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Traces of a Sharp-Shin

Thursday, April 29, 2010

He is the James Bond of hawks, beating the bushes for his breakfast, almost always getting his man.

He hunts our feeders. When he is hungry he perches right on them, peering around for any bird who might be frozen to their sides or under their tops.

He is not what most people would consider a welcome feeder bird, but he always makes me smile. I have spread this feast for him, and he gladly avails himself.

He is the king of the birds in our yard, a cruel despot in their eyes.

The traces of his presence are everywhere—in the dark flank of a cardinal, torn

In the odd posture of a nuthatch, injured

who I no longer see around

And there’s nothing I can do about it but stop feeding

But to do that would be to lose the flocks I love so well

and send him hungry into the cold woods.

Spring is here and I miss him. I haven't seen him for weeks. Bill saw him April 25, circling over the east half of our land. Perhaps he is mated to the beautiful female sharpshin I saw carry a small package into the valley over which he circled. I hope he stayed.

I hear sharpshins calling from where she disappeared, on my morel-hunting slope below the big pines. Perhaps I’ll see him again when we’re moving slowly through the leaves, searching for pale honeycombed heads. The first ones came up April 21. We're hoping the gentle rains and soft ground will bring many more.


I have also had a sharp-shined hawk at my feeders this winter. Once, while sitting in my office chair, I picked up my binoculars to check out what was happening in my garden. Just as I got them to my eyes, I saw the sharpy dive down and grab a chipping sparrow. And this was within 8 feet of a brush pile.

But all animals are part of the grand design and being swift and beautiful and able to cull out the weakest animals keeps the gene pool stronger.

Thanks for sharing your sharpy story.

I enjoy your observations. I've had the same thoughts about my Cooper's, but if I stopped feeding, the hawk-songbird interactions would just happen somewhere out of my sight. Bringing wildlife out where we can see it doesn't change their behavior, it just allows us to witness and learn from events that we would otherwise miss.

Hunting morels is one of my favorite childhood memories! Just thinking of that made my day. Thank you!


Posted by Anonymous April 29, 2010 at 5:38 PM

I love your sharpy. And your cardinals. We don't get them in my neck of the woods. Nuthatches, though, we get an occasional siting. I sure hope he's found a great mate and they'll stick around.

You mentioned morel-hunting. Do you get those mushrooms that, when pan fried with a little butter, taste like chicken and/or beefsteak?

I forget what they're called...last time I had them I was a teenager.

Great post, beautiful photos, and a helpful perspective on feeder hawks.

Speaking of morels and things gathered, I have a drop-dead recipe for ramps in cream. There is no other way I prepare them now. I'll send it to anyone who wants to try it (from James Peterson's "Vegetables").

I do not get it.....a feral cat gets a bird and that is horrible....the hawk is fed by you and gets a bird and you still feed him/her...please explain.

Posted by Anonymous July 7, 2010 at 12:16 PM

The hawk is native and belongs here.
The feral cat is exotic, and doesn't.
Native hawk is welcome on my property, feral cat is not.

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