Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Red-shouldered Hawk Encounter

Having recently moved up into the skyline forest above Monterey Bay, I now have a window into the world of some of the local birds, particularly the raptors that inhabit and hunt in this area.

One of these is the Red-shouldered Hawk, of which there appear to be a couple that regularly visit and vocalize in the tall Monterey Pines that surrounds my home. As soon as I hear their distinctive call, I grab my camera and head outside in the hope I can both locate them and capture a worthy image.

Yesterday however in the early evening, I noticed something quite large fly right by my living room window. I cautiously headed outside not wanting to spook whatever it might be and noticed one these beautiful birds perched at eye level in the adjoining pine. It had in its talons a grey rabbit, which it subsequently lost grip of leaving it fall to the ground below.

The rabbit was clearly dead at this point and knowing that it would not leave its prey, I quickly snuck back inside to get my D500 with my 200-500mm lens (currently one of my favorite body/lens combinations for wildlife photography). The hawk was still sitting on its perch when I returned as I slowly and carefully positioned myself for an optimal view of the rabbit. These birds are easily spooked, so I had to be as quiet and inconspicuous as possible.

With the fading light, I decided to shoot video of the hawk returning to it's meal. Kneeling down low, I gently rested my lens on the balcony of my deck and focused on the the rabbit.

Well, it took quite some time before the hawk decided to return to the rabbit and as I kneeled as still as possible, I felt my feet and the bottom half of my legs going completely numb! It took about half an hour before it returned to the rabbit and began to enjoy its evening meal. I shot several minutes of footage before I really needed to move and get the blood flowing back to my feet!

Red-shouldered Hawks usually hunt by watching from a perch, either within the forest or out in the open, swooping down when they locate prey. They sometimes fly very low in open areas, taking creatures by surprise and may use hearing as well as sight to locate prey. Adults have distinctive dark-and-white checkered wings and warm reddish barring on the breast. The tail is black with narrow white bands.

Seeing this stunning bird at such close proximity was an absolute thrill and I hope you enjoy (assuming you are not too squeamish), this short video I was so lucky and as always...privileged to capture.

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