Trigger warning: The small bird died.
I was getting ready to start making dinner last night when I saw a shadow swoop over the back porch, low, fast and dark.
When I looked up, I saw a squirrel running down the top rail of the fence faster than I have ever seen a squirrel run before. Even more interesting, it was running away from its normal safe place, the ash tree in the next yard over.
I snatched up my trusty camera and started trying to disentangle it from the tripod I leave it on. Whatever was out there, I was going to need more flexibility than the tripod would give me.
At the same time, I was scanning the ash tree. This tree has been a great perch for all sorts of birds through the years. Unfortunately, the snowstorm late last spring damaged it so badly that it is coming down in the near future. But right now, it was hosting a Cooper’s hawk.
The hawk was floundering a bit, trying to catch its balance. But there, in one of its talons, was a small bird.
The long tail with the rounded end, and the fact that it was hunting in the trees strongly suggested that it was a Cooper’s hawk. The striping on the raptor’s chest told me that this was a juvenile.
The hawk took a moment to check its surroundings, making sure that it hadn’t attracted any unwanted attention from other predators.
It looked around for a moment more. Then, faster than I could squeeze the shutter, it was off, carrying its prey to someplace where it could eat in peace.
I always feel bad when I see a small animal become a larger animal’s dinner. But turning it around, the larger animal needs to eat, too. Nature is beautiful, but uncaring, too.