Saturday, July 23, 2022

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About...


A couple of months ago while having happy hour in the sunroom, a hawk flew by. We all jumped up to get a better look. Well, ever since then, he's been hanging around. We were certain that he was living in the trees in our side yard. 

You know what that means? I've become obsessed. And what do I do when I become obsessed? I search the internet and read everything I can find about hawks!

These pictures are not very good since I had to "sneak" them from inside the house while not scaring it away.

Okay, so a hawk may not seem all that interesting. But, a couple things happened recently to cause my obsession.

1. Two days in a row earlier this week, while I was on the treadmill--around 6 a.m. I noticed the hawk perched on the top of the roof next door staring at me. The first day I thought it was kind of cool. The second day, I thought, "OMGosh! Is this hawk stalking me?" I haven't had a chance to see if he comes back at the same time each day, since I haven't been on the treadmill at that time. There's that.

2. On Thursday night, I saw two hawks on the pool deck. I was so surprised as I've seen the one hawk dozens of times. They were so close, but if I moved to try to get my phone for a picture, I knew they'd fly off. So I watched them for a while. And when I moved, they flew off. One of them had what I think was a bird in its talons. This sighting did solve a little mystery for me. I thought sometimes the hawk looked different. I didn't realize I was seeing two of them! Obviously, males and females look very different. The female is much larger and appeared to have longer tail feathers. 

3. Then last night, I saw 3 hawks---yes, three! One was smaller, so I figured it was the baby. I moved into the sunroom to get a better look and to figure out what they were doing. It looked to me like they were stalking a squirrel. One was on the top of the gate near where the squirrel was. The smaller one was on a tree branch much higher up and the other was on a lower tree branch on the left side--sort of surrounding the squirrel. Now I might have said the "poor" squirrel, but there's no such thing. The squirrels (and chipmunks) have been annoying us for years! They do so much damage--you might recall this post from all the way back in 2011! Also, they are a nuisance with the bird feeders and tearing up my flower pots. Anyway, we hate the squirrels. That's when it dawned on me. I haven't been noticing so many squirrels lately. Hmmm. I wonder. 

So on to my research. I found out that hawks:
A. Mate for life. They even mourn their spouse (if that's what they are called in the animal kingdom) before finding another mate. 

B. Even though they mate for life, the male and female each have their own nest except for their mating period. Now that sounds like a pretty good idea! I think a whole lot of marriages would survive if the spouses each had their own place!

C. They have a keen paternal and maternal instinct. Both are involved in the raising of the young.

D. They tend to stay in the same area. If they migrate, they will often come back to the same nest(s) year after year.

E. They are attracted to large, dense trees that provide adequate protection and a ready food source. And here, I lamented the fact that the neighbor cut down so many huge trees behind us. Apparently, there are still enough big trees to continue attracting the wildlife in our backyard.

F. They stay and hunt in their nesting area. As long as the hunting is good, they will stay for life. They are territorial birds. 

G. They hunt from the air and on the ground. They can sit for long periods of time --up to six hours--completely still--either stalking their prey or waiting for something to come along. 

H. They are opportunistic hunters. With their keen eyesight (I guess that's where the term "hawk eye" comes from) these raptors can swoop down at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, talons extended and grab unsuspecting prey while still moving at 30 miles per hour. 

I. They can soar in the air for hours at a time without resting. They exert very little energy while doing it.

J. They eat small rodents like squirrels, mice, rats, and birds. That lead to a discussion while floating in the pool with my friends. So, I did a little more research. They cannot carry off your pets. But, they can kill them with their sharp talons and eat them on the spot! That got me to thinking. I began to wonder if they eat fish. Of course, they do!! Although they do not go underwater to get them, they can see them from such a distance that they do the "swoop down thing" and grab them with their talons. 

We were pretty sure that another heron had gotten our goldfish. But armed with my new knowledge--and the fact that the fish are acting very weird--I'm certain it's the hawks. 

The fish have always been the "friendly" sort. They always come up to say "hi" whenever you approach the pond. Actually, they are expecting to be fed. Any visiting kids always like to feed the fish. Well, this year, the fish are NOT coming to the top to be fed. They are skittish, which is so unlike them. I'm pretty sure the hawks have terrorized them. 

Now we have a dilemma. Do we sacrifice those poor little fishies for the love of the hawks? Sort of like when we had our outside cats. Someone said, "Oh, so you have a bird feeder to attract birds so your cats can kill them?" No, that wasn't it at all. It's called "the survival of the fittest." My dad always said that cats would only be able to get the old or sick animals. I guess that makes it seem better. But cute little defenseless fish...I don't know about that. It makes me feel kind of bad. But on the other hand, the fish seemed to have learned what they need to do to survive. As for the squirrels, the hawks can have as many as they want! 

And we've been taught that man is the biggest predator! 

PS I loved making this report. It reminds me of my school days. I always said that I would rather write 10 reports than take one test! 

After I wrote this post, I was able to get this picture. 

Can you see them? All three. 
None of these look like the smaller one I saw last night. I don't really know what we've got going on here. I'm obsessed, I tell you! 

I have been sitting in the sunroom for over an hour with the binoculars. I've gotten a lot of pictures, but you just can't tell how huge they are from the pictures. 
Taking a bath together. How romantic is that?
I'm in awe!

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