Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Red-tailed Hawk (Close Encounter)

A sharply-focused and single-minded Red-tailed Hawk plunges to the ground. Something moved in the grass below and he's on it.

I imagine, if viewed from above, a mouse moving on the ground would be fairly easy to see, but catching it will take some expertise.

He's not flying now, he's dropping like a rock.
Spinning 180 degrees squares him to the target.

He halts to a brief hover, then drops into the hip-high grass.

I'm calling this bird a 'he',' but I really don't know the gender. He's a small juvenile Red-tailed Hawk... evident in his feather pattern and markings. And typically, the male red-tails are smaller than the female.

This brief 2-second event ended with his prey getting away.

He too, wasted little time getting away. But 'away' wasn't far. He flew, fast and low, past me to land atop a railroading relic of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail in Mequon.

Surprisingly, this was a very approachable bird.

As I walked slowly and quietly to the next pole, he paid me little to no attention. He barely looked in my direction. His focus was on mice.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

The Ozaukee Interurban is a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and other non-motorized people like dog walkers. This may account for his lack of skittishness and acceptance of me.

Here he's diving on a mouse he managed to capture 30 feet in front of me.

One little mouse was just a snack for this growing youngster.  But it was his mouse, so he carefully scanned the sky checking for any others who would steal it.

He gulped it down in a blink.

To get an eye level Close-Encounters-of-the-Red-tailed-Kind is a rare treat. He even gave me this
10-foot, fly-by parting shot as an acknowledgment... I wasn't disturbing him.

I was delighted to be so trusted.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cedar Waxwings

If you also are 'easily entertained,' I would suggest visiting a park, open grassland, a forest edge or even a brushy garden to catch the out-migration happenings of the Cedar Waxwings.

Thousands of these sleek, svelte birds are leaving their breeding grounds in Canada and gorging on the abundance of berries along the route south. 

They are not particularly skittish, but an ounce of patience is important. Binoculars will help, too.

If you see one, you may see a dozen. They travel in groups as they're social birds.

The adults are escorting their first-year young and showing them where food can be found along the way. 

Cedar Waxwings are primarily fruit eaters. In addition to the fruits people eat, they also feast on juniper, ash, dogwood and honeysuckle berries.

You gotta go where the berries grow. Sometimes that's sideways, but no matter... this works!

A backyard flowering crabapple tree provides this juvenile sugary energy for the migration.

As fast as the tree relinquishes its fruit, they gobble them down whole.

The yellow-tipped tail and red-tipped secondary feather of the Cedar Waxwing are unique to waxwings.

There are three species of waxwings. The other two are the Bohemian Waxwing and the Japanese Waxwing of eastern Asia.

They all wear a bandit-like mask.

Not much is free in life, but bird entertainment is.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds