Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cooper’s Hawk Drama and the Blasted Cats!

1. Cooper's hawk-kab Cooper’s Hawk 5-9-13

May 25, 2013: I awoke this morning bleary-eyed and yawning. I pull back the drapes to see what birds are in my yard. From the backyard I hear quail calling. I look out to see two pairs walking the wall and hopping down into my yard. From behind the bushes and trees I hear another pair calling. A wide smile spreads across my face. 

DSC_0519-kab

I like quail, but I never thought I would see any in this yard since I live at the center of a suburban neighborhood surrounded by houses and block walled yards. I only started seeing quail here earlier this spring. Lately I have had a male quail hanging around on a regular basis. So, it was a surprise to me to see this many pairs here all at once. I quickly dress and make the bed, all the while keeping an eye on the birds out the window. I am almost done when I look out to see a 20 pound fat gray cat sitting on the corner of the block wall watching my birds. He has one paw dangling down into my yard and his pupils are fixed and dilated. I can tell he is deciding which bird to pounce on. I jump towards the door in alarm. My quail are down there! I rush out onto the balcony yelling and hissing and clapping my hands hoping to scare the cat away. The birds fly off in all directions, so I guess I saved them anyways, but this cat is not dumb. He looks up at me on the second floor balcony wildly flailing my arms and yelling and gives me a look that says, “Really? What do you think you can do about it from up there?” What can I do? I yell down to Gus to chase the cat away from downstairs. I tell him frantically that I have quail out there! He quickly opens the patio door and steps out. The cat bolts away.

3. DSC_0412-kab The rest of the afternoon passes peacefully. Gus and I watch a little TV, eat lunch and relax. Eventually we both get on our respective computers. It is a sunny and windy afternoon and I watch the wind gusting in the backyard while I am sitting at my computer processing photos once again. I’ve been watching birds on and off out my backyard windows all day. Mostly I have seen the usual finches and doves. Now I spot a Rock Pigeon in the yard and grumble to Gus about it being here. I want the birds to come to my feeders, just not this species! So, as I am sitting here cropping and enhancing photos I hear the quail calling again. I cannot resist and so I turn to look out the window. Suddenly I am struck dumb and my mouth gapes open. I cannot believe my eyes for there in the backyard are a momma quail and four newly hatched babies! They are not much bigger than gumballs running around on tiny little legs and following momma everywhere!

4. DSC_0155-kab As I am watching the quail family and smiling I see the hen hop up on the brick retaining wall to where the feeders are. Papa quail is standing guard high up on the block walls that surround our yard like fences. It is his job to keep a look out and sound the alarm in case he sees trouble. As I am watching these cute little fluff balls I am wondering how they even got into my backyard since they are far too small to fly like the adults when suddenly I see my own bit of trouble. The tiny little birds cannot even hop up the retaining wall to join their momma. The momma keeps on calling and searching for food and the chicks keep throwing themselves against the cement blocks trying to follow her. They can make it up one level of the three brick high wall, but they cannot go any higher. After watching this for a few minutes I know I need to do something. I do not want the babies to exhaust themselves with the effort. The only thing I can think to do is to build them a ramp, so, off I go.

5. DSC_0158-kab(This may be the same hen as I saw today since they both have that speckled head look, unusual for this species. Photo taken 4-16-2013)

I grab my sunglasses and my yard gloves and head outside. I see the mother quail has moved to the west side of the yard near an old doghouse and a pile of wood stacked there for campfires. I work my way slowly up the east wall so as not to alarm the birds. While the male quail flew off from his perch the instant I stepped out, all the other birds stayed around, including the doves underneath the feeders that are partially blocked from where I am standing by rose bushes and a tall tree. I grab some cement pavers that were left in the yard and start to build my little ramp. I am engrossed in stacking it to the right level with a staggered effect so the chicks can hop up them like stairs. Out of the corner of my eye I watch the little chicks clambering over the wood pile and running behind the old plastic dog house. All is going well and I am almost done when suddenly I hear the explosion of wings around me. I quickly turn and straighten up to see what is going on. I did not think I made any sudden movements to scare the birds. And that’s when I see it.

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There on the west wall is a Cooper’s Hawk. Its talon is closed around a tiny fluff ball. Before I can react or do anything, the accipiter takes to the air on powerful wings and flies over my rooftop with one of the chicks clutched in its claw!

All my yard is silent now and I am standing there in disbelief! That hawk swooped down with me in the yard not more than 25 feet from where it landed. There is not a bird in sight. I stand there limp armed and sad. I was thinking I would have to 6. Finches feeding-kab defend these little birds from the big fat gray cat I saw here this morning. I knew that hawks were a danger from above, that is why I wanted the babies to be able to follow their mother up onto the upper level. There is a thick desert broom growing up against the back wall where I suspect she may have been nesting all this time for I have seen the male hanging around my yard for the last two weeks. I thought he was a bachelor. I guess not. I was out here trying to help this little family. Now I find myself part of an even bigger drama. Broken-hearted I go back inside to sit and wait. It isn’t long before the finches and doves return to the feeders. Then, I see the male quail back on his post calling. Next, the mother quail emerges from inside the dog house which has its opening turned to the wall so my grandson will not play inside. There is just enough of a gap for the quail and her chicks to squeeze inside and now her three remaining babies follow her out into the yard.

