The Sharpie: A Love-Hate Relationship
A recent evening saw me birding with Will at Peebles Island and we had not seen nearly enough birds. We were hoping to track down migrants fueling up for their flight south and had mostly found Black-capped Chickadees. Normally in the fall this is a great thing as, at least around here, “to find warblers in fall look where chickadees call” is something of a unwritten rule that’s been written down.
But for some reason we hadn’t seen much outside of rather common migrants like a Black-throated Green Warbler and Red-eyed Vireos.
The chickadees were calling but the birds we knew had to be out there were not hanging around with them. We kept walking along, occasionally finding typical resident birds like Song Sparrows and White-breasted Nuthatches.
Finally, as the sun was getting very low in the sky and long shadows started to make their way across our path, a rustling in the branches, movement in the canopy! Birds, lots of them, foraging up high, with what light was left generally against us.
There, a warbler, focus bins, yellow throat, gone. More movement, drab wings, white undertail, gone. Another, fluttering, hover-gleaning, now clinging upside-down to a leaf cluster, chickadee. More yellow moving, working a branch from the trunk out, in and out from behind leaves, Will, on a different bird, exclaiming “Northern Parula!”
Blue Jays screaming, birds disappearing, bins down, streak of brown, “There’s a sharpie!”
And that was the end of birding that flock, to say nothing of the silent walk back to the parking lot.Â Cursed sharpie!
Another recent evening saw me birding Five Rivers with Jory. There wasn’t much around and we mostly chatted and looked at bugs and plants and snakes.
We heard some birds, like Cedar Waxwings and Downy Woodpeckers, but didn’t see much. Eventually we came across some chickadees with a Magnolia Warbler, which was pretty much the birding highlight up until then.
All in all, it was a good time but the birding was less than spectacular.
Then, jays were screaming and harassing a sharpie that didn’t seem very happy about it. Every so often he would get fed up by the jays’ harassment and chase them off, occasionally almost hitting one. It was amazing how quickly the sharpie could accelerate and entertaining to watch him make the jays switch from screaming at him to screaming in fear of him. Then he would perch and it was like someone hit the reset button. The jays would start to mob him again until he was fed up again and he would suddenly go on the offensive. Jays kept streaming in from every direction; I would estimate a total of 30 or so were around by the time the sharpie disappeared.
We had spent maybe two hours birding by then and those two minutes of sharpie were the best two minutes of birding we had. Warblers high in evergreens that we hurt our necks trying and failing to identify certainly couldn’t compare. Good thing we saw that cool sharpie!
Like the title says, it’s a love-hate relationship when it comes to Sharp-shinned Hawks.