Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cooper’s Hawk Hunt

DSC_0303 Cooper’s  Hawk in yard 1-25-11

After two days in arctic temperatures I awake to yet another snow fall. Soft feathery flakes drift slowly from the sky coating the yard and the road. As usual the small sparrows and juncos are collecting beneath my feeders while chickadees and titmice land on the feeders themselves. A bright red male cardinal comes in and huddles against the feeder as if trying to hide while it eats. As for me, I am wandering the house from window to window with coffee cup in my hand looking out to see which birds are where. It is while I am in the front office that a large dark shape flies swiftly by giving me a jolt no cup of espresso could ever do.


The room where my office sits is on the southeast corner of the house with windows looking out in both directions. The feathered warrior flashes past the south windows and courses low over the snow on the east side where it pierces the branches of the snow-covered yew tree like a missile! Birds fly everywhere. I grab my camera from off my book shelf and walk swiftly to the kitchen window. My heart is pounding the whole way. Will it still be there, I wonder? Earlier this month a sharp-shinned hawk landed in the same tree near my feeders and surprised me by hanging around for a few minutes and even dropping down onto the ground and walking around. So, I hurry hopefully to the kitchen window, which is closest to the feeders.


I scan the dark green tree for any signs of the bird’s presence, but see nothing. Then, by twisting my head and contorting my body I look up and to the northeast. There in the naked maples above the yew sits the hawk! He is magnificent! His rusty breast is bright against the gray branches and white snow. The capped appearance of his gray head and his large size lets me know that he is a Cooper’s and not the similarly colored Sharpie, which is much smaller and has a more hooded appearance to its head.


The hungry raptor scans the trees with a fierce red eye. Suddenly he spots movement and darts into the yew. He flies deftly through the branches and emerges on the other side chasing some small bird. Up and over the road he flies into the neighbor’s hemlocks. I watch as he weaves his way between branches going ever upwards towards the sky and then I see the small bird flying frantically with Cooper’s in hot pursuit until they both disappear into the distant trees beyond my neighbor’s yard.


How does this story end? I cannot tell you. One bird needs to eat. One bird wants to live. One will win and one will lose. It is the cold, harsh reality of winter here in New England. The snow has stopped for now, but yet another significant storm is headed our way tomorrow. For today I am warm and safe inside my house with my own window on nature right here in the middle of a New England town and with action like this, who needs coffee! 



  1. What beautiful photos you have!

  2. Whow Kathie .. definitely better than a caffeine fix and you captured superb detail. FAB.

  3. Fantastic shots of the Coopers. They are awesome birds to see.

  4. Early Birder, thanks. It has been a while since I have had such a dramatic story to tell!

    Eileen in MD, the trick was getting it because the upper window has the screen so I had to squat down and twist to get the shot of the Coopers at an angle through double paned glass! I am amazed that it came out at all!

  5. Superb images! I have been shooting some of my photos through a window and was surprised how well it worked.Lovely detail of the feathers on his chest. I also like the landscape shots of the bog.

  6. Wow, that was quite a sighting, and great photos. You don't even have to leave the warm house to go birding. I like that.

  7. That's a beauty of a shot-so mch color and detail on the photo of Coopie-nice!

  8. Fantastic pictures! Beautiful hawk! K

  9. Brilliant shots under the circumstances Kathie.

  10. Kathie! I think of you often as I roam the desert and see the birds overhead. I so wanted to meet you in person this year as we snowbird in the state that you left...for the SNOW!!!!! I am waving from the the sunshine state...
    These images of the Cooper are fantastic! I do remember those COLD mornings I would see them sitting on my fence watching the innocent morning doves...I know the law of Nature..we cannot interfere..but the odd time I did..Shoo..Mr. Cooper.

  11. A magnificent bird, awesome shot and thrilling experience -- but I'd still need coffee.

  12. Goodness gracious, that certainly boosted your circulation! Just as well you did not spill your coffee in all that excitement.

    Your hawk is such a lovely creature and sometimes it is better not to know how the tale ends. It is nature, that is enough.

    Meanwhile, enjoy your personal window on the world.
    Hugs and Blessings . . . Arija

  13. What a wonderful post this is Kathy. I love the way you write. And the hawk is so beautiful! What a great sight!

  14. I have a special spot in my heart for Coopers since they breed in my yard! Keep those snow boots out - I hear it's coming again...

  15. Hilke, thank you!

    Gaelyn, so do I!

    Larry, Katnell, Roy, Dan, and Robert, thanks!

    Naturegirl, I would loved to have met you also! Perhaps next year? We will have to wait and see...

    Marvin, You made me smile!

    Arija, I will!

    Candy,what a nice thing to say! Thank you!

    Denapple, how nice to see you again! I keep my boots near the door and 2 pairs of socks on my feet! Looks like I will be wearing them for a long time to come, though they say we could warm into the 40's by the end of next week!


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.