As I sit cuddled up to my wood stove, I can only imagine how lovely the flowers and trees will look in a few months. That was not the case last week as I worked on my tan in the Florida Keys with my skinny white legs acting as a beacon to bugs and a testament to the fact that I was a recent arrival from the North. Last weekend, my friend Brian and I were cleaning up his back yard a bit and we noticed the chirping of some birds in a nearby tree. It was a peaceful site and we craned our heads in the attempt to spot the type of bird that was nesting. Then without notice a quick swoosh, birdish shouts and a loud screech. It was over as a hawk landed on the nest and feasted on an even-more unidentified bird. Feathers floated down like snowflakes in a real Mutual of Omaha moment.
“That was the first kill I ever saw,” said Brian.
When I got home to Connecticut, which had become a snow-covered tundra with temperatures in the single digits, my wife told me that she hadn’t needed to fill the feeders much while I was gone. The birds were not coming around anymore.
Why would that be? For most of the fall and winter we have had a wonderful group of birds frequenting the feeders. Cardinals, titmice, sparrows, blue jays, finches, snowbirds, pine siskins, bluebirds, doves, pigeons, woodpeckers, and nuthatches were just a few of the visitors to our front and back yards. The front feeders needed filling every other day; but I noticed too that the feeder got little action. Again, why?
On Friday, we were sitting in the dining room and all of a sudden a feathered blur swooped down toward the feeder. We couldn’t identify it but then looked out the front window and saw an immature red-shouldered hawk perched on jumble of grape vines on top of a spruce tree that had snapped during Sandy. But after 10 minutes or so, I could tell that it wasn’t just hanging around, this predator was looking for a meal. A meal that I was providing for it by filling my feeders with seed and suet. It didn’t want no stinking fat: it wanted the real deal. A fowl meal.
For the next few days, the hawk has landed on its perch every afternoon, scoping out the action, seeing if some bird is so hungry that it is willing to test the skill of our new neighbor. Every day it attempts to get a meal off one of our feeders. For now, the feeders are barren of birds, who wisely choose not to face off with this bird of prey.