Photo of the Week – February 28, 2013

Here’s a photo interpretation puzzle for you.

Last Saturday, I was hiking through the fresh snow in a small local prairie when I found this interesting print. 

An interesting print in fresh snow.  Leadership Center Prairie - Aurora, Nebraska.

An interesting print in fresh snow. Leadership Center Prairie – Aurora, Nebraska.

Clearly the print was made by a bird, but what kind, and what was it doing?  Judging by the size of the wing print, the bird was about the size of a robin.  There were no other tracks or prints in the snow nearby, other than the small streak just to the left of the bird print.

Here’s my best guess – see what you think:

I think the print was made by a small raptor; probably a sharp-shinned hawk.  My guess is that the hawk was swooping down after a sparrow, which was flying low to the ground.  As the hawk neared the ground, the sparrow spotted it coming from its right, and was just able to evade the hawk – barely dragging its tail along the surface of the snow as it dodged away.  Meanwhile, the hawk flared its wings to avoid hitting the ground, and flapped hard to regain the air – and both wings made slight contact with the snow as it did so.  Its narrow tail also left a mark.  The hawk’s feet scuffed the snow twice – once in the middle of the print, and again where the “head” of the print is as the bird lifted back into the air.   

Agree?  Disagree?  Ok, what’s your guess, and why?