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.
For more on "Birding" http://joeh-crankyoldman.blogspot.com/2011/07/birding.html