Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thieves and Hunters

My garden attracts all manner of birds and squirrels.  None of them expressly invited and some of them, namely the squirrels, not welcome.

Squirrels are the thieves in my garden.  They steal the fruit from my trees and the tomatoes from my planter boxes.  Nothing is sacred; not artichokes, not pomegranates and certainly not tomatoes.  All my tomatoes.  All.  I may never recover or plant tomatoes again.  It was a painful, frustrating summer.

Squirrels also target the bird feeders.  I have a large feeder with sunflower seeds hanging on a pole, with a squirrel guard (an upside-down cone that swivels in an unstable way when touched( on the pole.  Last summer, one managed to climb up a sunflower stem and then scramble onto the feeder when the flower bent under its weight.  I cut down the flower.

The other day, one climbed to the top of the fence and leaped across to the feeder.  When it had stuffed its cheeks full of seeds, it launched onto the ground and scurried away.

I also watched a hunter make its way through all my flower beds.  At first I thought it was a dove; a big dove with a dark splotchy back.  It hopped through the tangle of leaves and branches under the shrub rose hedge.  Then it flew to the top of the fence -- where I was able to get a good look at it through my binoculars -- before landing in the flower bed below.  It wound its way through the native grass, sage and lilacs, searching for lunch small birds and rodents. 

I looked through my bird books; it looked like a hawk but it was far too small and the coloring was not consistent with the red tail hawks that are common in our area.  I found it -- a hawk indeed.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Photo Credit: Audibon website
These hawks are not nearly as common as red tail hawks, which also stalk the garden.  The red-tails are larger and sit on the fence posts before swooping down into the garden and then right back up.  These little guys sneak around the garden, winding through the lavendar, and poking their heads into the lilac bushes.  It reminded me of hide-and-seek -- except that all the little birds had hidden themselves far, far away from my garden.  It was a few days before they came back.

10 comments:

  1. An American in TokyoDecember 12, 2017 at 5:10 PM

    Wow, interesting looking little hawk!!

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  2. Beautiful raptor. Maybe the unusual has flown your way to get away from the fires further south in your state.

    Erika

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    1. I don't know if these raptors are common in Southern California. We live in their habitat -- but they are not as common as red-tail hawks (or turkey vultures); the raptors that we see all the time. I have a feeling he will be back -- they are known for stalking bird feeders.

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  3. I like the video of the squirrel sliding down the pole: https://youtu.be/O9-rE5RBZvU

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    1. That's pretty funny. I bet the squirrel in the video is also going to figure out climbing the fence and jumping like the one in our garden did. The squirrel guard is effective at keeping them from climbing the pole; although it looks like vaseline works well too. I wonder how often you have to re-apply it.

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  4. I have squirrel thieves too! They’re really annoying on the bird feeders. But I guess everybody has to eat in wintertime. The hawk is pretty even if he’s not welcome.

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    1. The little hawk was so cute -- and funny to watch sneaking through the garden -- that I didn't mind him visiting at all.

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  5. Gorgeous!! I rehabilitated a chicken hawk with a broken wing when I was a teenager. I spent many a day in the meat section buying hearts, livers, etc. He couldn't ever fly, but he could soar. I'd take him to the top of hills and let him soar down, then I'd run to the bottom and find him. Sadly, he had to become a pet because he was never able to be released on his own. He lived for a couple of
    years in captivity. I have a special place in my heart for hawks.

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  6. I only have ground squirrels here and they are really bad thieves too. And when we first moved here, there were roses. Well, the rabbits ate them all up. I have given up on trying to grow things, but I have some ideas for the coming year now that I have a nice patio.

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.