The following photographs were all taken in a 2 1/2 hour period right in the middle of one of Eugene's most populated parks. It was all rather surreal. For 45 years all I have seen of Cooper' Hawks is a fleeting glimpse of a medium sized hawk shooting by. Cooper's, like their smaller cousins the Sharp-shinneds are creatures of high speed, low altitude stealth. They live in two modes, either hiding in ambush or screaming right through the trees and branches, bursting out to surprise every bird in the vicinity, and often humans as well. They are the bird equivalent of an F-15 attacking at deck level, appearing and gone even before it's sound wave. Zoom, swoosh and gone. Cooper's and Sharp-shinneds are mostly sighted for a few seconds and identified in retrospect by one's fading visual image. If I add up all the time I have actually seen and watched Cooper's over the past 45 years it might total up to 60 seconds in 20-30 sightings. 2 seconds here, 4 seconds there. They just never sit still, and are never long out in the open or far from cover.
In this case I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, spotting on the ground this bird which had just killed and decapitated a pigeon. It flushed from it's exposed position and carried the pigeon deep into the interior branches of a very large and dense tree right in the middle of the parking lot of the park. Hidden deep among the branches it felt reasonably safe and protected. At first I wasn't even going to get out my camera, big lens, and tripod. I expected the bird to be gone in a few seconds. That's what they do.
But the bird was not anxious to leave it's kill. I was able to find narrow sight lanes through the branches and begin photographing the bird, which rested without feeding again for about an hour. It then tore at the pigeon for 15 minutes, shifting position and causing me to scuttle for new sight lanes, then rested for another hour before feeding for a third time, shifting position again. By this time it was obvious this bird was not afraid of me, or the squirrel which seemed to wish it would leave but really didn't want to make an issue of it.
|Hawks, Owls, and Eagles|
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