7. COHA-kab Then, the momma quail starts gently calling. She wanders all over the yard looking for her lost chick. I watch from inside as she hops up onto the retaining wall and walks beneath the feeders. The male flies down and joins her. Together they wandered the backyard with the little chicks following. Now that they have the ramp they easily make it up onto the upper garden. Up and down the parents go with the babies following, but their sibling is not to be found. Finally they nestle against the east wall catching the last bit of warmth from the setting sun. The chicks are so tiny and so perfectly camouflaged that they blend right into the stones and disappear before my eyes. It is only when I look through my bins that I can distinguish their shapes and see their downy fluff.

8. coha-kab I am starting to relax and think that all is well for the night. In spite of everything I am proud of myself for making the little stairway for them to climb up. Then, as I am sitting here at the computer typing up this story I look out the window to see an orange and white cat climbing down my block wall and into my garden. I quickly bolt for the door and chase it away doing my best and loudest cat hiss! Really! Twice in one day? I know I will not be able to protect these little chicks from all the dangers that can befall them. It’s a tough world out there. The hawk is one thing. I know the chick it killed will go to feed the hawk’s own little chick, but roaming cats are something else. They do not belong outside! They kill millions of songbirds, lizards, reptiles and mammals every year. While the hawk getting one of the baby quail made me sad, the cats just make me mad! Please, if you have cats, keep them indoors where they are safe as well as the wildlife outside that they hunt and kill! These little quail will have no chance against a cat. They are trapped in my yard until they are old enough to fly away. And while they can hide from the view of a hawk by hunkering down under a bush, there is no place for them to hide from a marauding cat! Darkness has fallen now. I do not know if the three remaining quail chicks will survive. I can only go to bed and wake up tomorrow to see what the new day brings. In all my love of nature, I know that I cannot control it, or make things turn out the way I want them to, but I will do my best to protect the baby quail if I can. Now if I could just teach the Cooper’s Hawk to hunt the cats!

9. coopers hawk-kabCooper’s Hawk in birdbath May 14, 2013

Note: while I did not get photos of the hawk in action I was able to get pictures of the baby quail and will post them as soon as I can get them processed. All of the hawk and bird photos on today’s post are from shots I have taken over the past month. Cooper’s Hawks are hunting my feeders on a regular basis. On several occasions I have seen the Cooper’s fly down and just stand in the birdbath. On May 14 I saw one land there and stay. I think it was cooling its feet, for it stayed there so long that the birds started to relax and return. I saw a Mourning Dove land right beneath the hawk and the hawk just looked at the dove. Suddenly the dove realized the hawk was there and flew off again. The hawk never moved from the birdbath! Nature never ceases to surprise and amaze me.

34 comments:

  1. Hawks must have a sixth sense or a good sense of smell. They get whiffs of baby quail.

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    1. Rita, you are something else! But, I do have to say that he dropped right out of the sky and I never saw it coming!

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  2. Wow! Those Cooper's know what they're doing!
    A depressing twist but also a great tale, and with great photos too. Super shots Kathie.

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    1. Thanks Laurence. There are more to come!

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  3. I too could understand the hawk needing a meal, but not the neighbors cats. You are such an angel for building that ramp.

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    1. Gaelyn, I agree. The hawk is one thing, the cats are something else. I had to build the ramp! It made the babies too vulnerable! At least this way they had a fighting chance.

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  4. What a day you had Kathie! Letting nature take it's way is one thing but providing feasts for the neighbourhood cats is something all together different. Cats are an introduced species and therefore technically vermin. Feral cats, as well as domestic ones, have decimated the ground nesting birds of Australia as well as small mammals like the bandicoot. Cats, foxes and marauding dogs of owners who let them out at night and think that is all right. We had a pack of dogs kill a new born calf and the mother died from shock. Isn't it odd how animals that live in close proximity with man are the worst killers.
    I do so hope your remaining quail chicks survive.

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    1. Arija, these domestic predators gone wild are just awful. I am so sorry to hear about how they have devastated wildlife in your country! How I wish we could change people's minds so that more people would be responsible and bring a halt to this wanton destruction!

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  5. wow, so much drama. I would be a nervous wreck for the baby quail. I do know the hawks have to survive too though. The cats got to go though, I can not stand to see cats roaming my yard. I hope the quails survive, looking forward to seeing the photos. Happy Birding and have a great weekend!

