Our steward, Steve, in Fauntleroy Park told me last week that the Cooper Hawks were back in the Southwest corner of the park. Today I decided to see if I could spot them. At first it was just the usual little birds. I was standing next to trees with my eyes closed just listening to the forest chatter. A couple of fellow park users walked by and probably wondered what this tree-huger was doing. Then after wandering around a bit I heard them calling each other.
Bird sounds do echo a bit and but the creek’s gully being deeper here, that just emphasized the echo. All I could do was get closer to where I thought the sound was coming from and look up a bunch. Below gives you a feel of where they were. I took it after they left for orientation but you get a feel for the layers of vegetation
At last I got lucky & I mean really lucky. Usually one just sees birds flying around but I actually found the pair sitting on a branch. Here are two pictures of the pair on their branch.
One of them was sitting where the sun made his photograph wash out (great silhouette though) but the other was clear as a bell. Well that is as focused as can be with my zoom lens and my shakiness. Yes the more you zoom the harder it is to get clarity in both still and video.
Speaking of video here is the best of the three I took. You will notice I had quite a bit of jiggling around and the sun washing out the picture on & off. However, the best part is you can hear their voices. The one in the sun glare was the vocal one so how could I edit him out.
I told a passing person about the hawks and they said they were Sharp-shinned not Cooper. Of course that was a challenge to my identification skills. Once I got home I pulled out two of my bird books – Stokes Field Guide to Birds (Western Region) and Sibley Guide to Birds. They are a great compliment to each other in that Stokes uses real photos along with Learning Pages versus Sibley which is all artist drawings of varying poses, regions, male/female/juvenile.
After looking close at several of my photos I determined they were Coopers. Here is why:
- The Cooper is bigger and is about crow size. Yup,the crow stalker herself knows about crow size and this bird was more crow than robin.
- Youngsters in both have vertical streaked bellies. Adults are more buffy & horizontal in their markings. The Sibley notes that Cooper has thin dark streaks & the Sharp has course brown streaks. The photo below shows the belly of the one not in sun glare. Do you agree they match the Cooper’s description?
- Legs on the Cooper are bigger. This next view shows his “britches” as I call them. Again I am voting for the Cooper.
- Lastly the tail is a key piece. The Cooper has a more rounded tail and the last coloration is usually white. Check it out!
Then like a timer went off they both flew off. I could still hear them so I wandered down the stairs I was filming from and headed towards thier sounds.
Looking up I spotted one of them watching me from a maple tree branch. To get a better shot I laid in the middle of the trail shooting upward. Yup… I got a bit dirty and it would have been funny if someone came by.
This next shot is a bit fuzzy but you can see him watching and pondering what I was doing.
Lastly here is what they were gawking at.