Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snow angel of death...

Every once in a while I come across a little pile of feathers in the woods or some other sign that a raptor succesfully captured its prey. Recently, while surveying in fresh snow, I came across this scene:
It was located along the edge of a field near a line of trees; no tracks leading up to it at all. When you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see the few blades of grass near the spot where an unsuspecting rodent left the safety of the snow pack overhead and poked its head out. Three deep imprints indicate the spot where the talons and the tail hit the deck - the left talon impressions is right on top of the rodent's burrow. A perfect imprint of both wings, showing all individual flight feathers completes the snow angel. There is no sign of struggle, just the briefest touchdown and a few drops of blood are all that remain. The unfortunate mouse or vole never saw it coming.
A pair of Red-tailed Hawks nests in the nearby tree line and I spotted a Great Horned Owl in the area earlier. The wing imprints look relatively wide with short primaries, so I am blaming the owl for this scene, but I don't know if it is possible to determine who the culprit was based on the forensic evidence. I certainly would appreciate your input.
This truly is one of those pictures that says more than a thousand words....
Photo copyright Twan Leenders

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