Yesterday was a curious combination of chained-to-my-chair frustration (putting together a presentation on a computer that wasn't quite working right) and yes-it's-really-spring excitement. I was working on my laptop at the kitchen table where I can watch the birdfeeders, since I was also doing a FeederWatch count for Cornell....
At one point when I looked up, all of the birds were gone. Not too unusual, actually, but this time when I scanned the yard, I noticed a big blob under the lilac bushes. It was a Cooper's hawk, and it was standing atop some poor, unfortunate sparrow-sort which it was holding in its talons!
The hawk looked around a bit, then proceeded to start ripping feathers off the head of the sparrow. I watched for a bit, then gave myself a dope slap and got my camera. Even with a 10X zoom, the hawk was a bit far away for a great photo, but I did the best I could, taking a large series of photos, almost all of which are about equally blurred. While I stood in the kitchen window and snapped away, the hawk would look around for a bit, then bend down to his task for a while, then stop to watch again. After 10 or 15 minutes, he flew away, taking his meal with him.
What hapless bird did he catch and consume? While I was first watching and trying to identify the hawk's prey through my binoculars, it looked perhaps like the head of an adult Harris sparrow - black with a pink beak. Later, after the hawk had flown, I went out to look at the feathers. The hawk had taken the body; the remaining feathers appeared to be slate gray and white. Just looking at the feathers, I would guess that it was a junco that got eaten. Even with photographic and physical evidence, I don't think I'll ever know.
An hour or so after the hawk incident, I idly noticed our hyperactive cat Ranger batting at something under the lilacs. It didn't appear to be a bird, so I didn't pay much attention at first, but then something clicked and I decided to go out and actually investigate. Lo and behold, it was a box turtle emerging from below ground!
The temperatures are still falling to around freezing every night and only getting up into the 40's during the day; I was amazed to see a turtle emerging already, but there he was. And if a turtle is emerging already, spring can't be too far away.
I'm not the most observant person in the world, but I'm learning to pay attention to my pets when they are nosing at something. They've made some great discoveries for me: an emerging cluster of garter snakes, a pair of box turtles mating, a below-ground egg nest that had been dug up and eaten. Now that the weather's warming up, it's time to be extra vigilant (at least about watching them!) again.