Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Today was the always interesting Beaver Christmas Bird Count, which covers a very rural section of Jackson County in southeastern Ohio. I've been covering the same tract within this count for a decade or more, and today I had the good fortune of having Nina Harfmann and Heather Aubke along. We had a blast, saw lots of birds, and even some noteworthy plants. More on those later, perhaps.

At one point, Heather spotted a small raptor winging over a gap in the forest. We quickly glanced up to see a gorgeous adult Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus, tracing rapid circles. Note I did not say "languid" circles, as I might if the bird were a buteo such as a Red-shouldered Hawk. There is nothing even remotely languid about one of these little death-dealers.

This bird was almost certainly a male, as it was tiny. I managed to lunge skyward with the camera and manage this one OK shot. Note the bird's nicely squared off tail. In life, much more was evident that painted the raptor as a "sharpie": tiny size, rapid, almost frantic wingbeats, elfin head and bill.

I was delighted by this find, as sharpies are easy to miss. And although I think that the 112 years of Christmas Bird Count data is a veritable goldmine of avian information, and much of it is of great use, I am very distrustful of Sharp-shinned Hawk records. Many of them, I am confident, are misidentified Cooper's Hawks. And to a lesser extent, Cooper's Hawks which are actually sharpies.

Anyway, Sharp-shinned Hawks are 220 pounds of Mike Tyson at his prime packaged in Tiny Tim's frame. They're psychotic bundles of testosterone; full of vim and vinegar. No songbird is safe around one. The sharpie is without doubt one of my favorite birds, and it was a pleasure to see one today.

I'm too tired this evening to write more, but HERE IS A LINK to a previous posting about these little toughs.


Heather said...

Glad you caught this image, Jim, and bravo for turning out a post so quickly! Our day of exploring totally wiped me out quickly after I got home. Thanks so much for inviting Nina and myself to join you on this count - I had a blast!!

Terry Fout said...

Check my blog Nov. 16, 2011 to see the Sharp-skinned Hawk on my porch...he has visited several times..was neat watching him try to flush the sparrows out of the bush...
birds,bugs, and butterflies, Oh My

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