Friday, December 6, 2013

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Red-Shouldered Hawks

What a surprise it was yesterday morning to spot a beautiful pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in my backyard- though I'm sure it wasn't such a happy sight to the small birds at my feeders, which made themselves scarce when the predators appeared...
I went into my upstairs bathroom to take a shower when I noticed in the large mirror above our sinks a reflection of a single hawk on a branch in our backyard (below). We've lived in our house for 18 years I can never recall such an instance- noticing a bird reflected in the mirror through the bathroom's small window, much less that the bird would be a magnificent hawk.

The shower could wait! I immediately went downstairs and grabbed my camera, a Canon SX40 (superzoom category). I started shooting the single hawk through the closed window (above). I knew, of course, the quality would not be the best, shooting through glass, but I figured I'd try to get several shots before attempting to quietly open the window without scaring away the bird.
This Red-shouldered Hawk (red shoulder clearly visible, by the way-above) was just as beautiful from behind. What rich, vibrant colors and feather patterns it has!
After taking a bunch of shots of the one hawk, I went downstairs for a couple minutes, then returned to the bathroom to find the second hawk on the branch next to its mate! By then, I delicately opened the small window and was thrilled that in the narrow opening I could position my lens to still see the birds. Wow, to be able to zoom tight on shoulder-to-shoulder Red-shouldered Hawks was truly an unforgettable photographic experience!
These shots were made even better by the rich coloring of the leaves behind the birds. There's no question the time of year: Fall. Since yesterday, many of these leaves are now on the ground in my yard, I am sure. The scene today if the birds were in the same spot would be quite different I bet.

I've seen and photographed Red-shouldered Hawks in nature before but I cannot recall seeing ones with such bold red underparts. And the eyes are as black as coal.
Cornell University's All About Birds ornithology website calls Red-shouldered Hawks "one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail."
After getting all of the above shots from upstairs in my house, through a window, it was time to venture outside. I went to my car for my unipod and moved to the front porch which wraps around to the side. I didn't want to try to get too close right away. I was able to see the hawks from the porch through various trees and branches, as shown below.
I was able to get several shots from this vantage point.
Two of my backyard feeders are close to the hawks' perch. The raptors didn't catch a meal this time (at least that I saw), but one time in my backyard a Tufted Titmouse flew into the back porch glass door. I came out to see what the noise was, saw the little wounded bird on the ground, and before I knew it, a hawk flew down and took away the poor little bird.
Someone more knowledgeable than I could determine which is the male, which the female. Any experts out there?
I was only able to take a few photos from my porch before the hawk on the right decided it was time to leave. The other one soon followed. What a brief, intense photographic and nature experience this was for me- and all in my very own backyard! Being set up for quick response helped me a lot. Glad I wasn't in a rush to go somewhere that morning!

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