The nest is located in the main fork of a large tree, but the hawks also made use of a neighboring tree limb that formed the third brace in the platform. And though the nest is primarily constructed of sticks, the dry leaves hanging from the nest make me think they also incorporated a squirrel's nest. What self-preserving squirrel is going to argue?I had just opened up my watercolor sketch kit and begun to paint when a hawk called and flew past me. Now, when I say flew past me, I'm not describing a great distance. He flew past me within 10-12 feet. I now realize, in hindsight, that where I normally sit provides a front row seat to the pair's activities, a location right beside their flight path and several favorite perches. How lucky can one person get?
I didn't see where the hawk landed and because I was still feeling some concern about disrupting nesting activity, I continued with my sketch rather than look for what turned out to be the female. In the second photo above you see what I managed to accomplished before my attention was soundly grabbed by more hawk activity.
This time the male began calling from across the culvert. I reached for my camera, but by the time I lifted it, I was watching the hawk fly past with prey in his talons. I was astounded again by the speed and efficiency of these hawks. Repeatedly, realizations of what I have just witnessed trail the hawks' swiftness by many seconds.
To my surprise the male landed on a branch in front of me and looked toward the female. Heart-pounding surprise #2. While I was trying to get my lens oriented to his new position, the female flew to his perch and hopped over him to grasp the prey. He flew to a different perch.I watched the female eat her food offering. This was clearly a prey exchange, one of the behavioral rituals that bonds a mated pair of hawks during the breeding season. When the female finished eating, she picked up the inedible remains and dropped them over the side of the limb.Above, she checks her perch for any other remains and cleans her bill, below.
Next: The male returns.
This is the fifth post in a series on this pair of red-shouldered hawks. To see the whole series click here. The first post will appear at the bottom.