Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Commuter Hawks

Also known as "Lucky Strike Hawks" (Caimuponus unexpectedlii).

There are three or four places located on or near my daily commute where I have been fortunate to find interesting or unexpected birds on occasion. On the rare morning when both the weather is clear and I find myself running early for work, I will swing by one of these haunts for a "spot check" to see if there are any visitors worth watching or photographing.

Last Friday morning was one of those rare mornings. The kids had gotten up early for a change and we'd headed out the door before the glow of the dawn sun even began peeking over the tree line. There was so little Friday morning traffic that by the time I neared the office I was half an hour early, so I swung into one of those special places to see what I might find.

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And what a find it was! I haven't seen hawks in this area in years, and never close enough to photograph! And here I found two of them perched together, just waiting to greet me.

I had to wait for the sun to rise a little higher before I could even make an educated guess as to what species I had found.

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As the two moved together from tree to tree along the field and then behind a short row of houses, I was gradually able to pick out enough telltales to determine these were Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus).

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I understand they can be found pretty much year round in Bear Creek Park, just southwest of this area. But with all the apartment and business complexes that have been built in this area in the last ten years, I was quite surprised to find this couple hunting nearby.

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I wasn't able to get close enough to get any good detail shots of the pair, but in these blow-ups you can see the black and white bands on the tail and the reddish-brown bars across the breast.

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As they ran out of trees, the pair found perches on street lamps and then telephone lines, always staying within a few seconds of each other as they settled and waited for a time, then moved on to find another location.

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Only a couple of times did I see them actually swoop down as if at potential prey; unfortunately, they never seemed to find anything worth eating. In a matter of minutes they had left together, hopefully to a location with better hunting opportunities.

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One last reminder of those rich red shoulders that gave this hawk its name.


KatDoc said...

Nice RSHA, Kyle, and especially nice to find the pair together. I think this raptor is on the rise, which is terrific.

Oh, and I really like your common and Latinized names for "Lucky Strike" birds.


Susan Gets Native said...

Kathi's right. RSHA are on the rise.
And they are gorgeous.
This was early morning? God, those birds are ORANGE!

Susan Gets Native said...

BTW, Kyle...I totally stole some pics to use on one of my posts. I didn't have any good ones of RSHA taking off. (I credited you, of course)