Tag Archives: red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)


She is the goddess of the hunt.  She is the goddess of fertility and childbirth.  She is the goddess of the forests and hills.  She is Artemis.  And she is known to me.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched in a treetop (2009_10_23_033199)

Like Baket the female Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) who lives and nests close by, Artemis, a female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), has lived near my home for some time.  She has raised children in the woods around Dixon Branch for at least the past five years.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) looking at me (2009_10_31_036080)

She and her male companion are no strangers to love.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a branch (2010_01_24_049066)

Though I have watched them for many years, they always have nested in dense woodlands that surround the Sunset Bay confluence at White Rock Lake, and more often than not their nest hid in the treetops of one of the many small islands that remain inaccessible to all but winged visitors.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a low branch (2010_01_12_048378)

Yet several weeks ago I sent a missive to a few friends letting them know both Artemis and her mate had expanded their territorial display to areas further south of their normal range.  In addition, I had watched them investigating several large trees outside the woods that historically had cloaked their nest.  I felt perhaps the two raptors might move into the open—relatively speaking—and that perhaps careful observers might have a chance to watch them nest and raise young.

A mated pair of red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) at their new nest (2010_02_20_049858)

Then yesterday under a sky dark with heavy clouds, I found it.  As you can see, she was settled in the nest while her mate stood beside her.  Both had just arrived with twigs to add to their nursery.  And they did in fact choose a tree outside the near impenetrable forest.

They remain within their territory, yes, but they now offer me an opportunity which has never been offered before.  All things being equal, the location and height of the nest indicate a distinct possibility to watch them rear young.

Four score and four months ago

Seven years ago today I began a wee experiment: this blog.  My capricious tendencies have seen it through many incarnations.  It has traveled across domains and has lived and died on multiple platforms and multiple servers.  Historically I gave it a face lift almost as often as I posted.  Yet through all of that, 84 months have passed since it came to life in 2003—and it’s still here.

Through this online journal I have met many fantastic people.  It has gifted me with new friends and it has helped me find a community of like-minded individuals.

Blogging also has given me a chance to exercise my writing and my photography.

But why did I start?  More importantly, why do I still do it today?  Instead of trying to answer those questions anew, let me republish something I wrote last November, something that perhaps was meant more for this anniversary than it was the random writ it seemed to be at the time.  Hereafter is The journal is the thing, only this time I will augment it with images of my favorite kind of creature: raptors.

* * * * * * * * * *

A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) flying overhead (2009_12_13_044565)

Should I waste that which spills from my soul?  Should I dispose of haphazardly the many tellings which spring forth from cluttered and uncluttered thought alike?  Such writs take shape with ease, gleaning from life’s treasures the simple and complex notions that wind their ways through labyrinths of ideas until finally taking shape in the guise of pedestrian words.  Dare I forsake such a thing?

I am but a tool in the hands of creativity.  A lithe bit of sandpaper destined to remove sharp edges from nature’s display.  A rigid scythe meant to clear a path through grasslands too overgrown to be enjoyed by the masses.  A sturdy bridge meant to convey observers across imagination’s mire.  And a supple cloth to dry the sweat from a hard day’s work.  These things am I…  And more.

A male American kestrel (Falco sparverius) perched on a wire holding prey (2009_11_28_042860)

Green pastures stretch out before me like maidens lying in wait for gentleman callers.  Hills rise like breasts from an earthen mother, and shores stretch like her lips around warm waters.  Trees sway in the breeze like dapple braids of hair touched by loving hands.  If indeed life is anything more than existing, it is a consummation, a marriage betwixt what is and what can be.  I fear ever denying the embrace of this seductress.

In the tiniest of things I find inspiration; in the notation of them I find being.

A juvenile sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) hiding in a tree (2009_12_20_046363)

I reap from fields sown of the universe’s seed.  What comes from me, then, is the simplest interpretation of the greatest mysteries.  To find magic in a single leaf hanging above my head while I travel paths ancient and new…  To bend a twig and find upon it the hopes of a timeless soul wrapped in winter’s slumber…  To stand by the riverside and hear sweet whispers from the commotion that hides beneath its still surface…  Ah, to live in the now, in such a wondrous place, and to never wish to lift a pen so that I might complete the journey that I began…  Blasphemy, it is.  I would rather die.

