Monday, April 24, 2006

Birds of prey

I don't know enough about them to identify them. I get a bit kick out of watching them though.

The weather has been dismall the past three days. Yesterday, during a brief respite from downpours I stepped outside for some purpose or other than is now long forgotten. The reason it is forgotten (and was so immediately) is that the moment I stepped outside I couldn't help but notice the sound of an approaching avian ruckus. When the perps finally came into view it was a half-dozen crows chasing a bird of prey of one sort or another. They were squawking to beat the band and making that raptor's day miserable. They chased it right out of sight and earshot but I enjoyed every second I got to watch.

Just a moment ago I happened to peer out the window and two birds of prey were circling. They just floated around circling. In the two minutes or so they were visible the one on the higher patrol flapped it's wings precisely twice. The one on lower patrol flapped not at all while coming to what appeared a near standstill twice.

We have a nesting osprey pair nearby. They return from wherever it is they winter in mid-April. For several days they are very easy to find flying around as they go about repairing the nest. They'll take aim at the top of a tree and just swoop in and snatch off a piece of branch and haul it back to the nest. The osprey equivalent of the quick dash to Home Depot. The nest is atop an old, unused tower. From what little I've been able to discover re: osprey the tower is higher than they normally nest but it must be functional cause they come back to it every spring.

Osprey do most of their flying over water so one doesn't normally get to see them unless they are enroute to or from home or just hanging out on the tower. Once they have eggs apparently one or the other is always nearby. When the wind is right you get to see one just hanging out in midair right above the nest. They can just stay motionless in midair above the nest for minutes on end. In early fall last year it was a particular delight to watch to osprey offspring honing their flying skills. They were all over the place just climbing and diving and swooping around.

Oh well, sorry for the disruption. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.


Rick Ballard said...

I've yet to see an osprey. I've seen bald eagles fishing and I've always wonde what they actually 'see'. I have a suspicion that the reality of a 'bird's eye view' wouldn't be very satisfactory to a human.

It's definitely spring here on the west coast too - the sparrows are chasing blackbirds which in turn are chasing the crows. The swallows are back but their nests are protected so they don't have to spend time chasing carnivorous (and cannibalistic) cousins.

Morgan said...

The osprey equivalent of the quick dash to Home Depot.

Thanks for that. How very familiar, and apt.

We don't get much variety in birds here - pigeons, mourning doves, robins, an occasional jay (mean bastards, those jays), assorted unidentifiable little brown birds. And cardinals, of course.

Knucklehead said...

The ospreys are hard to get a look at from close up. They don't do much of their work near terra firma. I was EXTREMELY lucky a couple weeks ago right after they returned. One flew not 10 yards away and not more than 20 ft. above ground. That one I got to watch snatch a branch out of a tree and fly back to the nest. Very pretty birds. I've seen them hauling lumber before but never saw them make the snatch before.

We have a lot of turkey buzzards. Enough that seeing them up close and personal (within 100ft on the ground) is not unusual. They're fugly critters but quite impressive when they spread their wings and take off.

I'm pretty sure I'm seeing some peregrine falcons and some of these sharp shin guys.

I'm frequently hearing some sort of owl. I don't have it even close to pegged yet. I'm pretty sure that I've spotted them a few times flying in the early AM or nearly dusk. I know you're never supposed to see them in daylight but they're so much chunkier looking that hawks that I'm pretty sure I'm not mistaken.

Knucklehead said...


I once saw squirrels attack and destroy a jays nest in my spruce tree. Man, the jays were ticked off about that. They are honery critters. I had no idea squirrels would attack a bird's nest like that.

I have a pair of high bush blueberries and birds love those. You can't beat a bird to a perfectly ripe blueberry. Those suckers know precisely when they're perfectly ripe.

Syl said...

Crows love to hassle hawks. I don't know why. And the hawks seem to be used to it--just ignore it and go about their business.

Maybe the crows have nests somewhere and just dislike birds of prey. Dunno.

I used to golf. Golfing is great for bird observation. Spring is especially fun because the baby birds just out of the nest aren't afraid of people yet and come right up to you with their mouths wide open until mommy flies down, chiding, and pecking, and changes their minds about us.

Last year on our way to Ukrops we had just turned a corner so were going only 10-15 mpg at the moment and heard raucus yakking. Swooping down over the windshield and along the hood of the car then ahead and up into the air again was a huge hawk chased by about six gigantic crows.

I don't actually see many birds, but I sure hear them. More and varied sounds here than anywhere I've lived before.

Anonymous said...


If you are up in this neck of the woods in late spring, drive up to Everett Harbor. There are normally some 25 or 30 osprey pairs nesting on the pilings.

Knucklehead said...


10-15 mpg

Does Greepeace know about you and Joe? You hauling bricks with your Navigator these days? (Just funnin!)