Monday, February 8, 2010

Mexican Standoff

A mexican standoff is basically an impasse or a stalement. Each side is waiting for the other side to do something. It is a standard movie cliche now thanks to frequent use in spaghetti westerns and B-movies. (Quentin Tarantino, one of Hollywood's most overrated directors, uses them quite a bit, too.)

Anyhow, I saw my own mini-mexican standoff today. I don't know what led up to it, but by the time I was aware of it, the situation between the Northern Goshawk and Fox Squirrel was already a tense draw.

The squirrel, to his credit, was not an idiot. While the goshawk ( a huge female) could have chased him on foot under table (they can and will do such a thing) , she seemed content to sit on top of the table for the most part. I'm not trying to be anthropomorphic here, but it was almost as if the squirrel was sizing up the abilities and the commitment of the hawk. From the "safe zone" under the table, the squirrel would make a short dash out only to be "chased", in a very lethargic way, by the hawk. Each time, the squirrel would zig-zap in that incredible fashion that only they can do (usually seconds before they disappear under your car's front tire). A few moments later (which I'm sure felt like hours to the squirrel), the standoff would resume. According to the time stamps on my camera, this went on for almost 90 seconds. If you think about it, that is a looooooong time.......

Finally, likely knowing the next few steps could be his last, the squirrel ran like hell for the woods. During that 20 yard sprint, I could really see the hunting technique (Hah!) of the goshawk. Instead of just running that damn rodent down and footing it to death, she went airborne about two to four feet off the ground and fluttered down towards the squirrel. Yeah, great. How embarrassing. Fluttering is for butterflies. During these painfully slow descents, the squirrel had time to basically check his email, call his squeeze, and make dinner reservations. The combination of stuttering stops and starts with the zigging and zagging did the trick. Those 20 yards were behind him and into to the woods he went.

Sad to say, the hunting strategy of the goshawk was almost pathetic. Sure, they are one of the toughest birds of prey on the continent, but this one was a total dufous. I don' t think I have ever seen such a half-hearted or incompetent attempt at hunting, by anything, ever. Seriously, if this bird does not get into "hunter-killer mode" quick, she's dead. I can't believe she survived this long.

I managed this final pic before she slipped off down the nature trail. Embarrassed, no doubt. A few minutes later, a swarm of robins, making quite a ruckus, came hurtling out of the woods. I'm not sure, but I think they were laughing.....

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