Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Couple of Raptors in Haldimand County, Ontario

30 November 2014

      For many years, near the town of Fisherville, there was a certain location where sightings of multiple Short-eared Owls Asio flammeus were virtually guaranteed. I don't know what has happened since the last time I was there about ten years ago, but I could find not a one, and upon checking recent reports, it appears that other birders have had a similar lack of luck. This was a spot where at times one could see around forty birds at the same time, flitting around like giant moths in the crepuscular gloom, and the habitat seems to be unchanged, so what has caused them to move on is a bit of a mystery. There were many rodent burrows in the grass so the prey base seems to still be intact.
     We were sitting watching the feeders at the Ruthven National Historic Site in Cayuga, when this Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii made a pass at a Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura feeding on the ground. It missed its target! 

      Predictably, when it perched on a nearby branch, the feeders became very quiet in a hurry. However, the hawk made no attempt to snag this Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula  when it appeared, so perhaps it had fed well earlier, and even the swoop on the Mourning Dove was more reflexive than a serious attempt at capture.


     Just outside Hagersville, we watched a couple of Northern Harriers Circus hudsonius quartering the fields in search of prey. One bird, a female, dropped down on a vole and carried it off beyond photographic range. This male perched briefly on the ground before lifting off again and trying his luck at finding food. I managed a couple of quick shots. The result is quite awful I must confess, but since this is the first time I have ever succeeded in getting a picture of this species, I include it for the record.


  1. Sorry, that where ever watched birds, now they do not. Regards.

  2. Another stunning collection.

  3. Hi David. So sorry to hear about your lack of Short-eared Owls. When they were plentiful was there, by any chance, a plantation of very young trees around (less than about 2 or 3 metres tall), possibly in rough grassland? The rough grassland is important as they bend over the grass to form tunnels to roost in. In this part of UK, this is the sort of area that they love, but tend to abandon when the trees get bigger. With just one exception, all my sightings of Short-eared Owl have been near to a significant (by UK standards!) area of water - either a sea loch, or a lake/reservoir. Even the exception had a small river running through it.

    What a handsome fellow that Cooper's Hawk is! Well captured! I'm pleased to hear that it igored that spectacular Common Grackle, however.

    With my very best wishes - - - Richard

    1. That is really interesting, Richard. I had not considered the possibility that the trees have grown influencing the presence of the owls. I have a feeling you may well be right.

  4. I'm so glad that I found your blog, David! My husband and I enjoy watching birds wherever we go.
    What a great picture you painted with the simile "flitting around like giant moths in the crepuscular light." I always had fun introducing my third graders to the word "crepuscular."
    When we lived in Parker, Colorado, we had a Cooper's hawk that would sit between our two bird feeders in a small cottonwood tree and prey on little birds that came to feed. I discovered this one morning when I was home unexpectedly. I watched in horrified fascination as the hawk caught a sparrow, flew to a fence post, ripped it apart and ate it. But raptors need to eat too, and it made me realize that the hawk was certainly thinking on some level.
    As for grackles, my fondest memories of grackles is them getting into the fermented cherries in the tops of the cherry trees in my grandmother's backyard and becoming scabbily and raucous. They were so funny, and you always knew when they were into the fermented cherries. Have a good one!

    1. Thanks for this great comment. You put a lot into it!

    2. AHA!
      My friend Fundy has found her way to your blog!!
      She is such a wonderful person, it's fantastic!!!

    3. The Short-eared Owls story is quite a pity. I hope it doesn't mean the species is endangered somehow there...
      This hawk is impressive and looks much like our sparrowkawk with those chest feathers.
      Gorgeous bird!

  5. Hello David,
    Beautiful pictures of the birds.
    The Cooper's Hawk is my favorite.
    Best regards, Irma

  6. Great picture of the Coper's Hawk!

  7. Beautiful pictures, especially the first one.
    Very nice to see.
    Greetings Tinie

  8. "Shorties" seem especially scarce here this year. In fact I've not heard of a single one yet this winter. Could be there are plenty of voles still near their breeding places inland. That Cooper's Hawk seems especially colourful. Maybe the hawk didn't fancy a touch of Grackle pox?

  9. Very unfortunate that the many-eared owls are no longer seen. I would very much like ever one time seeing a short-eared owl Zillen. Your picture of the hawk is a very beautiful! The black / blue bird (what's that for a bird) and you harrier are beautiful pictures and clearly visible.

  10. Hello David,
    What a great shots.
    Your first is really amazing!!

    Best regards,

  11. The first photo is absolutely great !