Before too much time passes and pictures of snow look terribly dated, I want to share photos of two unfortunate jays and one fortunate Cooper's Hawk.
The first strike was on February 16th, a cold Project FeederWatch day in which temps never got above freezing. It was a clear day with no new snow added to the 2+ feet already on the ground.
Like other hawk strikes I've witnessed, it began with an explosion of warning calls from the sentry jays and a rush of feeder birds speeding off in every direction to the safety of nearby trees and shrubs.
The hawk's path was directly across the front deck and when one distressful call continued, I knew he had been successful. I grabbed my camera and followed the calls to a spot only about 50 feet away in the cover off the west side of the house.
My first view was the jay being held down but fighting back valiantly, here recorded at 2:08p as the struggle and the cries continued. (Click image to enlarge)
Back in March 2008, I witnessed a Sharp-shinned Hawk strike of a Tufted Titmouse, and in my blog post I commented "It seemed like it took a long time for him to kill the titmouse, though in looking at the camera times, it was over in less than 20 seconds. It was the distress calls and struggling of the little bird that made it seem like an eternity."
Jays are much bigger than tufties (and the Coopers bigger than the sharpie) but the struggle between this jay and Coopers Hawk continued for seven minutes more. Here are a series of shots through the trees documenting the encounter.
Five minutes pass and the stuggle goes on, the jay on its back but still putting up a fight.
Two more minutes pass and in the next image the hawk seems in control, jay unseen under the mantled wings and tail.
And another minute and a half later, the fight is over, jay on its back, tail up.
And the hawk begins consuming its meal.
Six days later, on a snowy Sunday around noon, I witnessed another successful strike by the Cooper's Hawk. This time, it was over in a flash: the strike, grab the camera, one set of burst photos from inside the house, and the hawk and jay were gone. Here's all I captured:
These events are emotional to witness especially when the cry of the prey goes on and on and on. I admire the jay for how long it continued to fight for its life. I marvel at the size of the Cooper's Hawk and the strength it takes to overcome fighters like these jays. This goes on in nature all the time; I was just lucky enough to witness it, and in doing so, gained an even greater appreciation for both predator and prey