Monday, July 01, 2013

Hawk versus gopher

Biking home the other day I spotted a hawk in the grass at the top of Pest Hill. I stopped and slowly moved closer and saw it had a gopher. It didn't like me getting too close and it took off heavily and flew about 20 feet further away.

I thought if it couldn't fly too well with the gopher I might have time to zip home and get my camera. I backed away slowly and then biked down the back alley to our house. I dropped my bike in the yard, rushed inside and grabbed my camera, and ran back to the park.

Luckily it was still there, but it was also still nervous about me getting too close. I snapped a few shots from long distance.

Swainson's hawk
(click to view larger)

This is heavily cropped since I was still a long way away. But as soon as I started to move closer he took off. This time he didn't seem to have any trouble flying and he flew over Circle Drive.

Swainson's hawk flying away

I thought maybe he'd left the gopher and I searched where he'd been, but there was no sign of it. Later when I zoomed in on the photo I could see he was carrying it.

It's probably just as well he didn't hang around because I was getting eaten alive by the mosquitos in the long grass of the park!

From the coloring I'd guess it was a Swainson's hawk. They're also known as "locust hawks" because they eat a lot of insects, but they also catch gophers to feed their young. I wonder if it has a nest nearby. They're not the greatest photos, but I was glad I got enough to identify it.

I'm surprised he found a gopher in the park because the city regularly poisons them here :-( and I haven't seen any recently.

* I should be saying "ground squirrel" instead of "gopher" but everyone calls them gophers.

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