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30 July 2017


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Larry Kart

A few years ago I saw one of those hawks snatch a sparrow right out of the air and fly off with his prize in his talons. I felt bad momentarily for having created the backyard "paradise" to which so many birds pay regular visits, but right now I'm more ticked off at the young deer that this morning gobbled up almost all the plants I'd been nurturing in plastic tubs for months with much success. I guess that plant is called Sweet William for a reason.

Eric Newhill

Where there are doves, the hawks will show up sooner or later to take advantage of the plump easy prey.

In recent years I have become a bird watcher of sorts. Never thought I would be enjoying such a past time, but I am.

SWMBO and I rescued three fledging Kestrels (small falcons) that had been sealed in an attic during a construction project. We raised them on raw hamburger and chicken until they could fly. Before releasing them into the wild, we purchased some mice at the pet store to make sure that they knew how to kill and eat on their own. Their attack on the mice was awkward and ineffective at first, but instinct quickly took over and they got very good at it. One day it was time to release them. All three took up residence in the big old oak tree. They attracted mates who also began to live in the oak tree. They successfully raised off spring. They and the offspring returned each year for several years to the oak tree. We really enjoyed watching them gliding beautifully over the farm.

However, they were hell on all the non-raptor birds, the swallows, the jays, the doves.....they really hated the mocking birds,who would imitated their high pitched "klee klee klee". I watched the kestrels kill several mocking birds after an imitation was performed. They'd dive in on the mocking bird like a rocket and then there would be a small cloud of feathers at the moment of impact.

Eventually, over the course of a couple years, the crows and starlings drove the kestrels away. This year was the first since 2011 that there wasn't a single kestrel in the oak tree. What is interesting to me is that the other seed eaters normally don't get along with the crows and starlings. yet they clearly formed an alliance against the kestrels with their [less deadly] natural enemies. This same inter-species avian alliance existing against the barn cat too. When the cat is on the prowl, it is usually the jays and wrens that sound the alarm. Sometimes it is another species, perhaps a starling or even a sparrow. The jays and wrens respond and appear on the scene and dive bomb the cat; sometimes even striking on it head. The cat flees for cover.

My guess is that your various seed eating birds will also form a mutual cooperation against the hawk. They will make its life miserable until it leaves the area for good.


Sounds like an allegory between chickenhawks and SJWs.

John Minnerath

Out here we have a lot of different hawks and falcons. The Red Tail is a common Buteo and I've seen several come blasting through the trees and brush around my feeders like a brown feathered cruise missile.
I've never seen one successful though.
I did see one of beautiful little falcons, the Sparrow Hawk, take a chipmunk right in front of me once. With a supreme effort it got its prey up on a branch of a nearby bush and then crouched over it with wings spread wide and screamed at me, daring me to take one step closer!

FB Ali

Lovely little vignette of your retired life.

May it long continue in the peace and contentment displayed here!

The Porkchop Express

There is a family of red tailed hawks that have lived in a very large pine tree in the front yard for years. Usually they go after squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and occasionally will go after neighborhood cats-though I've never seen one nabbed. But for some reason they are obsessed with mourning doves. I've never seen any of them go after any other birds around here BUT the doves.

David E. Solomon

Morning Colonel,

That was a really lovely piece.


"... little brown things with great voices." Your backyard sounds very much like mine so I'm guessing you have Song Sparrows. (Song Sparrows are brown/beige/cream flecked with a cocoa brown thumbprint on the breast.) I take my morning coffee outside, regardless of weather, to enjoy the wildlife that lives here with me.

Congratulations on getting to see the hawk on his hunt!


Up here in the NW we feed the banded tail pigeons instead of doves. Although lately the California Doves are coming further and further north. I put down food for goldfinches, towhees, and Oregon juncos. We have plenty of northern flickers who sometimes eat the leftovers on the ground dropped from the feeders, but mainly they feast on our cherry trees. No cardinals, but we get an occasional orange tanager. I lease out barn space to the swallows, cheap rent, they pay by keeping us mosquito-free. The great blue herons in the mudflats feed themselves.

