Swimming Coopers Hawk In Whitby Harbour!!

Sunday, Jan 22nd:
OMG ooops we did it again. Tracy and I went to check on a few Peregrine nest sites, and inbetween we did some general birding. We popped into Thicksons Woods to see the Great Horned Owls. We spotted one and then heard the other answer a call. Both were burried so no photos. From there we decided to drop in to Whitby Harbour, almost literally!!
We stopped and saw a Trumpeter Swan very near the road. It was too friendly. We later learned from Chris who we bumped into there(having just hung up on Ann!!,the nerve of some people) that C15 tagged Trumpeter had walked right into a primary school recently and TWC had to go and remove him! While I dallied taking the Swan's photo,Tracy heard a splash. She called to me and I heard "he's going to drown her". She had called out "she's going to drown!" I thought she was referring to a male duck mating a female as sometimes the male holds the female under while mating her, but no!! Flailing around,paddling even with both wings is a Coopers Hawk in the water. It was well into the water and really struggling. Tracy saw the Coopers Hawk,a 2nd year,female(from pics the eye wasnt totally changed colour) hit and grab onto a gull! The weight of the gull and momentum carried both into the water at least 20ft-30ft from shore. The Coopers was clamped on and trying to paddle/swim with both wings to pull the gull to shore. We dont think the gull was completely dead when they hit the water as there was an initial struggle. The Coopers was suffering under the weight of dragging the gull, and we could see it was running out of gas. Both Tracy and I contemplated jumping in the water to try to save the bird. Soon it went under completely. For a moment that seemed like forever the Coopers Hawk disappeared from view beneath the water, when with one last effort it emegered, leaving go of its meal and flying to a very low branch in the water. Its tail was still in the water from where it perched. WOW were we glad to see it at least above water. She sorted herself out, and moved to a higher perch and began preening and trying to dry off. Eventually she made her way to the shore and sat drying in the sun and terrible cold breeze. There was no way of reaching her at all. We worried she may freeze before she could dry off. We had to leave,hoping for the best.
We returned awhile later after checking the harbour. We saw a car pulled over and someone out taking photos. I spotted first what she was taking pics of. The Coopers had flown across the street and into a roadside tree,catching the last hour of sun, preening and drying further. She would be OK. The person taking the photos was our friend Chris! We told her what this Coopers Hawk had just been up to! Another sighting of a lifetime!! Tracy did get video of the swimming Coopers. I will try to get her to post it and show it to you.
Tracy's accounts of each of the last 2 days are at CPFs website with a few photos.(sorry you'll have to copy and paste the links, darned if I can figure out how to make it an active link)
Saturday
http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/w/2012/01/sightings/a-visit-to-holcim-both-adults-present/
Sunday
http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/w/2012/01/sightings/a-swimming-coopers-hawk-at-whitby-harbour/

4 comments:

Angie in TO said...

What a story!! :)

Daniel said...

@ Angie: Reminds me of that fish adventure you told me about... joking.

It reads like one of those stories where you really had to be there to fully appreciate the experience.

Jocelyn B said...

We have seen that swan being fed and we see it right at the side of the road very often as my boyfriend and I live right near the harbour. I have pictures of it being fed by a person in a car. We felt it was due to feeding that it was often hanging right at the road edge :-( We chase it back into the water if we see it.

Bob Hilscher said...

Hi there, My wife, Jean and I, have spent much time in Rosetta McClain Gardens. What a beautiful location above the lake. This past Friday, Jean and I, once again had a Coopers Hawk pay a visit to our backyard feeder here in North Scarborough. It didn't take long for the Hawk to make a lunch out of an unlucky bird at our Nijer feeder! If your interested our pics and video are at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-coopers-hawk-sighting-goldhawk-park-toronto-ontario/


We also sighted a Red Tailed Hawk recently, in Markham, Ontario. That posting is at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-red-tailed-hawk-sighting-markham-ontario/