22 February 2021

 This has been the most interesting winter at our bird feeders in 25 years or more. Not a lot of variety – a few chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, towhees, etc. – but the biggest visitation of pine siskins we have had since the 1980s. Every day for a couple months, it was usual to have 100 or more siskins at the feeders at all times. They went through a lot of thistle seed.

 Just a few of our visiting pine siskins

  All the bird activity around our deck attracted the accipitrine hawks, mostly Cooper’s. At first, it was one or two adult hawks, regularly scattering the crowds of little birds. They seldom caught anything – a siskin or a junco – maybe because so many little bodies scattering off in so many different directions made it hard to keep focused on one particular prize.

 Cooper’s hawks, after missing their meals


   Usually, the adult hawks made one pass at our deck, sat nearby  for five minutes or so (either eating their rare catch, or just sitting), then were gone for the rest of the day. The fun started when an immature Cooper’s hawk “adopted” us. It came every day for several weeks, usually arriving with a swoop that raised a cloud of departing birds, but usually didn’t result in breakfast, lunch or dinner. (I think we saw it make only two successful passes, once for a junco that it caught fair and square, and one for a siskin that hit our patio door during its escape, and sat stunned on the deck while the hawk flew down and claimed it.) After its usually unsuccessful arrival, it would find a perch on one of our fountain/birdbaths, on the stand that held the feeders, on the deck railing, or in the nearby mountain-ash. There, it would sit, sometimes for up to a half-hour. Initially, I took some photos through the window, thinking it would depart as soon as I opened a window or tried to get closer. Finding that it didn’t seem to care what I did, I began opening the patio door and snapping picture after picture, hoping to get a few “good ones.” Even after I got tired of snapping photos, the hawk usually sat on, until it was good and ready to leave at its own selected time. Over the next couple weeks, I took nearly 100 shots, many of them “pretty good.”


  In the last week or so that the young Cooper’s hawk visited regularly, it became much more wary,  and would quickly leave if I moved too quickly in the house or tried to open the door or a window. The big flocks of siskins had departed, but it still visited almost every day. We still see what is apparently the same hawk in our yard, but it has only visited the deck one or two times since it quit coming regularly.


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© Sanford Willbur 2022