Saturday, December 1, 2007

House Arrest

I'm quarantined to the house today, as an ice storm has begun and they say that a difference of 1-2 degrees will determine whether we get a quarter inch of ice cover or just snow. It is currently falling as freezing rain, which does not bode well for the worst case scenario!

As I paused at the end of typing that sentence, I caught a bird out of the corner of my eye that looked unusual. I grabbed the binoculars, and... OMG! NEW BIRD!

This time, I had the long lens on the camera and all I had to do was pop off the lens cap and fire away. I grabbed some through-the-screen crappy shots, just to make sure I got something for identification purposes. Then I ran to my bedroom, where it's easier to get higher up to shoot through the non-screened glass. (My desk is in front of my office window). I should put a step stool in my bedroom - then I'd have it made! (Or, I should just figure out how to remove the stupid screens - *still* can't figure it out).

Downy woodpecker?

I think he's a Downy Woodpecker. At first I thought Hairy woodpecker, but apparently Downy's have much smaller bills. I didn't get a good profile shot of this guy, but his bill seems pretty small. The Hairy's bill is as long as its head, and this guy's bill doesn't look that long. So I'm going with Downy. I've submitted the photo to Flickr's Bird ID group to see if I can't get some help from the experts.

I was excitedly editing that photo when I heard the tell-tale swoosh of birds departing en masse, which only means one thing: a hawk is nearby. I stood to get a better view out the window, and sure enough, a hawk was weaving in and out of the brush, chasing a bird. "Fly away, guys, fly away!" The hawk swooped down to the ground and... yup. He caught one. I think he caught a junco. I watch in horror as he came out from the brush to the lawn. He stood there for a few minutes (probably squeezing the bird to death - I read that's what they do). I was frozen, staring. He didn't seem to be going anywhere, and I figured I should probably grab my camera. This is all part of it, right?

I grabbed the camera from my desk and ran back to my bedroom. I snapped a few shots, and as the hawk started eating the bird, I broke into tears. I've never been very good at the whole food chain/circle of life thing. When I was little, I loved watching nature shows on TV, but inevitably, there was always a scene where the featured animal became prey to a larger animal, and I'd burst into tears and run to my room. My dad would try to explain that it's just nature, but I couldn't help but sympathize with the poor victim, the underdog. Eventually my mom said, "You have GOT to stop watching those shows!" after one show had me practically hyperventilating in tears. I did stop watching them for a long time. I'd flip past a show on TV with some cute animal and think, keep flipping... he's just going to die anyway.

Then, I went to see March of the Penguins at the movie theater. All of the previews were adorable and funny! I didn't realize it was an actual documentary. Poor Randy. By the end, after seeing the baby eggs freeze and the predator birds attacking the baby penguins, I was a running snot faucet, nearly sobbing as we left at the end of the movie.

I realize that it's probably a good life lesson to come to terms with the food chain. Even as I watched the hawk eating a bird that was here because I lured him to my feeders, I was thinking in the back of my head that the hawk was having a meal, too, and he wouldn't starve today.

Still, I cried through the whole affair, snapping a couple pictures then watching through the binoculars. I apologized to my feeder birds as I watched.

Hawk - Cooper's?

The hawk was taking forever, plucking the bird and eating it, so I decided to try to go outside to get a photo. A couple weeks ago when the hawk was in the tree, it didn't fly away when I went outside, and this time the hawk was much farther away. So I went outside onto the deck and lined up a shot. Right then, the hawk saw me and flew away. I hope he was done eating, but at the same time, I'd like him to think that this isn't the safest place to find a meal.

Every time I see a hawk around here, I think that my feeder birds will never come back. Why would they keep coming to a dangerous place? Well, by the time I got upstairs from trying to take a picture of the hawk outside, the juncos were already hopping around on the ground, out from their hiding places. Within a couple minutes, the finches returned, and within 10 minutes or so, the place was hopping again with house sparrows and mourning doves. That made me feel a lot better. I may lose a bird to a hawk every so often, but I am helping SO many more birds than I lose. And even in losing a bird, I'm helping another - all part of Mother Nature's plan.

Here's a cute shot of a male and female house sparrow, to end this post on a happy note:
Mr. and Mrs. House Sparrow

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