Nature Conspires…

(All of the pictures for this post come from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.  If you click on one of the pictures, you will go to the source.)

I’ve written many times before about what a reluctant birder I am.  In particular, I’ve mentioned that I don’t know my hawks very well.  It seems this past week, nature is conspiring to help me learn a few…  We’ve had several visitors – right in the backyard perfectly visible from our office windows.

Red-shouldered Hawk - CornellPatrick called me to his office, handed me a pair of binoculars and began describing the location of a hawk.  Red-shouldered.  So pretty.  This picture from Cornell really doesn’t do the bird justice – at least not the one I saw!  The breast was so rusty red – the colors actually resembled those of an American Robin.

I don’t keep a life list, but I believe this is the first time I ever saw a red-shouldered hawk.  At least it is the first time I was aware that was what I was seeing!

Yesterday, after taking Dennis Webster on a walk-about (our interview will be on WJTN AM1240 later this month), I was at the back of the building where our bird feeders are.  As I stood close to the big picture window, I was buzzed by a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Sharp-shinned Hawk - CornellNow mind you… I was still outside.  This hawk was literally almost in my face!

Whenever you put out birdfeeders, you feed seed-eating birds, of course… but you also feed birds of prey.  This Sharpie was trying to catch a snack…  He missed this time, but there have been plenty of times when the visiting hawks snag a poor unsuspecting jay or dove.

A similar, but larger hawk visited this week, too…  A Cooper’s Hawk, immature.

Cooper's Hawk Immature - Cornell



This fellow (well… one that looked like this) sat for a good long time in a tree outside our office window.  My co-workers, who are all better birders than I, were patient with me.  They didn’t tell me what I was seeing, but asked leading questions that helped me figure it out on my own using my trusty Sibley’s guide.  (Thanks guys!  This is my favorite way to learn… through coaching!)

Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile - CornellA fourth hawk was added to the list this morning.  When I drove into the driveway, two large birds were just above me.  One headed east and disappeared, but the other circled around the driveway and landed in a tree just above where I would eventually park my car.

Sarah and I had both arrived at about the same time.  We sat in our cars for some time watching this bird.  It is often hard to tell a species when you are looking at a juvenile, but with Red-tailed hawks, the belly-band is a key mark.  The individual we watched didn’t seem concerned with our presence and sat quite comfortably on the branch for a long time.  It even tucked one of its feet up, fluffed up its feathers, and seemed to settle in.  I grew impatient, though, and the slam of my car door sent it flying.

Four hawks in four days…  One more day of work tomorrow… Will I see a fifth hawk?  If so, what will it be, do you suppose?

P.S.  Am I becoming a birder?

6 thoughts on “Nature Conspires…

  1. I’m a relunctant birder, too. I grew up in a family of birders, and I remember sitting at the kitchen window watching my mother’s birdfeeders outside and trying to identify, with my older brothers’ help, the different kinds of birds. I was probably only around five years old. Even now, when I see birds, I try to identify what they are…from the tree sparrow to the junco (my favorite bird as a child). However, I also have a hard time with hawks. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Well… darn… Jeff asked me if I wanted to go with him back to a field he passed to see if what he saw was snow buntings or horned larks or both… I said no (being a reluctant birder) When he went, he thinks he saw a rough-legged hawk, too! And I missed it!

  3. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re definitely a birder, Jennifer 🙂 Great post! Red-shouldered Hawks are probably the most common city hawk we have in SF, but they’re my favorite. They have such attitude to go with their beautiful markings.

    Now a Rough-legged Hawk… That’d be a life bird for me!

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