Saturday, April 28, 2018

Knock Knock...Who's There?

I kept hearing a tap tap tapping on the dining room window, but when I went to investigate, nothing was there. The tapping was intermittent, but persistent.  Just three or four taps every half hour or so throughout the morning, loud enough for me to hear from anywhere in the house, gone by the time I could get to the window. Nothing to see but stalwart hedge and brick wall.

I mentioned it to Moe after a few consecutive mornings of the same mystery.  He'd heard it but didn't seem appropriately curious to my way of thinking. I was on my own here. I hid in the next room when the tapping was due again, camera at the ready to peer around the door frame in an instant. I waited. Came the tap. I peeked. Question answered. A female robin  (pale orange breast) was sitting on the outside sill, knocking her beak against the pane. She flew away before I could get a photo.  Had she detected my movement, or would she have flown anyway?

This sequence has continued for about two weeks. We've surmised that she thinks she's protecting her nest from the competitor mama she sees in the glass. I went outside to see things from her perspective. The location of window, relative to morning sun, did indeed allow a perfect mirror-like reflection.  You can also see movement through the glass, explaining why I can't get close enough from inside for a quality photo without chasing her away.

This morning I dressed in black from neck to toe and pulled a chair to the window to wait. She came but flew the instant the camera moved, despite the black clothes.  Moe did get this one yesterday. Just held up his phone and snapped from his reading chair. Go figure.

Today's surprise was that she had a mouthful of nesting material every time she came to the sill, requiring a revised guess about her behavior. Is she only now building her nest, choosing to ignore the silent threat in the window? Eggs coming? Time running out?

Male robins help raise the young, but nest building is the work of only the females.  My outdoor check under the eaves revealed a few dried grassy bits trailing from the crook between the gutter's downspout and the house.  Not a nest yet, but a start. Welcome, Mrs. Robin. ~dkm

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Backyard Spectator, Returned

It's been nearly two years since my last post, and I've missed longsitting outside. If this new start takes hold, it will be good for my health.

This morning I'm watching a smallish hawk with a fuzzy brown head and the shorter tail of a recent fledgling. I don't know its gender, but I wish it to be female.

She's perched high in the backyard tulip poplar, spreading and twisting her wing feathers occasionally, but not moving from her spot.  Her mother (or father?) flies overhead, calling to her with a rapid repeated cackle, but she sits on, looking forlorn and vulnerable in her new world. Is she reassured, as I am on her behalf, by the knowledge that her parent is nearby?

For a few days I mistook the parent's distinctive cackle for the call of a pileated woodpecker. I thought it may have had a nest near where I was tilling the first soil of the season, and that it didn't like my presence in the garden.  It probably didn't, but it wasn't a woodpecker.

When the cackler in question flew over the Ya-yas, who were doing yoga on the back deck one morning, we followed it with binoculars to the top of the neighbor's tallest tree, where we discovered it was a hawk. Our search was rewarded with the sighting of another slightly smaller hawk on the branch beneath a large nest. It tottered on the branch for a few minutes before taking a wobbly flight to another tree. The parent hawk led the way, circling back and cackling in a mode of alert protection. We think we were lucky enough to have witnessed the young hawk's moment of fledge. The parent likely had its eye on those four strange yoga practitioners who were threatening the safety of its offspring.

A little more research on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, narrowed our guess to Cooper's hawk, whose cry is indeed similar to a pileated woodpecker's and is seldom heard except in defense of nest. Bingo. In the days since, I've heard the cry often.

Chances are, the young Cooper's hawk in the tulip poplar is our yoga fledgling from earlier in the week, taking backyard spectatorship to new heights. I've been sharing the breath of the universe with her for almost an hour. It's good to be back.    dkm