The nest, exposed to the wind, rain and sun sits at eye level from the side of the hill. The moon and the stars of night watch over it. Mid morning the high-pitched skreeee of an adult Red-tailed Hawk alerts everyone and everything in this small valley that mom (or dad) is coming home with a meal. Three small white puffs of down don’t seem overly excited by this development. It takes a lot of energy to just hold that wobbly head up and really, mom is going to rip little pieces of that once living rodent into bite sized pieces just right for a little hawk to eat. And eat they do, and grow they do.
This is not as unremarkable as it might seem. Two years ago a huge, violent hail storm killed the three hatchlings of that year. Last year the scene was similar yet different, adult hawks standing on the edge of the nest, looking down at the three lifeless forms that seemed fine the day before. Those little guys probably were poisoned by the food the adults brought, a small amount of rodenticide may not kill an adult but will surely kill the little ones.
A good friend called and said the hawks were back on the nest. Getting a ring side seat is not always an easy thing, so the invite to come on down was welcome. This particular red-tail nest is a tad over two hours from home but the trip is through interesting and beautiful country. The decision to make the trip about once a week was easy.
So we watched these kids grow up knowing that fledging and adulthood are not a sure thing. Getting them there takes a lot of work. Finding, catching and getting those gophers and small snakes to the nest isn’t the end of it. Protecting the nest from potential enemies of the young hawks is also a full-time job. And there’s the neighbors. Land in the wrong tree and the adults are assaulted by (in this case) Stellar’s Jays, Robins and, unexpectedly Bullock’s Orioles. And that’s for just sitting there.
I don’t know of a finer pastime than watching the world unfold as it should. Hope you agree, here are a few shots of “our” red-tails growing up.