Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cooper’s Hawk Journal 2013

If you follow our blog, you know that last year my husband and I were privileged to watch a pair of Cooper’s Hawks court, mate and raise three youngsters in and around our back yard. 

Much to our delight they returned again this year.  Following is a journal I kept of their activities and my observations.

2/14 -            A lone Cooper’s Hawk spotted in a neighbor’s tree behind our house.

2/16 -            Cooper’s Hawk makes a kill in our back yard

2/17 -            Two Cooper’s Hawks spotted in a neighbor’s Pin Oak Tree (across the street) – My husband thought he saw them carrying nesting materials into the tree
The two adult Cooper's Hawks mating
3/16 – The hawks have been courting in the Pin Oak across the street since 2/17 and are now nest building in a crotch high in the tree.  My granddaughter and her friend have been watching them every morning as they wait for the school bus.  Every afternoon when she returns from school I get a Cooper’s Hawk activity report.

Watching our bird feeder during the snowstorm
3/24 – World Bird Sanctuary had to cancel World Eagle Day today due to a severe snowstorm moving into the area this morning.  We’re supposed to get 8-10” of snow.  We already have two inches and the storm shows no signs of slowing down.  In fact, I hear thunder.  Went outside to take photos of the snow covered trees and saw one of the Cooper’s Hawks come through the yard and land in the Pin Oak next door.  He’s sitting watching our feeder.

Last year's nest--once the trees leaf out it's almost invisible
April-June – Hawks have abandoned the new nest in the Pin Oak across the street and returned to last year’s nest.  I see them going into and out of the tree—but can’t see the nest because of the dense foliage.

June-July – The parent Hawks are still flying to and from the tree, but we have seen no sign of the fledglings.  Maybe they are in another neighbor’s yard in all the thick foliage.

Week of July 1st – Have seen the two adults in the tree next door exhibiting breeding behavior again (this is the same branch where they mated earlier this year).  Have seen no babies yet and am beginning to think that they may have lost the nestlings due to weather or predators.  A second nesting would be highly unlikely, but they don’t seem to think so.

7/7 – Saw three fledglings in our yard today.  They are already well coordinated and flying well, so guess they must have spent those first couple of weeks in the heavy tree cover two yards down.  They are still a little wary of me, but curious.
The youngsters visit our birdbaths during the hot weather
Week of 7/12 - Have begun seeing the three youngsters in our yard on a regular basis.  As the weather has turned hot they have been coming to our birdbath in the afternoon heat.

7/17 – The youngsters have now broken down into two groups—the two females and the lone male.  He is wary of his two larger siblings lest he become a meal.  The male seems to frequent the yard more in the morning, while the two girls hop about our patio and take baths in the afternoon.  They have all been watching the feeder and hunting in the back yard.  Our granddaughter and a grandniece who is vacationing with us have been enjoying watching their antics.
This low branch is only about 5 feet off the ground, so we were practically at eye level
7/19 – This morning the male landed in the Star Magnolia and is watching the bird feeder.  I decided to fill the feeder and see if he would tolerate my presence.  He doesn’t seem to be bothered by my presence as long as I don’t appear to be stalking him.  He was only fifteen feet away from me on a branch just five feet off the ground!  I guess they’ve watched me fill the feeders and become accustomed to my movements, so I went back inside to get my camera.  After taking a batch of photos I came back inside and called my niece to come out and try to get a photo before she returns to Florida.  As long as you casually stroll out to the feeder it doesn’t seem to bother him.  Our niece was so excited to have this opportunity!  She’d never been this close to a wild raptor before. 

            We leave for the Lake and a week’s vacation this morning.  I wonder if the hawks will still be here when we return.

7/27 – Back from the Lake, but no hawks spotted yet.  I have a feeling that once we left and the feeders were not being filled their free lunch wagon disappeared, and they’ve moved on to other sources of food.  This is probably for the best as they need to learn to hunt more difficult prey if they are to survive the winter.

Mid August – The hawks have definitely moved on.  We occasionally will see one in the vicinity, but not inhabiting the yard on a regular basis as they were before.  Even though we miss watching them on a daily basis, we know that developing a wider hunting range is in their best interest. 

Hopefully, this same pair will survive the winter and use their tried and true nesting area again next year.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fun to read! I'm jealous of your experience!