The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Da Boids" One -- Predators zero!

Here on Hawk Mountain the birds are tough, and a bit psychotic. I suppose it makes sense. If you are going to nest right smack in the middle of a choke point on the main migration route of northern raptors you’d better be tough. There are a lot of predators in the sky.

A couple of days ago, sitting in my study, I heard a very loud, sustained trilling sound outside my window. “That’s odd,” I thought, “haven’t heard that one before.” Obviously some songbird was in trouble. Then something flashed by my window, too quick for me to make it out clearly, and I heard a thud, rustling leaves, and more trilling. “Hmmmm….” Then I heard a harsh croaking sound followed by more trilling. Croak, croak, trill; croak, croak, trill; croak, croak, trill…. “What the…?”

I roused myself from my keyboard and looked out the window and saw the aftermath of the predator’s strike. A kestrel [sparrow hawk] had chosen my resident psycho jay as his next meal. He chose badly.

As a species jays are territorial and aggressive. This one is even more so – much more so. Every spring he takes possession of one of our rhododendrons and spends several weeks assaulting our house. [He's doing so even as I type this] We have tried hanging things in the windows, as the experts suggest, but nothing dissuades him. Nothing, that is, except the biggest, meanest, robin I have ever seen. It has a thing about rhododendrons and windows too, and is every bit as persistent as the jay. For the past two years they have taken turns trying to break into my living room. All that exercise seems to have toughened them up. I call them "da boids."

The pictures aren’t very clear. I was shooting from a bad angle, through a screened window, with a slow camera; a boxwood obscures some of the picture, and the damn birds wouldn’t stay still, but if you look closely you can see what was going on.

The kestrel is flat on his back [on the left, you can make out his head, but the wing are blurred], talons up, flapping his wings slowly, hesitantly, and ineffectually, and croaking his distress; psycho jay, wings and tail full spread is standing on the hawk’s tail trilling triumphantly [you can make out his tail and his right wing, the rest of the bird is obscured.

I took a few pictures, moving around to try to get a better angle, then both birds saw me and took off in opposite directions. The hawk kept on flying, getting the hell away from here; psycho jay simply flew to a branch in the closest tree from whence he screamed his defiance at me. Apparently, I had ruined his fun.

Don't worry Jay, there will be more hawks to savage; lots of them, and eagles too..., just be patient.


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