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View Diary: Dawn Chorus: Stealthy Stalkers (116 comments)

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  •  Yeah, feeding the birds in the backyard (6+ / 0-)

    was setting them up for a "shooting fish in a barrel" type scenario for the Cooper.   Alas.  

    I've taken down all the seed feeders.  I relocated a few of 'em under a table next to an ivy hedge.   The little birds (black and golden crowned sparrows, finches, and the remaining towhee) are liking it, given how dangerous the terrain in my yard has become for them.

    I noticed this morning when I woke up (late, due to time change) that the yard was silent.    No bird noises at all.    Bad sign.   When I went outside, a large bird suddenly took off from a branch in a nearby tree.   Wasn't a crow.   I think it was His Predator-ness.

    I still have the suet feeders up for the downy and Nuttall's woodpeckers.   The feeders are as close to the trunks of trees as I can get them.   I should take them down, too, but I just can't.   The little woodpeckers seem to depend on finding the food there when it always is.   I know it's a risk.  

    I hope this hawk will move on soon.  Every time I think the danger has passed, and I start feeding the birds again, the hawk takes another one, to bring me back to reality.  

    I need to just stop feeding the birds in my backyard.  For awhile.   If a predator gets 'em while they're foraging naturally, well, that's just Nature.   But it's not a fair fight when I lure 'em into what's becoming a death trap for them.   ::sob::  ;)

    •  I think your predator is a Sharp-shinned Hawk, (6+ / 0-)

      not a coop.  It has the toothpick legs of a sharpie, and the more delicate features of one.

      Since it's a juvenile, it may well move on.  It could be just passing through on migration, and lingering for a few days where it found reliable food.  Removing your feeders for a few days will help encourage it to keep moving.

      Juveniles often don't survive their first winter, although yours certainly seems to have figured out how to hunt.  Even if it hangs out in the area, it will likely move out next spring, when it's time to move toward breeding grounds.  I'm sure the towhees will be happy to hear that.

      •  I've spoken to my local WildBirds, Inc. store (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lineatus, Polly Syllabic, burnt out

        guys about this situation.  I told 'em I thought this was a sharpie predator.   But I also told 'em how I had witnessed a hawk about the same size and coloring fly outta the tops of the trees in my backyard to take a rock pigeon right outta the sky in flight.   They said "no way" a sharpie could take a bird as big as a pigeon.

        I'm not sure if I have two hawk predators hangin' out in my tree tops, attracted by all these feeder birds I've regularly had in my yard.   I'll try to post the photo (not very clear) of the hawk eating one of the towhees in my backyard the day before this latest photo, taken of it eating in our side yard.   Maybe someone can help me identify if it's the same predator, although, as I said, the photo isn't very clear, being a distance away and photographed through window glass.

        I hope it will move on, but it's been more than a month now.   We live on a cul-de-sac, so a predator can hunt the whole neighborhood in a short distance.   I think this is why I heard no avian sounds at all yesterday, for awhile.   Word has spread through the population, danger here!.

        The towhees have lived in our yard (our wisteria hedge) for years.   The parents had a good brood this year, breeding at least twice.   It seemed like two of their youngsters got mates and came back to be a flock with mom and dad.   So there was a sweet little family of four all over the yard.   Now there's only the one, a juvie, I think.    So sad the way it "bink bink"s in the hedges for 3 days now, looking for the lost flock.  :(

        •  A pigeon would almost certainly be too big for (4+ / 0-)

          a sharpie, especially grabbing one in flight.  So it does sound like you've got two birds (or maybe more).  Can't remember what part of the country you live in, but here in the SF bay area, we're at the waning end of migration.  There are still decent numbers of hawks moving through, though not like the end of September and early October.  The birds who will winter here are settling in.  

          I sometimes have to quit feeding for several weeks (or longer) to discourage predators, but my problem is usually with cats.  Since they live nearby, it takes longer to stop them from coming around and they'll start up again sooner.  At least with raptors, they'll give up on your yard pretty quickly and won't come around again regularly unless you're part of a breeding territory.  (And at least the hawks are killing to survive, rather than just recreationally wiping out the birds.)

          Sorry about the towhees.  I'm listening to our lone towhee as I type this, and it's a little voice that I just love.

          •  I'm just over the Golden Gate Bridge. (4+ / 0-)

            Pretty close to "Hawk Hill", over in the Marin Headlands, I think.  As the crow flies, anyway.

            I've heard about the hawk migration that can be seen from up there.  Hundreds, I heard?  I can't imagine a flock of raptors!   That must be a fabulous sight to see.

            I guess I just got complacent when there were no predators coming after my backyard birds all Spring and Summer.   It was so idyllic back there, that the breeding parents of a number of species were leaving their independent fledges here to grow up.   Good food, safe environment, fresh, clean water (our bird bath and fountain), and lots of tree and hedge cover.

            So, I just didn't think this inevitable outcome would happen.   The birds who've been comfortably living here for the past year are confused now at the sudden lack of food for them.    But what choice do I have?   This predator hawk (or hawks) is a very skillful, successful hunter.   I've only seen it miss once so far.  We've been lucky.   No cats.

            I guess I'll just have to resign myself to letting go of this delightful pass-time for awhile, the backyard birding.  This has been my first year.  Started last January when the spouse visited the WildBirds Unlimited store.   She brought some interesting food home, and I started putting it out, and then I was hooked.   I fed the birds through the winter storms and into the blossoming of spring.  I really enjoyed seeing their new broods they so proudly brought around on display.   I've enjoyed their company out in the garden.

