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December 5, 2012

See the raptor?


When I returned home from some Saturday morning race a couple weeks ago I glanced over at my laundry room window from my car as I pulled into the driveway to see if Gray Cat was in her usual and customary position behind the window screen.

She was — but in a pose I'd never, ever seen before, with attention so intense it was almost frightening.

Her eyes were riveted to something off ahead and to the right in the middle distance.

I followed her gaze and at first didn't see anything of interest: just a tree stump some good ole' boy had left behind when he decided he'd had enough tree work for the day (he never returned to finish the job which turns out to have been important for the purpose of this post. Little that we do is ever done, really, I sometimes don't know why we bother trying. But I digress.).

I looked again and then the penny dropped: a large raptor*, staring right back at me.

I can see why Gray Cat, weighing in at six pounds nine ounces in fighting trim, was concerned: that hawk was a lot bigger than she was, with vision, speed, reflexes, talons, beak and strength that would put her compact feline killing tools to shame.

I just sat at stared at the hawk for about ten minutes without moving. 

So did Gray Cat.

Then I got out of my car very slowly, backing away so as to convey no threat.

I took out my phone and took the picture up top.

Below, detail.

Hawk 2:close-up

FunFact: Later that day, after the hawk had finished its business atop the stump, I went out for a view to the kill.

I saw lots of blue-gray fur scattered around the surface, with what looked like a tiny gall bladder.

Not a thing else.

I wonder if Gray Cat witnessed the kill and dining experience and if so what went through her mind as she watched.


Note added at 12:02 p.m. today: My LA correspondent just weighed in via the Comments section with fascinating, informative, and sobering news.

His remarks are worth publishing here in their entirety and appear below.

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 12.04.39 PM 


Note added at 1:23 p.m. today: My Hawaii correspondent just commented on the identity of the raptor, suggesting that was in fact a Cooper's hawk.

In her words:


December 5, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Permalink


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You Joseph, should do something creative with the stump,

it's beautiful!


Posted by: JoePeach | Dec 5, 2012 5:57:17 PM

This Virginia agrees with the other Virginia: that looks like hawk coloring to my (mostly ignorant) eye.

Posted by: Virginia | Dec 5, 2012 1:52:07 PM

Goood thiiiing she's an Indoor Cat as of recent rules at the Stirt Household.

Posted by: Kay | Dec 5, 2012 1:04:29 PM

Very likely NOT a Peregrine Falcon. Unusual to see one in your neck of the woods.The Peregrine Falcon is a native species to Virginia, once nesting in the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains. By the early 1960s, the falcon was believed to be extinct as a breeding species in Virginia and all areas east of the Mississippi River – a decline linked to the widespread use of DDT and other chemicals. A program of peregrine reintroduction began in Virginia in 1978. There are now about 20 known breeding pairs of peregrines in Virginia – in the Hampton Roads and Richmond areas and on the Eastern Shore. I'm thinking yours was, most likely, a juvenile Cooper's Hawk.

Posted by: Virginia | Dec 5, 2012 12:56:16 PM

Avo, thanks for the ID.

Joe, great post!

Posted by: jim` | Dec 5, 2012 12:48:33 PM

That's not just any Raptor. That's a female Perigrine Falcon.

Females are always the best hunters, for biologically obvious reasons.

GC's indoor turf has saved her life. Well done!

Putting GC up against that Raptor would be a lot like putting you, at your present age/condition, in the ring with Sonny Liston in his prime. No contest.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Dec 5, 2012 11:59:01 AM

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