A Sharpie stands on one leg over Little Crum Creek,

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a small bird in clutch,

 

 and soon takes cover in the evergreen

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for a long leisurely meal. 

 Back in November,
when autumn’s trees unveiled winter’s bare-limbed vistas,
new hawk patterns appeared over Little Crum Creek.

Which hawk, then, was daily greeting sunrise above a nearby field: 
the customary Cooper’s or the newly suspected Red-tailed?

One day I watched one bolt from its branch for a mid-air strike,
but hawk and prey suddenly vanished in a snowy cloud of feathers.

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While the Cooper’s Hawk seemed to preside over spring and summer,
the Red-tailed’s claim began to mount in fall.

I’d frequently spot one abandoning a perch,
its namesake tail fanned in flight.

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Another soared,
intermittently flapping,
in high wide circles above the field.

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Soon closer visits permitted better scrutiny. 

Based on the belly’s vested coloration
and relatively short tail feathers,
these two, above & below, look like Red-tailed Hawks.

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For contrast,
consider the thinly-streaked belly & breast coloration
plus the long, thickly-banded tail feathers
of a mid-December Cooper’s Hawk
in the following two photos.

(Its tail feathers seem too rounded for the lookalike Sharp-shinned Hawk.)

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In January, and now February,
this accipiter has seemed scarce. 

But count on seeing a Red-tailed just about any day.

Since December’s late snowfall, this buteo’s been our most prominent raptor.

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The mystery of severally splayed Mourning Dove feathers in perfect circumference persisted for days.

Left, right, all around the circle, neither dove nor trail of explanation could be found for the curiosity.

Only later, happening to turn and spot this young Cooper’s Hawk from a second-story window, was the lack of lateral ground evidence suddenly made clear.

We have only to look up, and there behold a purposeful gaze above the placid gardens of backyard feeders.