The Coopers: Part 2

I was pretty excited about seeing white fluff in the nest on June 27th, so I visited again two days later with hopes of glimpsing wee beaks and eyes. My photo adventure started at 12:41 PM and my first photo was not promising. White fluff???

I watched for two minutes, but no wee hawks appeared. Another cute creature caught my attention though. A nearby yellow warbler had a beak full of little green caterpillars. Clearly, he had wee ones too.

Two minutes later, I checked on the hawks’ nest again. Yippee!

Alas, I tried and tried but I couldn’t get my camera to focus on the birds (I’ve since figured out how to use manual focus, which is handy for creatures that don’t move for a while and are behind lots of little branches). When hawk-focus finally happened, the little white head was gone and 10 more in-focus minutes yielded no little black eyes.

Luckily, Mr. Yellow was still in the neighbourhood and he let me follow him around for a while.

What is he saying?

“Sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet.” Or “ti-ti-ti tu-tu-tu.”

As I walked down the trail away from the nest, an adult Cooper’s Hawk flew into the area. I looked into the forest, hoping to find its perch. Papa Cooper! And he had a snack under one foot.

The upper parts of Papa’s back and wing feathers were a different colour than Mama’s – dark grey-blue instead of brown. According to Birds of North America, this is a usual difference between males and females. Also, Papa had a redder eye than Mama. Cooper’s Hawk eyes change colours as they age, from yellow in immature birds to orange in young adults. Orange eyes get redder and redder until 5 years of age, and on average, males have redder eyes than females of the same age. [1]

It was now 1:08 PM, 12 minutes since I walked away from the nest, and I was curious to see if dad would deliver the snack to his family. So I headed back to the nest. Squee!

Oo! Two black eyes.

And then Mama appeared! She flew over my head onto a nearby perch and cursed at me in her language. Her body language and the pitch and amplitude of her voice clearly said, “Back off!” I walked a few meters away and stopped. Mama soon appeared in a nearby tree to keep an eye on me.

Occasionally, she gave me a two-eye-stare. Intense!

At 1:35 PM, I saw Papa again.

Three minutes later, I spotted Mama with a snack. Did she catch it or did Papa bring it? I’ve read and heard of the latter occurring, so maybe I missed the exchange and there is a hidden prey in my photo of Mr. Cooper. You can click on the photos below to see larger versions. If you are squeamish and not into bird-sushi, feel free to quickly scroll past the small photos.

At 13:48 PM, I returned to the nest and saw a flat blanket of white down.

A minute later, Mama was staring at me from a nearby perch. But I didn’t heed her warning right away. I liked her pose and her intense attitude and was hoping I could get an awesome photo of her. She didn’t oblige.

Well, that was very exciting!!! I wasn’t keen on losing two chunks of my scalp though and I didn’t want to cause Mrs. Cooper further stress. So I walked home. A week later, I returned for a much shorter nest visit. And 10 days later, 3 fledglings were testing their wings in their forest neighbourhood. Stay tuned…

[1] Curtis, Odette E., R. N. Rosenfield and J. Bielefeldt. 2006. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.75

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17 Comments

  1. I had been looking forward to this sequel, Myriam. How exciting that you found the Cooper’s chicks. I have been struggling with the same problem of not being able to focus on what I want to when my camera’s setting is on automatic, but I have yet to figure out the manual setting!

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    1. Thanks so much, Tanja! I appreciate your enthusiasm. 🙂

      My first Northern Saw-whet Owl convinced me to try manual focus. Even though I was looking at it for a few minutes from only about 3 meters away, it didn’t budge from its branch. Since all the little branches in the way made auto-focus impossible, I decided to fiddle with manual focus. I couldn’t get very sharp focus, I still can’t, but it was much better than a blur. With my camera, I get a smaller rectangle which appears in the centre of my LCD display (my camera doesn’t have a view finder). I then have to press the up and down arrows until my desired subject becomes clear in the small rectangle. Not very precise and the visibility in the small rectangle is not great. I’m guessing there are cameras with much better manual focus.

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      1. Thank you for the explanation, Myr. One of these days I really ought to read the instructions that came with the camera! 🙂

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  2. Great spying, Myr! I just wish Cooper’s dined on more rodents than birds. 😦

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    1. It’s a bit creepy, but I just love spying on birds! I didn’t manage to be undercover this time though! 🙂

      Too many rodents in your neighbourhood? I once saw an immature Cooper’s swoop down on a little mouse that was crossing a trail, but it missed. I’ve only seen three Cooper’s with prey. This one with the bird, another flying with a little bird that was making sad sounds and another with a squirrel. So that’s 2:1 for birds and rodents in my experience. Not statistically significant though ;-).

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  3. Oh how exciting!!! The chicks are adorable. She sure did Buzz you didn’t she. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the follow up post.

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    1. Yeah! Thanks for sharing the excitement :-). She was very protective! Protective hawks are way scarier than protective magpies, but at least they don’t almost burst my eardrums.

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  4. Very fascinating! You’re so lucky to see the Cooper’s kids in a wild like that. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for enjoying the story and photos :-). I felt really lucky to see the little ones – my first and only time so far.

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  5. Good for you, it must have been hard work, tracking the hawks & warblers, but worth it…until that last lunge!

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  6. So exciting! Just think, by now those wee ones are out ferociously hunting on their own. That lunge from mama~wow. Recently I was on the trail with my puppy…did I already tell you about this? And I looked up in time to see a redtail swooping down for lunch, only belatedly noting the leash. Boy was he cross.

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  7. Wow, the last photo! She can be scary! 😀 But the little ones are adorable. 🙂
    You know, if I look your photos I feel like I am going to buy myself camera right now. I spend too much time indoors.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the wonderful world of the Coopers :-). Have you been out and about with a camera recently? I don’t take a lot of pictures when it is very cold, but on the warmer winter days, I still take a bunch. Recently, I noticed two owls in the woods near my house. I wonder if they are a Mr and Mrs…

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      1. I haven’t bought camera yet, because I can’t decide which one I want (I am really terrible in making decisions). 😀
        But I have spent more time outdoors this winter than I usually do. There is one bog at the edge of the city I love to visit. 🙂 If it’s going warmer (so I can take off my mittens) then I’ll lend my boyfriend’s camera (if I don’t own one myself) and try to take some pictures there. 🙂

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        1. Taking photos with mittens is not easy. I did try once. Gloves are much easier, but sometimes it is way too cold for just gloves. I bet the bog has lots of beautiful plants and animals. Warmer weather soon… 🙂

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  8. Wonderful blog and loved the images as well.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Debbie :-). I loved, loved, loved, loved your post on burrowing owls. They are so cute and comical (they look a bit like cartoon characters), and I enjoyed the variety of action you captured.

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