Drama at Bannister Lake,
30 September 2012
I was birding this morning at Bannister Lake with my brother-in-law, John Lichty. Our principal reason for visiting this excellent wetland was to see the Sandhill Cranes Grus canadensis that gather there each day to feed. Their numbers have become quite remarkable and there are numerous juvenile birds in transition to full adult status. Yesterday when Miriam and I visited we observed forty-five individuals; today John and I tallied thirty-one, although I suspect that had we waited longer the count would have increased.
The morning was filled with great birding moments and there was an interesting and diverse range of species.
The premier event, however, was to watch the gripping aerial chase of a Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii pursuing a Killdeer Charadrius vociferous. The manoeuvres of the Killdeer desperately trying to escape its attacker were a sight to behold. One does not normally associate such high speed twists and turns with this medium-sized plover but the threat of imminent death produced evasive tactics of great cunning and sophistication. It was all to no avail as the Cooper's Hawk matched the plover turn for turn in a masterful display of acrobatic skill and determination. Several times it almost closed in on the Killdeer only to have its quarry evade capture at the last moment with a split second tactic. The outcome was inevitable, nonetheless, (or so it seemed to us) as the Killdeer appeared to be tiring, but we did not see the actual kill. In some ways I am thankful for that but we were left in awe at the spectacle we had just witnessed. It is a grim, primal, but entirely normal part of the daily cycle of the natural world and we felt it a great privilege to see it.