Friday, January 18, 2013

Cooper’s Hawk, Madera Canyon

I was nearly past this Cooper’s Hawk before I saw him. Close to the road and perched low in a tree, he surprised me.  I slowed the truck, made an illegal  U-turn and returned to him with only a small, scrubby tree standing between us.  
   Luckily, there was no one else on the road except bicyclists during my early morning drive up Mt. Wrightson.  Early, but already I’d seen three guys on bikes slowing cranking up the mountain through Madera Canyon. Having been in bike shoes before, I knew they were thinking of the fourteen-mile coast they were going to enjoy at the end of this day.  

The Cooper’s Hawk probably knew I was behind the tree…they’re not dumb.  They hunt birds by sight and the nearly leafless tree wasn’t disguising me. To get his picture though, I had to show myself, so I hoped I wasn't in his comfort zone.

Walking in a zigzag pattern, he didn’t startle.  He expelled a few loud, hissy calls, but not directly at me.  I didn’t know what to make of his vocalizations.  If he was upset, he wasn’t frightened.  

I zigzagged through the scrubby grassland, each time getting a bit closer to him.  He remained unconcerned with my presence…good!  I got to where I had to stop advancing or he wouldn’t fit into the frame anymore.  That’s unusually close.  He tolerated me politely, to a point of ignoring me all together.  Satisfied with my pictures, I retreated. As I drove away he was still perched in the truck’s rearview mirror.

A few hours later I saw him again or maybe it was another Cooper’s Hawk, I can’t say.  Appearing suddenly, as is Cooper’s Hawk style, all the other birds vanished.  Attempting a bird-lunch, but missing…his cover was blown.  

In need of some feather realigning from his thrashing through the underbrush, he rested for a while. Soon he was ready to try another lunch venue.  He flew away. 

I’m glad I saw him, I’m glad I stopped and I’m glad he stayed.  For a bird that doesn’t benefit one bit by allowing me access to him, he was certainly gracious to me today.