Rascally Raptor

A few weeks ago I was made aware of, on a very early Sunday morning, plaintive calls coming from above the pond. Over and over the “Keeahh, Keeahh” calls disrupted the weekend quiet. I thought I knew who but was surprised to hear this call in the city, especially over our small pond, so I went out for a look. I saw two hawks circling high above the pond, their leisurely rotation easing them out of my view and away from the area.

I headed back inside for coffee and newspaper perusing when I heard the awful shrieks of the Black Crowned Night Heron and managed to view it taking flight across the pond. It landed above the water on the dead horizontal cottonwood tree- a popular perch for the Black Crowned, Great Blue and the Belted Kingfisher. The dead tree has been their excellent vantage point for fishing and monitoring pond movement all summer.

Since the Night Crowned Heron looked and seemed OK despite its violent calls I again headed back to my now cooled coffee and paper only to next hear a very disgruntled Kingfisher. What was going on? So with coffee cup in hand this time I trouped back out to view another bigger bird on the horizontal cottonwood… eating something.

Red Shouldered Hawk

Calling to Dan (and grabbing binoculars) between the two of us we determined it was a Red Shouldered Hawk eating something that resembled a frog. The hawk ate pulling sinewy pieces like taffy from beneath its talons; much to the disgust of nearby waterfowl. Especially the Kingfisher and Black Crowned Heron who remained highly incensed and kept a vigilant eye on the hawk.

This scenario has since been played out a few more times. It finally dawned on me when I spotted the Red Shouldered Hawk recently and then listened to the irate Kingfisher that the hawk was not just encroaching on their fishing spot… the Red Shouldered was possibly very savvy and opportunistic- stealing their hard earned meals. The rascally Red Shouldered would land high in the tall cottonwoods surrounding the pond and swoop down just as the other birds pulled their prey from the water and started to eat. (In the case of the Belted Kingfisher- beating its prey to a bloody pulp before swallowing.)

This last week I have noticed the heron and kingfisher stealth fishing from leafy covered areas of the pond and taking more covert mealtimes. The hawks have not been as frequent either and though they are handsome and intriguing raptors- I relish the quiet of heron fishing, stalking patiently and the staccato rattle of the Kingfisher as it darts just above the surface of the pond chasing its prey.

I have seen the Red Shouldered Hawks described as elusive and their usual haunt- riparian woodlands… they need to adhere to both of these descriptors and not be rascally at the pond! Never dull here on Green Heron Pond!

Photos courtesy of Wayne Rhodus, Photographer