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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

WHAT WAS THAT?

WHAT WAS THAT?
I am a stealth bird watcher.  I’m not an expert, and I don’t go on excursions or keep track of varieties I have seen, but I do keep my eye open.  My mom always loved birds, I learned to appreciate the birds from her.  We always had a backyard feeder and we could identify the usual suspects.  For anything new we relied on a book, actually two books, one was strictly sea birds “Birds of North America.”

If a new bird flew into view, which was not often, we both always got excited and ran to the book.
“How big?  What were the colors? What kind of beak? Topnotch?”
With our collected memory and help of the book we would identify the new avian.  We also kept our eyes peeled for other varieties we knew from the book but had never seen. 
Apparently, I am not the only stealth bird watcher around.  On a fishing trip one year, Frog almost drove off a cliff as Catfish and I were sure we had spotted a scarlet tanager.  We followed that bird around for fifteen minutes.  That’s fifteen minutes of no fishing which is a big sacrifice for Catfish.
Last week during the big winter storm, I peered out the door to see if the walk and driveway had been shoveled yet.  In a tree, not far away, was an unusual brown blob.  If not for the white background I would not have even noticed it.
“What is that?” I asked myself; and then it moved a little.
It was a bird.  A large bird for this suburban area.  Not as big as the red tail hawks I often see around the golf course (all large hawks are red tail hawks to me, just sounds better than “a big hawk”) but way larger than our usual song birds and even bigger than a crow.  I opened the door for a closer look and he took off and did not return.
These days I don’t run to “Birds of North America,” I run to the internet.  I found a small hawk that does reside in New Jersey.  They are about 12  inches tall, about the size of what I saw and the colors could be right. 
I’m calling it a sharped-skin hawk, though it could also have been a Cooper's Hawk.  Apparently, they both hang around suburban areas, often picking off the song birds that are attracted to back yard feeders.
If I still put out a feeder, I would be feeling bad about chumming for sharped-skin hawks with song birds, but I have to say it was one beautiful bird.
It’s been a few days, and I’m still excited.

19 comments:

  1. I'd vote for the Sharp Skinned.
    Wish my eyes were better. Nice sighting, Joe!

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  2. How cool. I wish I knew birds so I'm a little jealous.

    Here in the big city, half a mile from downtown Houston, we have grackles, pigeons, and an occasional blue jay.

    Someday, I'll live somewhere where bird watching pays off.

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  3. I have a bird call that should work for ANY bird. Simply walk up as close to the bird as you can without frightening it so it doesn't fly away, then yell loudly, "Hey, bird!!" Try it & let me know what happens.

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  4. Beautiful bird indeed. I do like the hawks and the falcons, though I know what they prey on (and I do love my quail but that's a different story for a different day). Bird watching is a great hobby to have. Sadly these days most of the birds I see are pigeons and frankly, don't know why, but they scare the heck out of me. Of course hubby likes to go close to where they are gathering on the street while he's driving so they scatter, all the time I'm keeping my eyes closed wondering if he is going to get one of them. A month or so ago, there were lots of feathers in the backyard..... I really don't want to know the rest of that story!

    betty

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  5. I'm not a bird watcher, but I easily recognise birds I've seen all my life: magpies, cockatoos, galahs, rainbow lorikeets, sparrows and I've recently learned the brown birds with a harsh cry are wattle birds.

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  6. We like to arch birds as well. Coopers and Red Tail are the only hawks I'm aware of in these parts. I'm not sure I could tell them apart unless they were side by side.

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  7. I am jealous of your sighting. Hubby and I were once twitchers - great fun. These days I only get sparrowhawks in the garden although it is visited by lots of different birds.

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  8. I used to live across the road from a hawk rookery, and feed hundreds of birds in my front yard. Birds have a better lookout system than you might imagine, and the instant a blue jay said "hawk", the song birds scattered. The hawks were red tails, by the way. Beautiful birds.

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  9. I have that self same book and, just like you, am a 'stealth' bird watcher. I'm no expert but I do enjoy them. I just noticed the price on my book...3.95.......It's likely gone up a tad in price lol.

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  10. It pays to live a bit out, we have some feeders that get lots of attention but even before those went out we always had a bird or more to watch. Even had a few years when a Snowy Owl used to 'visit' me when I went hunting. I just posted some photos of bird during the big snow last week ....

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  11. I love birds, I feed birds, I will take a wounded one to the vet but I am pitiful at identifying anything out side of the usual suspects around a feeder that you mentioned. I understand your excitement however. I am still thrilled about seeing my first bald eagle standing in a pasture at about 30 feet from me recently.

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  12. We have a sparrow hawk that we see on our fence now and then. He's an impressive specimen. We do feed the birds, so we know why he's hanging around.

    Have a fabulous day, Joe. ☺

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  13. I've seen a few Cooper's Hawks here in Portland. I love the brown with white spots on the breast.

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  14. We've got several varieties of birds and hawks around, and the hawk Sweetie tried to save that had been hit by a car was a Cooper's, if i'm remembering right. Yes, if you feed the birds, the hawks know where to look for supper.

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  15. Last summer I saw an eagle fly over the yard. Hubby never believes any of my sightings. I'm sometimes a bit off. One day I told him we had a pterodactyl in the back yard. Ok, so it was a blue heron..still pretty cool. Hope you see your hawk again!

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  16. When we go to Oklahoma, I see seven or eight hawks per trip, perched in lone trees in fields along the highway. I think they might be Swainson's Hawks, from the characteristics I looked up on whatbird.com.

    I'm not a birder.

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  17. I have a hard time accepting "the circle of life." We feed birds in front, squirrels on the back deck. The hawks that occasionally circle have to eat too, though.....
    I like that your mom taught you to observe nature and identify species. Kids who have that type of background are always more sensitive, creative, and observant!

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  18. Have you seen the movie The Big Year? If not, go see it. I have a feeling you'd really enjoy it.

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