Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 11:35:56 -0500
Reply-To: Dan Vickers <dvickers@MINDSPRING.COM>
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Dan Vickers <dvickers@MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject: Canvasback-Reed Bingham State Park-Monday
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Stopped by Reed Bingham State Park (Adel, Georgia) on Monday morning with my
5-year old grandson Aiden. It was a gorgeous morning and we had the park
and lake pretty much to ourselves. Aiden and I were checking out the usual
winter birds (plus moss, bugs and mussels) when we flushed a Red-shouldered
Hawk from the bank of the lake. It flew up to a nearby tree and proceeded
to eat a small, brown watersnake it had caught. We then went to the other
side of the lake to check out a large flock of American Coots. Standing out
in the midst of this mass of dark gray birds was a beautiful male
Canvasback. While we were standing there, the Red-shouldered Hawk, having
apparently finished his snake appetizer, flew in for the main course. The
hawk cruised right over the top of the cattails and landed with both feet on
the coot nearest the water's edge, driving it under the water. The rest of
the flock erupted in panic and the alarm calls of the coots was tremendous.
The nearby Canada Geese, Killdeers and Greater Yellowlegs also joined in the
ruckus. Once the initial panic had subsided, the coots proceeded to mob the
hawk, encircling it sometimes as close as two feet, in a vain effort to
drive it from its prey. I am not sure whether the coot died on impact or
from the subsequent drowning, but the hawk remained chest-deep in the water
for a good length of time. The hawk then hauled the coot out of the water
by its neck and into the cover of the cattails where it could eat in peace.
It was surprising to see the hawk take something almost as heavy as itself.
Aiden watched the whole thing quietly but with some hesitation about the
death of the coot, simply saying, "Why didn't he just catch another snake."
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