Monday, February 2, 2009

Lost Cardinal

Snowy Dawn

Two lone feathers on shallow snow.
The birds have flown, much of the cold and ice now gone.

Morning Field

Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis,
male above, female below


Of all who visit here on days filled with flakes and gray, I love the Cardinals best.
Their brightness through the snowy veil, striking.
The central stone others cluster around.


In the field beyond the yard, I found the tracks of a hawk,
touching down for just one step--and gone again.
His prey lifted, without a mark, to the air.
That he should strike with such precision assures me they felt nothing.

But still--
take them quickly, the pretty birds.





Cardinal feathers

Hawk talon prints in snow


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40 comments:

KGMom said...

I know hawks have to eat--but couldn't the hawk pick something OTHER than a cardinal?

Kallen305 said...

I'm with KGMom on this one. I am sure house sparrows and starlings taste much better anyhow.

Your pictures got me thinking about some feathers I have in my back yard. There are only a few of them so I assumed it wasn't a hawk because I thought there would be many if that were the case. I will have to look for talon marks.

Mary said...

Crap. I'm sorry you had to witness the aftermath. I wish hawks were more discriminatory. Darn.

Deborah Godin said...

The talon photo is just amazing, and what a good thought to use a hand for size reference. And yes, there are so many sparrows and too few cardinals...but such is survival of the fittest, wariest, and maybe just plain luckiest, I guess.

giggles said...

I have never seen such a thing as those talon prints....wow.... (or the pileated, either...again...wow!) BTW...What, exactly is your day job??!! if ya don't mind me askin'?

MojoMan said...

Wow...do you think the hawk got them BOTH?

They're not always so precise. This summer we were trying to enjoy dinner on the deck when a sharpie raided a cardinal nest in the tall yews along the edge of the yard. There was much flapping and squawking until the raptor finally carried its prize off to the a maple in the front yard where I watched as small, immature feathers drifted to the ground as the hawk shredded her meal.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Nature is beautiful, and nature is cruel... at least in our eyes. Your photos demonstrate both.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Yes, the hawks have eaten enough Mourning Doves lately that they have taken a sabbatical from our feeders. I don't blame either one of them. It's been cold and snowy here too.

mon@rch said...

Never expected your post to end that way! Why can't those hawks just take House Sparrows? Don't they know the birdy union recommends House Sparrows and Starlings be taken before the good birdies?

Kelly said...

Oh no! Poor Red...your photos really tell the story. I've never seen talon prints in the snow like that.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Gorgeous! We've got a sharp-shin, a little male, with a taste for cardinals--male cardinals.

And your line, "But still--take them quickly, the pretty birds" reminds me of my in-laws, who were given a long, beautiful wall hanging scroll covered with calligraphy by guests from China. They like to joke that it says, "These are our friends. Kill them quickly."

Toni said...

So far the Cooper Hawk that frequents my yard has mostly taken pigeons as far as I know.

Lovely set of photos. And the Cardinal is a welcome sight at the end of the day when they are the last to leave the feeder.

Sandy Maudlin said...

Amazing what you can find on your adventures. I so enjoy your blog even if it does include the demise of a cardinal.

Wanda said...

Sad,but a natural happening. I too love cardinals - my post this morning is about them.

nina said...

It's hard to know exactly what happened here, as is so often the case, arriving on the scene after the fact.
What I do know is:
1. A male Cardinal was taken.
2. We have a raptor of some sort hunting near by.

I've never really seen the talon tracks in the snow like that before, though--so thin and deep--OUCH! (hopefully not plucked feather by feather, Mojoman--maybe they die of fright?)

Cardinals are the state bird of Ohio, and others as well--and we've had dozens feeding here throughout the storm. So, as sad as it is to lose him, I have plenty more remaining! (and NO house sparrows, I'm relieved to say!)
But his face,...isn't he saying something with that look?



And Giggles--it's a pretty tame day job. Actually, I'm poised at the door each afternoon, ready to bound outside ASAP.
I work in a library--go figure?

NCmountainwoman said...

Nina, only you can describe such a tragic act so beautifully and without judging or criticism. I as well hope the kill was quick.

I loved the pictures, the lovely birds and the talon prints in the snow. And, of course the marvelous words.

Gail said...

Fantastic photos and your mitten next to the bird snow prints clearly shows how very large they are! I know it's part of the natural order but it never fails to make me a little sad...gail

RuthieJ said...

Hi Nina,
I think it's cool that you were able to see the "plunge" tracks in the snow.
Although it's always painful to see the evidence that you've lost a cardinal, I always tell myself that there are way more cardinals than hawks in this world (16:2 ratio in my backyard). I would like it much better if the hawk got a sparrow (or 100), but that hawk's gotta live too!

MNGarden said...

We're birds of a feather, Nina.

Lene said...

Ohh, that bird is really beautiful. I dont think we have got it here in norway :)

ellen b said...

Oh Nina! What beautiful photos. The cardinal really is beautiful against the snow. Yikes I hope the hawk didn't get him!

RuneE said...

A spot of red in the white snow is always welcome.

photowannabe said...

What a story of the survival of the fittest. I just hate to see the beautiful cardinals go. the 2 feathers are so poignant.

Fotosekken said...

Beautiful photos and words. The one with only the feathers says it all. =o)

Reader Wil said...

This photoseries is like a detective story with clear evidence and traces of the Coopers Hawk. It's an excellent set of photos.

naturglede said...

Thats life, but so sad! I love the cardinalphotoes:)

Carolina said...

A sad story. But it happens every day. Nevertheless I think human often is the most cruel towards other beings.
Beautiful photos and storytelling.

Cheryl said...

Hawks are beautiful creatures, and need to eat to.....they are not selective.....to take the cardinal is sad but for me it would be sadder if the hawk did not survive......
A sensitive post.....

Rinkly Rimes said...

I had no idea the red was so brilliant! The feathers against the snow are beautiful too.

Babooshka said...

I am so envious. A bird not found here, and I long to photograph

Tumblewords: said...

Surely a bittersweet post. The cardinals are so beautiful and the hawks are, too. But...bummer. Your photos and story are outstanding!

D Herrod said...

Pretty and lost little guy.

Rose said...

What a sad ending! The cardinals are my favorite, too--such a bright spot of color in the winter landscape. I love watching the "couples," too; they seem to really care for each other.
Beautiful photos as usual, Nina.

Life with Kaishon said...

What lovely pictures. The first one is my favorite. So pretty. A winter sunrise!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Excellent post Nina.. beautifully wrote a beautiful to look at as well..

Tom

Wiggers World

dguzman said...

OH NO! oh no.... sigh.

Pernill@ said...

Absolutely lovely pictures.
Nice interpitation of the letter C.The colours are so beautiful
Greetings from Sweden.

jeannette stsgermain said...

the feathers of the carinal - a picture says more than a 1000 words - that's the part of nature I have difficulty with, sigh.
Love your blog! cheers, jeannette

Kathiesbirds said...

I know the hawks have to eat, but it is so hard when they eat our backyard friends! So sad!

Ruth said...

Great pictures and story. In the spring, male cardinal get more territorial and sing from the treetops. I watched last year as a Coopers Hawk took one of them down at the hospital. I saved a couple of feathers too. My desk drawer has more feathers than pens.