This winter has seen the persistent presence of a single banded Red-tailed Hawk in Sapsucker Woods. Whether she’s harassing the red-shouldered hawk or being harassed by a murder of crows, her burnt-red tail never fails to bring color to a drab Ithaca day.Nor terror to an suspecting prey item. Recently we were watching while she stooped on an unsuspecting short-tailed shrew; the result? Three quick bites, and a little blood on the talons. Sort of a tapas dish for the Buteo crew. Other days the results are more gruesome:
Talon marks in the snow and a half-meter of rabbit intestine spooled out amid the footprints of mice and squirrels. Just another reminder that life’s violent ends can, in the case of a bunny, sometimes be tasty; also, that a clean blanket of snow is perfect for getting a surreptitious look at the eating habits of animals…
Despite my earlier posts lambasting Rhamnus in all its glory, the birds seem to find it an acceptable substitute for a native berry bush. The cold and snow makes their preference visible in the form of a shotgun blast of purple pellets, the cast-off bits from consuming the small purple berries that festoon the branches of buckthorn all along the trails on the north side of Sapsucker Woods.
Even more fun is stumbling upon the chipped up remains from the ardent attention of a woodpecker. It’s almost as though I have encountered the workshop of a small elf, chiseling away at the trees for some arcane purpose.