Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

March 16, 2009

Backyard Cooper’s Hawk

Filed under: backyard, behavior, Birds — richditch @ 7:09 pm
Cooper's Hawk in the yard

Cooper's Hawk in the yard

My wife Carol has always had a passion for feeding the birds in our yard, and anything else that will come in for that matter. This passion goes well beyond reasonableness: when we lived in New Jersey we had six shinny galvanized trash cans along the back wall of the garage just to hold black-oil sunflower seeds and there’d also be another 500 pounds or so of seed still in bags in the basement. Although I hated the expense, the mess, and the labor of moving all that seed around it definitely paid off in the birds we’d see out the window – like 600 Evening Grosbeaks at once in an incredible feeding frenzy during a very nasty snow blizzard. Our yard became a stop on the circuit of every year lister in NJ as we were the most reliable spot in the state to see these birds each winter.

Here in AZ Carol has replaced the sunflower seed addiction with a mealworm addiction: all the local Cactus Wrens, Curve-billed Thrashers and Northern Mockingbirds know our yard is the place for a daily handout. And the doves and quail get their own daily helping of millet each afternoon.

All this bird feeding activity has another side effect – regular visits from accipiters like this adult Cooper’s Hawk. We know one is around whenever the birds are acting nervous, and especially when they explode into the air in a mass exit when a coop or sharpie passes through.

But I rarely get a chance to grab a photo of one of these hawks – they are just too fast and I have limited views of their perches from inside.

This bird stayed around a bit longer than normal on February 15, 2009, and I was able to grab my gear and get a handful of shots from inside through a dirty side window. The image suffers a lot from the non optical glass, the dirt, and the oblique shooting angle.

What was fascinating about this bird’s visit, though, was how intent it was on something it was trying to catch. The top image shows an intense stare at a small bush a few feet from the wall. The second image shows the hawk hoping down for an up close and personal inspection of the bush. It actually/hopped around the bush and made a few jabs towards the center, but wasn’t successful in flushing or catching anything. I wish I could have gotten shots of this interesting behavior, but the window angle didn’t work out for any photos.

Cooper's Hawk drops down

Cooper's Hawk drops down


1 Comment »

  1. Great shots. Wow sounds like you guys were the birding hot spot in NJ – Ihaven’t even seen Evening Grosbeaks, never mind at my feeder…

    Comment by Owlman — March 17, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

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