Snowy Don River and a Sharp-shinned Hawk: February 2021

Weather forecasts for this day predicted one hour without snow flurries – between 1 and 2 pm. At that time I headed to an overcast Don Valley and took these photos.

As you can see, there was very little colour. Here are some of the wildflowers as they were today and then how they were months ago.

Common Burdock (Arctium minus)
Common Burdock (Arctium minus)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Jerusalem-artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Evening Primrose (Oenothera)
Evening-primrose (Oenothera)
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Monarch on Tansy

Other botany:

Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo)
Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) with Grape vines
Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia)
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
White Spruce (Picea glauca)
Red Ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica)

The river remains unfrozen near the clean water outlet of the North Toronto Wastewater Treatment Plant. There are Mallards here all year and a Black Duck was with them today.

Mallard (male)
Mallard (female)
Mallard (male)
American Black Duck (male)

The next day, in full sun, this treasure appeared in my back yard.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I rushed to get my camera and took these photos through the window pane.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I regularly have Cooper’s Hawks in the yard as they are bird-eaters and keep a close eye on the feeder. Though today’s bird is almost identical to a Cooper’s, it was obviously smaller.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

In the woodpecker world we have the Downy (length: about 6.5 inches) and the Hairy (length about 9.5 inches) which closely resemble each other.

With bird hawks (Accipiters) we have the Sharp-shinned (length 10 – 14 inches) and the Cooper’s (length 14 – 20 inches).

This was clearly a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It is about the size of a Grackle (length about 11 – 13.5 inches) or a Blue Jay (length about 11 – 12.5 inches).

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

In the past, ornithologists shot birds and then brought them home to study. I can imagine that someone shot one of this species, brought it home and promptly cut their hand on the sharp shin. Hence the name.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawks do migrate south for winter and we at are the northern edge of their winter range. The are uncommon but widespread.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

I was thinking recently that this is one species that I have never been able to see close up. Here are some previous photos:

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Much closer today:

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Another difference between Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned is that in Cooper’s the tail is well rounded and in Sharp-shinned it is notched or square.

Eventually the hawk flew to a nearby pine where I was able to see the tail and confirm the identification.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk squarish tail

and then it flew far off.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

MAILBAG

I received this enthusiastic e-mail about a Tundra Swan sighting:

I was walking early yesterday in the Humber Bay area after parking my car in the lot east of the Humber River.   I was so pleased to see many birds – red breasted mergansers, Canada geese, Greater Scaups, long tailed ducks, mallards and herring gulls and a few I couldn’t name.
But the best was when I was back to the car and saw a trio of tundra swans pass by close to the shore but not very high, and then another group of seven.I travelled along the parking lots trying to see if they had landed.I was thrilled to see these swans as I looked forward to seeing them in the hundreds in the fields south of Grand Bend early every Spring for the ten years that I lived there.Thanks so much for continuing to share your daily walks.

NATURE POETRY

Snow in the country—snow in the town,
Silently, silently sinking down;
Everywhere, everywhere fast-falling snow,
Dazzling the eyes with its crystalline glow!          – Jennie E. Haight (1836–1916)

Miles Hearn

5 thoughts on “Snowy Don River and a Sharp-shinned Hawk: February 2021

  1. trudy rising

    you threw in those plant photos and the monarch from a spring photo session, right? just lonely for some colour? great sharp-shinned photos. thanks.

    Reply
  2. Ruth Calman

    Amazing sharp- shinned photos from inside!!! We just had what I believed was a Cooper’s hawk but could have been sharp-shinned in our yard where we have about five feeders. Saw it swoop down twice a few days ago but haven’t seen it since. We wondered if we should take down our feeders for a few days but in fact our birds were not showing up that much after the hawk’s appearance. Any thoughts about leaving up or taking down feeders if the hawk re-appears?

    Thanks

    Ruth

    Reply
  3. Lisa Volkov

    Well, colour or not, this is one winter wonderland (wander-land?) to me, one of my favorite hiking locations, in every season, whatever the challenges, so I sure wish I could be there right now! Seeing beautiful pictures of this place is the next best thing, so I thank you so much for this! And that Sharp-shinned Hawk–absolutely magnificent! Such terrific pictures! Thank you so much, Miles!

    Reply
  4. MICHAEL MELADY

    Loved the summer/winter pics of the plants. What a contrast nature can produce for the same species.
    Superb photos of the sharp-shinned hawk. I’ll be on the lookout.
    Thanks Miles.

    Reply

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