Saturday, 21 January 2012

Unexpected Sights Out the Back Window

One of my favourite things to do on a winter Saturday morning is to sit with a cup of coffee and watch the birds out the back window (which faces south.) We have two feeders filled with black oil sunflower, and one finch feeder filled with niger seeds.

Last year we sometimes had 4 pairs of cardinals visiting, plus house finches, the little American goldfinches, and the odd woodpecker. This year, it's the same type of birds but there have been a lot less of them, which I attribute to another visitor...

I believe he (or she?) is a Cooper's Hawk. Last year we had the odd visit from a larger hawk, but it wasn't too frequent. However, this Cooper's Hawk seems to have figured out that we have a very nice bird restaurant, and he's not talking about the black oil sunflower seed... :-(

He's a fairly frequent visitor. This shot was taken a few weeks ago, as he sat in the cherry tree right outside the window.

This morning, as I sat with my coffee, I didn't see too much bird activity at the feeders. There was one pair of cardinals sitting in the cherry tree. I figured they'd come down to the feeders eventually, so I started reading the Saturday paper and drinking my coffee, with a glance out the window every few pages to see what was happening.

After awhile I realized that the cardinals weren't all.

And, they were kind of...flattened against the braches.

You have to look hard to see her, but there's a female cardinal in the top left corner of this picture. The male (who is brighter red) was on the south side of the tree.

I looked up into the big tree further south in the yard, and sure enough, there was a hawk.

He was looking in the other direction (with his back to the north, where the cherry tree with the cardinals was.)


So there we had the cardinals, not moving a feather, scrunched as close in to the branches on the tree as they could, terrified, trying to make themselves invisible.  Which is kind of difficult when you're bright red and everything else outside at this time of year is greyish or white.

I realize this probably happens all the time. And yes, the hawk has to eat too. But these are "my" cardinals!

So I threw a coat on over my pajamas, boots over my bare feet, grabbed some gloves, and tromped out to the back yard. I headed toward the big tree, looking at the hawk. He looked at me, saw how close I was getting (even though he's up pretty high) and took off. I clapped my hands to give him a further bad experience at my "restaurant," hoping he wouldn't be a return client.

When I turned around, the cardinals still weren't moving a feather, but they were certainly watching me! I didn't go too close, figuring they were probably stressed enough already.

But what I saw next surprised me so much I almost exclaimed something out loud.

Hiding on the north side of the tree, below the branches with the cardinals, were a pair of woodpeckers!

Do you see them? 

If you scroll back up and look at the picture of the cardinal...they're there, but they blend in so well I hadn't seen them until I went outside.

I didn't take the camera outside with me, which is a real shame, since I was only about a metre away from them. Once I was back inside the house I took these pictures out the window.

Just like the cardinals, they weren't moving a feather. And they were glued to the tree. Just their eyes were moving as they watched me closely.

After a while, the male woodpecker (the one with the red bit on his head) figured out that the hawk was gone and flew off. A little later, so did his lady companion.

But the cardinals still didn't move! Eventually I had to leave to run some errands, so I don't know how much longer they stayed there. I guess when you're that colourful, you have to take extra precautions!

It was certainly a more exciting morning of birdwatching than I had expected!