My “I’m thankful for…” list included two male Eastern towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) in the backyard last week. The guidebooks previously referred to them as rufous-sided towhees, and I still prefer that name – the way it sounds and the way it describes their unique markings.
I was delighted to discover my first frost flowers of the season on dittany plants (Cunila origanoides) on November 13, 14, and 15. Our nighttime temperatures were in the mid 20s and were the lowest we’ve had this fall. I was thrilled to find these ice sculptures in our backyard for the first time last year (Frost flowers and Frost flowers #2). Seeing them again this year suggests that their occurrence is somewhat predictable.
In last week’s post, “Life and death in the backyard,” Harry and I thought the bird we’d seen was a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). However, we were not certain and I invited other ideas. Thanks to the comments of excellent birders, we are now convinced that it was a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperi).
Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are very much a part of our backyard. They are entertaining to watch. However, they also frustrate us by eating so much of our bird seed and digging where I’d rather they didn’t. When we saw a hawk eating one of them last week, I had mixed emotions.
I felt sad for the squirrel. Yet I also appreciate the majestic beauty of hawks and the part they play in the balance of nature. I know they must eat to survive. Bottom line, I’m glad to have seen this hawk at close range, and also glad we still have squirrels in the backyard.
After checking our bird guides and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornitholgy website, our best guess is that this is an immature red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). If so, it’s the first one we’ve seen in our yard. If anyone has a different idea I’d be glad to hear from you.