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Sharp-shinned Hawk on the Feeder!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh, look. Who's that?
Oh, that's why there haven't been any birds around for the last hour. The sharp-shin is back!

The Indigo Hill sharp-shin as he appeared in November, 2007, the year of his hatch. He's in the spangled brown plumage of a juvenile. Now his back is blue as slate, with ruby eyes. My, how he’s grown, fueled by cardinals from our feeder.

All winter long and well into spring, we have played host to a sharp-shinned hawk. I’m almost certain, from his demeanor and habits, that he is the same little gentleman who was with us last year as a streaky, orange-eyed immature bird, and in 2007 as a rank juvenile (above). By that reckoning, and if it is indeed the same bird, he may be three years old now. He is smart, sleek and persistent, and he is an excellent hunter. Better than he was in 2007, and better than last year, to be sure.

Mostly, he presents himself as a blue bullet streaking about waist-high through the yard.

By the time the cardinal (almost invariably a male) is aware he’s being hunted he’s already being readied for processing into bite-sized bits. That’s a sharpie for you.

I love our sharpie. I choose to love him because I have attracted a small truckload of cardinals with my sunflower seed offerings; because I understand that a truckload (I’m talking 50-70) of cardinals in my yard is an unnatural concentration; and I accept the inevitability that somebody is going to take advantage of that. It is a perturbation in the natural scheme just begging for correction.

I also love him because he is beautiful.

He rockets through and alights in a tree like a piece of milkweed down, as if his talons snagged him suddenly there.

He looks about fiercely then settles into his bolt-upright comfort position, to stay for awhile and look for the unwary.

He extends a foot, knocks it on the branch a couple of times, and tucks it up into his downy belly feathers.

Doing so, he conjures Louis Fuertes and Lars Jonsson and the many sketches and paintings I’ve made of sharpies at rest, all tucked up and benign for a few moments.

He sees every small movement, in detail I can only imagine.

When he is hungry, he doesn’t sit so quietly.

He rages and frets, cartwheels, always on the attack, feathers sleeked to his hard little body.

This is when I am glad I’m not a junco.

Thanks to a persistent Pakistani spammer, I've had to disable comments on this post for the morning. Let's hope Mr. showpanmohsin, who lists his only hobby as Playing Video Games, will get discouraged and go stuff beans up his nose. And then let's hope they sprout.


Beautiful Cardinal culler.

How very cool! I would love to have a sharpie hanging around the feeders here; I've only ever seen one once, and it was a very brief glimpse!

"He rockets through and alights in a tree like a piece of milkweed down, as if his talons snagged him suddenly there."

Poetry, once again.

40 to 50 cardinals?!!

Heck. I wouldn't resent my Cooper's if I had a couple dozen Cardinals to spare. But I'm always running out there shaking my fist at the empty sky.

Wow is he ever gorgeous. And I think he knows it too. He definitely hit paydirt at your place. I'm glad I'm not a cardinal.

Very nice shots.

Nice story and photos. It's Cooper's Hawks over here with the meal being a toss up between Blue Jays and Mourning Doves

What a beauty!!

Sharpies and Coopers - when soaring up high, I've learned to tell them apart. But when I see them swooping through the understory or in attack (I've seen it twice! Both times no prey captured - prolly 'cause I was jumping up and down screaming for my wife to come see - lol) I never know which is which.

Posted by Anonymous April 26, 2010 at 4:24 AM

Beautiful post Julie. We don't have a sharpie but do have a cooper's who is a frequent visitor to our feeders. Doves seem to be the dish of choice, although I've found downy and blue jay feathers as well. Nicely done as usual!

What a beautiful post! It excites me to think that I will be able to put up all my feeders again in a few weeks when we move to our house with two acres and woods and meadow. Right now, I am with Cathy. Hannibal and Mrs Hannibal, the Coopers who live in the live oak directly above the house, have taken out too many of the feeder birds in this tight little neighborhood block. Filling the feeder directly below their nest seems a bit out of balance so I don't- but I love the hawks very much. Right now they are in the middle of feeding hatchlings so the walk is littered with their flotsam and jetsam as the blue jays scream their outrage. Your photos, as usual, tell a great story.

Terrific hawk photos

Posted by Anonymous April 26, 2010 at 6:10 AM

I don't understand where the name comes from. Is there something particularly sharp about their shins?

Believe it or not, Joy, if you run your finger down the front of the leg (the yellow, scaled part), the top (shin) is sharp and bladelike; the Cooper's hawk has more of a rounded, soda-straw leg. Cool or what? The name dates from the early days of shotgun ornithology when birds were named on the basis of features you could see when you held a dead one in your hand.

This Sharpie puts me in mind of an Earthwatch trip I did at the top of the Goshute Mtns. in Nevada at the edge of the great salt lake desert on the border of Utah in 1984. We banded all the migrating hawks we could capture as they made their way down that western flyway. Man, what an experience! Nothing like getting to hold a Sharpie or Cooper's or kestrel or Red Tail in your hand to carefully band it. And you've never heard anything till you've been swooped in a blind by a Golden Eagle powering through a mist net after a "snack" snagged by the same.

Love this blue-backed creature as you do, Julie. And all the other raptors and owls out there patrolling so silently.

great shots - he's beautiful! Everybody has to eat - the cardinals and the hawks...
We have sharpies and Coopers here in southern Idaho but I usually only get a glimpse of them zooming by.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Beautiful photos Julie -- esp. the flight one.
I'm with you, I'll gladly give up a cardinal for the Coop's and Sharpies who visit my backyard. A hawk's gotta live and feed their family too! (fortunately, they're more likely to take a MODO or HOSP before a cardinal anyway)

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