Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sharply Beautiful

It's always a privilege to have raptors in my backyard, but last week I had a very unique experience. Coming into the kitchen I looked out my huge picture window and was instantly dismayed to see fluffy snowflakes - again! - but my dismay vanished as quickly as any thoughts of spring when I saw the guest gracefully perched in the aspen tree: a sharp-shinned hawk.

I've had sharpies in the yard before, quite frequently, and have occasionally seen evidence of their hard-fought meals, but what struck me was how very tiny this hawk truly was. I've not had the honor of seeing one quite so close - he was perched only about a foot or two from the window - and he was definitely diminutive. And I say "he" because among these raptors, the female is the larger gender, and owing to his fantastically small size I have no doubt the bird was a male. The overall proportions and tail length also clearly identified him as a sharp-shinned hawk, for while I've also had Cooper's hawks nearby, they are significantly larger with a much longer tail. This bird was quite similar in size to my Eurasian collared-doves, and while they're on the large size for doves, that's amazing tiny for a hawk.

He watched me for several minutes as I stayed deep inside the kitchen snapping photos; it wasn't until I moved closer to the window that he decided enough was enough and moved along. He didn't move all that far, however, just to my nearby sumac tree, where he stayed for quite some time, watching over the yard. I could occasionally hear chatter from my other backyard residents, but while the hawk was nearby they elected to stay hidden.

I do hope Tiny returns (not, perhaps, the name he'd have chosen, but still). We have a nesting pair of sharp-shinned hawks in the neighborhood and while I don't know if he's the patriarch of that particular nest or a still-growing offspring, he's always welcome to visit. It's amazing how one "small" bird can make any day seem bigger and brighter.

And it helped that the snow didn't last, too.

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