There is no better way to stir the garden to life than to fill the bird feeder after it’s been empty for a few days in December. Bluejays are first to arrive, then a variety of smaller birds, though no cardinals yet this morning. Squirrels are beginning to move in, but retreat as a Red shouldered hawk arrives, perching on the branch of a pendulous dogwood several feet from the feeder.
The hawk has no interest in sunflower seeds, but keenly watches over the feeder and the small pond below. It is uncertain what prey the hawk is hunting, and it seems the opportunity for a successful capture are unlikely from this low perch. In minutes, a squirrel moves cautiously closer, then finally approaches the feeder as the hawk pays little attention. Jays perch nearby, waiting their turn as a second squirrel cleans scraps from the dense patch of periwinkle beneath the feeder.
Finally, the hawk descends to the edge of the pond and then flies away, seemingly unsuccessful in capturing prey, and certainly not the more typical frogs and small snakes that are snug in protected winter environs. Now, the hawk perches on the branch of a tulip poplar, far over the garden. From this higher vantage the hawk is a greater threat, even through dense branching that surrounds the feeder, so birds and squirrels depart.