“Clyde”, the very fat Cooper’s Hawk who has slowly been consuming all birds in the neighborhood.
What shows up at your feeders is so unpredictable. In winter, I always expect Dark-eyed Juncos foraging on the ground below my feeders. Many winters, they’re about the only bird it seems I ever see, in my yard or elsewhere. Not this year, where they’ve been scarce in my yard. That’s been made up for with many more American Goldfinches than normal. I have one very tall tube feeder, and most of the winter it’s been very crowded, with most perches full and other Goldfinches waiting in the nearby tree for an open spot. It’s been a good year for Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, and I have at least two (a male and a female) gorgeous Red-bellied Woodpeckers who are quite regular at my suet. Despite the lack of Dark-eyed Juncos, it’s been a fairly “birdy” winter in my yard.
That “birdiness” level has been slowly declining all winter though. Simple attrition from a snowy winter would probably explain it, but in my yard, there’s another obvious factor. That factor is Clyde. Clyde is the Cooper’s Hawk that has been frequenting my yard, and buzzing my feeders all winter long. Why “Clyde”? I dunno. It starts with a C. He looks like a “Clyde”. Very workman-like and efficient, very “blue-collar”. Comes in regularly every day, punches the clock, does his thing, kills a bird or two…just the same hum-drum “Clyde” kind of a life for a Cooper’s Hawk.
My wife is not fond of Clyde. My wife does not appreciate the “nature” occurring in the yard. Clyde isn’t exactly subtle when he buzzes the yard and grabs a songbird. He’s also getting quite bold. Last week I opened the front door, and Clyde was sitting on the front step, munching on a goldfinch. Normally, you’d expect a wild bird to immediately bolt. Not Clyde. Clyde looked up at me, paused a second, before seemingly sighing and reluctantly flying off with his breakfast, clearly put out that I had interrupted him.I do have one concern about Clyde. He appears to be gaining weight at an alarming clip. He’s had a well-fed winter in my yard! It’s showing on his waist line, as he is one FAT Cooper’s Hawk!
Unlike my wife, I do think it’s very cool to have Clyde around. With the Big Sioux Recreation Area and a lot of forested habitat right across the street, Clyde may end up sticking around the area permanently.
Red-phase Eastern Screech Owl, trying to doze. His neighbors weren’t letting him though, with several different kinds of songbirds scolding him and occasionally flying at him.
Chalk this one up under the category of “something you hear about but haven’t seen”. You always hear about songbirds “mobbing” owls, but it’s not something I’ve personally witnessed more than a handful of times. Yesterday after birding, on my way home, I thought I’d do one quick drive up “Spook Road”, a road east of my hometown of Brandon that follows a little creek, and has some nice riparian veg and trees. It’s been a good birding spot in the past.
As I drove slowly down the road with my windows open, I first heard the scolding of a Blue Jay, and then a Chickadee and Robin that were joining in. With multiple species all scolding something, I figured it was likely an owl or other bird of prey. I stopped the car and looked around, but didn’t see anything at first. But then a Brown Thrasher came into the picture and went flying at something, banking off at a sharp angle right before it got to its quarry. There was a red-phase Eastern Screech Owl sitting on a branch, the target of the scolding by the mob of songbirds.
Two things were interesting about it, one, of course, being the mobbing behavior. There was also a Swainson’s Thrush hanging around showing interest, a White-breasted Nuthatch, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a few others. It did make me wonder how much of a threat Screech Owls are to all these species. I’m sure they will take a songbird when they get a chance, but I don’t think a Screech Owl would take a bird the size of a Blue Jay. It didn’t seem to matter though, as it seemed like every bird in the area was intent on driving him away. The owl, for his part, didn’t seem to care. In fact, for most of the time he was being scolded, he had his eyes closed.
The second interesting thing was that it was a red-phase Eastern Screech Owl. The gray phase if overwhelmingly more common in South Dakota, and in fact, the ONLY place I’ve ever seen a red-phase screech owl here is…right on Spook Road, within a mile of this same bird. It’s been a handful of times where I’ve encountered them in this area now, so obviously the red-phase gene is sticking around in this particular spot.