Wednesday, January 11, 2017
On Sunday afternoon, we noticed a familiar shape in the pyracantha hedge along our backyard wall. It was a Cooper's hawk, one of the many we've seen lately in our backyard and around the neighborhood. I've written about the hawks before, as recently as last week, and more extensively a few months ago. These hawks are everywhere and their population is growing quickly. Apparently, every city park has a mating pair now, and as the lizard and rodent population grows, so does the hawk population.
I have a theory about the hawks and why they come to us. Our property backs up to an arroyo - a large concrete drainage canal, part of a vast city-wide network of them built to channel water downhill toward the Rio Grande, which runs through the center of the city. The arroyo creates a large open space behind our street. It's like having a whole city street removed, so it's quiet and it helps the mountain view too. It's wide open, with lots of low scrub plants and brush, which must make for good hunting and eating.
All of the hawks are alert and watchful, but this one seemed particularly crafty - he perched in the hedge directly beneath our wild bird feeder. I have to think this was deliberate. All the small birds flew away immediately upon his entrance, as they always do, and they stayed away, until long after he was gone. He must have sat there for fifteen minutes, just watching and waiting. We watched right back, from inside the house, and the Bear took these photos while we stared each other down. I think the hawks are getting more brazen lately - strength in numbers, maybe.
We're having more small birds visit lately too, since we got this squirrel-proof feeder over the summer. We've had many interesting birds this winter - finches, a curved-bill thrasher, lots of scrub jays, black-eyed juncos and flickers, all lovely colors and sweet song. But those hawks - they don't seem to rest. They watch and wait. They turn a sharp eye on anything that moves. They glide in and out like they own the place. They'd just as soon eat a hen as they would a mouse, so we're very careful. I hope they keep coming, though; I'm fascinated and a little unnerved as I watch them work, a few minutes of urban-woodland drama through the kitchen window.