We have numerous flowering plants and a half dozen or so trees in our long thin backyard, so that it’s green and leafy for most of the year. As such, we get a lot of birds stopping by. Once, just as I flung a rawhide chew toy off the back deck while our Ernie boy dashed wide-eyed and pell mell down the steps to get it, a hawk came swooping low between the houses, hunting.
Have you ever seen something you wished you had film of? Man, I’d go out and buy a home movie camera right now if I could get that on film. The problem is, of course, you don’t have the camera ready when the moment occurs.
It was a woodland hawk, probably a sharp-shinned, and I’d seen them come blitzing low between the houses before, stealth attacking from the front through to our backyard, hoping to surprise thier feathered dinner before dinner might, in a thumping burst of adrenaline, escape into the brush.
Just as I threw the chew toy the hawk came swooping through, faster and on course for the tossed toy, then veering off and through the yard lickety-split while I got as wide-eyed as our Ernie had been in his pursuit.
I haven’t seen many hawks of late – but with my schedule now I’m rarely here in the course of the day, and often preoccupied on weekends.
We’ve seen lots of hummingbirds, the usual assortment of scrub jays, robins, towhees, sparrows (golden-crowned in wintertime), and bushtits. We’ve seen a Bullock’s oriole, too, and late this summer watched as a black phoebe fledged her chicks in our backyard. (They perched on the fences, posts, and poles, then learned to swoop down on bugs quickly, flitting back to their perches.)
And every so often, out of the corner of my eye, I’ve caught a flash of yellow, which always managed to escape into the bushes before I could get a good look.
Until early one afternoon this week, when I took some time off and was home procrastinating rather than taking care of some tasks around the house. I’d noticed earlier that the sparrows and robins were battling over bathing rights at the birdbath, taking quick splash baths, stealing a few sips then flying off as others assaulted the rim, back and forth, squabbling as they took turns. The baths were dirty and littered with leaves, so I cleaned a couple out then putzed around for aw hile.
Then early in the afternoon I saw the flash of yellow. This time I had a chance to grab the binoculars and come back, and there I saw it clear as day: the yellow face and jaunty little black cap, head up and alert as it splashed quickly in the bath. I watched for a few brief seconds before it darted off, then I stepped outside and to the end of the deck to see if I might spot it again and see more of the color and patterns on its body. It was gone, but as I looked around another motion caught my eye: in our pear tree there was a cedar waxwing.
I’ve seen waxwings before, but never in our yard. He sat in the tree for a bit, with the erect dignity of his elegant species, then took off. When I checked the field guide in the house my little yellow-faced bereted friend turned out to be a Wilson’s warbler. Not uncommon, but nothing I’d identified before. Weeks and months go by without ever seeing anything like this, and here within moments of each other was a bird I’d never seen in our yard before as well as a bird I’d never identified at all!
Okay, the eccentricity of birding, I know. Be still my beating heart. Yet it was nice to see a few new feathered friends out back, and I hope they’ll feel welcome to come back again – when the sharp-shinned hawk is away.