Early Friday afternoon, Sue walked out to the kitchen, which has a large window view of a birdbath. Entertainment this year has been unusually varied, fascinating, and continual, so one’s attention when walking toward that window is often, ‘who’s at the birdbath?’ The area of approach for us is fairly long, so we can slow our pace if that would give us a better chance of a good show. Such was the case on Friday.
What Sue saw was a very large bird—large, anyway, for a birdbath that’s never deeper than two and a half inches. She remained at a respectful distance, because she wasn’t yet sure who she was seeing. The bird—clearly a raptor—had apparently just landed on the slab of stone supported by a timber-sized bamboo. As it tried to figure out how you work this thing, it decided to step up on the rim of the eighteen inch glazed plant saucer which has served our birds for twenty years.
Having vacated the property of all other birdlife, and being threatened by no obvious predators of its own, this bird enjoyed a relaxed spa day on or in the birdbath for thirty continuous minutes. So it was quite a show for Sue—I was in town. Before it was over, the positively identified juvenile accipiter had provided a year’s worth of entertainment, including an incredibly thorough, full immersion bath (as much as it could get in two and a half inches of water)—one part at a time. At several points, it fanned its tail broadly enough to look like a turkey. And then it mooned her.
Sue kept an eye on the large clock over the window, and when she decided she had seen enough if the bird decided to fly, she went for her phone—the only camera she had available. As expected, the raw video is pretty limited, but when we zoom in, her more precise I.D. of a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk looks correct. Yet, when I go through the video (which is only 33 seconds) frame-by-frame, this bird is considerably longer than eleven inches. My conclusion from other pictures she took is that we’re seeing either a very large female juvenile sharp-shinned or a male juvenile Cooper’s hawk. Females are noticeably larger than males in these and other raptor genuses. Sibley admits these two are very difficult to tell apart.
This bird was easily 15-16” long. Probably attracted by a small flock of white-winged doves just starting to hang around last week—although there is a smorgasbord of smaller fare around all the time. Most of all, we appreciated that this small bird-eater’s visit resulted in relaxation and entertainment, rather than the loss of a regular resident. As far as we know.
Have a look for yourself. Remember, the following video was shot hand held, vertically, walking slowly toward the window, with a fixed lens phone camera, at a distance of 30’, reformatted, magnified four times, and trimmed to 8 seconds. The objective is to get the best possible impression of the bird. View on a retina desktop, if available.
The interesting thing about this video is that no single image within it is sharp, clear, or discloses much information about what we are seeing at all. It is only through the rapid distinction in subtle differences between one image and the next that impresses the wholeness of what we’re seeing—a subtlety that betrays the uncanny illusion of a relative world, within the awareness of which lies a key to realization. But don’t make the mistake of ‘thinking’ about it. The only component of our composite being capable of understanding what was just said does not ‘think’—it simply is, knows, and sees, simultaneously.
Any hawk-eyed raptor aficionados out there wanting to weigh in on identification?
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