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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Predation in the neighborhood

Often I'm on conference calls with colleagues, customers, and business partners in Europe that start before dawn. On those days I work from home. My desk faces a double window with a broad view of four back yards.

And I see mayhem outside!

Examples from the last two weeks: a crow capturing a smaller bird in flight, wrestling it to the ground, plucking out its feathers, and carrying it away (presumably to feed the crow's chicks). Spiders killing insects that were caught in webs and wrapping them in silk for later feeding. A small bird picking those same well-fed spiders off the window frame. These predations happen in a flash. I keep binoculars by the window, but the predations are much too fast to see them magnified.

Last week I saw a hawk, smaller than the red-tailed hawks and owls I've seen before, cruising two feet above ground at dusk. It didn't catch anything while I was looking, but it was in the right place. Rabbits are abundant. Email says there is a coyote in the neighborhood. I haven't seen it, but I have seen red foxes. Between the raptors and the canids, I wouldn't want to be a rabbit. Copperheads on the streets at night imply the presence of outdoor mice, too.

On a more positive note, recently I have seen a mated pair of cardinals, male and female eastern bluebirds, blue jays, robins, one hummingbird, one red-headed woodpecker (my favorite!), and various brown/grey small birds that I can't identify. I don't know much about birds; my one and only biology class was in my sophomore year of high school. But I believe this diversity of birds indicates a relatively healthy ecosystem. After the hurricanes in 1996 and 1999, my neighborhood was strangely quiet for years. Not now.