Interesting things that happen between creatures of the woods are usually witnessed by pure chance; just a minute early or late is all it takes to miss it. With a nod to The Lord of the Rings, a birder is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to, and today it meant watching a rather aggressive skirmish between a Red-tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl.
The trouble maker!
I don't know what prompted the owl to leave his cozy roosting spot, but he dashed like a bullet across the creek. Before he could reach his target branch, the hawk, which was perched atop a large oak tree, swooped down in an attempt to break the owl's landing. The owl's evasive maneuvering wasn't all that graceful, but he managed to keep his footing and ruffled his feathers once he regained his balance. The hawk's quarrel was far from over and continued to harass the perched owl for the next several minutes. When the hawk would connect and make physical contact, the owl would fly to a different perch. This chase kept on until the owl perched into a dense conifer where the hawk was unable to reach him. Within sight of each other, the two powerful birds rested for a while. Perhaps realizing it could no longer get at the source of his aggression, the hawk finally left the owl in peace. My guess is this Great Horned Owl, presumably a male, was fulfilling his role as a sentinel for a nearby female on a nest and was leading the hawk away.
Back to business!
Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Feb 12, 2012 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Great Horned Owl
American Tree Sparrow
All images © 2012 Mike McDowell