Saturday, November 21, 2015

Red Car Canyon: Cooper's Hawk VS Owl 2015

Photo: Diane Edwardson, November 16, 2015, 12:22 PM.  While walking through Red Car Canyon Monday,  I heard two unusual sounding birds calling in an alarmed manner, high in the pine trees.  It took me a while to find the first one.  It was a Cooper's Hawk.  Long horizontal striped tail feathers, with rounded ends were the giveaway.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Photo: Diane Edwardson, November 16, 2015.  I heard two Cooper's Hawks calling and directing anger at something between them, in the middle of a bunch of dense branches. However, I could only see one adult Cooper's Hawk.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, November 16, 2015.  The hawk had been hopping from branch to branch, flapping its wings in  threatening manner, making itself big, calling intermittently before settling on one branch in the shade of the tree trunk.  

Hiding in the shade of a tree trunk is a smart technique I've seen hawks use when hunting.  They are hard to see (and photograph) because their prey can't easily see the hawk as they're blinded by the sun behind the tree.  (I know I was blinded by the sun.  I just shoot on instinct in these situations.)

The hawk kept looking over her shoulder, in the direction of Lake View Ave.  Last week and just the day before, two different neighbors sent photos of a Cooper's Hawk on Lake View and behind Rose Scharlin Nursery School.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, November 16, 2015.  Finally, I found the target of the Cooper's Hawk's wrath, a Great Horned Owl.

Unfortunately, I could not get a clear shot of the owl.  Last week, the Lake View neighbor said he'd recently heard owls in the canyon on his walks.  He also thought the Cooper's Hawks had a nest nearby.

Great Horned Owls are the apex predators of the sky, so other birds tend to gang up on them.  This is not the first time we've seen a Cooper's Hawk take on a Great Horned Owl in Red Car Canyon.  The owl just ignored the hawk.  Great Horned Owls are known to sleep in the canyon in the daytime.  If you don't hear birds at all in the canyon - look up - there's usually a hawk or an owl hanging around.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, November 16, 2015.  After almost a half hour of observing the drama, which was already in progress when I arrived, the Cooper's Hawk called up to Lake View.  This is the last shot I got before she took off in that direction.  The dense trees, Cooper's Hawks preferred habitat, prevented me from seeing where she went.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, November 18, 2015.  I forgot to get a wide shot on the same day as the standoff since I'd been blinded by the sunSo here are the trees the owl and hawk were in.  Arrows point to their approximate location - they are not in this photo.  It's the same clump of trees where we first documented a Great Horned Owl in the canyon.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has great info, photos and audio:
Cooper's Hawks
Great Horned Owls