Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Death from above.

Yesterday afternoon, about 4:15, I was on the home stretch of Cojack's daily walk.

As we approached a large field - i.e., about 5 or 6 available lots all in a row - I saw two splotches of white on the well-mowed field. My first thought was that old Jack had run over some paper with the mower. Then I thought, no, that's not like Jack. He always picks up the trash before he mows.

When we came up to the piles, it became obvious that it was two piles of white bird feathers. The piles, about ten feet apart, consisted of both wing feathers and body feathers. From the black tips on the wing feathers and the fact that I had seen white ibis in the neighborhood earlier, I knew immediately what it was.

The question was how had it met its demise. Clearly, it had happened only minutes earlier because the wind had not yet dispersed the lighter feathers. My first thought was a feline predator. As we traveled on towards home, I thought, no, that's not likely because there was absolutely no cover within 50 yards of where the kill took place.

About 50 feet on up the road from the feather piles, I caught the killer out of the corner of my eye. About ten feet from the edge of the woods, there sat a Cooper's Hawk. He was holding down the de-feathered carcass with his talons and tearing off strips of flesh with his beak.

Long-time readers may recall my recounting looking out my kitchen window one day and catching a life-and death aerial battle between a piliated woodpecker and a pursuing Cooper's hawk. That time, the intended prey escaped by zig-zagging between thickly planted pine saplings like a pin ball.

Yesterday's winner might well be that same Cooper's hawk. I've seen him around ever since.  All of this essentially clear-cut space surrounded by woods makes a perfect hunting area. I doubt the unwary white ibis knew what hit him.

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