Sharp-shin in Action!

I have concluded from observing accipiters in action over the years that a clear distinction can be made between those still on the learning curve and those who have figured out this predation thing. This note is about one of the latter.

Before I tell my story, please allow me to set the stage. Our house is located roughly fifty yards south of a wooded stream – AKA riparian habitat. Roughly eight-to-ten yards north of the house, between it and the riparian timber, is a fifteen-foot tall shelter belt of Eastern Red-cedar. To the east of the house, in the wind-shadow of the cedar shelterbelt, are two large Silver Maple trees, where most of the bird feeders are located. To the south of the house is the orchard, consisting of mature standard-sized fruit trees. Bird feeders are located in a couple of the denser apple trees there.

As I was preparing for the trip to the Cimarron National Grassland Christmas Bird Count, I heard the panicked calls of American Robins along the creek, and they scattered overhead from north to south. Simultaneously, the birds at the feeders east of the house joined in the alarm and dove for cover in the shelterbelt. Lastly, a flock of 25 Redwinged Blackbirds foraging at the orchard feeders took off in a panic – leaving a lone comrade behind. This entire sequence lasted mere seconds, and of course, I’m looking in the direction of the creek for the cause. I didn’t have to wait long, for falling from the sky like a falcon in a stoop, an immature female Sharpie, with wings tight against her sides, exploded into the apple tree, causing the remaining Redwing to scream as it flushed from its perch and attempted to brush off its now-pursuer in the dense limbs of the tree. She followed him zig for zig and zag for zag for two laps around and through the tree before catching her quarry and flying off to the creek at full throttle – as a would-be pirate Red-tail, attracted by the commotion, attempted to cut her off.