When a predator comes calling

“He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survive.”
― Jack London
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(red shouldered hawk / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Gather up the woman and children,
and katy bar the door. . .
there’s a new sheriff in town”

It was raining.
It was also the middle of the day.
Glancing out the window, I spot something a bit out of the ordinary.
There, in the middle of the yard, in the middle of the rain, stood a bird.
And not just any bird mind you.
I did a double take.
That’s no crow. . .
Hummm. . .

By all appearances it seemed that an apex predator was making himself at home in the middle of my back yard.
And as it is most common to spy hawks soaring over head, seeing one standing in the middle of one’s yard was a bit unsettling.
Was it hurt I pondered.
Had it seen a mouse and swooped in for the kill?

I usually see hawks overhead, on a clear blue sky kind of day, lazily circling, contently catching a thermal and often being harassed by crows and mockingbirds doing their best to send the predator flying away from unsuspecting nests and young.
Growing up in the middle of Atlanta, hawks were a common sight as they are birds which appear to adapt well to change and urban growth. What do you think keeps all those city pigeons in check? However seeing one strolling around the yard is not so common.

I grabbed the camera and began snapping away. Unfortunately I was taking pictures through the slats of the shutters as I was afraid to make any noise or noticeable movement, plus I was shooting through the rain—the resulting pictures are grainy at best.

I never did see anything that he was actually chasing nor did I note an injury. He ran around a bit, which actually had me laughing as he looked a bit silly darting about in the soggy grass in the pouring down rain.
I was thankful our cats were indoors as I have read that a hungry hawk is not deterred by small dogs or cats–hunger is hunger and a predator can’t be choosy.

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Eventually my feathery friend must have tired of trotting through the wet grass as he decided to fly up to a nearby small tree, confirming that he was most likely not injured.
And whereas I enjoy such encounters with the wilds of nature, I just hoped this bird was merely visiting and had not decided to take up residence. Remember, I’m wanting to get a few backyard chickens- – – as the coop is vacant, ready and waiting—No chicken dinner here, no siree.

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Ode to the birds of winter

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.
Christina G Rossetti

Ode to the birds.
They are lively busy creatures offering constant fascination and entertainment. A marvel of agility, their tiny, almost weightless, structures coupled with a most beautiful plumage, makes them a favorite of both the trained, as well as the casual, observer.

Man has spent most of his existence wishing that he too could be a free as the birds, soaring upward and heavenward.
It is even theorized that perhaps it is to the birds we should look when wishing to understand the mysteries of the dinosaurs.

The following images are of just a few the backyard residence and guests which call our yard either home or hotel. . .

Here are two different images of a northern flicker. Both the red bellied woodpecker and the northern flicker are native to this area. Both birds are very similar in appearance and make for interesting observation.

Flickers like digging for bugs and insects be it in the ground or on a tree. This particular flicker is burrowing down in the snowy ground looking for what may be lurking just under the snow. Both flickers and red bellied woodpeckers will readily feed from suspended bird feeders, preferring larger seeds, peanuts and dried fruit.
Up against a tree, the flicker acts very much like his kin the more common woodpecker, poking around for insects.

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Mystery in the snow. . .
Note the outline of spread wings and tail.
Might this be a snow angel of sorts?
Followed by, for some small rodent no doubt, a scene of something most wickedly fowl / foul.
Finally, we spy the perpetrator perched high within the cover of the trees—the stealthy red shouldered hawk.

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Here, gathered underneath the feeder, is a grouping of sparrows and what I thought to be a visiting Baltimore Oriole but was recently corrected (12/12/14) that the bird is actually an Eastern Towhee.

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As usual, the permeant resident of the yard, our mockingbird

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And of course the beautiful contrast of the brightly colored male red cardinal against the pristine snow. Note the myriad of bird tracks all through the snow surrounding the cardinal.

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