What you’re looking at above (click it for the bigger picture) is not something you see everyday, nor the kind of life/death animal action many urban humans get to find themselves so close to. It’s a still from some really bad video I captured, depicting the last moment of a rather epic backyard fig tree battle between one of our rather unfriendly neighborhood squirrels and one of our ever-amazing neighborhood Cooper’s hawks.
It unfolded before my eyes when I stepped out into the backyard to sweep the patio of its freshly dropped batch of fig leaves and looked up into its boughs to find nothing less than the hawk sitting about eight feet above my head and in no hurry to leave, primarily because there was said squirrel — otherwise oblivious of the imminent threat — only a few feet away in same tree munching on an unripened fig.
Before I could finish saying “Holy smokes! I’ve never been this close to a Cooper’s hawk!” the predator dove at the squirrel into the densest part of the tree, and its prey skittered out of the way of the lunge.
A bit of a stand-off then ensued with the hawk only a few feet from the squirrel in the relative safety of the thicket of limbs and leaves who promptly went back to munching another unripened fig as if nothing had happened. I took the opportunity to run inside and get my camera and by the time I got back, not much time elapsed before the raptor made another unsuccessful attempt, followed by a final flapping and flourishing and also-failed attempt to sink its talons into its would-be meal, wherein it then flew off out of view in search of more easily attainable eats. The squirrel promptly went back to eating and as if on cue as I focused the camera on it, dropped a little poop pellet that could perhaps represent its thoughts of the ordeal it appeared to have already forgotten about.
The video below has its moments, but is mostly of the tree because it’s a bitch trying to eyeball the action while simultaneously trying to point the camera in the right place. Plus the density of the foliage made it difficult it locate and/or center either critter in the frame: