Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Hawks of Spring

Some people wait for robins, others look for swallows.  Spring comes to my world when the red-tailed hawks return to the old oak off of my back deck.   

Our lot sits on the edge of a steep hill that runs down to Hinkson Creek.  The 100-plus foot elevation drop is probably why they call it Cliff Drive, though it is more of a steep hill.

Each year, a pair of red-tailed hawks returns to a stick-and-leaf nest in the crotch of a very tall oak tree near the creek.  Because the tree sits way down in that little valley, it barely comes to eye-level from our deck.  The nest, in fact, is slightly down hill, offering a great view of the hawk family via a spotting scope.

Some years the leaves pop out so soon that we see only glimpses as the brood develops.  We hear them, though.  The babies cheep loudly and whichever hawk parent has nest duty loudly screams to the mate for more food.  Life is tenuous for the squirrels in our woods when the hawks are in town.

Spring is quite late this year.  So late, in fact, that a freak snowstorm dumped nearly 10 inches of snow on top of the nesting mom.  I thought she had fled, but the next day her head popped out of the snowbank.  By noon, she had the nest cleared and was back to warming the eggs.

Cecile, God love her, has enjoyed watching me photograph the hawks as much as I have enjoyed watching them. She made my day by insisting I buy a decent telephoto lens this year. So, while I started the season with a 55-250 mm on my Canon T1i, I now can peer into the next with a Sigma 150-500 mm lens.  Even with the big gun, the nest is just a small part of the frame that must be enlarged. It also only works well at that distance if the camera is on a tripod.

But I'm entranced with this feathered family. With any luck at all, I soon will be able to use that big (but not booming) Canon to take photos of the hawk chicks. Meanwhile, I've started a gallery of my photos on Flickr.

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