As I was approaching my 'observation station’, a sheltered elevated patio on a wooded suburban property, I heard one of the hawks calling. This is always happy news for me. It tells me the hawks are nearby and eventually they may orient me to their location.This pair of hawks has nested in the area for years and is accustomed to people coming and going. Another human presence is nothing new or alarming. However, I am very aware that I am a visitor in their territory and that they see me far sooner and with more scrutiny than I can ever see them. My desire is to observe their natural behavior as much as time and timing will allow. And so, I am careful to not disturb, to be as still, quiet, slow moving and deliberate as possible, and to keep a respectful distance when I do know their location.
The hawk continued to call so I searched through the tangle of limbs along the border of the property and into the next yard and movement caught my eye.
The back lighting produced a silhouette image, but I snapped photos anyway, knowing I might learn more through the images. As I looked through the lens, I could see sticks, lots of sticks and realized I was looking at the nest. (Surprise # 1.)
The nest is relatively small and certainly inconspicuous. In the above photo, you can see the hawk placing lichen, moss, leaves, some kind of leafy matter in the nest. I suspect this is for the soft lining, though its impossible to know. Though the photo is poor, it at least confirms that this isn't a 'maybe' alternative nest, but their choice for the season.
After several minutes the hawk called again, this time a long series of rapid bark-like notes, ‘kar-kar-kar’. This was repeated several times and then the hawk flew. After I was sure the hawk was gone, I took the opportunity to walk around to the other side of the nest to see how it was positioned in the tree and to get a better look without the glare. Notice, below, how difficult the nest is to see, even when you know where to look. Follow the two large limbs (at the top) down to the formation of the main trunk. The cluster of rust leaves hang underneath the nest. This is what you see if you look for the nest. It is positioned in a spot where more than one tree comes together to form the support platform. And from any view from the ground, very little of the nest is visible. Soon leaves will be popping and I suspect it won't be visible at all.
The first and last photos are images of the male. Next: When both hawks return.
This is the fourth post in a series on a pair of Red-shouldered hawks. To see the entire series, click here. The first post will appear last.