Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Novel Hunting Technique

Immature Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) hunting on the ground

Last evening, after we both got home from work, we went for a walk at our favorite natural area. Rounding a bend and entering a field, a hawk swooped down out of a tree and onto the ground. I thought that it had caught prey, but the hawk didn't take off again immediately.

Instead, it stayed on the ground for about five minutes, walking and hopping around in the matted grasses. I suspect that it was trying to catch mice or voles that it could hear scurrying in the vegetation but couldn't quite see.
It probably would have remained there longer, continuing the same behavior, except that other walkers approached from the opposite direction. The hawk stayed on the ground for several minutes even while the other walkers looked on, but either it finally got spooked or was unsuccessful in its pursuits and it took off and perched in a tree far across the field.
Further into our walk, along the creek that flows through the preserve, we came upon a fly fisherman trying his luck as the sun was going down. While the stream is too warm to support a self-sustaining trout fishery, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited stocks the creek each year with non-native Brown Trout (Salmo trutta), and some of the fish actually seem to persist in the creek year-to-year despite its warmth and generally urban character.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Young hawks are fun to watch because they'll hunt any way and anywhere they think they can to fill their bellies. Last winter a young Cooper's hawk got to sitting under my picnic table in a vain attempt to ambush the birds he'd scared away from the feeders when he first flew in. He'd figured out that given time, they would return—and probably wouldn't be expecting a hungry hawk to appear from underneath the table. What he hadn't figured out was how to fast-fly out from under the table and miss its legs and framework. After a dozen trials, the Coop finally gave that idea up and went back to surprise ambushing.

Hey, that trout stream looks really great. I caught a smallmouth from the pool in front of the cottage yesterday that was pretty close to 3 pounds—which is a nice bass for this stream. I'd get even less work done around here if it were a trout stream. FYI, in my experience with "warmwater" brown trout fisheries—everything from planting eggs in gravel in Vibert boxes to stocking fingerlings and "catchables"—shows that if there's a late-spring/early fall fishery, you probably have a few holdovers, and if so, given time you'll actually have fish adapting and eventually spawning. Don't know if you're familiar with the Mad River system here in Ohio…but that was the case with this stream. Walking the streambanks during the spawn season, I've spotted many a big holdover brown on their redds—and subsequent tests have shown viable eggs. Check your stream out this way next fall. I bet you'll find spawning browns. They're pretty tolerant of short periods of warm water, holding in spring holes and deep, shaded pools.

Scott said...

Grizz, Along the same lines as your immature Cooper's Hawk (and "my" immature Red-tailed), for two summers in the natural area that I frequent most, I watched a Great Blue Heron hunting voles and mice along the edges of trails through high, dry fields half a mile from any significant body of water. At first I was taken aback but, hey, get your meals where you can! The heron wasn't here last summer, though.

I'm not a fisherman, but the Trout Unlimited guys that stock the creek are pretty protective and watch over the area carefully. I'm pretty good friends with their president, and I'll ask him if he's noticed any spawning. Thanks for the heads-up!

吳怡迪 said...