A few mornings ago, I walked into the backyard to put something away; suddenly a hawk flew from the grass, right in front of me, up into a tree branch. The spot where he had been on the lawn was covered with the feathers of a grackle. The feathers were fresh. I left momentarily to get my camera and returned to take a few photos of the hawk in the tree before it decided to fly away. I didn’t realize until I downloaded the pictures (and could look at them closely) how fresh those grackle feathers really were — the grackle’s body was being firmly held underneath the hawk. I had interrupted the hawk’s breakfast. The grackles had only returned to our backyard in the past week or so after being absent all winter. The hawk must have been thrilled with their recent return!
Most of the time, when hawks visit our backyard with lunch in mind, they follow the same pattern of behavior. They position themselves on a high tree branch, in an incognito location, quietly waiting to see what prey moves around down below. Not so, with the hawk that stopped by the backyard today. He perched on the most prominent lower branch of the tree, right in the center of the yard. This branch is only a foot or so above the hanging suet cages and is adjacent to where the bird feeders are. After only a minute or two of sitting and looking around (while I hung out of the sliding glass door and quickly took some photos) the hawk dove directly into the nearby spruce tree where the sparrows like to hide. It vanished completely from view for a few seconds, but came out of the tree empty-handed (or empty-sparrowed) and flew away.
We only have one wren that visits our backyard, but he makes his presence known very loudly!
See other “One” photos at: Weekly Photo Challenge.
As I sit at the laptop and type, I am listening to a cacophony of blue jay calls in the backyard. Lately, I’ve been noticing groups of blue jays banding together in sound and purpose just about everywhere. Blue jays have always been one of the staple backyard birds of my New Jersey upbringing. I have a vague remembrance of my father being dive-bombed by a blue jay as he mowed the lawn – perhaps he ventured too close to a nest. During the last year, blue jays seemed noticeably absent. I would glimpse an occasional lone jay but, for the most part, the usual crowd at our feeders included sparrows and finches, eating their seeds without verbal interference from blue jays.
After experiencing firsthand some of the effects of Hurricane Sandy last year, I wasn’t surprised when I read recently about the impact the storm had on birds, mostly because of storm damage to either the bird’s habitat or food sources. An article from the National Wildlife Federation specifically mentions blue jays as one of the species that flew south in search of food after the storm. Based on my own casual observations, I think they’ve now returned back to the north!
This backyard hawk caused a downy woodpecker to make some stealthy moves
The woodpecker flattened itself against the tree branch
What a trick! Hiding behind the branch out of the hawk’s sight
Every once in a while a hawk visits our backyard; today it came twice and caused one of our backyard birds to resort to a stealthy move for its survival.
The first raptor visit was early this morning when I was in the kitchen. Through the window, I saw the hawk perch low in the walnut tree next to our bird feeders. I wanted to take a photo through the sliding glass door, but the hawk flew off just as I returned from down the hall with my camera. Later this afternoon, I was outside in the backyard, with my camera, when the hawk returned a second time.
Normally, when a hawk is nearby, the backyard birds flee into the hidden areas of the bushes or pine trees and there is silence. All chirping ceases. This afternoon, the hawk appeared so suddenly it seemed to take the birds by surprise. They weren’t able to resort to their normal safety routines.
The female cardinal didn’t flee and hide. Instead, it stayed completely frozen in place on a tree branch, not moving whatsoever. The tufted titmouse was a little bit braver. It made a short, sudden warning call and then immediately dropped into the pine branches out of sight. The mourning doves stayed still in the same position they had been sitting in previously. The downy woodpecker, however, was the stealthy one. First, he froze on the tree branch. He didn’t move his head to the right or to the left, but you could tell he was aware of the danger. Then, he pressed his body down as close as possible to the branch. His final move was to swiftly rotate around to the underside of the tree branch to get out of the hawk’s direct line of sight. The woodpecker stayed completely still in that position, keeping the branch between himself and the hawk, until the hawk finally flew away. Once the danger was gone, the woodpecker moved back around to the top of the branch and started to eat some suet. The other birds also resumed their activities like nothing had happened.
Posted in Insects and Animals
Tagged backyard birds, backyard wildlife, bird, bird hides from hawk, bird watching, birding, downy woodpecker, hawk, nature, New Jersey, New Jersey suburbs, New Jersey wildlife, photo, wildlife in suburbs