Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cooper Strikes Again

When I got home from work and grabbed the dog leashes from the downstairs patio door I spotted the Cooper's Hawk flying away from this ground feeder tray right out in the backyard.
"Oh-oh," I thought to myself. I walked the dogs around to the backyard and sure enough.... there was fresh blood on the edge of the tray and lots of feathers scattered all over. (I deleted the blood picture and here's the less gross scattered feathers).

I picked up a few feathers to try and ID and I'm thinking (hoping) it was a house sparrow. What do you think?

On days that I'm home, I may see that Cooper's Hawk a couple times a day swooping through the yard. She particularly likes sitting in the apple trees (at the right side of this photo) and I've scared her out of there on more than one occasion when walking out in the yard. These trees are pretty dense and it's a short quick flight out of there to the birdfeeders nearby.

I don't mind if she gets a few birds in my yard.....I have an overabundance of house finches and sparrows and even quite a few mourning doves that would make a good meal for a hungry Cooper's Hawk. I remember when I worked at Wild Birds Unlimited there were always a few customers who would come in and be absolutely irate about a Cooper's or Sharp-Shinned taking songbirds from their feeders or yard. I read a great article in The Backyard Bird Newsletter one time that reminded us how few hawks there are in relation to songbirds and how truly difficult it is for them to catch enough food every day in order to survive. I always tried to share this information with people and also remind them of what a privilege it is to see a bird of prey going about its business in their own backyard. (It's still hard to remember that though when you find a pile of cardinal feathers under your backyard feeder.....)

On my way back into the house, I used a fern leaf to rescue this little beetle who was trying to right itself in a half inch of water in a plastic bucket. According to my new Kaufman insect field guide, it's an "Earth Boring Scarab" Bolbocerasoma species. The book says adults are attracted to dung....plenty of that in my yard with 2 dogs and all those bird feeders.

On an entirely unrelated subject, I'm pleased to report that we have completely discontinued the use of plastic beverage bottles in our household. There's been so much in the news lately about all the plastic bottles (water, pop, juice, etc.) being thrown away and lots of them not being recycled. My Spousal Unit loves the flavored waters in plastic bottles and would go through at least 12 of them a week. I've been refilling glass tea bottles with water and a little packet of Lipton "Green Tea to Go" for my lunch beverage and asked him if he would give up his flavored water in plastic bottles to experiment with something new.

At the grocery store, I found these "Water Sensations," a Clear Liquid Flavor Enhancer for Water (cost is about $2.50 for a box of 12 packets). I bought a 6-pack of plain Lipton tea in glass bottles (which I drank myself) and then filled his bottles with water from the tap and the "Water Sensations" (BTW, it comes in yummy flavors: peach, mixed berry, and strawberry/kiwi and it's sweetened with Sucralose). Turns out to be very delicious and he really likes it....doesn't miss his plastic bottles at all and 6 bottles guarantees that there will always be a bottle of cold, flavored water in the refigerator for his lunch and to quench his thirst after his afternoon walk. And boy, have we noticed a reduction of stuff in the recycling bin every week!


KGMom said...

Can't help you with the feathers, but I can sympathize.
I have stopped putting out seed since we have peregrines who regularly buzz the neighborhood feeders.
Much as I love the peregrines, I am not sure I want to set up a bird buffet for them.

Lynne said...

I have a Cooper's Hawk that buzzes my backyard on a regular basis too. I'm not too sad when they get a meal for all of the reasons you stated so well. I'm actually pleased to think my yard might be healthy enough to support a hunting raptor. We've been seriously trying to reduce plastic bottles at our house too. We saved a heavy plastic juice bottle to reuse making instant tea. I'm going to look for that Water Sensations at the store tomorrow!

Ruth said...

Hawks have to eat too, and there is an abundance of house sparrows, finches and doves around here as well. Good for you with the plastic bottle resolution. We have used Nalgene bottles for a couple of years. I don't mind plain tap water but I use a filter for the chlorine. I am thinking of ways to decrease my use of plastic bags as well.

Trixie said...

Yup, the circle of life is tough for some folks to get. Especially when they feel proprietary. And when it is in your own backyard.

Nice reduce/reuse! And now you will have fewer plasticizers to deal with.

Mary said...

Hawks need to eat, too. It is hard to see a Dove in the clutch of a hawk flying over my head. I saw that once and it was upsetting. I have found piles of feathers on a few occasions - always mourning doves. I haven't seen a hawk in my yard for several weeks.

Your bottling idea is great. We have a small frig in the garage packed with plastic bottles of water and green tea. Lots of brewskies, too!

Cathy said...

I know the raptors have to eat, but I can't help feeling bad for the little former owner of that handful of feathers.

Great idea about bottling your hubby's drink. I've got to find this stuff. Sounds yummy.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
That's what we used to tell customers at WBU also: close down your feeding station for a while till the hawks change their route to find birds elsewhere. It's better to miss them for a few weeks than see them getting eaten by a hawk every day.

Hi Lynne,
Glad you understand about the hawks. I think it's neat to see them swoop and dive.
Good for you on your plastic bottle reduction efforts...I had only 1 family member to get on board...but your reduction will be 2 times greater than mine if you succeed!

Hi Ruth,
I'm glad to hear your yard is contributing to hawk survival also!
I have read that Nalgene bottles are the best for reusing.
Plastic bag that's a good challenge for us take up next!

Hi Trixie,
You're right....Mother Nature isn't always cute and cuddly....much as we would like it to be.
Thank you. It's nice not to have all those plastic bottles filling up the fridge too.

Hi Mary,
I've never actually seen them fly away with the victim in their talons....that would certainly be disturbing!
I love that green tea in bottles! The tea packets to add to water are OK, but they don't have the same flavor of what you buy already mixed. Love the brewskies too, plus we get money for recycling the cans!

Hi Cathy,
You're right about those feathers. I usually don't find them too often this close to the house, so I imagine the little birds at the other feeders were pretty terrorized when this happened.
There are lots of brands of flavors to add to your water. We found these in the "kool-aid" section of our local grocery store.

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

That's it. I'm with you on the plastic bottles. My son is the only one who drinks them and it's a humongo waste. (My husband only drinks bubbly water. I am happy with well water with lemon. Or wine.)

Thanks for the inspiration, Ruthie.

--Robin (Bumblebee)

Jayne said...

Hawks have to eat too, and so it always excites me to see nature at work, no matter how unpleasant it can be at times. Yes, let's just say it was a house sparrow. ;c)

Larry said...

I can't wait till a Cooper or Sharpie Comes back to my yard.-I don't want it to stay too long though, or I won't have any birdies!