This morning I heard a robin giving an agitated call. Here's an example (only this one sounded more emphatic). I hear them give it when a cat is in the neighborhood or when young are fledging and you get too close. There's another alarm call that they give for aerial predators like the Cooper's hawk, it sounds like this. Since the robins weren't giving their aerial predator call, I ignored it...until I heard a thud against my bedroom window screen. The robin's chirp got louder and others joined. I dashed to my bedroom, could see the feeders swinging and opened the screen to see what was on the ground below. The robin called loudly and two squirrels were frozen against a thin tree trunk.
I looked down and in the narrow passage way between my building and the next door neighbor's house was an immature red-tailed hawk perched on the fence. The bird turned toward my building, took flight and flew up against the wall, flashing its talons.
I noticed something crawling on the wall, smallish with a long thin tail. It wasn't a chipmunk and wasn't quite the right shape for a rat. The hawk flew back and forth and made a few passes at the critter, each time the hawk went for it, the critter dodged onto a window frame or go in another direction--like a squirrel...and that's when it dawned on me what the critter was. It was a very young squirrel, so young it was not quite ready to leave the nest and the tail wasn't bushy yet...I didn't know they could move so fast at such a young age. It almost lost its footing a few times and seemed shaky, but for climbing on a brick wall, it did very well.
I wondered where it came from and noticed at the front of my building along the street, the city was removing a huge elm tree. Many branches were on the ground and I caught the movement of another young squirrel. I'm sure a nest had fallen and the young red-tail just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I rarely see red-tails on my street, but there is a pair that is getting more adapted to our urban area, I'm sure this is one of their offspring.
The young squirrel managed to dodge the hawk at every turn and several other birds had come in to join the angry robin. Blue jays, grackles and more robins flew in after the hawk and began to chase and dive at it, eventually driving it away.
The squirrel won that particular battle, but it's so young, I'm not sure it's going to win the war. I wondered what that must be like to be the young squirrel. You've been in a dark nest with your siblings and mother and suddenly screechingly loud noises erupt from below your home, followed by loud buzzing, eventually leading to your home to come crashing down and introducing you to bright daylight for the first time. Once you get your bearings and run from the humans and machinery, a big feathered things tears out of the sky with sharp talons to grab you. Hello, world!
I wondered about the red-tail too. Did it just happen to be at the right place at the right time and notice scurrying squirrels? Is it so urbanized that it hangs around the heavy machinery and recognizes the sounds that come with a falling tree and know the potential food it could find? It didn't seemed fazed by the tree trimmers and flew over them several times quite low.
Did the tree trimmers notice the hawk? How many different kinds of critters and bird nests to they find in trees? I watched them put branches in the wood chipper. I wondered how many bird nests (and nestlings) end up in there? Do they just ignore the young animals fleeing in fright when they have to take down a tree?
As usual, a wildlife encounter has left me with more questions than answers.