Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Raptors and Winter Flowers

Our resident red-shouldered hawks sometimes hunt for small birds feeding in the garden beds in front of the house. The activity of so many birds can be irresistible to them.

I saw a Cooper's hawk hunting on the farm earlier this winter, and the front gardens was one of its favorite places to hunt. It had rounded tail feathers, which is why I think it was a Cooper's. I got a good look as it flew up from the ground into one of the nearby trees as I led the horses by. It even began to preen. This one was about the size of a crow so it was probably a female. Usually when I see an accipiter of an ambiguous size -- larger than a blue jay (average size of a Sharp-shinned) but smaller than a crow (average size of a Cooper's) -- I have to settle for "either a female Sharp-shinned or a male Cooper's". Male raptors are often smaller than females and the size differences are marked in accipiters and falcons. Female Cooper's hawks may be one third larger than males. I saw this bird flying over the pastures too, looking just like a tiny military aircraft.

And yesterday I saw a Sharp-Shinned up close! I had just turned the horses out, heard some frantic twittering in the holly tree, and then saw a bird which at first I thought was a mockingbird. Then I realized that it was a little bit bigger than a mockingbird and brown, not gray. I got an excellent look at him as he flew across the grass drive towards the woods. Must have been a he because he was absolutely no larger than a blue jay.

With less cover winter is a great time to observe hawks. DH saw a marsh harrier last week and the red-shouldered hawks commenced with their courtship rituals at the beginning of the year.

The first wave of flowers and half opened buds of the Prunus mume -- about a third of the tree's total -- were swiped by the cold spell in early January, but since then buds have started opening again.

The witch hazel wasn't affected by >15 degree temperatures at all,
and I catch the fragrance every time I walk by. The scent is clean
and like Fruit Loops at the same time.


  1. Lovely photos. Don't think I've ever seen a Coopers or a Sharp Shinned hawk in my area. We do have a resident red tail who raises a family here every spring. We have a foot of snow on the ground here so I hope our hawk manages to find enough to eat to survive the winter. Our winters are very hard times for hawks.

  2. How great it must be to have such an assortment of birds. You have good spots for them to shelter. How cool that you have blooms, I am so glad it is February, and I can see that spring is on its way, even though we have had over 12 inches of snow over the last 3 days.

    Thanks for stopping by ny blog.

  3. Great photos. How neat to see all of the different birds and to see spring starting to happen there in your bit of paradise on earth.

    Have a lovely day ~ FlowerLady

  4. Lovely sunny pictures in your garden and the pictures of your haws are wonderful!

  5. Great photos! I often see red-tailed hawks soaring the area below us but I've never been quick enough to catch a photo and I've never seen one take a rest break in our garden.

  6. If Prunus mume and witch hazel are blooming, has some important corner been turned?

    1. Prunus mume and witch hazel are committed winter bloomers, not early spring bloomers. At least the days are getting longer though. :)

  7. Great photos! Red-tailed hawks are the common hawks in our area, but I've never been able to get a photo of one. I missed the perfect opportunity one day when one was sitting feeding on something near the end of our yard. Just as I finally got my camera out, he flew away--carrying a poor squirrel!

  8. I would love to have something blooming! Actually, I think I have an overachieving hellebore. :o) I see raptors here but not that often. My area is just too built up. But if hawks eat squirrels, they need to come by more often.

  9. Great shots of the hawk! I am so ready for spring, but this weekend we are supposed to have bitter cold again, with temps in the teens. I was looking at my camellias today, with big buds about to open. Every time they start to bloom, it seems they are hit with frost. I guess that is what they get for blooming in winter!

  10. Gorgeous photos, you can see all the feather details on that bird. Just wonderful. It's freezing cold here and blowing snow so it's a treat to see your blooms. I've never heard witchhazel described as fruitloops before, your description brought a smile to my face. I'll have to sniff the blooms come spring to satisfy my curiosity now.

  11. Fantastic photo's of the raptor. It's so hard te catch it on a photo.
    I hope the cold is not in your part of the country. A couple of weeks to wait and spring will be there.
    Have a wonderful day Sweetbay.

  12. Nice capture of that hawk! The Prunus mume is beautiful. Good that all the buds weren't blasted by the cold snap.


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