Why toil with clumsy language?  It remains clumsy only in the hands of those unlearned in its use, uneducated to its robust expression, and unfamiliar with its mystic secrets.  Nay, the journal is the thing in which I conceal and through which I perform.  Find within its borders the vellum of life, a papyrus upon which I paint in fine and broad strokes of words every bit of me, and every bit of the world where I reside.

A red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2009_12_20_046514)

Catharsis barely scratches the surface of why I blog; expression even less.

I find everywhere the riddles begging to be solved, the confidences left openly where none shall see them only to be discovered by those truly looking.  By the rhythm of the sentence and the cadence of the photograph do I reveal such things as much to myself as to others.

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a limb (2010_01_12_048405)

For decades have I reveled in the joy of the journal.  For almost a decade has that joy found new life in blogging.  The universe opens her dress for me, welcomes me to her bosom, holds me close as I ponder the magnificence of her being.

Never could I give it up.

A female Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) flying overhead (2010_01_24_049071)

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)

[2] American kestrel (Falco sparverius); male

[3] Juvenile sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus)

[4] Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

[5] Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus); female

[6] Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii); female

Another baby

When the Cooper’s hawk triplets made their first appearance, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be getting to know them during their childhood.  I also didn’t realize how much I would be affected when they started moving away to find their own territories.  White Rock Lake, as far as accipiters go, belongs to their parents, so I knew all along the triplets would eventually leave, yet spending most of the year together let me know them as more than just predators, more than just raptors.  They became individuals, unique personalities who were as recognizable as my own face, each a distinct being with habits and ways shared by no other.

Because the threesome lived a few steps from my door, they filled my observational time and caused me to miss some of the other children born and raised at the lake.  For you see, at least five breeding pairs of hawks nest within the 2,100 acres/850 hectares of this park: the Cooper’s hawks nesting near my home, a pair of red-shouldered hawks nesting in the woods of the old fish hatchery, a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting in the woods at Boyscout Hill, a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting on the arboretum grounds, and a pair of red-shouldered hawks nesting in the woods around Dixon Branch.[1]

You might remember that last pair, the red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) nesting around Dixon Branch.  They offered a spectacular public display of affection in February.  I might add they repeated that display several times.  And afterward I expected to see the usual brooding and rearing activities followed by the eventual appearance of one or more juveniles.  I unfortunately spent all my raptor babysitting time with the Cooper’s kids, hence I failed to track down and monitor the red-shouldered nest built not too far from my home.  I saw the parents regularly, of course, but never the offspring.  At least not until now.[2]

A juvenile red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched in a treetop (2009_11_26_040845)

Perhaps a week ago when I stepped outside early in the morning, a great avian raucous filled the air.  Crows, titmice, towhees, mockingbirds and a few wrens made such a fuss that I ran inside, grabbed the camera and dashed to the woodland edge to see what was happening.[3]  I could only view the target of their ire through a tiny opening in the trees.  Still, I had no problem identifying what had the birds so upset: a juvenile red-shouldered hawk.  I snapped a photo before making the five-minute run around the trees to a spot on the floodplain where I hoped to have a better view.  The entire scene disbanded while I traveled, and only the sound of mobbing crows moving in the opposite direction told me what I feared: the hawk and its pursuers had gone the other way.  As my luck would have it, I would have been better served had I remained in my original spot since that’s where the birds went.  Oh well…

Then just two days later on a very gloomy, very cloudy morning, I meandered along the treeline around Dixon Branch and stopped cold when I noticed something perched in a low branch of a massive cottonwood tree.  I at first thought it an owl since I could only see it from behind and its colors played in the browns of the woods that surrounded it.  One shadow against another from my position, so I circled at distance until I could see a profile view.  Suddenly I felt tremendous joy thinking somehow I was making up for lost time.

