Cooper’s Hawk

February 17th 2012. I wanted to stretch my legs and walk one of my favourite local circuits, a 2 hour hike that includes woods, a wide creek valley, a marsh and even a cemetery.  I expected little in the way of bird variety, only the reliable winter residents, but in the end I did quite well.  For quite a while I wondered whether Black-capped Chickadees might be my Bird of the Day, not on account of their scarcity; they are anything but.  But because on these trails they are so, well charmingly indefatigable; they just never give up looking for a handout.  On weekends, family groups of all ages, shapes and sizes bring bird seed with them and the chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers all fearlessly take food from outstretched palms.  Hand-feeding may be corny and perhaps offends some wildlife-should-be-wild purists, but I think if children are enjoying and valuing wildlife it sure beats fearing it.

Because of the variety of habitat my day’s list was decently varied, including: several Northern Cardinals, American Crows, Blue Jays, American Tree Sparrows, a White-throated Sparrow, Gadwall, Trumpeter Swans, and Common Mergansers among many others.

I watched a Great-horned Owl watching me from its nest site and then my bird of the day swept in, a Cooper’s Hawk.  It perched facing away a few hundred feet from me.  I have a measure of cynicism for quick-fire identification of a Cooper’s Hawk when its lookalike the Sharp-shinned Hawk is so similar in many ways.  I know of only two in-flight distinguishing field-marks, and they’re both very subtle. With enough time and careful study in decent light the two species can safely be separated.  Today I had the luxury of ample time, good light and good views to be certain this was a Cooper’s Hawk.  It made me think Wow!, and pushed aside the chickadees and owl to be my Bird of the Day .