Sunday, December 9, 2012

Love and Death

[Note: there's a somewhat gory photo at the bottom of this post; some readers might want to skip it. Not the Cooper's Hawk, however. . . ]
 [The Western Grebe in Cape May Harbor seems to have "decoyed to," or perhaps even fallen in love with, this sort-of, kind-of Western-Grebe-looking buoy. Cape May, NJ this morning, click to enlarge photos.]

Fog lay heavy over the land and water alike this morning, so attending household tasks and then walking the dog took precedence over trying to bird. But you're never not birding, and Cox Hall Creek was even birdy in the fog, with a flock of 25+ juncoes sharing a morning feast of Sweet Gum seeds fallen to earth with a Fox Sparrow along the easternmost path, and the usual bluebirds and other sparrows fed and flushed in front of us (me and the dog).

An unexpected flush was the Cooper's Hawk which leapt from the ground along one of the paths and perched nearby, looking decidedly annoyed. Soon I could see why - a spot of white on the ground became the throat of a partially consumed Wood Duck, which answered a question I was asked of Cooper's Hawks on Friday during a walk I was leading at Forsythe NWR: "Cooper's don't ever take ducks, though, do they?"

They do indeed, this became duck species number three I've seen them grab, the others being Green-winged Teal, which you might expect because they're small, and Ring-necked Duck, which you might not expect because although they're small they're awfully fast in flight, and yet in Hunterdon County, NJ I onced watched a Coop neatly extract a Ring-necked from a racing flock and bring it to earth.

The remains of the woodie are pictured below, with the Coop having plucked and eaten most of the breast before I and dog interrupted it.

After the dog walk I finally made it down to Cape May Harbor to see the continuing Western Grebe, which has seemed to attach itself to a decoy of sorts: a buoy looking only slightly like another Western Grebe, perhaps one sleeping. You be the judge. From duck hunting I know certain birds are very confiding and non-discriminating when it comes to decoys - like Buffleheads, for example, which will come right in and plop right down in your decoy spread. Looks like Western Grebe falls into that category. Birds don't see the world the way we do. Foolish though it is or not, I was delighted to see it, a rare bird indeed on the east coast.

[Drake Wood Duck partially consumed by a Cooper's Hawk, Cox Hall Creek WMA, NJ this morning. The Coop ate most of the breast, but apparently wasn't strong enough to pick its prey up and carry it off when I approached. Sorry for the quality - phone photo.]

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