May 21, 2013
Written by Sally Sanders
Thursday, 10 November 2011 13:31
For years Bernd Klopfer has had families of hawks on his Ridgefield property and has enjoyed observing the youngsters’ behavior each season.
“This summer we were again entertained by the antics of young Red-tailed Hawks,” he writes. “They first showed up on the front lawn, screeching constantly and annoyingly loud until their mother showed up with a never-ending supply of chipmunks and squirrels. I’m surprised there are still any of either left in Ridgefield. The youngsters would tear into their meal and the other one would try to steal it, sometimes successfully.“Soon they would fly up to low branches and further around our property, still screeching and waiting for their mother’s meal-on-wings service.
“Two strange behaviors attracted my attention.
“I was mowing the back meadow when I saw the darker, more aggressive one trying to grab something in the grass with one claw while leaning back away from whatever it was. It looked like he was afraid to get close. Once he had his claw on it, he hopped over on the other leg and pecked at something. Then he would back off, only to repeat that same scared posture and reaching with his leg. Did he have a snake?
“Now I was curious. I got off the tractor and walked over to the hawk. He didn’t move very far and I looked for the object of his attention.
“When I saw what it was, I looked at the hawk and laughed out loud. Big, brave hunter! Locked in a life and death struggle with? An earthworm!
“I went back to mowing and he went back to the earthworm.
“A few days later, I came out of the garage and there he was in the driveway, with a palm-sized piece of gray squirrel fur and a set of hind-leg bones attached to the piece of skin. No meat that I could see. He flew on to the top rail of a five-foot chain-link fence and kept picking at the squirrel remains.
“I stood just a few feet from him and even gave him a shower with the garden hose, but he didn’t seem to be bothered. His lighter-colored sibling was screeching somewhere from a nearby tree.
“After he finally gave up pecking on the skin and bones, he surprised me by pulling out tufts of hair from the skin with his beak. But he gave up on that very fast and started to swallow the piece of fur. I was wondering what he was going to do when he got to the legs. He got the piece of fur down and kept right on going with the two sets of leg bones. When there was only about a half-inch of leg bones, side by side, sticking out of his beak, he got stuck. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the rest of the bones down.
“He started to regurgitate that mess and soon it was all back out. I thought he would quit but he started swallowing the skin and bones again. And this time the set of leg bones went down smoothly.
“Now that all the squirrel stuff was gone, his sibling swooped in and sat next to him on the fence looking around for leftovers. There was, of course, nothing.
“Eventually both of them flew off. Last time I saw them a few days later, they were up in the sky, well below their mother, trying to learn how to soar.”
Margaret Freifeld of Mount Kisco, N.Y., corrects something we reported two weeks ago in the column about high-flying birds.
“I read your articles with great interest when they are passed along to me from a friend in Connecticut,” she writes. “The high altitude at which birds can fly is truly amazing and I was not aware of this fact. However, I take issue with the statement that humans die at 23,000 feet.
“Think of all the Himalayan climbers who have scaled peaks of 26,000 to 28,000 feet without the help of oxygen. I am first a hiker and second a birder and I have hiked (climbed) to above 19,000 without any ill effects.”
Sandy Grannis of 13 Clearview Terrace in Ridgefield “had the great pleasure to see a Bald Eagle yesterday, Nov. 1, at Rainbow Lake. Was chatting with friends Sandy Calkins and Sue Schwerdtle when Sandy saw the eagle. We were amazed at the sighting and grateful for the gift.”
Linda Maggs of Ramapoo Road says, “Yesterday afternoon, (Oct. 23), we spotted a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets flitting about in the trees.”
Jason Kessler of Ridgefield reported Nov. 2: “Ruby-crowned Kinglets last week, one lone White-throated Sparrow yesterday, and three Juncos a minute ago: It’s winter.”
Family Bird Watch & Project Feederwatch, how your family can be “citizen scientists” to help count winter birds at feeders in the backyard, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x221 greenwich.audubon.org.
Copyright 2011 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] gmail.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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