Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Corralitas Drive: Red Tailed Hawk Hunting Squirrels In My Backyard

Photo: Diane Edwardson, October 6, 2012, 9:28 AM.  A neighbor and I were in my backyard watching the dogs play, when a big Red Tailed Hawk almost caught a squirrel just 20 feet above our heads in a Eucalyptus tree.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)
For the past couple days, we noticed multiple Red Tails soaring around low and slow over the backyards on our side of the hill.  There has also been lots of calling and apparent play from the hawks.  There's also a nest of squirrels in one of our big palm trees.  The young squirrels just ventured from the nest last week. 
It was awesome to see a big Red Tail glide slowly through the trees and almost catch a big adult squirrel.  I think it might be a young Red Tail because it was a little hesitant coming in for the kill.  The adults usually just go for it.  But this one sat on the branch a moment before it returned to the big pine tree, two houses away.

Photo: Diane Edwardson, October 6, 2012.  A minute later the hawk came back for another try. When it failed again, it just sat on the branch staring down the squirrel on the the other side of the large tree trunk. The squirrel was chattering at the hawk and flipping its tail, trying to distract the predator. 
By now, the dogs, focused on the activity above, were running around the base of the tree hoping the squirrel would run in their direction.  Hawks are smart predators; it would look at the squirrel and down at the dogs trying to get the squirrel focused on the dogs so the hawk could make a move. 
This went on long enough that I was able to run inside to grab a camera and snap a few frames. 
The hawk hopped around the rather dense branches, inching closer to the squirrel.  Unfortunately, the squirrel took a huge leap between trees and got away.  (I have no love of squirrels, this year they poached most of the peaches, plums and heirloom tomatoes - often in broad daylight!) 
A friend once remarked, "For a neighborhood where you're right on top of the freeways, you sure have a lot of wildlife encounters."  And we appreciate it!