In my last post, we left off partway up the trail to the summit of Hawk Mountain, high in the Kittatinny Ridges of Pennsylvania. Well, we're almost there, our goal being the fabled North Lookout, the best place to watch for raptors drifting south along the crests of the mountain.
Note the pole thrusting skyward in the upper right corner of the photo.
Why a fake owl? To give the raptors passing by a target to strafe, and provide an incredible show for the assembled throng. Sharp-shinned Hawks in particular will drop from the sky and roar in at top speed, and give the owl a smack. When you're perched on the rocks 20 feet away, this is quite the dramatic show. I think that mounting a cam on the owl would be cool, as enough birds of prey take a swipe at this thing that awesome footage would be guaranteed.
Like avian thugs, the sharpies routinely strafe their larger brethren, and this habit helps to identify them at great range. Basically, anything that comes within shouting distance of a sharp-shinned is liable to be attacked, and that long-suffering owl that I showed previously gets bombarded all of the time.
Why do they act this way? Some have speculated that Sharp-shinned Hawks suffer from a Napoleon complex, but I don't think so. These birds are natural born killers, and if you ever get up close and personal with one you'll see an untamable, savage ferocity gleaming from their eyes. Every fiber of their being strains to capture and kill other birds, and the hormones that make them this way constantly flow. I think they're so full of aggression that it's simply impossible for them to resist any opportunity to try and kick some butt, even if the target is a Red-tailed Hawk that doubles them in dimensions and weighs eight times as much.
GO HERE for Hawk Mountain's website and up-to-date info. If you've not been, put it on your 2011 destination list.