My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

The new bantam-weight champion of the world?

On Sunday, as I was approaching the pond that I call the back pond, I heard a commotion start among the birds there. It started with one of the kingfishers chattering away, but there’s nothing unusual about that, they chatter most of the time. I can’t even put my finger on it, but I knew something was going on, especially when I saw this approaching me as I looked through the openings between the trees.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

If you look closely, you can see that the hawk has something in its talons, with some grass trailing behind. The hawk was literally right on top of me when I pulled up to shoot before it disappeared over the next clump of trees.

I can’t say for sure, as I didn’t see what had transpired as I was approaching the pond, but I think that the hawk had just raided the nest of a pair of red-winged blackbirds and hadn’t been too fussy about grabbing some of the nest along with a young bird. What I do know is that there was one ticked off red-winged blackbird attacking every other bird near the pond.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

I was a little surprised to see the gulls there, I see them flying over everyday, but they seldom drop down into any of the ponds here. The red-winged blackbird was doing all that he could to let the gulls know that they were not welcome.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

I wouldn’t put it past a gull to raid another bird’s nest, they will eat about anything that doesn’t eat them first, so I wasn’t too surprised that the blackbird was attacking the gull. They made a couple of loops around the pond, as you will see, in a couple of the shots, you can even see the gull looking around trying to see where the blackbird was.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

By then, the gull had figured out that the blackbird wasn’t going to give up, so the gull pulled up and took off for safer places to look for a meal. I thought that the show was over, the blackbird was heading towards shore, I assumed that he was going to land. I was wrong, the blackbird turned its anger loose on one of the spotted sandpipers along the shore.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a spotted sandpiper

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that sandpipers raid the nest of other birds, but that didn’t stop the blackbird from attacking!

Red-winged blackbird attacking a spotted sandpiper

The poor little sandpiper was no match in flight for the blackbird, but I learned that they have a good method of escaping an attacker, they dive under water! I missed the dive though, as I had no idea that it was what the sandpiper was going to do to escape from the blackbird.

Apparently, spotted sandpipers can swim underwater quite well, as that one surfaced thirty to forty feet from where it had entered the water. By the time I saw where it had come up and got the camera on it, the sandpiper was out of camera range.

Not the red-winged blackbird though.

Red-winged blackbird in flight

With no other birds left in his corner of the pond, he landed on one of the cattails, and began to announce his supremacy.

Red-winged blackbird announcing “Yeah, I’m bad”

The way that the blackbird was carrying on, you’d have thought that he had just been crowned as the bantam-weight champion of the world or something. But, if I’m right in my assumption that he lost one of his young to the hawk, then maybe he shouldn’t have been crowing quite so much. In his defense though, he was out-numbered, there were three herring gulls and the red-tailed hawk, the blackbird may have been busy chasing off a gull while the hawk made its attack on the nest.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


17 responses

  1. Great action! I think if the shoe was on the other foot the gull might have shredded the blackbird.

    June 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    • Thank you! It’s funny the way small birds get away with chasing off larger predators, most of the time. The only predator that I know of that regularly turns the tables on its attackers are great horned owls.

      June 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

  2. Feisty little fella! 🙂

    June 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    • Thank you, he certainly is, but then, he has to be, it’s a bird eat bird world out there.

      June 11, 2012 at 9:18 am

  3. The prey in the redtail’s talons looks a bit like a rodent to me. I see two legs and a tail anyhow. Great shots btw, and great story. I wish I could have seen the sandpiper’s escape!

    June 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    • Thank you! Your eyes must be better than mine, all I can see is a lump and the grass. I would have liked to have seen the sandpiper’s escape as well. All I saw was a splash and I couldn’t find the sandpiper any longer. I stood there looking for it to see it reappear a considerable distance from where it had gone in.

      June 11, 2012 at 9:22 am

      • I zoomed in on your photo. Luckily it is of sufficient quality that zooming in was a useful exercise! (I used to zoom in. will unzoom, and will put it back to the default. At least in Firefox).

        June 11, 2012 at 10:28 am

      • Hmmm. My instructions got cropped out. I guess I should not have surrounded them with greater & less than signs. I’ll try again! I used “ctrl +” to zoom in, “ctrl -” to zoom out, and ctrl-0 to reset to normal.

        June 11, 2012 at 10:34 am

      • Thanks for the compliment and the tip! I tried zooming in but I still couldn’t make out what the hawk’s carrying.

        June 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

  4. I agree with jomegat, Great story and post, and of course, wonderful action photos. 🙂

    June 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    • Thanks Bob!

      June 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

  5. snowbirdpress

    What a great post. Many thanks,

    June 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    • Thank you!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

  6. Great shots! Redwings are very touchy indeed- yesterday evening I was out walking along a wetlands area and they were unhappy to see me near their cattails. Two of the males flew over my head, to the point that I was expecting them to take a swipe at me.

    On the other hand, they are pretty photogenic. I’ve got a lot of pictures of this species scolding me from perches!

    June 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    • Thanks! There’s a pair out front that hover over the top of me every day while I cross the creek there, they have provided me with a lot of practice for my bad actions shots. 😉

      June 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

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