Hawk News

“Do you see your hawk?” asked Stanley.

I looked where he was pointing, and – as usual-  saw tree or sky. We were on our first walk since returning from a trip, entering the area near the dunes where we had first seen Mr Hawk. Just before we left, we’d noticed Mr and Mrs Hawk had been spending most of their time near the eucalyptus trees along the highway, where the nest still sat looking a little empty. IMG_4380

Reacquainting myself with the neighborhood after a trip is always entertaining, and I was eager to find out what exciting things we had missed. Baby hawks? Evidence of eggs? Frantic hunting? But even Stanley couldn’t find a bird in the nest tree. So, we had continued on our walk, eventually coming to the dunes area where Stanley made the sighting.

I continued looking in the approximate direction, hoping to see a wing through the foliage. Stanley stood, his chin pointing out the sight I couldn’t see. Then the hawk treated me to a long swoop from a high branch to another tall limb, and flew off toward the nesting area in the grove along the highway. I assumed it was Mr. Hawk on a hunting expedition, but that was really just me filling in the blanks of a springtime story.

We continued on our walk. It’s Sadie’s walk, after all, and she had some important digs to rediscover. Other neighborhood creatures greeted us, hanging out in the misty sunshine.

I paused under the nest on the way back home. Looking up about 50 feet high into a broad eucalyptus wasn’t the best perspective for snooping down inside the nest. Since I wouldn’t be climbing up, it was the only perspective available, so I snapped a few photos, frail compared to the wonderful eagle cam that tracks the Washington DC bald eagles.

When I caught up to Stanley and Sadie, Stanley handed me a feather. White and gray-brown with fluttery-like fuzz, it was a thrilling memento. Why? Not quite long enough for an adult tail feather, and, with those tiny down-like fluffs, not as stream-lined, we decided it looked like a fledgling feather.IMG_4292

The next morning on our walk with Sadie, we stopped near the nest, but nothing seemed to be going on there. We didn’t see any creatures in the nest, none flew by, and there was no screaming hawk call. I left the eucalyptus grove disappointed. No hawk presented itself for the rest of the morning walk.

In the afternoon, I walked alone by the nest, and noticed some movement. I estimated the hawk home to be about 2 1/2 feet deep, so a lot can go on in there that I can’t see.

I aimed the camera, hoping the photos would bring some detail. Suddenly, wings unfolded and a hawk took off out of the nest. I tried to get a shot as it held onto the branch of the next tree. (click on the photos and you will see a larger view) When I got home, I rushed to the computer to let it help me see what it was I photographed. There, in a slightly blurred mix of branches, was my first look at – not a baby hawk, but – a teen-aged fledgling.IMG_4366

Looks to me like Mr and Mrs Hawk did a great job while we were gone.IMG_4379

Congratulations to the hawk family.

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More Hawkishness

Strictly photos today, as we wait out the brooding season, take a vacation away from the nest, and hope for a late spring hatching. I am truly nervous to be gone from these two for a month. I can plan for Sadie’s care, and will hear the stories when I return. But for the Hawk family, I will simply miss a huge part of the story. Well, it’s not so sad that it will keep me home!

 

Mr. Hawk’s New Place

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On our daily walks, we look for Mr. Hawk in his usual haunt. Normally, we can count on seeing him at least once in the clearing by the dunes, where he has been busy hunting. But we don’t see him there, day after day.

Mrs. Hawk has taken to perching inside their great nest, seemingly day after day after day. It has been difficult to get detailed photos of the nest. It is built into the eucalyptus near the highway, far up in the tree, sheltered by large branches, leaves and smaller twigs. Look close – you can see her tail.

But where is Mr. Hawk?

Close by, of course. He is in one of the eucalyptus trees opposite the nest. And he is showing his strength and voicing his warnings to any flying creature near by. Stanley says there is something in the nest worth guarding.

 

Wonder what that may be?

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IMG_0859My new prowess as a hawk-eye didn’t last long. The next morning, our walk took us along the same path, and even though we saw the nest, we saw no birds.

That is, until we reached the clearing by the sand dunes and Stanley said,  “So, do you see your hawk?”

“Where? In the trees? Is it perching?”

“The tall tree. It’s the male.”

“The eucalyptus? The cedar?”

“Right there. Right ahead.”

We are what I estimate to be 1/4 mile away and I do not understand Stanley’s ability to spy out a 20-inch long bird hidden in a 50-foot tall tree from that distance. He continues to point and I continue to peer.

 

When we are directly below the tree, I see the hawk moments before it flies away. But he goes over to his hunting post closer to the dunes, and I hurry closer to get some photos.

IMG_1956Sadie is occupied with digging today, and I use the time to study this hawk. He does look like the one that is usually here, scanning the dunes for food. We have seen him swoop and pull out something – maybe a mouse or a frog – twice. On a couple previous visits, the second hawk, possibly the female, sits on a nearby tree and waits for food, sounding out if she becomes impatient. Today, we see only the one hawk, the hunter.

