I don’t know how long he’d been in the garden room. Maybe hours. Busy in the house, I’d decided to take a break and work on the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle my grandkids had left for me to finish, just that morning. (It’s a bit of an addiction.)
As soon as I opened the door I heard the flapping, saw the dark feathers. A bird was trapped between my work table (the one doing temporary duty as a puzzle table) and the window. I leaned down for a closer look – a hawk!
I called to Dennis. “Hon! Bring me my camera – and get your heavy garden gloves.” I was pretty sure this was a Cooper’s. It had the white tail rim associated with the Coopers, the medium-sized hawks that squeeze their prey to death with their claws. We’d had visits from them before; I’d once watched one eat a Dark-eyed Junco for lunch. Another day one sat high up in the Big leaf maple tree in our front yard eyeing the avian smorgasbord below. That day I made a bit of a fool of myself, running around the yard, arms flailing, trying to scare all the jays and songbirds back into the bushes. Eventually that hawk flew off, looking disgusted. This one, however, looked panic-stricken. (That could be projection.)
He’d never get out trapped behind the heavy table. We tried to move it away a bit – but he flew up and smashed into another window (the garden room is ALL GLASS) before perching on the sill, recovering, while I took photos.
As I played photographer, Dennis, in a fit of unbridled optimism (or perhaps he’d been watching Robin Hood on Netflix again?) tried to coax the hawk onto his glove. That didn’t work. Eventually he got a bright idea involving a broom. He’d try to gently push him down off the sill and out the open door. (Anyone want to make any bets?)
He was having none of it, and flew off and landed on the top edge of the open door. I took the opportunity to take more photos, made funny little noises, trying to get him to look at the camera. I have no idea where I got the idea these noises might interest him, but apparently, they did. He looked at me with that bright yellow eye (sign of an immature Cooper’s) and I snapped lots of photos. Here’s one:
The streaked head and white spots on the back are also signs of a juvenile Cooper’s. Adults have solid dark grey caps and no white markings on the back. As in most hawk species, the female is larger than the male, and the male is submissive to her. (This is probably a male.) Since Cooper’s Hawks, very skillful fliers, specialize in hunting medium-sized birds (e.g. robins, jays, flickers, among the most common birds in our yard) the male is cautious around the female, perhaps worried that he might be her next meal?
Eventually Dennis wondered aloud if the photo shoot was over, and suggested we try something else. I was still hoping for a better shot, though. “Not just yet – let me get one more.” At times like this I really wish I had a more sophisticated camera. Dennis crossed his arms, leaned against the wall, watched the hawk, watched me, sighed deeply.
I caved. “Okay, I’m done. What do you want to try?”
“I have no idea.”
Well, the hawk did. Clearly rested now, he leapt off the door edge and straight into the window.
I grimaced, imagining serious head injury, thinking this hawk needs a helmet. He ended up on the lower window sill between my pots of kale and herbs and the glass wall, his wings spread.
“Maybe you could wrap your hands around him now, very gently?”
Dennis replied, “Really?”
“Okay, I guess.”
He removed some of the potted herbs and leaned down, toward the hawk, who I was now calling Cooper and whose wings were still extended. We didn’t want to break one during the rescue mission, so Dennis got as close as he could and gently touched the bird on the back while I cooed, “just bring your wings in sweetheart, that’s right, good hawk”. Stuff like that.
And he did, slowly but surely. Dennis continued to “pet” him. Cooper seemed okay with this. I continued to take photos. Soon his wings were flat against his body. When Dennis stopped petting him, he actually looked up. I imagined him thinking, “Why are you stopping now?” – the way I do when Dennis stops rubbing my back after only twenty-three minutes. But maybe that’s a hawkish look of terror. How would I know?
In any case, Dennis carefully wrapped his hands around him and brought him out into the room, heading for the door, just four feet away. We were almost there! I could taste victory. And then Cooper jumped from his hands – and a certain expletive flew from both our mouths at the same time.
Next, he perched on top of the metal shelving unit where I store empty plastic pots and such. He was right in front of a small (dirty!) window, one that was open from the bottom.
We quickly concocted another brilliant plan. As Dennis cleared the area, I talked to Cooper and took photos. Then Dennis gently put his hands around him and even more gently pushed him down and out the window. Yes!! I clapped hysterically as Cooper the hawk flew up into a Bigleaf maple tree behind the house.
We stood on the lawn watching for ten minutes as he recuperated, then went back inside. When I went back out twenty minutes later to see if he was still in the tree, he’d gone. Hours later, though, a hawk swooped down into the back yard, just once, and over the house. I ran outside, scanned the trees and sky. Was that Cooper saying hello – or good-bye? I like to think so.
I’d love to see him again under better circumstances. And in case you’re reading this, Cooper, those circumstances would NOT include watching you dine on one of the jays or flickers or robins in our yard. Just sayin’ …
End of story. My apologies for all the blatant anthropomorphizing. But it was just such fun.