Icy Red-shouldered Hawk

Photographed in situ [1]

Tonight as the temperature plummets down to 10°F, much of the bird activity has come to a halt. Robins and chickadees sat quietly on their perches, and woodpeckers hunkered down in their hollow refuges. Cardinals and sparrows were some of the only ones that I saw out and about, carrying on relentlessly with their foraging duties. In the past few weeks, it’s been hit and miss for me to locate a pair of barred owls, and after narrowing down where I’ve heard their hoots, I thought tonight might be a good opportunity to observe them in a snowy setting. Snowfall provides a wonderful opportunity for owls to hunt— irrelevant noises from afar become muffled, while sounds that are close by become far more conspicuous by comparison. But unfortunately, for visual predators, like hawks, the discomfort of the chilly weather probably outweighs any potential benefits. In the afternoon I had spotted this red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) high in a tree, fluffed up and hidden out of view. With branches and leaves covering up its body outline, it took me a second to realize there was not one, but two hawks together braving the cold. The pair refrained from huddling side by side, keeping about one foot of distance between them. I returned at night to see if they were still there, and they let me get very close.. unwilling to lift their feathers and dispel the heat they had taken so much care to conserve. After circling them quietly for a while, I eventually realized it was impossible to photograph them together nicely because of all the obstructing leaves. In the end, with very little feeling in my fingers left, I at least managed a photo of one of them with a small collection of ice on its head.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and all the ice has melted. Red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks are now occupying their roadside and telephone wire perches again, eager to make up the food deficit they had incurred. Photographed after pursuit [3]

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