Early this afternoon, while watching songbirds at the feeding area on our Littleton farm, I noticed several meadow voles, scurrying between a rocky border and the seed-covered ground. More than willing to share the handouts with our resident mammals (even fox squirrels), I was entertained by the frequent roundtrips of those low-profile rodents.
Of course, meadow voles are prolific breeders and, if it were not for the coyotes, fox, owls and hawks that patrol our farm, I might be less sanguine about their presence. Indeed, late this afternoon, I observed a sharp-shinned hawk huddled on the ground near the feeding area. Though songbirds account for the great majority of their prey, sharpies feed on mice and voles as well; sure enough, he had a meadow vole in his talons and soon flew off to enjoy his meal on the comfort of a tree limb.
In forty years of birding, this was my first encounter with a sharp-shinned hawk that was feeding on a rodent. All others have been strafing grasslands, zooming through woodlands in pursuit of songbirds or feasting on an avian victim, plucking feathers from its lifeless corpse. Today's unique experience was just another unexpected event in my decades of birding and a dose of reassurance that the population of our resident breeding champs will be kept in check.