The passing overhead of an occasional bald or golden eagle sends them all into hiding. Although those eagles are much more interested in the ducks and geese out on the bay.


I like the accipiters, a Cooper's Hawk frequents my yard interested in the free-range chicken chicks. This winter it even took a full grown chicken. Bold he/she is, sometimes roosting in the shed where the chickens hang out or on the stall fences. The chickens have a distinct call the makes the chicks immediately hide under anything nearby.

Once while deer hunting, camoflaged, I watched a tassel-eared squirrel on a down log in front of me, range about 15 ft., suddenly a gray streak pounced on the squirrel. A goshawk had it by the thigh firm in its talons. The squirrel (about 1.5 lbs) was dragging the hawk and reaching back with its head to chew up and down on the hawk's leg, the un-feathered part (tarsi). The hawk let go. Then I understood why these squirrels have a very tough skin, about 1/8 inch thick. Squirrel 1, hawk 0 that day! Still one of my fondest outdoor memories.


We had a Cooper's hawk that learned to chase the robins into our deer fencing. The hawk would veer away at the last minute and then come back for the stunned or dead robin on the ground.


I feed the birds in Phoenix, approximately, one hundred pounds of milo, and white millet per month. Part of the reason, is I love seeing the sharp-shinned hawks come in a take inca doves. We have much fewer types of birds but the hawks hold a dear place in my heart. They negotiate the busy yard at about three to four feet off the deck, and sometimes stop to pluck their catch, drink out of the numerous bird baths, and just rest in the shade. My wife often comments how many more birds would be around if we did not have hawks, however, there are hundreds of birds everyday, so I do not thing the numbers suffer that much.

Swamp Yankee

I like this very much.

There's a pair of ospreys that have been nesting in the saltmarsh behind our house. They've been coming back for a few decades, and it has been wonderful to see them raise their chicks over the years. Earlier this spring, a pair of bald eagles tried to use their nesting spot for a fishing perch. What ensued was a raptor-vs.-raptor aerial battle.

About four ospreys (one "local" pair, another from down the bay a little bit) continuously swooped down on one of the eagles (it's mate must have been away fishing), screaming, clawing at it, for a good hour. The ospreys prevailed in the end. Just now I saw one of the adults on the top of a very tall Norway spruce, yelling to the chicks in the nest below as I tended my grapes.

It was for these "fishing hawks" as they're sometimes called locally that the English sailors are said to have given Buzzards Bay its name. They nearly went extinct fifty years ago, and to see them come back as they have is a great and powerful thing.


Best thing I ever saw was on a vacation up on Vancouver Island (Yellow Point Lodge....worth a plug).

Was out paddling around on the sound when a bald eagle swooped in and carried off a pretty damn big salmon.

I just watched it eat the fish on the shore 50 yards away.

One of the best hours of my life


Dear Eric,

I was directed to a TED talk on crows:


which changed my concept of intelligence in birds. Crows (at least) are quite a bit more intelligent than humans presume, and your observation suggests overlap to other species.

There are also a number of fascinating other documentaries on youtube that make good evening watching.

John Minnerath

One summer day my brother and I sat on a big rock on the shore of one of the high country lakes not far from my place. An Osprey flew out over the lake from its nest and commenced fishing at the creek inlet. Going high, then stooping into a vertical dive, sometimes going all the way underwater.
Over and over, I gotta say Osprey are really poor fish catchers :)
It finally succeeded and struggled for altitude with what looked like a nice Rainbow.
It got up hardly a couple hundred feet when a bald Eagle, we'd spotted it watching from ITS nest across the lake. There was an aerial battle for a few minutes and the eagle knocked the fish loose, did an amazing backward roll and came up under that fish and grabbed it while still falling.
Then it flew off to its nest.
The poor Osprey just went back to fishing again and finally got another it managed to take back to its own nest.

Eric Newhill

Thanks. I have seen that vid before. It's a good one indeed.

IMO, most all animals, great and small, are far more intelligent and altruistic that humans presume. More honest too. Mostly they just do what they are. I think humans presume them stupid because they are not clever in a deceitful way and they are satisfied with what little they have. I further respect animals because they don't feel sorry for themselves. They keep doing the best they can until they can't and then they accept their fate. I begin to appreciate their company more and more the older I get.


