16 January 2017

Demise of a Sharp-shinned Hawk at Valentine

While striding along a regular walking route in north Valentine, and being focused on looking hither and yon to realize any sorts of birds, a bit of an obvious detail became prominent on the ground. With a single glance, followed by a closer look, a short pause was needed to determine what was lying in a front yard a short distance from the public sidewalk. It was a bent, feathered carcass beneath a conifer.

No delay was made in encroaching to retrieve the remains for further consideration. My trespass involved just a stride or two, but was quickly done in order to retrieve public property, that being the bird carcass, for further consideration. The morbid animal was placed in my carry bag.

A brief time later, this gathered item, as well as a spotting scope, needed to be rearranged so purchased edibles could fit rightly during a visit to a local grocer. It would have been a “hoot” to pull out a dead bird and set it upon the counter at the grocery checkout, a short time - and many steps - later. There were no such antics ... thoughts do not necessarily convey any sort of action.

After further walking northward and a return to my simple residence, time was taken to determine that the carcass was that of a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It was a rare opportunity to hold and consider conditions associated with this magnificent, dead raptor. This happenstance resulted in a personal session of renewal of basic avian plumage and an opportunity to intimately appreciate what had been a dramatic wildbird.

A Sharp-shinned Hawk had been reported to be obvious at bird feeders just a couple of city blocks northward, just days earlier during an inquiry to a north Valentine resident. There was a spot at the southwest corner of Eighth and Main Street where bird droppings were prominent beneath the branch of a conifer, and a place where this accipiter had been seen a time or two this season. Perhaps this had been its nightly roost?

While doing a tepid external autopsy of the bird, and using my ornithology text book from college in the early 1970s it seemed obvious that this raptor had recently eaten some prey. There was obvious reddish-colored remains on the breast of the bird, beneath its hawk and mandibular ramus. Also noted was a difference in the wing bones. Its demise seems to be because of a broken wing. While handling the carcass, carefully in comparison, it became obvious that its left wing had an apparent break whereas there was no similar condition associated with the right wing.

Bird featheration is so magnificent in its variety and wonder of colorful patterns. Having dealt with a couple thousand carcasses of wildbirds, it was a grand Sunday to be able to hold and consider the carcass of this once vivacious hawk.

Possession of this carcass was in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which does not allow anyone to “take” or possess any wild bird. Having dealt with the FWS in regards to carcass possession, there was no delay or second thought given to grabbing the carcass. If some bureaucrat of a federal agency wants to make a case, they will have to buy lunch, and be locally present to get any indicative words? Responsibility for being a miscreant is accepted.

Closeup details illustrating individual bards and vales of the feathers seem surreal, seemingly indicating something hard and rigid, which they are. Yet when seen from some distance feathers seem to be something seemingly soft on birds as they fly along.

It was quite nice to be able to find this carcass, rather than its death being unknown. The opportunity meant a return to the ornithology textbook used in college decades ago, where there are pages with indications and notations made during years when wildbirds were an abstract concept pending further understanding. So much more learning was so obviously necessary. Experiences had to occur.

Birds die all the time. In this situation, the demise of a single hawk happened in a manner where its death became realized and personally appreciated.

The remains of this hawk will be given individual respect as it is returned to a wild place where its remains will be returned to the land where it lived. At least it did not end up in a trash can!

The feather color and their condition was somewhat superb. Looking at the ornithology textbook, so many types of feathers on this singular carcass were vividly obvious and enjoyed in a unique manner on a winter day. It was a chance to return to learning. This is a series of photographs taken to illustrate the personal qualities of this dead raptor.








Such magnificent feathers.