August 29, 2013: I woke this morning to a heavy blanket of clouds and drove into heavy rain as I dropped my grandson at school. The rain never actually made it to my house, but was localized over the Catalina foothills. Nonetheless, the rain and clouds did manage to drop the temperature for awhile and after returning home, I was able to sit outside on the patio and eat my breakfast and watch birds. A cool breeze ruffles my napkin and tries to tease it away from me, but I am just quick enough to grab it before it is gone. Meanwhile the hummingbirds buzz by my head and do battle over the feeders suspended from the support columns of the patio roof.
All is peace and bliss in the backyard as doves feed below the feeders and house finches and goldfinch twitter and chirp in the backyard trees and bushes.
As I sit quietly writing in my journal suddenly there is a bird explosion as wings take to the sky and talons drop like knives into the body of a mourning dove. A quick look through my bins reveals the streaky brown face and breast of a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk hunched over the body of a hapless dove. I try to get up from my chair quietly and hide behind one of the pillars to get a photo of the hawk on its prey, but those hawk eyes see me and the young bird lifts off with the dove clutched tightly in its claws.
It lands just over the wall in my neighbor’s mesquite tree, and after a few adjustments it finds a spot it likes to sit and dine. I remain in my chair after this, not wanting to scare the young bird off its prey.
As I continue to sit and write I keep my eye on the birds in my backyard. What amazes me is how fast they return to normal. I have seen this on nature shows in Africa where the antelope or gazelles will be in a panic until the lions or cheetahs make their kill, then everyone goes back to peaceful grazing.
Soon the goldfinches and house finches go back to chirping and twittering, the hummingbirds go back to jousting and one dove even perches in the same tree while the Cooper’s devours its prey! But then a funny thing happens.
A pair of Gila Woodpeckers flies in and starts squeaking and squealing. They stay high in the tree above the hawk but seem to feel it is necessary to let the whole world know that there is a hawk in the tree. They keep up their vocal barrage, which really does sound like a conversation, for quite awhile, until finally they fly off and the yard grows quiet again.
I wonder how often these dramas are carried out with no one to see them. Obviously it happens numerous times every day. If I had not been sitting outside at the time I would never have witnessed this. If it had been as hot as it has been I would not have been sitting outside today at all. But the heavy cloud cover and the early morning rain made sitting outside comfortable for me and I love to sit outside. This morning’s drama is one of the reasons why. And though I live in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, I feel privileged to witness such a natural event. ~kab
Note: All photos used today are from my archives.
|Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in my Tucson backyard 9-14-2012|
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