In Our Suburban Backyard … We Had a Hawk

We were just finishing breakfast and Jesse looked out the window. “Is that a hawk?” he said. It was. This is not something one sees in one’s suburban backyard.

Just perched right there on the fence, probably 30 feet away.

Just perched right there on the fence, probably 30 feet away.

So I grabbed my little camera (Canon S120—just a point-and-shoot but with a powerful zoom; I use it to take photos of the songbirds birds at the feeder from inside the house) and started shooting through a window with a SCREEN on it (thus the soft focus! ha).

It was his breakfast time too.

It was his breakfast time too.

The hawk was eating something—a small bird or a mouse—holding it clamped against the fence as he tore it into pieces. He ate all of it. Then he cleaned his beak and feet, stuck one leg up under himself, and rested.

Wind blowing his feathers.

Wind blowing his feathers.

He sat there so long I snuck onto the deck and took a few more. He was very comfortable there, and I have a couple dozen shots taken during this time.

For perspective.

For perspective.

Then I thought—duh—I should get out my big camera (Canon EOS 70D). Well, the battery was dead. And it’s brand new to me so I haven’t actually used it yet. So I frantically changed the battery, switched lenses (to a 300mm zoom), and snuck back out onto the deck.

He preened a little.

He preened a little.

What’s that? He could hear the camera clicking.

What’s that? He could hear the camera clicking.

Look up, look down …

Look up, look down …

… look all around.

… look all around.

He was beautiful.

He flapped a little.

He flapped a little.

Oh, wait, that was a practice run. Oops.

Oh, wait, that was a practice run. Oops.

Hope nobody saw that.

Hope nobody saw that.

I knew he was about to fly and was trying to be ready, but still, this isn’t focused. I was a second too late.

I knew he was about to fly and was trying to be ready, but still, this isn’t focused. I was a second too late.

I know now that this was a sharp-shinned hawk—and a juvenile.

Later, I walked out on the driveway to see what I might see.

Well, I know now it wasn’t a mouse he was eating.

Well, I know now it wasn’t a mouse he was eating.

A random death.

A random death.

It was a little shocking, the feathers scattered everywhere.

It was a little shocking, the feathers scattered everywhere.

It was a bird from my feeder, probably a sparrow. I’ve learned that the sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks commonly prey on feeder birds, and there’s always lots of activity at our bird table. Easy pickin’s.

Three days later and it seems we may, indeed, have a lurking hawk. This afternoon I found all the feathers and nothing else of a something larger than a sparrow (a mockingbird, I think) on the lawn, right under a tree branch where the hawk would have sat, pulling it apart. It was almost a perfect circle of soft gray. This was not a feline-induced death, which does sometimes happen in this yard; the cats leave the body, though—for them, all the charm is in the hunt.

I’m very much of the opinion that all God’s creatures gotta eat … but … I’d prefer that this beautiful young hawk go out to the fields that surround our subdivision and eat mice and voles and other rodents. I may have to stop feeding for a while while he forgets us.

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