Sunday, January 24, 2010

Belated Goose Dinner

(As a prescript the following is about death and a little bit of blood, in case you are the queasy type.)

Hubby was the one who had first heard the heavy rustling beneath the holly tree down by the dock. He had gone to check ropes and cages and what not.   He was brave enough to cross the frozen marsh grass and see what was going on.  I was a little afraid.

There in the shelter of the grass against the river bank, and just hidden by the marsh grasses and part of the holly tree, a large and regal hawk had managed to pull in a goose for his dinner. We are guessing that the goose had been maimed by a hunter. We hear shots routinely from the fallow corn field down the river.  The hawk was pulling hard with his claws trying to drag the remains of this heavy bounty over the hills of marsh grasses and closer against the bank of the river away from the quick eyes of other predators.

While he did not seem to mind our visit, he was cautious and made it clear by the spread of his wings, this dinner was his and his alone and he would defend that if I looked too hungry.  His wings also hid the snow white of the goose breast that had been exposed.  He would dip his head and pull hard at the breast and come up with a mouthful of feathers.  Soon the feathers were tipped in red and he began the real meal starting with the sweet organs.

More than several hours later when I returned to the river for more photos he had reduced much of the goose to down and white feathers that were beginning to drift everywhere across the marsh as evidence of his good winter meal.  His mouth was touched in red as were bits of flesh that had landed on his wings.  He had really been enjoying himself.  Later in the evening he rested in a nearby tree above the river and was able to digest the meal as the cold weather kept tomorrow's breakfast nice and chilled below him.  These were taken with a telephoto, so I did not get as close as it looks.  Be sure to click on the photos so that you can also enjoy the meal.  

When I returned several days later I found the entire carcass had been spirited away, perhaps by the gray fox we saw the other day. All that was left was the downy evidence shown above.


Barry said...

We had a bird feeder in the backyard for a number of years until it was discovered by Toronto's pigeon population.

Toronto's pigeon population was soon discovered by Toronto's hawk population and we had a number of kills in the backyard.

Which did little for our appetite.

After not putting up a feeder for a few years, we have recently put one up in our front yard.

So far we have attracted only chickadees, squirrels and cardinals.

Twin City Joan said...

Thank you for the beautiful pictures. I have always had a thing for the raptors. When my husband was hunting, it became apparent to us that nothing goes to waste in nature. While it is sad that some things have to die so that others can live,when the dinner is a bird or animal that is sick or wounded it is a blessing that it does not have to suffer for what can be a prolonged period of time before the inevitable.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Bet that hawk even had indigestion AFTER that big meal!!!! ha.... I hate to see that--but it is LIFE as we know it, and it happens.

Thanks for sharing.

Brian Miller said...

great shots! intriguing to see animals doing what they do...cycle of life. hope you had a great weekend!

Pauline said...

Everything needs to eat - these photos are wonderful.

Rachel Cotterill said...

When I was in Cuba we were impressed by the ability of the vultures to clear up every last bit of a carcass - in very short time. But I'm a bit too squeamish to get up close with this kind of nature!

Hilary said...

Amazing photos. You witness so much.. and share it. Thanks for that.

Kerri said...

Nature is full of adventures! How exciting to witness this! I'm always sad for the victim, but it's all part of the balance, I know. Thanks for sharing the drama.
We've seen several hawks watching our feeder birds lately. I caught one with the camera just the other day as it perched on the pole feeder tray. I was happy to see it fly off with empty talons. Our small feathered friends stayed safe that time at least.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

What a find ... and great follow-up reporting, too!

tattytiara said...

I'm an injured bird of prey rehabber. Love this post. Awesome photos, great commentary on the proceedings. Thank you!

Gaston Studio said...

This story so resonated with me. I was sitting on my front porch reading a book last summer. The small birds and pigeon's were thanakful for the never empty bird feeder close by.
Out of the blue, a hawk came soaring down and, before I could blink, he snatche up a pigeon, took him up into a nearby tree... and the feathers flew.
He must not have sensed me as I was so engrossed in my book, but he gave me a glimpse into nature I'll never forget.

Congrats on POTW mention!

Land of shimp said...

Ooooh Tabor, I am most definitely the queasy type :-) So I read the words rather than click on the pictures. It's funny, I am prone to queasiness but am also fascinated by the intricate system our world has provided around us.

Thank you for the description of one of the mechanisms. It's a funny thing, isn't it? Sometimes the things that make us least comfortable are the most interesting things to contemplate.

Congratulations on the post of the week mention at Hilary's. I found this to have a delightful edge of practicality in it. A no-nonsense, "And these are the workings of the world." vibe that I greatly enjoyed.

Protege said...

What an amazing story and incredible pictures. A very rare encounter indeed.
I also love the picture in the post below.
Thank you so much for stopping by my place and for your kind comment,

Daryl said...

Congrats on POTW mention from Hilary

TSannie said...

The circle of life...hard and always there. Congrats on the POTW mention!

Snowbrush said...

"He was brave enough to cross the frozen marsh grass and see what was going on. I was a little afraid."

Like I keep telling my wife--I've been doing this for 38 years now--"See, men ARE good for SOME THINGS."

bob said...

Wow! A real-life National Geo moment. Beautifully done.

Kerry said...

Wow, even if the goose had been maimed, that is still quite a feat to pull off for the hawk: what a big dinner!