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    1. Eileen, it has taken me days to get through all my photos and hope to post them and the rest of the story soon! I have been a wreck. Thank you for caring!

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  6. Sweet Coop pics and I love the quail! I too would be pretty anxious about the quails' welfare

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    1. Robin, the little chicks are just too darn cute!

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  7. Great photos of the hawk. I kept waiting to see pics of the baby quails as I was reading your story. Hope all is well with the quail family today.

    Tammy

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    1. Tammy, I have had a lot going on but hope to post the quail pics tomorrow with an update.

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  8. How much fun to have these quail and their babies in your yard. Great pictures as usual. Can't wait to see the baby quails.

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    1. Cindy, I feel terrible that it has taken me so long but between the holiday and going out birding and processing hundreds of photos I am behind once again! Hopefully tomorrow I will have the rest of the story up with pics!

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  9. Hi Katie....Those Quail are so adorable..can't wait to see babies!!
    It took me some time to get to the point of excepting the food chain when it came to raptors, but that's the way it is meant to be, but can be sad :(!!
    My cat is an indoor cat, for her safety as well as the birds, and believe me she doesn't need any extra food : )))
    Now if I was in your situation I probably would be at the hardware store buying enough chicken wire to cover the whole place haha ; )!!
    Hope all has turned out okay!!
    Grace

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    1. Grammie G, spoken like a true Maine-iac, LOL!

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  10. Wow, what a day you had! Poor mama looking for her little one, it's so sad.

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    1. Terry, I know. Though they are just animals it is hard not to empathize!

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  11. Hi Kathie

    Quite the day indeed. I have to agree about the cats, after a long period of people being responsible, we have a no cat roaming bylaw, they are everywhere again. I have tried trimming some of the shrubs to make it harder to hide and the dogs do their best but it really cheeses me off.

    Guy

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    1. Guy, some cities have enacted ordinances against free roaming cats, but I don't think ours is one of them. I have not SEEN the cats since that day, but that does not mean they have not been here. The toll they take on wildlife is almost unbelievable!

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  12. Superb Coopers Hawk images.
    John.

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    1. Welcome JRandSue! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  13. Very much the cycle of life in your garden Kathie. Splendid photos! I hope the babies survive. I'm surprised people let their cats out. When I lived in California and it's probably the same in your area, cats and other small dogs were being carried off by coyotes and even the occasional mountain lion, and yet people still let their cats outside. Animals are always following their instincts. I don't have cats or dogs for that matter, just the birds at the feeders, the squirrels and the chipmunks, and I shoo away the occasional cat.

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    1. Denise, we do have coyotes around here, even in the city and I, too, am surprised at how many cats don't get carried off, but yes, especially out in the country the wildlife do tend to eat our small domestic animals. I have heard of small dogs and cats also being carried off by Great Horned owls! These cats are not in my yard every day or even every week. it was just a coincidence that both cats and the hawk all showed up on the same day!

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  14. Since you were able to weigh the cat at 20 lbs, why didn't you just put it in a carrier and deliver it to Chris?!?!?! (VBG!) I sure he would love to have it! lol!

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    1. Gordon, Very Funny! Chris has his own feral cats to deal with where he lives, and thankfully all of his are indoor cats! Besides, he might un-friend me if I did that!

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  15. A lot of drama and frustration between the cat and the hawk visiting the same day! Even though I own cats, mine don't spend more then 5 minutes outside....they are old cats....and couldn't catch a bird if their life depended on it. My sister has had the same problem with the quail parents and her backyard wall. The parents act like they don't realize those little balls of fluff can't make it up a wall yet! She does have a gate they can get through if the parents have enough sense to take them there. Bird parents aren't always real bright. That's a very determined hawk, to hang around like that!

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    1. Mary, yes! Lots of frustration and drama. I have left my gate open for the past couple of days. I hope to post the rest of the story tomorrow!

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    2. P.S. thanks for being a responsible pet owner! I also have cats that totally stay indoors as well! I don't hate cats, I just hate cats running wild!

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  16. Dear Unknown, thank you for bookmarking my blog and I do hope that you come back, but please don't use my comment section to advertise your products. You are always welcome here if you have a genuine interest but I will always remove all comments with links to products.

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  17. Having Quail in your backyard but with all the predators-Wow- that is some drama! Great photos kathie. Some people aren't aware of what a threat that cats are to the bird population or they think that cats hunting birds is part of nature which it is not.We keep our cat inside but growing up the cats were always outdoors.We have to continue getting the message out.

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  18. Oh, you are so lucky to have the quail in your neighborhood. We USED to have several families, but that was about 10 years ago...sigh...no quail now. I was up in Idyllwild one time feeding the blue jays when KAPOW! A Cooper's hawk flew by, grabbed one of the jays, and was gone in an instant! All I saw was a blue blur in his talons. Poof...gone!

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Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.