THE SAFETY OF HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

While I was starting dinner, I was watching out the window. Suddenly, a hawk with a white front swooped by the deck then winged off into the woods.

I followed him with my eyes. The camera was in the dining room and I didn’t hurry to get it. I knew I’d lose the hawk before I got the camera focused. Mostly, I wanted to get a good look at him before he disappeared.

I was curious why he swept so close to the house.

Hawks are hunters and don’t usually get so close to houses. It turned out, after minimal research, to be a Cooper’s Hawk. It wasn’t hard to find because among the white-breasted hawks, there are only two living here: American Eagles and Cooper’s Hawks. I’ve seen plenty of American Eagles. They are much bigger than this hawk, so Cooper’s Hawk it had to be.

And he was hunting for exactly what was on my deck: birds and squirrels. Those are a Cooper’s Hawks two favorite foods. The deck is his perfect hunting ground, his dinner buffet.

This is one of the things I feared when I set up the feeders. We have so many predators in the area and so little prey. How did we get so out of balance? Doesn’t it usually go the other way? Don’t deer usually overtake the area?

I remember when we had so many chipmunks they used to line up and chatter at us in groups. Now, we never see chipmunks. We use to see rabbits sitting on the lawn in the sun in summertime. I haven’t seen a rabbit in years and until we put up the feeders, I hadn’t seen any squirrels, either.

Mice I know about because they invade our house every autumn. We have an annual battle to keep them outside. It’s not personal. It’s just that they make an awful mess in the house.

We also used to see more deer, but I’m sure the coyotes have taken them down.

I wonder now if the reason the squirrels have taken refuge on the deck is that they think the house is some kind of protection for them from the hawks and the other predators. Is this house protection for the birds and squirrels?

By sending them back into the woods am I sending them to their deaths? That’s a terrible thought.

I feel like I should invite them all in for a warm dinner and a comfortable nap, but I’m pretty sure the dogs wouldn’t get along with them especially well. It could get pretty raucous.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

16 thoughts on “THE SAFETY OF HOME – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. This is a real dilemma, isn’t it? If the birds and squirrels are comfortable enough with you to feed on the deck who is to say that the hawks won’t decide to hunt them when they are feeding. Are they any safer on the deck than the woods? I know we are supposed to let nature take its course but that’s hard when you have been feeding the little guys all winter. You want to shout “Clear off you big bullies.”

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    1. They are slightly safer on the deck, but not much. The squirrel can hide under the tables and chairs and the hawks can get under there. There’s no room for them to spread their wings! But we have a definite excess of hunter compared to prey and that IS unusual. The prey has been more or less wiped out. Eventually, the predators will get sick or starve and die.

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  2. That was my first thought: Getting its breakfast in form of a squirrel…. Very thought-provoking stuff and one subject we discussed on Saturday with our friends ‚en campagne‘ where we rented their gite for a few days. I commented on the lack of bird song in their huge and quite wild garden, saying that we have far more birds in ours and how strange that was, us being just 30km from Paris and they in the middle of ‚nowhere‘ with only fields, hamlets, waterways ….. And he said with great sadness that nowadays living in the countryside meant that all small wildlife is being destroyed by the intensive farming going on. Pestizides are being sprayed on the fields, killing the habitants of the earth, thus killing the birds‘ food and hence no more of them being able to live. They hardly have any bees any more, no butterflies to speak about, not many bugs….. one conveniently forgets about that side of ‚our food chain‘ and only sees ‚produced in France‘. One neighbour of said friends told them that HE, a master ‚gardener‘ (there is another word but I can‘t think of it), only drinks organic wine, as a French! He says so much nitrates are being sprayed on the vines that his body can‘t take the ‚poisoning‘ any more. Makes you think!

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    1. Locally, this is a “poison free” zone except for the neighbors who use it in their garden (morons!). This is because we are in a watershed and the aquifer is very close to the surface. You poison that and there will be NO water for anyone to drink. People are so stupid. So our food is safe. But because of the extended urbanization almost everywhere, animals are being pushed into whatever few areas remain that are more or less wild — and this is one of them. If looks wild to us … and it is. But it is small compared to the number of hunters that are forced to try to find food in it. Too many hunters and too few things to hunt.

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    1. I think more hawks are eating other birds. They didn’t use to but they have run out of other things to eat. No more chipmunks or rabbits and there are many fewer squirrels. There are not nearly enough small mammals for them to eat. We really used to have dozens of chipmunks. They were almost a plague and now they are absolutely gone, along with the rabbits.

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  3. We have them flying over our little city. As one landed on a very high tree branch, the squirrels froze in place. Not a muscle moved. The birds stopped singing. When the hawk finally left our back yard came to life again!

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  4. I can always tell when one of the neighborhood cats is passing through because the squirrels will be in their trees screaming bloody murder. I’d assume that the times I hear their loud barking when there isn’t a cat around probably means they’ve sighted death from above…

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    1. The squirrels were literally hiding under the metal table on the deck. I could understand why. It’s safer than the trees. The hawks can’t get to them under the big flat table. No room for them to spread their wings. So they can charge up the pole, get some food, then run back down and huddle under the tables and chairs. We seem to have quite a crew of squirrels!

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    1. So many of them have scars and open wounds. There are a LOT of predators and there are hawks that specialize in eating other birds, but if they can’t find juicy birds, squirrels will do. Yesterday, there were squirrels early in the morning and today there were doves and a few nuthatches, Doves, juncos and very quick trips by Titmouses. No finches at all. The one flight by the Cooper’s Hawk may have been one of many. I only saw one flight.

      All the birds and squirrels are scared. Meanwhile, since our neighbors decided to use “RoundUp” on the weeds, we don’t see Robins anymore either. They used to nest on our porch and flock to eat all the grubs on our lawn. In the past days, very few birds have been finding their way to the feeders, and all of them are jumpy and nervous. Between humans and poisons and nature’s own hunters, it makes it hard for them to survive. Many DON’T survive … and eventually, the hunters don’t live either because the food they need vanishes.

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    1. Something will happen. I just have no idea exactly WHAT it will be. We live in the woods and it looks very big to us. But it’s not big for all the coyotes and bears and weasels and raccoons and hawks and eagles. Big birds and little birds, squirrels and what remain of the rabbits and if there are any chipmunks left … For them, these woods are not nearly big enough and every time we build something more in them, they grow smaller.

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