I never quite know what will appear beyond my writing-room window. Usually it's a gray squirrel or Carolina wren, sometime a groundhog or Canada goose.
Today it was a Cooper's hawk. I was busy answering a comment from yesterday's post when a passing shadow caused me to glance up from the keyboard. (Yes, that's right—I'm not a touch typist, so I look at the keyboard and not the screen when I'm typing.)
Anyway, sitting on the ground just beyond the glass was a Cooper's hawk…and like all Cooper's hawks at all times, this one was on high alert—swiveling its head this way and that, looking, staring, scrutinizing. To say a hawk is watchful is like saying the Ohio is a big river—an understatement in the extreme. Hawks are so nervously quick in their sharp-eyed vigilance that they can see everything in every direction at practically at the same time. A hawk is like an all-seeing-eye with feathers and talons.
Like most wild creatures, of course, a hawk is first staying alert to any potential danger to itself. Not that much is going to manage to sneak up and nab a Cooper's hawk. (Although last winter I did watch a small housecat, who should have known better, ambush a Cooper's hawk who was busy ambushing a titmouse. Cat and hawk engaged in a brief but lively tussle—a rolling ball of fur and feathers that whirled dervish-like about the yard for maybe ten seconds, and ended when centrifugal force sort of spat each opponent in opposite directions. The hawk was highly miffed and the cat was embarrassed; the titmouse escaped unscathed.)
This hawk was mostly looking for any movement which might have indicated the makin's of a quick supper. Perhaps a tasty dove. Although it was facing, and often staring at, the stones of the cottage, which were only inches away—so maybe the intended meal had been a mouse or chipmunk.
The hawk was standing no more than five feet away—measured from my nose to his beak. Luckily the camera was on the desk beside the computer. It was late, 5:42 p.m. which is only a couple of minutes from official sunset—though the sun was already below the river corridor's west bank treeline. I knew the bird wouldn't linger long, so there was no time to check or change ISO, shutter speed, or aperture setting; I focused as best I could through the window's glass, fired off several shots…and hoped. According to their exposure data, the 8 shots were all done within the same minute. Then I did what I could in iPhoto to make up for the lack of light.
Incidentally, that dark blur in the lower righthand area is a cactus which sits on the inside window ledge; the lighter blur in the middle shot is a pencil holder on my desk corner.
As expected, the Cooper's hawk didn't stay outside my window for long. That minute during which I made the photos was easily the full extent of the visit—though my guess is that it took up perhaps half that amount of time. Dash in, look around…come up empty…and hurry off to better hunting.
I was just lucky to have witnessed the stopover.