A juvenile red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a tree branch (2009_11_28_042486)

I moved as a snail might move, slowly and cautiously, and I never stared directly at the young hawk.  I used sideways glances and peripheral vision, and I let the camera shield my face as much as possible so the hawk could not see my eyes.  Mostly it looked elsewhere with a few occasional glances in my direction.  Yet it didn’t leave even as I drew myself beneath the same tree.

A juvenile red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a tree branch (2009_11_28_042491)

Then in came the crows, five of them, and though they had no interest in the hawk (I don’t think they knew it was there), the juvenile still took flight and vanished into the woods.  I followed it with my eyes and saw it land on another low branch not too far inside the forest.  So off I went again.

A juvenile red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) hidden in the woods (2009_11_28_042512)

I found the one nearby opening that gave me some kind of view of the bird, albeit not a clear one.  After capturing a few more images, I left the raptor in peace.  Just seeing it, especially seeing it close by, left me feeling great joy at the continued success of our local hawks.  And it left me feeling that perhaps I hadn’t failed to enjoy more than the Cooper’s triplets, that perhaps in being surrogate parent to them I had simply waited later in the year to find more of the local children.

Now I’m just hoping for an opportunity to photograph this youngster when there’s better light and fewer obstacles…

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[1] Additional raptor breeding pairs might reside at the lake.  Those I mentioned represent the five distinct pairs I have thus far identified, though a single person covering such a large area hardly can be certain of exact numbers.  Other accipiters or even falcons might nest here, and owls might nest here (owls definitely roost here); however, I doubt other buteos nest here given four resident pairs who occupy strategic territories around the park’s perimeter.

[2] Given the time of year, I at first suspected this to be a winter migrant.  Since our first encounter, though, I have seen it repeatedly—and I have seen the adult red-shouldered hawks tolerating it within their territory, even within the very woods where they nest.  The two pairs of red-shoulders leave each other alone only so long as each pair remains on its respective side of the lake.  The same is true with the red-tailed hawks.  In light of this usual détente by distance, the adults tolerating this juvenile within their territory of many years leads me to believe it must be their offspring.

[3] The location of the bird mob and the number of species involved made me think that perhaps the bobcat was around.  As it was just after dawn and sufficient light existed to get at least one or two photos, I hoped that was the case as the feline has so far expertly outwitted my attempts to get a few pictures.

Let them sing

In songs I cannot hold I feel the world touch me.  In places I cannot go I find myself wandering through a landscape of music.  In voices familiar I find unknown friends.

Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) singing from a tree branch (2009_03_08_012482)

I cannot deny the totality of my failure.  More always can be taken.  I have no escape from that palpable lesson of loss.

A drake wood duck (Aix sponsa) calling out at sunset (2009_02_13_008525)

Yet I find that dark moment at least partially illuminated with the brightness of song, a chorus of voices innumerable and vast.

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) calling out from the treetops (2009_02_03_006168)

Like carolers some bring their gifts right to my door, yet others I must seek out like opera.

A domestic greylag goose (Anser anser) honking as it swims by (2009_02_03_006504)

The calls of life surround me, blanket me in a warmth that permeates the darkest cold.

A domestic Indian runner (a.k.a. Indian runner duck or runner; Anas platyrhynchos) quacking at sunset (2009_02_03_007053)

Standing witness to this musical legion balms the open sore of failure and begins healing the wounded self.

A Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) singing from the bushes surrounding the patio (2009_01_31_005332)

It’s somewhat like taking alms from the universe.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) calling out (2008_12_07_001616)

Yet I feel no shame in receiving this charity, this gift from those who have it to give.

A male northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) singing from a treetop (2009_02_20_010310)

Let them sing.  And let me lose myself in the singing.

For even today the needful, lonesome calls of mourning doves filled the shadowy hours of dawn, and I let my eyes climb the tree outside the patio as they followed the plaintive calls to those offering their voices to the chill morning: a pair who had already built a nest in the outer branches.  This can help.

