Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bird Business

I've had this post sitting here unfinished for at least ten days, due to the usual Christmas madness. However, after flicking through a few updates from much more regular bloggers, feeling slightly neglectful (and finding myself with a spare hour), I sat myself down in front of the computer and thought "finish this thing!"


 Here is our Official Resident Hummingbird. At least, I SAY he's our Official Resident Hummingbird but we're not on super intimate terms and I doubt I could pick him out of a lineup. He could be an offspring of our first Resident Hummingbird for all I know. Given how obsessed he is with keeping every other hummingbird away from his feeder, my rough estimate is that these birds can't last too long. 

Suffice to say that these are unusually territorial birds. It could be well below zero outside - all the feeders but his could be frozen and all the birds faint with hunger and cold - and  our bird would still say "BEGONE! This is my feeder and I don't share!" Every single time. Not a method I approve of, but there you have it.

Oh, and the feeder he's so intent on protecting? It's a good twelve feet away from all the other bird feeders. We've moved it three times, mostly so the other birds get a chance at the food in the other feeders. 

He dive bombs anyone who goes near his feeder, including me.


Here he is flying off, fed up with my constant camera clicking.

He doesn't suffer camera snappers fools gladly, sadly.

I like the way he sways his head back and forth as he surveys his perimeters.
Finally got a decent shot of a Stellar's Jay the other day. This is a moment of triumph, I tell you. These birds are rudely camera shy when in my back yard. Whenever they see that lens, no matter how I lurk, they let out an outraged squawk and fly away.                                                                                                                                     It's exasperating, particularly when there are twenty of them bouncing around on the Garry oaks.                                                                                                       Particularly when I've set up a special peanutty feeder just for them, just for our Camera Encounter. 
The other day I took approximately 78 shots of an odd encounter between a few Stellars jays and a Cooper's hawk - an encounter I've been told is quite common but I'd never actually witnessed before. I had no idea they were so fearless. This hawk, who single-handedly keeps the sparrow population in check, spends an hour most afternoons perched at the very top of the Garry oak, chewing on some unlucky small bird. He's very thorough, rarely leaving more than a teeny scrap behind when he's done. Ask me how I know? It was when I found a small yellow beak on the ground under the tree. Just the beak. Another time it was just a leg. A sparrow leg is a very small thing. Anyhow, he's thorough, our hawk.  

Here is the scene: hawk is that smallish body almost at the top of the tree. A jay is on the lower left branch, and you can't hear him but he's squawking loudly and looking very impertinently at the hawk. There's another one on the other major limb of the Garry oak but it's hard to see him. 
Looks kinda foolhardy, doesn't it, sitting there jeering at a hawk? The jay then makes his way up the tree to a branch about four feet away from the hawk. Unbelievably the hawk appears uneasy. He keeps glancing at the jay and has completely stopped grooming himself. 

Would you call this harassment? I think I would. Those jays are getting in that hawk's face. To clarify: our jays are migratory in these parts. They don't have a nest nearby. They aren't protecting anything. They're acting like my friend the hummingbird. If my kids acted like this I think I'd be dragging them off by the arm, to have a quiet word about getting along with others when on the playground in their ear.

And now look - there's suddenly five jays sitting there, clearly intent on Being Pests.

But it isn't until one actually pecks at the hawk's tail that something happens: the hawk leaves. The jays squawk pleasantly at each other for a few minutes, then fly away.