When Death Stalks my Yard

This must be a horrible moment for a rabbit or a mouse or a chipmunk; when I think about the predator drone-strikes, I imagine they must instill the same immobilizing terror, except the drones don’t cast that flickering shadow.

You are probably becoming slightly familiar with my back yard, by now, and you may recognize that the footage I captured of the elk was taken about 50 yards to the left of where the hawk was hunting.

They fly so gracefully.

One breezy day I looked out my bedroom window and there was a pair of hawks that had found the draft over the ridge (by the standing stones) and they were sitting there, immobile, nailed up in the sky. They would pan slightly back and forth by just curling a feather.

I also have owls and a murder of crows. The crows live in a big oak tree back in the woods-line in the same area. In the winter, I sometimes see that the owls have scored: they leave a red splat-mark and some tufts of rabbit fur and that’s it.


  1. says

    Bird watching in your yard is something I definitely enjoy. Despite the fact that I live in the center of a city, there are lots of birds around. In my old home I could watch swallows in my yard during summers. Nowadays, instead, I spend my summers watching a baby seagull. For already two summers in a row there was a baby seagull living (and growing up) on my home’s roof. It was interesting to watch it sit on the roof, interact with its parents, learn to fly. Of course, by the end of the summer my roof was covered with seagull poop.

    Periodically I also see some great tits when they show up near my windows. My windows are painted with linseed oil based paint and glazed with linseed oil putty (made from linseed oil and chalk; I make my own, because commercially available putty is surprisingly expensive). Shortly after glazing my windows, I realized that tits love eating the putty. They made quite lots of holes in it before it completely hardened. Watching tits munch on my windows was the one occasion where I really didn’t enjoy seeing birds. Afterwards I learned that adding a bit of ground black pepper to the putty prevents tits from snacking on it.

    I also enjoy stalking birds with my camera and telephoto lens. And often it’s not even necessary to go far from home for that. For example, I got this photo https://orig00.deviantart.net/a6b1/f/2016/105/8/b/sparrow_by_avestra-d9z01x8.jpg in the middle of Frankfurt.

  2. Raucous Indignation says

    I walked out of the front door on morning and there by the side of the house was a raptor (peregrine, I think) noshing on a bunny. The raptor gave me a very cross look, and after a long pause flew off. I apologetically went back inside. I had disturbed a diner. How crass of me.

  3. jrkrideau says

    except the drones don’t cast that flickering shadow

    No, you just get to hear them constantly droning on overhead hour after hour or day after day, never knowing when or where they will strike.

  4. jrkrideau says

    When I was a boy we would have red-tailed hawkss patrolling the field in front of the house, the occasional osprey nesting near the lake, a grey heron keeping watch for small fish on a rocky outcrop at my aunt’s cottage and a couple of bald headed eagles nesting up the road. Raptors galore.

    I remember seeing an osprey take a fish a couple of times, holding my breath until it was airborne.

    Oh yes, and the occasion barn owl spending the day in the barn. The name is appropriate.

    On hot summer nights when all the doors and windows were open a whippoorwill would settle in by the fence and proceed to help one stay awake whether one wanted to or not.

    Now that I think of it, you could hardly step out of the house without practically tripping over (figuratively) half-a-dozen different species. For three or four years we even had a year-round resident swan. In a place where the lake ice would be 2 feet thick, it must have been pretty clever to survive.

    There was the annual battle with the barn swallows who insisted on building their nests on the side of the (white) house when we had a garage, a machine storage building, and a barn where they were welcome to build.

    Still, as a good Canadian the real trill was hearing the call of the loon just at dusk.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    @jkrideau: you can’t hear drones. They are small, slow, pusher-prop powered, high-aspect-winged and fly fairly high because they don’t have to worry about Anti-aircraft fire. They are therefore extremely difficult to see and almost impossible to hear. They are almost the diametric opposite fast low large extremely loud fighter-bombers. Strikes from them seem to come out of the clear blue sky.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    I have spent many hours hanging In updrafts from ridges. Occasionally I have been privileged to share space with kestrels. Their ability to hover absolutely motionless in 3-D space despite variations in windspeed and turbulence is incredible, especially when you can watch them from your close and above. It’s fun creeping up on them in my almost entirely silent aircraft and catching them looking over their shoulder at me before dipping away, as if to mock me with their massively superior manoeuverability

  7. jrkrideau says

    @ sonofrojblake

    you can’t hear drones.

    My understanding was that it depends on altitude. And background noise.

    This seems to agree with me.https://www.quora.com/Can-you-hear-a-Predator-drone,

    I got the impression that you could hear them reading a newspaper article G&M?)about drones in Pakistan where villagers were reporting hearing them.

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