The Hawk and the Squirrel

Usually when I get up the first I do, once I have said “hello” to all the critters, is let the dog out into the backyard. Yesterday I opened the backdoor and there was this large bird about twenty feet away from the stairs. It took a few seconds for it to register that it was a bird of prey because it was so out of place. I yanked the dog back in, closed the door, and continued to watch it.

hawk in back yard

As you can see he is pretty close. This is the closest I have ever been to one and it is especially unusual for it to be in town; although I am pretty close to the outer edge. Anyway, my first thought was it must be injured and made a mental list of places I could call for assistance (bird sanctuaries, animal rescue etc). It hobbled a few steps and that was when I saw the black tail and realized it was in hunter mode and had nabbed itself a squirrel. You can see the squirrel’s tale horizontal with the bird’s backside.

hunter and prey

The dog at this point was worked up. She wanted out to do her business and she knew I had seen something which made her even more excited. It is a chain reaction for her. I mulled over the idea of opening the door and shewing the bird away but then I would have a dead squirrel to deal with if it did not take it to flight — I do not do dead critter clean-up. I eventually decided to take Shelby out front to do her business and to wait out the bird.

When we came back in the hawk was getting down to the business of his meal. I kept an eye on him for an hour and a half while he worked away. It was an interesting experience to see this live. He eventually flew away with the squirrel in tow and Jeff had minimal clean-up before the dog could go out exploring.

I was disappointed that I could not get better pictures of the bird. The images above were as close as I could get with my Sony Bloggie — part of the clarity issue was I was taking the images through two pains of glass (not very cleans ones at that).

At one point I dug out the pocket binoculars so I could get a closer look at the bird’s features and our National Audubon Society Field Guide to Northern Birds in an attempt to determine if it really was a hawk or if it was a falcon. This was also an interesting process because I could find similar features on many of the birds of prey but none completely looked like the bird I was seeing. The closest was the Red-tailed Hawk in the light phase. Further inspection of photos and bird sites online makes me think it was a “juvenile”.

While I was viewing with the binoculars I wondered if I could hold up the lens of my camera to the binoculars to get a closer photo. Surprisingly it worked. As you can imagine it was incredibly hard to hold the arms up and center the circles so the shadow of the binocular kept moving around. Warning: The next few images may be graphic! You can click on the thumbnail for a slightly larger image.

hawk eating squirrelhawk holding down squirrelhawk eating squirrelred tailed hawk eating black squirrelred-tailed hawk tail feathersred-tailed hawk leg feathers

I realized the pictures are not magazine quality they did turn out better than I expected. This one is probably the best.

red-tailed hawk

While I was experimenting with camera a binoculars I thought I might as well try some video too (I get especially wobbly near the last minute so you may get sea sick):

And that was my little walk on the wild side!

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