Sunday, November 18, 2007

There's a New Sheriff in My Backyard

I was tossing some old bread out into my backyard in Ballston today (my first-floor apartment has a back door) to my usual customers of sparrows, starlings, and squirrels. As soon as the weather turns colder business picks up considerably, so this afternoon dozens of them had gathered.

All of the sudden every single one of them scattered. Not just their usual, "A person's coming, let's hang back for a minute, but I still got dibs on that piece of crust." They took off like their lives depended on it.

Then I saw why. The tall bushes across the parking lot shook and out flew a hawk.

We'll call him Mordecai. He landed on a utility line above the parking lot. Not particularly large for a hawk, but he still had a wingspan of close to four feet. If Mordecai had been in a better and less noisy position, I'm sure any of the birds or squirrels that had been in my backyard would've made a tasty dinner.

I've spotted several hawks in Arlington, usually in Rosslyn where the local parks make a good habitat, the tall buildings provide places to perch, and the urban setting serves up plenty of prey. My closest encounter came on Roosevelt Island during the 2006 ACE Hike & Happy Hour, though it wasn't as close as the meetup vividly described by Herb of DC.

I'd like to think the sighting isn't completely unrelated to Arlington's ongoing environmental efforts and its certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat, wouldn't you?


Anonymous said...

We've got what we think is a sharp-shinned hawk patrolling our backyard in Chantilly. He shows up about once a week -- we have a feeder and lots of berry and nut bearing flora so it's a popular gathering spot. We've seen the hawk make a run at a few birds and it really is nature in the raw.

PM from RK

Eric said...

We saw one hanging out over Bluemont Park last Saturday - very cool. Maybe it was Mordecai? :-)

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful bird!

The Green Miles said...

From the good folks over at the DC Birding Blog:

It looks to me like a Cooper's Hawk since the tail is really long and rounded at the tip. The breast markings are also consistent with an accipiter-type hawk.

Cooper's Hawks are fairly common in the DC area. I used to see them along the Mall and around the Capitol, plus in other area parks.

There's a bit more here:

Girasol said...

I didn't see one yet here around courthouse but I will be watching...

The Green Miles said...

Would Girasol be excited to see a hawk? I'd think more hawks would mean fewer birds and squirrels for you to chase, so I'd think no. But maybe it's like that old proverb - The enemy of my enemy is my friend.