Saturday, March 20, 2010

Something I Haven't Seen

This morning, I'm talking with my friend, Tonia. I'm supposed to go into the city, where she lives, tomorrow. But we are in the middle of what may be the last gasp of winter. (See the post below.) My windshield wipers are not working. Best assumption is that the motor for the wipers needs to be replaced. Preliminary estimate starts at $175, which, as you might suspect. I don't have. So, I must refrain from driving any place when wipers are necessary for vision. How do I get to work? It's a 2 mile drive which I can do by using side streets up to 3 blocks from the office. I drive slow. I pull over and wait if I can't see. I just need to get to the end of the month and pay day to see what I can not pay this month to get this fixed. Yes, life is, for me, a juggling act. There is some light at the end of the tunnel but it's going to be a struggle to get there. I feel getting the oil changed and the wipers fixed as we head into spring and the rainy season trumps paying certain bills.

But back to the reason for the post. I'm sitting in my home office which overlooks the back yard. I am not wearing my glasses. I had been lounging in bed, playing with Mija when the phone rang. I gaze out at the back yard festooned with snow, and my eye spots something on the neighbor's fence. I'm very certain it wasn't there last night. I put on my glasses and see this.

Large birds perched on the neighbor's fence are not usual in my neighborhood. I think it was 4 years ago, I had a hawk perch in the tree which would be to the right off this photo. It was late March then too.

Tonia and I chatted for a good 45 minutes, all the while the hawk just sat there, occasionally scratching or preening. After Tonia hung up, I got the camera and was able to snap a couple of photos.
It hung around for another 30 minutes after I finished my conversation and then took off. I don't know that my yard is a hawk-friendly environment although rabbits, as we've seen, live here, and Rascal used to catch chipmunks that lived under the neighbor's air conditioning unit. I had mice make an attempt to come into the house last year, but, once again, Rascal saw to their disinvitation. Maybe there is enough food for a raptor. I'd welcome the bird.

But just what kind of bird is it? There are a lot of red-tailed hawks in the Chicagoland area. They like to nest in or near open pit rock quarries. They are redder than this bird and have more brown on the chest. They are also larger. When the bird took off and flew over the house, it did not have the distinctive red tail of the Buteo jamaicensis, red-tailed hawk. I had a suspect, however.

Over 10 years ago, a pair of Cooper's Hawks made a nest in a tree next to the home of one of Carole's friends. It was a grand summer, watching them nest, and rear and send 2 young hawks into the world. We would stand on the roof above the entry porch with binoculars and watch as a parent would bring home a rabbit or some other food item and these two, rather ugly chicks would clamor for food.

I looked up Cooper's Hawk and I believe, based on the description on the page linked, that's what the above is. I think this is an adult although I don't know the gender. Scouting my yard as a possible housing location? As I said, I wouldn't mind.

I liked the Cornell University Ornithology Lab's web description much better than Wikipedia. Back in the 1990's, I was a member of their Project FeederWatch. Four months out of the year, you watched, for a week, the activity at your bird feeder, counting and identifying all the birds that used it. It was great fun and, as I was home during the day, I could devote a morning or an afternoon to just sitting and watching. When I went back to work, I didn't have the time to devote to this. The feeder fell apart and I have never rejoined the effort. There are times I think about it, particularly now as the birds who overwintered are joined by those who went south. But until I reestablish a feeder, I don't have many visible birds in the yard. I hear them, but I'm not good at identifying bird calls, except for that stupid robin who sings way too loud in the summer.

There was a link on the side to a program called eBird. In clicking on it, I discovered it's a way to submit bird sighting information to the Cornell Lab. A few clicks and typings later, I had submitted my sighting of this bird. I didn't see a way to transmit these photos, but I'm sure, if someone wants to see them, they will contact me.

I've always felt raptors were good luck. I love driving back to Iowa and seeing Red-tails, Cooper's, Northern Goshawks and Broad-winged Hawks and the occasional Bald Eagle along the road, either perched in nearby trees or sitting on the power poles scanning the ditches for meals. They are all majestic birds, beautiful in flight and provide a very necessary niche in our environment. Perhaps having a hawk eyeballing my back yard is a sign that life will, in fact, be better this year. I'll take it as a good omen.

Beverage: English Tea Time


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