            Hopefully they will all come back some day when it's safe.   Thanks for the input.  I'm still a birding newbie.  ;)

            •  Oh, geez... yeah, the raptors funnel down the (4+ / 0-)

              coast and bunch up toward the southern part of Marin before they cross the gate.  It sounds like you're in Mill Valley or Sausalito, so... yeah, you're getting a lot of hawks through there.

              We will be doing a few more Kossack birding trips, so keep your eyes peeled for those.  No need to be a serious birder - we've had non-birders join us, too, and always manage to have some fun.  And it's a good way to learn from one another.

              •  Raptors gathering and passing through (4+ / 0-)

                Wow.  I didn't know this.  I must not be the only one who's having their backyard feeders set up as death traps right now, in this area.  Next year I'll be ready for it and take the feeders down in early September.

                I'd like to come along on a Kossack birding trip.   :)

                Thanks for the input.  It's been very helpful.

                •  As was mentioned above, moving the feeders can (4+ / 0-)

                  help a lot.  If there is cover nearby that birds can escape to quickly, that will help a lot.  Feeders out in the wide open = a long, dangerous flight to safety.  (Also, keep windows in mind when placing feeders - birds and the hawks chasing them often fly into windows during the frantic moments of a chase, which can injure or kill them.)

                  We have friends in Sausalito just below Wolfback Ridge who keep their feeders up through migration without too much carnage, and other friends in Mill Valley who do the same (and the park's boundary is at the end of their back yard).  At most, you probably just need to leave the feeders empty for a few days at a time during the peak of migration.  Sounds like you just had a run of bad luck this year.

                  •  Just came from consulting with (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Polly Syllabic, burnt out, lineatus

                    the bird experts at the wildbirds, unlimited up in Novato.  Showed 'em my photos of the predator.  They were all in agreement that it was a juvenile Cooper.  Maybe only born this past May or so.

                    Awwwww...it's a baby killer.   Kills babies and is a baby.  

                    The bird guys said only about 50% of fledged and juvie raptors live through the first year.   It depends on their hunting skills.  Catching easy prey at my feeders doesn't guarantee this kiddo will be able to do it in the wild.

                    So now what?  Do I keep providing delicious prey for this juvenile Cooper, or do I protect my feeder flock?  It's a dilemma.   The Coop is very beautiful.  And just trying to survive.  

                    Thanks for the further input.   Apparently my only choice is to keep the feeders down for awhile.   I'll miss 'em!  :)

                    •  Hi SP, I talked to you about this before but I'll (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      sockpuppet, Polly Syllabic, lineatus

                      put my two cents worth in again anyways. If that hawk was here I'd sit back and let nature take it's course.
                      As a matter of fact, I do have one here that takes birds off my feeders now and then, not as often as yours seems to be doing but I see it at least once a week and just a few days ago I watched it take down a Downy and even got a few pics of it while it ate it's meal.  I don't begrudge him for it at all. It may sound morbid or cruel but I'm delighted to get to witness this natural event.  I understand that you feel some responsibility for the birds you've attracted to your feeders but as I said awhile back when you first started having the trouble, that hawk needs to eat, if he doesn't find a meal at your house he's going to find it some place else, or die. Hawks have been preying on songbirds since dinosaurs first grew feathers. It's natures way and it works. What others told you about the importance of cover is true. You need something nearby for them to escape to, make the hawk work for his supper. I drove some fence posts in the ground near my feeders and cut down some small cedars that needed thinning anyway and "planted" them by tying them to the fence posts. It works well and the feeder birds seem to like sitting in them whether the hawk is around or not. If you don't have access to some scrub trees , you can grab some discarded Chistmas trees in a few weeks and they would work great. Anyways, just a few thoughts, hope it works out for ya.

                      Just give me some truth. John Lennon--- OWS------Too Big To Fail

                      by burnt out on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 07:34:12 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Thanks for the comment. (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        burnt out, Polly Syllabic, lineatus

                        I did take to heart what you said before about all this.  So I left the feeders up, with some adjustments to make it a bit more difficult for the Cooper/s to be able to pick the birds off the feeders.

                        The staff at the WildBirds Unlimited store looked at all the photos of my backyard and agreed that it seemed I had ideal foliage-cover conditions for the bird feeders.  

                        This is the area where the most recent photo of the Cooper feeding was taken...on the ground right in the center of this wisteria-thicket area:

                        Photobucket

                        I had located the finch feeders and a platform feeder under this arbor area.   The area above the feeders is only about a foot or two away and very dense.  The birds loved to disappear up into it.   The towhees lived in this thicket for years.  

                        This is a part of the backyard.  You can see all the cover I have here.   Unfortunately, it also provides good cover for the predators, too.  (Thank goodness, no felines, yet.)

                        Photobucket

                        This is where I have some of the finch and seed feeders now, hidden under these bonsai tables and next to this ivy hedge:

                        Uploaded from the Photobucket iPad App

                        The sparrows and some of the finches have found the feeders under there.   They also like being so close to the thick ivy cover.  

                        Beyond this effort, I don't know what to do to help the little ones have a fighting chance against predators.   You mentioned seeing a hawk take a downy in your yard.   That would just be too hard for me to take.   Although only if I was responsible for the downy coming to a feeder I set out for it.   If a predator bird gets a prey bird while they're just doing their own natural thing, well, that's just Nature.

                        I like your suggestion about the Christmas trees.   That seems like a good solution, too.  

                        Thanks for your thoughtful commentary on my avian dilemma.  :)

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