Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Robin and a Cooper’s Hawk

Late this afternoon, as the sun was low, shimmering and spilling into a thin lake of gold clouds behind the tree-line, several small birds perched in the tops of trees to catch the last rays of light. It was cold and clear, after a day that began with a heavy frost and stayed cold all day. Three House Finches, a Bluebird and a Phoebe all glowed in deceptively rich shades of rose, red and yellow in separate treetops. And one solitary Robin looked especially bright, with its feathers fluffed out and burning a fiery rust-red at the top of a big water oak with a shaggy brown stubble of remaining leaves, on the crest of a hill.

I was standing just below the tree, looking up and admiring the Robin, when suddenly it called chirp-chuck-chuck-cheep! and flew – and a Cooper’s Hawk swooped over, wings outspread, and glided swiftly across the street and into a thick line of trees. This particular corner is a spot where I’ve often seen a Cooper’s Hawk, so I think one is spending the fall and winter season in this area again this year, where there are nearby woods and a creek, as well as open grassy yards and shrubs with lots of small and medium-sized yard birds.

It was a brief sighting, but the size and sturdy shape of the hawk – its barred breast and long, banded tail, and the way it held its wings and turned as it flew – left an image that lingered like a photo. And it came at a nice time, because I was just feeling kind of discouraged about how little bird activity I’ve seen the past few days around here.


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