Monday, February 11, 2008
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!