capped apearance. Another thing to look for is a more square rather than a rounded tail. Distinguishing sharpies from Cooper's is challenging at best and I am far from an expert, but I am learning all the time. Having these photos certainly helps!

11 comments:

Mary said...

Yay for you! Life is full of wonderful surprises. Like you, I shoot away with the camera and look up the IDs later. Lovely, lovely shots of the hawk. Made doing laundry a little better, didn't it?

Kathiesbirds said...

Yes, it did, and now I have to get back to it! Thanks for commenting. I'm always glad to hear from you!

scrapbookideas said...

Hi Kathie! Wow, I have just been catching up on your blog - fantastic photos and adventures :)!! I would be thrilled to see a hawk up close like that!! Thanks for sharing all of these great stories!

Island Rambles Blog said...

Well you sure got some good shots of that hawk...forget the laundry...that hawk is so beautiful and I would not mind seeing all the other birds that you are so lucky to have about everyday. Funny how your common yard birds are extraordinary to me.
You write really funny too. (In a good way I mean!!!).

Ruth said...

I don't think I could tell the difference between a Coopers and a SS Hawk, but I will remember your tips. Nice photos.

PA-Birder said...

Nice pictures. I guess one thing remains constant, no matter where Sharpies may be found they give the term birdfeeder a whole new meaning as they like to feed on the birds we feed!
Vern

Kathiesbirds said...

Jess, (aka Scapbookideas)glad to see you are visiting again. That hawk photo was a true gift. I can't believe it didn't fly away when I got near the window to photograph it.

Ocean, as Mary says,who minds laundry when you've got these beautiful birds to watch! I'm glad my writing makes you laugh. I know that other people's birds always seem more exotic than our own, but they are all wonderful. I haven't seen some of the ones you get up there in your neck of the woods!

Ruth, the challenge in identifying Cooper's and Sharpies is intense! I keep looking and learning all the time and still get it wrong sometimes, especially with the size overlap. I feel pretty confident I got this one right.

PA birder, how right you are! Thanks for stopping by!

Amy said...

What an awesome sighting, you lucky duck! I have yet to get to see one of these guys up close. Our Cooper's will land in the larger trees around our house and we can get a good look at it with our binocs, but no sharp-shinned action. Check out the feet on that kid! If he grows into those feet you're in trouble!

Kathiesbirds said...

Amy, you are so right!

Aunt "B's" Backyard said...

WOW, you certainly are very lucky getting those shots let alone that 'sharpie'! Stunning!!!

Larry said...

stunning shots! I have some trouble telling the two apart-espbut that it a textbook example-well done and good pointers too.