Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter Fare

Sharp-shinned Hawk (adult)
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Had our first winter storm yesterday...well it's not really winter yet, we've got a few weeks before the solstice arrives.  Had high winds and around 4-5 inches of snow.  This kind of weather makes for good studio time...or a good book and a cup of hot soup!  

The neighborhood song birds really come in to the feeders at this time of the year, and become regular guests until spring.  Other birds come "visiting" for the guests, which really can make for some shorts bursts of excitement.  This morning Georgie was over in the studio with me and alerted me to some wild activity out front...a Sharp-shinned Hawk was chasing the Goldfinches and Juncos around the front yard!

The bird landed in the Silver Maple out front and I grabbed the small camera and took a couple shots of it before it launched off into a chase after finches over and past the corn crib, the last we saw of it for now.

"Sharpies" are real cool little hawks, they're the smallest member of the accipiter family in North America.  The bird we hosted this morning was an adult and appeared to be a female.  Females birds of prey are larger than the males...their plumage is the same though.  This adult is recognized by the slate gray back and wing tops, the orange barring on the breast and their red iris.  An immature bird would be brown on back with a streaked brown/buff breast.  If you know your accipiters you'd recognize this bird as a female because the size is basically the same as a male Cooper's Hawk - the next accipiter up the size chart.  The easiest way to determine whether a bird is a female Sharp-shinned Hawk or a male Cooper's Hawk, is to look at the tail of the bird in flight or perched.  The Sharpie has a "squared off" or "notched" effect on the end of it's tail while a Cooper's tail end has a "rounded" effect...they can be a hard call unless you have more time to observe and make a distinction.

I noticed a slight blood stained tinge on this bird's talons and foot pad; I'm assuming it already had break fast and was working on lunch!  

Hawks are one of the reasons I grew to like birds as a kid and they still fascinate me very first commissioned art work (india ink) was of a hawk (Red-tailed), when I was a teenager.  Couldn't imagine a better way to earn a living!  Imagine doing what you like and getting paid for it!  Blew me away.  It's not as easy as that of course, but I feel fortunate to be here and doing and seeing what we have here each day and season!

Here's to the season, and more drama in your life!


Mike Houge said...

Thanks alot for the education Bruce- always like to learn new bird tricks.

Prairie Painter said...

Hey Mike, thanks for stopping by! :)