View Full Version : Forest Mystery

12-11-2005, 01:51 PM
I am curious if anyone has any thoughts as to a "crime scene" I saw while cross country skiing yesterday. I was skiing on the Lower Nanamocomuck trail off the Kanc, about halfway between Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge. On the side of the trail, I saw a pile of Blue Jay feathers, some blood but absolutely nothing else. No body, beak, feet or anything. There were no animal tracks heading to or from the scene (it had snowed the previous day, and the feathers were on top of the snow). Obviously something killed the bird and snatched it away by air.

Any thoughts as to the possible predator? Owl? Falcon? Hawk?

12-11-2005, 02:03 PM
Owl... or the elusive winged Yeti.

12-11-2005, 02:43 PM
Winter is really the time to see the workings of life - death, and survival. A couple of years ago I was winter hiking Mt Major in Alton, NH. On the trail, after leaving the woods road, about every 200 meters there were spots of blood and tufts of deer hair that told the story of prey and predator. My guess is that it was a young deer being harassed by coyotes. In all there were about five spots where the deer stopped and was mauled. Eventually, the struggle moved off the trail into deeper snow. I remember being fascinated and appalled by the starkness of the evidence of the event. Bright red blood on pure white snow is a chilling sight.

12-11-2005, 02:53 PM
I'd guess a hawk. Jays aren't nocturnal, owls are for the better part. I watched a daytime hawk attack on robin nestlings one summer. A whole flock of adult robins couldn't drive it off.

12-11-2005, 03:33 PM
I've seen something similar, but the victim was larger. A rabbit. There were feathers around, though. The rabbit put up a fight, but didn'T make it. (rabbit tracks (unmistakable) lead to "the spot", but not away).

The feathers told me what it was that got it, unfortunalety, I don't know how to read feathers, so all I know was that it was a bird.

12-11-2005, 04:01 PM
I think it was a hawk. I imagine it caught the bird out of a tree and the blood and a few feathers fell to the snow below. The hawk probably carried the blue jay to consume elsewhere. -Matt L

12-11-2005, 04:23 PM
On Pawtuckaway's North Peak last year, there were piles of coarse light brown fur all over the place, but no blood or other body parts anywhere.

Blue jay feathers must separate from the body rather easily - I've seen that same scenario several times.

12-11-2005, 06:02 PM
The same killer was seen on Field last week!! http://newmud.comm.uottawa.ca/~pete/tmp/nh1.jpg

12-11-2005, 06:21 PM
I would say a hawk definitely, as opposed to owl, and most likely Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk given their dietary preferences and habitat, though it could also have been our most common hawk in the Northeast overall, the Redtailed hawk.

12-12-2005, 08:53 AM
I would vote for the great horned owl. Although primarily nocturnal they do hunt during the day and are very active in the early morning and late afternoon. Activity picks up in Jan and Feb when they start nesting.

SS Hawk I would doubt as the males are just a bit bigger then the blue jay.

Coopers and Goshwk are good possibilities.

The buteos; redtail and rough legged are not woodland hunters but would tend to fields and shrub land. They may have a bit of a chanllenge flight wise taking out a blue jay.

12-12-2005, 09:25 AM
I'd vote Red-Tailed Hawk. All the owl pellets me and my boys have dissected have been rodents. The hawk attacks I've witnessed have been at birds on the ground or in trees, and several have been on game birds bigger than the hawk. Without getting too graphic, the hawks attack, quickly remove what they can and fly off with the rest, if they have time. Hence the pile of feathers.

12-12-2005, 09:35 AM
Blue Jays must be favorite chow for whatever it is that picks/plucks tweety birds out of the air or off tree branches, because when hiking in the woods I find more Jay feathers otherwise inexplicably on the ground than just about any other kind. Having observed Great Horned Owls active in the daytime, and having been buzzed more than a few times by a Goshawk (thatís a real experience!) I can attest to their being woodland birds that are astonishingly formidable in their ability to appear out of nowhere, their agility in flight, and their aggressiveness.


12-12-2005, 10:10 AM
We have seen two "crime scenes" that come to mind. One was a set of very small tracks across the snow,where at one point there was a sweep of wings in the snow-and the tracks disappeared :eek:

The other was a track of a fox,or more likely a coyote,dragging it's dinner through the deep snow. That one took us a while to figure out. We never found the actual"scene of the crime"

12-12-2005, 10:46 AM
Last winter we had some great gray owls hanging out around here. They are kind of big, almost 3 feet tall, with a wingspan of almost 5 feet, and look as if they could eat a cat. I would LOVE to see one of those things swoop down and get something.

12-12-2005, 11:04 AM
One of the coolest things I have seen, was a great horned owl swoop down and take a red squirrel right off a log. The owl came out of no where and grabbed the squirrel and and just kept flying like it took no effort.

12-12-2005, 11:30 AM
If it was in my backyard, I would say somebody's neighborhood cat, but since you were in a more wooded area, I would also guess it was likely a red-tailed hawk. They're pretty prevalent in the Northeast and like to hunt on the "smaller" birds.