Maplewood: November 29th 2009

Rain prevented me from getting out yesterday but there was a break over Maplewood this afternoon that allowed me to get out birding for a little over an hour.

I decided to check out the feeders near the entrance first and I was rewarded with a sighting of a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in one of the trees to the east of the path. The bird appeared to be preening when I first sighted him but I noticed the occasional glance in the direction of the birds at the feeders (who were aware of the hawk as they were giving alarm calls).

Small birds form a significant part of the diet of Sharp-shinned Hawks but they are also known to take small mammals and large insects (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). During the 19th and early 20th century thousands of these birds were shot annually; often for no other reason than the fact that they ate song birds (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). Carcasses were often left to rot (Broun 1949). Shooting doubtlessly still occurs in some parts of North America but thankfully the senseless killing of the past two centuries is now history.

I had just finished snapping a few photographs when the hawk darted from its perch into the bushes nearby the feeders. I heard an awful shriek and all of the chickadees, finches, and sparrows fled the scene making quite a racket when they left. The hawk quickly flew to the south west and I was not able to find it again and determine if it had indeed captured one of the small birds. After a couple of minutes most of the birds had returned to feed on the seeds.

It was high tide when I checked out the mudflats. A raft of at least two hundred Mallards were milling about on the water; many of them were resting or preening. This must have been a flock of migrants making their way to their respective wintering grounds as the species has the most prolonged fall migration of any other duck; meaning its not uncommon to find migrating birds in late November (Drilling et al 2002). Mallards often leave their breeding grounds only when water freezes and their food sources are covered with snow (Drilling et al 2002).

I’m glad the rain let up as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out birding this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans who may be reading this!

References:

Bildstein, Keith L. and Ken Meyer. 2000. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/482doi:10.2173/bna.482

Broun, M. 1949. Hawks aloft: the story of Hawk Mountain. Dodd, Mead, Co., New York.

Drilling, Nancy, Rodger Titman and Frank Mckinney. 2002. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/658doi:10.2173/bna.658

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