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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Hawks, ducks, raccoons, cats

A Cooper’s Hawk (below) is nesting somewhere nearby for the third year in a row. Two years ago Iocated the nest, next door. Still looking this year. We see this bird or its mate four or five times a day. The photo was taken Tuesday evening as the hawk watched our bird-feeding setup. This morning one of the Cooper’s made a pass at a Wood Duck that had left our pond to eat some corn I put out for the ducks. The came over the yard high, attacking with a dive and a swoop. I was ready for photos if success had been the story.

A few minutes later a hen Wood Duck flew into one of our duck nesting boxes, emerging with an egg in its mouth. It flew to shore, out of my sight. I don’t know what was going on: Bad egg? Cracked? Belongs to another bird? Last year’s unhatched egg removed as pre-nesting housecleaning? That one make sense to me. We have four pair of Wood Ducks on the pond daily. A couple of hens come for brief visits; I assume they are nesters. The paired birds, however, are not nesting. Perhaps one of them is about to do so.

Two weeks ago, returning from a trip of several days, we found two duck eggs on the ground beneath another of the boxes. No obvious reason. A day later, they were gone, food for our nuisance raccoons, I’d guess. Was it the same duck working a different box, a box with an active nest and a sitting hen? I wish I knew what and why.

The raccoons are raising hell with the bird feeders that hang on a shepherd’s hook on our deck. The raccoons tear the post down and empty the feeders. I now take the feeders in each night, something I’d rather not do. I have a Hav-a-Hart wire box trap. I’ve used it successfully before. Two nights ago, it was tripped. The capturee ripped a five-inch hole in the wire at the back of the box, escaping. The wire is strong, spot-welded at each juncture. Ripping that apart is impressive. But what small enough to have the needed strength can get through a five-inch space studded with wire ends?  Last night I reset the trap, closing off the existing escape route with rebar pounded into the ground (a little overkill). So, last night’s captured animal simply hard pushed on the entry door, which had tripped a lock when it fell into place, until the trap bulged sufficiently to release the lock. Gone again. I’ve repaired the trap. We’ll try again tonight. I have made my peace with squirrels, but not raccoons.

We’ve had a cat in our yard frequently lately. Jude figured out that it belonged to the house on the corner. I went to inquire. Sure, enough, it was their cat. I explained the problem cats cause with birds, and my concern since our yard is more or less my office. “The cat has been bringing things home,” my neighbor said. “I’ve wondered if anyone would care. The trouble is,” he said, “the cat really likes to be outside.” He said he would do his best to keep the cat indoors, and gave me his cell phone number, just in case. I’m keeping the number handy. He said he appreciated me coming over to talk instead of “poisoning the cat or something.” I assured him I would not poison a cat. I did mention that when we lived in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin a few year ago, any cats running lose were considered feral, and routinely shot.

State parks best for birding

Frontenac
Beaver creek valley
Blue Mounds
Gooseberry Falls
Judge C. R. Magney
Itasca
Maplewood
Afton
Sibley
Mille Lacs/Kathio
Monson Lake (least known, one of his favorites)

Janssen is author of the recently published guide to birds in Minnesota's state parks.

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