IMG_1943Soon, Sadie is panting with exertion and ready to go. As we approach the highway crosswalk, I pause to take a picture of the nest. One day, I hope to see a hawk there.

When I get home, I look at my nest photos, and this is what I see:IMG_1629

 

I think maybe mama hawk thinks the nest is ready!

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IMG_0859I beg Stanley’s help, because I am desperate to find their nest. I feel time slipping away as early spring passes with each day. I know that if these two are a pair, the breeding cycle is in full swing, and the nesting is under way. But where?

Stanley, of course, has witnessed some of this hanky-panky in the air. About a month ago, he saw two hawks twirling way up in the clouds. Another time, one of the hawks swooped in a spiral down and down, only to fly up to join the second in the sky. He tells me his stories, and I read about the significance in my reference books and on-line sources. It bothers me a bit that he knows instinctively what these raptors are doing, and I believe him only if I can read it in a book. He is always right – not an overly attractive thing in a spouse – even so, I beg his help in finding the hawk home.

IMG_2152I point at a bird flying up high. “Hawk?”

“Vulture.”

We continue to scan the cedar trees in the clearing, the tall eucalyptus and the scrub bush that grows tall enough that hawks might venture there. Usually, we find at least one hawk in this clearing by the dunes, but other times, we see them both in the row of tall eucalyptus by the highway.

“There are two, flying together. Over the dunes,” I point, and aim my camera.

“Vultures,” Stanley says with confidence.

 

IMG_2169I am about to acknowledge that I am drawn to vultures the way Stanley is drawn to hawks. I see them in the sky all the time. They pose for me. My camera loves they way they float in the wind and spread their long wings. I think they are beautiful and ferocious-looking. But I am not wiling to give up the pursuit of our neighborhood red-shouldered hawks.

Finally, Stanley sees one raptor fly into the tall cedar across the street from the clearing and pull out a twig. He – Stanley says it is the male – flies out to his post near the dunes. I try to catch the hawk in a photo, but he is gone before I can focus.

That night just before dark, as I stand on our front porch at the bungalow, I hear their screaming chatter. I can’t see them. They are about two blocks away, just past Hwy 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway). Their distinctive call, though, has become easy to recognize.

On our walk the next morning, I remind Stanley that today, we are looking for the nest. I remember hearing them in the eucalyptus just beyond the highway the night before, and scan in the tall trees for a jumble of sticks, bark, leaves and bramble. I stay, looking up, until my neck is sore and Sadie is impatient. Stanley says the nest will be high in the trees, and big. I see nothing but leaves and limbs and branches. We continue on.

Half-way through the empty lot where the eucalyptus grow, I look back. There it is. Protected by the outer branches, I see a tangle of green woven into the crook of two inner branches.

“There it is,” I say.

Stanley looks back, smiles. “Oh, yeah,” he says, grinning.

We don’t see the hawks nearby, and wonder why they have chosen a spot so close to the highway. But today’s discovery has me hoping that these two are settling in this close to us in the bungalow. Maybe I have some promise as a hawk-watcher after all.

 

 

Hawks 3

 

I am a full-out hawk snoop.

Every move, each turn of the head, each feather ruffled, I try to capture. What an inept photographer I am, but what fun I am having. Poor Stanley comes with me on just the morning walk, because I have become unbearable. My camera, though, comes along on both morning and afternoon adventures. I am elated when I can find a hawk or two on my own, because Stanley still has a mystical power and his soul connects with these raptors at a creature level. I am just a snoop.

 

Have you ever heard a hawk’s call? Such an insistent, scratching scream. Now, I have seen it up close in my photos. What an amazing experience. There is the two-syllable screaming plea, and the repetitive insistent screeching blast. I can now hear them from a block away and alter my walk to search for them, following their call. I know they are not really calling me – they are talking to each other. But, remember, I am now an unapologetic snoop. I interpret their calls as invitations.

I won’t bore you with all the hundreds of photos with which I am obsessed. Like Stanley, you may desert me and I will be left alone to adore these hawks. Because, certainly, even if all by myself, follow these raptors I must. I continue to try to identify them, but so far I only am guessing that there is a light colored one and a darker colored one. They look very much alike, though, these red-shouldered hawks. I hope they have a nest nearby.

So, with one last photo, I will leave you. This one is called Classic Hawk. Ahhh – beautiful – but which is it? Male or female?

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Hawks 2

IMG_0289We have known there were hawks in the neighborhood. I saw one posing on the utility pole across the street the first month we moved here. Who am I kidding? I think there have been hawks in every California neighborhood I have ever lived in. Certainly, they have always been close by on the fence posts and telephone poles. Though I feel familiar with hawks in general, these two have captured my heart.

