By KAREN MADORIN
Robins, sandhill cranes, hummers, and other summer birds headed south months ago. Official winter has nearly arrived, and now sparrows, finches, and juncos visit our feeder several times a day. Hoping we’ll see an elusive cardinal adding its color to our regular diners’ drab neutrals, we hide behind the curtain and peek out the window. Instead of laying eyes on that scarlet bird with the dashing cockade, we observe extreme skittishness amongst our regulars who never stay in one spot long. That means one thing—a predator lurks.
My husband adds fresh birdseed every day and makes sure the suet hasn’t disappeared. One of us empties ice from the water pan and refills it so our visitors can drink or bathe, depending on their mood. Since we began winter feeding, we’ve noticed our little brown birds (lbbs) dash to the feeder only long enough to grab a beak full of seeds. They then flee to our deck’s edge where they duck under swiftly when they feel threatened (which is often). In years past, we’ve enjoyed watching them hang out to do the bird version of gabbing around the office water cooler. This season, these creatures don’t congregate in open space.
Once we noted their anxious zipping from feeder to porch, we looked for the reason. Clearly, a neighboring cat didn’t alarm them. It would have no trouble following panicked birds under the deck. In fact, that would simplify feline efforts to snag a fresh meal. Our eyes turned skyward. What threatened from above?
On a recent windy day, I spied a possibility clinging to a nearby light pole. A small accipiter took refuge from gusts in the crook where light intersects with pole. On a day like that, I assumed it blew in, but based on our backyard birds’ behavior, this designed-for-precision attack bird preyed regularly upon several feeders available in our neighborhood.
A couple of days later, I stood at the stove stirring bubbling fudge. My hubs slipped in to tell me to creep quietly into the laundry room and look out the window. What the heck did I see but animmature Cooper’s hawk planting itself square in the middle of our deck!
Needless to say, not a single lbb remained in sight. I’m sure that raptor heard their tiny, hollowbones quaking in fear below the flooring. I had to pour that fudge onto a plate, but fortunately thehawk hung around long enough to let me have another look along with a quick cell phone pic through a smudged window.
For those of us who’ve reached an age where feathered visitors add excitement to our days, Iwanted desperately to spy a cardinal. Instead, a young Cooper’s hawk highlighted my week by landing right outside our back door. That said, we don’t want to make easy targets of our tiny guests. Now we need to pile brush next to the little brown birds’ food source so they can flitswiftly to safety. Hawks need to eat too, but they’ll have to work to snag a meal in our backyard.
Karen is a retired teacher, writer, photographer, outdoors lover, and sixth-generation Kansan. After a time away, she’s glad to be home.
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MADORIN: Raptors vs. LBBs – Hays Post
By KAREN MADORIN