What a lovely scene. You inspire me. Alas, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.

I once saw a hawk flying with a shrieking squirrel clasped to it's chest.

And speaking of an explosion of birds:


Charlie Wilson


Try it with an Arturo Fuente Don Carlos y Robusto and 21 year old Glen Garioch, straight up.



We are the fortunate beneficiaries of a birder who sends his photos daily, often 20 or more. He is a friend from our adjacent village, Ft. Edward, NY. We grew up in Hudson Falls, the site of the first falls in the Hudson River. Ft. Edward, the adjacent village, was, I believe, the largest British Fort in the US and the home of Rogers Rangers, precursor to the current US Army Rangers.

I sent him a link yesterday about birds: http://tinyurl.com/yc8vqrg7 This piece highlights a red-tailed hawk young that imprinted on bald eagles in Canada and seems to have been accepted by the eagles.

Our friend replied that the juvenile hawk seemed safe since the birders ans conservation folks were involved. I am wondering how the deprogramming might be effected.



" As it went by it saw me and turned its head to look even as it flew a wild course among the many head high plants."

I believe Alan Farrell, quoting Joyce, would call this a "secret messenger".


I am lucky to live out my retirement on the shores of one of Ausralias largest fresh water Lakes at the mouth of the mighty Murray River where it meets the Great Southern Ocean.

At this entrance William Flinders once bumped into Nicolas Baudin, the commander of the French Baudin expedition of 1800-03. It was named by Matthew Flinders as Encounter Bay after his encounter with Baudin on 8 April 1802. Technically both Nations were at war but so far from home both Ships & crew were cordial & both Captains spent nights as guests on each others cabins. They were both exploring the coastline of the Great Southern Land, most importantly looking for a source of fresh water. All they could see on the the shoreline were sand dunes & tussock grass. If only they could know what lay a few hundred yards across those dunes ...

From my balcony I have a grandstand view of sheer tranquility & a wonderful tableau of bird activity. The lake is a habitat for many species of waterbird, including migratory waders, or shorebirds, which breed in northern Asia and Alaska. Species supported by the lake include the critically endangered orange-bellied parrots, endangered Australasian bitterns, vulnerable fairy terns, as well as over 1% of the world populations of Cape Barren geese, Australian helducks, great cormorants and sharp-tailed sandpipers. I also see great egrets, superb fairy wrens, Caspian Terns, Pacific golden plovers Eurasian Coots, white faced herons & Swamp Harriers.

There is a small wooden public jetty opposite opposite our house where huge groups of pelicans and great cormorants congregate every day. Proof of he amount of fish swimming in the lake.

My favourite is a lone white bellied sea eagle who patrols east to west then in reverse in the early morning then again before last light every day like clockwork along the shoreline. Magnificent, & not a bad place to relax now the Gladio is hung up for good.

Per Mare Per Terram

The Twisted Genius

The hawks grab a dove once in a while in my back yard. Usually I just see the pile of feathers where the poor unsuspecting dove meets his/her fate. I accept it as part of nature, but I'm still rather protective of my feeding birds.

I have a murder of crows in the woods behind the house that share the peanuts I throw out to the squirrels every morning. Once a bold young squirrel got tired of sharing the peanuts and jumped on the back of a crow. The crow took off and the squirrel hung on close to ten feet in the air before dropping off. One old crow had a game leg. We called him Hop-Along. He was around for years. One day the crows were enjoying their morning peanuts when a hawk landed on the top of the gazebo. The crows gave out their warnings, but Hop-Along was a little slow on the take off. The hawk dove for him. I launched myself off the deck wearing nothing buy a robe. The robe flew behind me like a cape as I flew through the air buck naked screaming at the hawk. The act saved old Hop-Along. The experience of me and the hawk both barreling through the air towards him probably traumatized him, but he was back the next day. It was a while before the hawk came back.



The hawk's message was that there are many doves across the river. pl


When I was a kid, farmers had loads of stories about crows and how smart they are, how they had as much individuality as people.

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