i know it’s one of the most common hawks you can find in New York State, but it gets an exclamation point from me because i’d never spotted one (or at least, never recognized one) before … until today.
i was doing my citizen science for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (and i know how cringe-worthy that sounds: i can hear my daughter’s eyes rolling from here), sitting at my dining room table as i do twice a week — two consecutive days, per the instructions from Cornell. i sit there next to my window, all cozy with my hot tea; binoculars; photocopied “score sheet” with my most-likely-to-see species written in, but with plenty of room to write in others; my little drawing pad; pencil with one of my cool new Helix erasers that i bought online, paying about $3 for all 10 of them and then (dammit) $8 for the shipping; and my sharpener. What we Citizen Scientists do for Cornell is simply count the birdies of the various species who come to our feeders (i have four feeders) and record the highest number of each species we see over the two-day period.
As always i was just watching and counting and sketching and occasionally getting up to run and open my back door to yell, “Get!” ineffectually to the squirrels who continually attack the suet feeder, and frequently saying to myself, “Gee, this is pleasant! This is really pleasant! Thank you, God!” etc.
i was actually writing or sketching something when i heard a loud rustling sound out there. In my peripheral vision, i could tell it was a bigger birdie than the chickadees, sparrows, titmice, downy woodpeckers and nuthatches that i’d been otherwise seeing, but as i whipped around in my chair i expected to see a blue jay. Instead, there, settling on a branch near my black-oil sunflower seed tube feeder, was … a sharp-shinned hawk!
Small compared to the red-tailed hawks i often see soaring or perched on the sides of our highways, and very beautiful, it had a small head, grey back and a long, squarish-tipped tail with several dark horizontal bands across it. Its breast, belly and sides, which i saw when it finally turned a bit toward me, were white and heavily streaked with pretty, reddish-tan stripes (horizontal on the sides, and more vertical down its breast and belly). It had yellow feet, yellow eyes, and a yellow patch right where its small, hooked bill met its forehead.
And now, mustering all the technological prowess i possess, let me see if i can show you one, by pasting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website’s Sharp-Shinned Hawk page here: http://bit.ly/1reo4KQ.
Don’t look at the part that implies that it could well have been a Cooper’s Hawk … or the part that notes that sharp-shinned hawks are common as rain. Just try to imagine how happy i am!