In both size & appearance Merlins are similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks. I had ruled out Merlins as a possibility because my field guides indicate that in this part of Ontario they are migratory -- simply passing through this Beech-Maple area to Northern Hardwood country. It appears that these two uncommon birds have decided to stay. With deep gratitude, I wish them very good hunting! : )
According to my field guides, female hawks can be quite a bit larger than males -- but it's one thing to read this in a book and quite another to see in person. Today, I witnessed a very small hawk-like bird chasing off an American Crow, using the voice I have come to know. I was astonished at how much smaller the hawk was than the crow! I guess my mind wanted to hold onto a notion of birds-of-prey being large, in spite of what I learned from the pages in black & white. The Sharp-shinned is our smallest hawk here in the Eastern Bioregion.
Once hawk and crow disappeared, periodically the call was repeated, enough so that I could follow it to the source. Perhaps 800' from the tree where I originally saw this larger hawk, this time high up in a Cottonwood tree, two hawks perched. One a good 2/3rds larger than the other! And they called their call. Why am I only 99.9% sure these are Sharp-shinneds? The call has a higher pitch, with a slightly longer first note and quicker rhythm than the "Alarm calls near nest #2" voice on my Audubon Birds App. Perhaps this is a unique dialect for our Southwestern Ontario neighbourhood Sharp-shinned Hawks? : )
Apparently, in some populations juveniles make up 60% of all breeding females (The Birder's Handbook, p226). I have my eyes open for their nest -- perhaps in an old squirrel's or crow's nest way up high in the crotch of a conifer tree? Their young are born immobile, downy, and with eyes open (semialtricial 1). As nestlings they depend upon their parents for food. It takes about 23 days after birth before they are able to fly. This should give me plenty of opportunities to find & observe them. I'll keep you posted! : )
I think it might be a juvenile Northern Goshawk . . .
He was perched in a naked tree, in the middle of a large oldfield. In late summer the large ash and walnut trees of this field stand in a sea of goldenrod. There is a conifer plantain to the SE. Both field and woodlot are fenced in by busy city streets. This hawk seemed to be too big to be a juvenile Cooper's Hawk. There is a light stripe above the eye, and when closed the striping of the tail has a jagged appearance. I'm also wondering if this bird is a male or a female . . . ?
17Apr25 Two days later, and quite a shift in weather from clear sunny sky, to rain in the morning, followed by a sheet of grey -- my dog & I are walking along the road past the oldfield. I see a large bird of prey sitting in that same tree! Is it the same hawk of the other day? What is his business there in that tree?
For an update on the identity of this bird-of-prey, read 17May06 journal post, "Hawks Update".
I wonder about this ... Is it time for roosting? Are they calling to their mates? It goes on for quite a while. Then I see a hawk flying from the E toward me, chased by a Red-wing. This hawk breaks off, heading south, while another one seems to come out of nowhere. Harrassed by the Red-wing, the second hawk lands clumsily in a tree at the S bank of the pond. Following this, the hawk's actions tell all -- with talons gripping tight against the limb, the hawk yanks upward, bill tearing dark flesh, with a flash of red. The hawk is eating a Red-wing!
I'm thinking this Red-wing feasting raptor is a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. Can anyone confirm?
Another image of the juvenile Red-tailed Hawk (?)
It's difficult to describe what happened next. No sooner had this hawk flown from the tree, than one was flying directly toward me from the E. With the full extent of wings, and tail fanned, this bird changed course upward in a dramatic arc over the busy street, then at the apex, reversed course. Too fast for the eyes to follow, this raptor plunged down into the creek bed on the other side of the street, and back up with as much speed. Throughout the dramatic display I had made the assumption that this was the same black-bird eating bird of prey, but as it flew off W -- in the direction of the reservoir -- it carried an 8' long fish in its talons. An Osprey, you say?
The setting sun was my signal to make my way back home. I didn't catch sight of my muskrat pair. As I walked across the swamp, a White-tailed Deer made an appearance -- a buck, I believe, as he was solitary and only mildly concerned about my presence. The females of this place tend to move in three's. Even from a very safe distance, they stomp their hooves while snorting indignation. Along the shore of the reservoir, a nesting pair of Canada Geese are silhouetted against the setting sun; and as the stars appear, I hear the whirs & courting calls of an American Woodcock, set against the backdrop of chorusing Spring Peepers.
As an enthusiastic student of the natural world, I share my explorations of all that is wild with all of you — teacher, parent, and child!