It was both gruesome and fascinating.
Late on the afternoon of January 8th, the Northern Goshawk, which has been making periodic forays through and into our yard since it killed a Mallard and ate part of it as we watched a couple of weeks ago, struck again. My non-birding husband was home this time, having been instructed by me to pay attention to when the Mallards arrived, since I was off at a meeting and could not note down the hour of their visit for my regular eBird posts. Not only did the Mallards arrive at about their normal time (4:30 pm, when it is just getting dark out), but their nemesis, the Northern Goshawk arrived about the same time and immediately caught and killed another one of them in our neighbor’s yard (these neighbors have moved so no one is there now). My husband did not watch the gory sight anymore, and just told me about it when I got home.
Yesterday morning after a couple of hours working at my computer I decided to go upstairs for a break, and saw that the Northern Goshawk was back on the ground in the neighbor’s yard having breakfast on the frozen Mallard, with feathers flying around it. Every now and then the Goshawk would flap its wings, apparently trying to move the Mallard, maybe to expose more edible parts, and gradually dragging it toward our yard. Some of the following pictures are a bit blurred due to my taking them through the window and through the fog formed by moisture expelled to the outdoors by our hard-working heater (outside temperature about zero degrees F).
Eventually, the carcass was light enough for the Goshawk to lift it to our neighbor’s wooden fence.
I was a bit concerned that the Goshawk would bring the carcass into our yard, where our dog might find it, so I went outside with our dog to try to shoo the hawk away. The hawk flew low across our yard dragging the Mallard, and our dog Caster raced out for the chase, barking wildly. It looked for a while that Caster would grab himself both a Mallard carcass and a hawk, but the hawk managed to lift itself high enough to clear the next fence and dive into our other neighbor’s spruce trees. Unfortunately I was so fascinated by the chase that I did not think to take any pictures of it.
Last night, the Mallards returned to dine again at about 4:30, but no Goshawk appeared. It was probably still stuffed with Mallard. Every day when I put out bird seeds, I am thinking of feeding little seed-eating birds, and also, nowadays, seed-eating Mallards that wander in from elsewhere in Anchorage. It’s somewhat disconcerting to realize that I am also periodically feeding “my” Mallards to a Goshawk (which, of course, as a normal wintering Alaskan, has to find food somewhere).