Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wild Wildlife: Nature Red in Beak and Claw

Partly because the trees are now bare of those damn obscuring leaves and partly because everything is flitting around looking for food to stave off the cold season, I’ve been seeing a lot more wild birds in the zoo lately. This includes birds like the Carolina wren featured above (in the single semi-decent shot of it I’ve ever gotten; taking pictures of a bird the size of a child’s fist and with the frenetic energy of a speed addict is not the simple task that it seems) and the ruby-crowned kinglet captured here:

It also includes slightly less elusive birds, like this tufted titmouse:

And this white-breasted nuthatch:

And of course any number of cardinals:

But the other birds that I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, and in more dramatic situations than usual, have been hawks—mainly red-tailed hawks these days.

Although I would see red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks in the trees even in summer, I’ve never before seen them making so many attacks. I watched one eat some small feathered creature near the bird house:

And I saw another with its beak still stained red from whatever prey it had recently devoured.

And then, as I was intently photographing the wren next to the peccary exhibit (where a lone peccary was braving the cold), I heard the shrill cry of birds and looked up from my lens in time to see a hurtling shape plunge into a yucca plant within the exhibit and then fly out again, fast as a bolt of lightning.

I think I can safely say that the peccary and I were both equally startled, although only I swore. (All of its hair stood on end, though, which I think is the peccary version of swearing.)

The hawk didn’t catch anything in that particular strike, but from a glance at the suddenly silent, empty branches, it was clear that the other birds knew it was only a matter of time.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


rebecca said...

Nice shot of the kinglet's eponymous ruby crown - that can be hard to spot!

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Thanks! I got an even better shot of its crown while it was in flight--but unfortunately all parts of the bird except the crown were blurry with movement... It's a real pain, the way animals don't pose.

Anca said...

These are great, as is your commentary on the hawk--so frightening, the predation moment, even for big animals like us. Great photo of the Carolina's eyebrow. I love that, a back profile, like the women in fin-de-siecle paintings.

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