Another Accipiter Dogfight at Alta Plaza

Richard Bradus

Opting to head north to the waterfront (and therefore missing the possible Y-b Sapsucker seen by Brian at Buena Vista to the south) I was nonetheless fortunate to witness a somewhat drawn-out aerial combat/display in and above Alta Plaza Park, similar to dueling Cooper's Hawks I've seen here at least once before in the past couple of years.

Starting at about 10am I heard a scream from a Raven and saw the flash of a Cooper's Hawk flying by with the raven in hot pursuit, which it broke off when the hawk sheltered deep in one of the clump of Monterey Pines on the west side. The raven protested for a bit before flying off. But that was just the prelude. A few minutes later I was startled to hear a quick protest cry as the first Cooper's was rousted from the tree by a second, followed by a back and forth with chases and retreats into the various trees. After I thought all had been resolved, yet another accipiter appeared, a bit smaller and possibly a Sharp-shinned, but this time both Cooper's took off in pursuit and the smaller hawk was quickly driven below the trees and off to the west so I was never able to confirm the ID. A couple more quick skirmishes resulted in one Coop flying off to the west, and the apparent victor later took a nice soar over the area before continuing off to the east. That left just a pair of crows to engage in their own aerial skirmishing before also retreating into the shelter of the pines.

I'm still struggling to figure out how to best capture aerial photos and action, so I was unable to focus or track quickly enough to obtain any photos of the Cooper's dogfight (drat!); just a couple of shots of one perched in the trees, but I may have gotten one photo of the crows in action. If so I'll eventually post it to eBird. And, wouldn't you know it, nothing much of interest down by the bay, though the joggers, bicyclists and dogs seemed to be having a splendid time enjoying another beautiful sunny day.

Hope everyone had a nice, safe Thanksgiving. We are so fortunate to live here and to experience nature's gifts. So, no matter where you may be, remember to keep looking up, and enjoy!

Richard Bradus
San Francisco