At least I think there are two. I am attempting to identify my new friends. Once, briefly, we found two of them together and I was able to take a couple blurry photos. It was over quickly, though, and I haven’t had a chance to study their markings or follow their activities. Are they truly a pair, as I hope? Or are there more hawks in the area, and are they jockeying for space – wanting their own bedrooms in the large house of neighborhood trees? I simply don’t yet know.

IMG_0279Stanley, with his keen hawk-like sensitivities is essential to my task. I am learning to identify the hawks’ call thanks to him. He stops on our morning walks and points to the tall trees whenever one calls out. It seems that when one flies to a new post, it calls out its location to the other(s). It’s a clue to us, also, to look up and search.

“Two of them. There,” says Stanley, stopping and pointing to the eucalyptus trees in the clearing next to the dunes.

“Two? Where? Which tree?” I ask.

IMG_0859“There, right there. Can’t you see?”

“High or low? Which tree?”

“Right there. Right there. Together.”

The mass of leaves and branches and the distance between us and them complicate my view. How can Stanley see through all this? And they haven’t even sounded off yet this morning.

“You just see them right in the middle of all that greenery?” I ask. The foliage looks tumbled together to me, a mass of nature designed to hide wonderful creatures from me, while to Stanley, everything is revealed.

“On the big branch. Together,” he says. “Right there. Right in front of you.”

I look around and see tree, leaves and branches, not hawks. We walk closer. And closer.

“Are they still there?” I ask.

Stanley looks up and nods as if it is the simplest thing in the world to see what nature wants to hide.

IMG_1072Finally, two hawks sitting together on a tree branch. I see them. I make my way to the nearby bench, sit and snap as many photos as I can. Too soon, one flies off. Which is it? Male or female? At least now, I can begin to know that these are truly a pair, possibly readying a nest somewhere close, getting prepared for parenthood, if all goes well.

And I certainly hope all does go well for them. With Stanley’s hawk-like senses and my camera, we will be marking their progress this spring.

“There. Up in the sky. It’s hunting.”

“Where? I’m looking right there. I don’t see anything.”

“It’s circling. Probably the male.”

“I want to see.”

“Now over by the tree. There.”

“Which tree? Where?” I ask, then..

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“Oh. I see it.”

“No, that’s a vulture,” says Stanley.

I have already snapped a picture. ‘Are you sure? It looks like it might be a hawk.”

Stanley shakes his head, certain. “Vulture. Look at the wing span. See how it soars?”

I look back to the photo, thinking he might be wrong. It looked to me like it might be a hawk. I had aimed the camera in the direction he pointed, sort-of at the same time. While I am engrossed in the camera, Stanley continues to scan the area.

“There they are. In that tall tree. Across the street.”

“The cedar? Where? Over there?”

When I get home, I think about the scene we make, Stanley and I. A thought occurs to me. What if the hawks were observing us? Two humans, one stumbling along with a camera waggling from the neck, one stopping and pointing hawk-ward with precision. Are we as entertaining as they?

 

 

 

Meet the Hawk Family*

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Mr and Mrs

Stanley saw them first. Actually, he had been hearing their particular screech for awhile now on our morning walks, commenting “Hawk.” We would pause to search, see nothing, and I would say “Isn’t that a crow calling?” Then we would hear the ever-present crow sound out, as if reminding me that nothing else on earth should sound like that scratchy caw. And soon, Stanley would pause again, and I would hear the distinctive repetitive screech of the hawk from their eucalyptus-ringed home.

As you might have guessed, Stanley is a bird-whisperer. I am the one who fell in love with this pair, but it is Stanley who interprets them and points them out among the million other distractions that call for my attention. He has a razor-sharp ear for their sounds – an amazing quality since he has trouble hearing most everything else on earth. But the screech of this pair of neighborhood hawks calls him every time. As we stood watching, one – we think the male – flew away. The larger one, I hope the momma-to-be, flew to a more sheltered branch, then posed.

I want to say that this pair are red-shouldered hawks, but it is too early. The tail, as much as can be seen in my photos, is not the classic red of the very common red-tailed hawk. I think I see a slight smudge of copper along the shoulder mixed in with the more neutral colors. If you click on the photos, you can see a larger version, and help me with the classification. What do you think? Red shoulder or red tail or something else entirely?

The hawks will help me become a better photographer. Attempting to worm my way to better views, I appreciate the power of a telescoping lens, but the nuance still escapes me. My neck is sore with the looking up, and my hands waver with excitement as I try to hold the frame still. I may even try to learn the manual selections on this new camera for better views. As I get to know this regal pair, the camera will help me figure out exactly who they are, and what their days in our neighborhood are like.

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it amazes me that I can sit on a bench far, far away and bring home this (fuzzy) photo

*Many, many thanks to Tiny at http://tinylessonsblog.com/ for her inspiring story of the Osprey family in Florida. Her blog is my motivation for this new animal-world friendship, loving birds from coast to coast, then posting their antics online.