Saturday, January 12, 2013

A State of Inelegence: Dec 23, 2012

A while back I jotted down a favorite quote from a letter written by Jane Austen, the famous English novelist:   “What dreadful hot weather we have!  It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance...”.  I only need to change one word for it to fit my sharp-shinned hawk perfectly:  “What dreadful wet weather we have!  It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance ....”  

Oh so wet!  The indignity of it.  It’s been raining for days.  The mosses and lichens are green sponges; the ground is soggy and puddly; the sky drips.   It rains and rains.  I try to remember back to last summer when we were at three months without rain and counting.  Why can’t Mother Nature put all her rain drops and drips in a barrel, shake them up, and distribute them more evenly?  

I think the sharp-shinned hawk agrees with me.  He looks just plain miserable as rain drips off his tail and off his beak.  Every so often he just shakes a little and sends droplets scattering.  I even saw him open his beak and swallow a droplet!  

But what is a sharp-shinned hawk to do?  He still has to make a living.  This one has been making regular visits to our bird feeder.  As far as I’m concerned I wish he’d only eat house sparrows, but I’m afraid goldfinches, pine siskins and juncoes are also on his platter.  .... But he’d better not dare take one of my chickadees!  

Watching this sharpie has been fun. Sometimes I draw him through the front window, and sometimes I ease my bathroom window open and don’t have any glass between us.   It’s a rare opportunity to be so close to a relaxed, wild, sharp-shinned hawk.  I never realized before all the head bobbing they do when they are perched and hunting.  He reminds me of a little owl,  looking up down, to the left, to the right.  Lots of quick little head bobs.  It can be a very effective hunting technique.  

I haven’t been watching when this sharpie has caught anything, but a few years ago I noticed one eating a pine siskin in my front yard.  I started drawing.  It took him twenty minutes to pluck and eat; then he paused and looked around ... looking into the shrubbery.  He merely popped down from his perch and came up with siskin number two.  When he’d polished off his second d'oeuvre, he grabbed a third!  This time he flew off with his prey to eat somewhere else.  


  1. Great sketch of this wet guy, Elva. It reminds me of watching a goshawk sit in the rain for a long time, on top of a dead tree near our place in Wyoming. I just read some of your past entries enjoyed reading about your parents and Aldo Leopold. (I need to dig out my "Sand County Almanac" again!)

  2. Wet yes, but there you were in your own home watching what you usually drive miles and spend countless hours to discover. Learning so much from you and Dale makes it so exciting to pay attention to all the birds instead of a few standouts. Very nice painting/sketches and photo.

  3. You are much nicer then I am.. I run out and chase them away... I am not farming birds for them. :) You did a great job sketching and painting him. I did get some cool shots of one taking a bath in our tiny bird bath one year tho. I figured if he was busy bathing he wasn't hungry. :)

  4. Great post! I love your drawing, the story, and the photo. Jim Scott