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

[2] Wood duck (Aix sponsa), drake

[3] Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), female

[4] Domestic greylag goose (Anser anser)

[5] Indian runner (a.k.a. Indian runner duck or runner; Anas platyrhynchos), domestic breed

[6] Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

[7] Great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus), male

[8] Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), male

It’s that time of year

I recently said to nathalie with an h, “It’s that time of year.”  I was referring to many forms of life that use the warming weather to narrow their focus on that one thing that ensures survival: procreation.

She responded, “I didn’t know that.”

Being European, devilishly pretty, linguistically blessed and accented to a level that draws men in like flies to honey, and exceptionally sexy, she can play the dumb blonde card and get away with it.

We her friends know better.

But I digress…

Truth be told, different species do different things, yet the most visible efforts to protect a genetic lineage begin at winter’s end.

I mentioned that to her as I spoke of some recent images I captured.

It all began innocently enough…

High in the treetops came the shrill, powerful call of a female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus).

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched in a tree (2009_02_22_010494)

From my perspective, she might as well have been on the moon for the distance and obstacles resting between us.  Still, I know this species and I know that cry: either a challenger was nearby or one mate was calling to the other.  In either case, I considered it wise to snap some pictures.

Within moments another hawk swept in over the trees and landed near the first.

Male and female red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) perched in a tree (2009_02_22_010496)

So they knew each other.  I wondered if they were mates.

I suddenly had a flashback to “My Cousin Vinny” as Marisa Tomei stands there smacking her foot on the ground in rhythm with her words as she says: “Well I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married…  Meanwhile, TEN YEARS LATER, my niece, the daughter of my sister is getting married.  My biological clock is TICKING LIKE THIS…”

Something about that scene coupled with the first hawk’s adamant screaming told me what to expect.

It took about five seconds for my pondering to become solidified in truth.

Red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) mating in the treetops (2009_02_22_010498)

The male who landed on the same branch promptly hopped-cum-flew to a new position that made everything clear: she had been calling for him; they were mates; and it was time for a little “doing the nasty” right there for all the world to see, right there perched high in a tree on a sunny day with the commotion viewable by anyone, and all despite naked limbs jostling to block the view.

Red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) mating in the treetops (2009_02_22_010499)

I almost felt intrusive for taking photographs of the whole ordeal.


Although I laughed at the porno extravagance: her screaming “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!” while he smacked her rump and looked all too serious.  Suddenly a great deal of humanity’s silliness made sense.

One thing that’s beautiful—seriously—about nature is that it’s in your face with splendor and candor, the beauty of the universe without all the anthropocentric nonsense we humans like to thrust upon it.

Shame for invading their private moment?  That faded before it became apparent.

As did the intimate moment.

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched in the treetops as a male flies away (2009_02_22_010500)

His business tended to, the male lit a cigarette, rolled over and climbed out of bed.  He had his jeans on and was out the door before I realized he was done.

I’m sure the female felt the same way.

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched in the treetops (2009_02_22_010505)

She leaped to another branch with a sudden interest in looking casual and calm, a collected and cool woman not so interested in appearances as in addressing the perpetual tick of the clock only she could hear.

You should have seen her throw her hair back with that dismissive way that brushes even the most serious suitor out the door…

And him?

A male red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) flying above the treetops (2009_02_22_010527)

Oh, he smoked his cigarette as he did his little aerial victory dance right above the trees.  He circled and circled, low at first, then slowly climbed into the blue heavens.

Meanwhile, she did her nails and put on her makeup.

I had to wonder about all that hurrying he did this time, and then to run out the front door without even buttoning his shirt first, as though he had to rush home and wash his hair.

Somehow I figured she’d forgive him, let him slip beneath the covers, kiss him on the cheek and welcome him into her boudoir without hesitation—as many times as necessary to get the job done, I mean, then she’d kick him to the curb and make him mow the yard, clean the house, feed the kids, and fix the roof when it started leaking.

As for Nathalie: Yes.  Uh-huh.  You know you like it.  That’s right.  Who’s your daddy?

I have to go wash my hair now…