Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, and Bluebirds, Oh, and a Cow

I turn to go, and wait just one minute. In the yard is a tree, a tree with only one limb, alive or dead, a tree that is chock full of cavities! Could there be owls in there? There has to be something, I'm betting. Something or someone who likely comes out at night?

But a friend has asked for me to take a photograph of a particular tree, in prime foliage, with a special shape, out in the country. I've got the directions , but as I'm always getting distracted by the wildlife I'm notorious for "misplacing" myself. I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I head out of town, directions in hand. Guess what?

I follow the directions very carefully, I'm on the right road--eventually, but you know what? There are a whole lot of trees out here and I don't see the "one". I'm just about to turn back...

I glance up to the right, and there is a big female Red-tailed Hawk. Alright! I know to drive past her. Somehow it makes them slightly less ready to flee. But I'm on the right hand side of the road, as is the hawk, and there is no place to pull off. I take a couple shots out the passenger window and remember how one of my cousins who was digging for his camera in the glove box got flattened along with his car, literally with some speed demon watching a crop dusting plane, squashed them both.

She's looking off the other way, looking for prey. I'll chance finding a place to turn around and come back as the other side of the road does have a verge in which to pull off. Off I go. I pass three houses close together. Somewhat unusual out here. Likely relatives who all work this farm. Where is she?

Where did the hawk go?

There she is! She switched trees. I look at her and she looks at me. Perhaps slightly annoyed that I've reappeared to possibly bug her.

Alert, she looks farther up the road. And pointedly watches something.

She rouses. A dusty black car pulls up beside me with an older couple inside. The woman says, "Oh, we thought you were having car trouble."
"No, no, very nice of you to stop and check though. I'm taking pictures of the hawk." I point. The hawk is watching us in a rather relaxed way with interest.
The wife says, " We have a lot of hawks around here. There are Whooping Cranes in the field over yonder." The husband rolls his eyes and says, "Sandhills." I nod.
"Thanks, for the tip. I'll get some pictures of them too."
"Thanks again for checking on me"
As they tootle off, I look back up at the hawk.

No more conversation to eavesdrop on she's decided to head off. Drat!

She heads into the trees just as the black car passes the intercepting road. I'm betting that the hawk is very familiar with those people. They only live 25 yards away. And she seemed far more relaxed about me once they were talking to me. I'm betting that the "lots of Hawks around here" are this female, her mate, and their progeny in the correct season. And she recognizes them in much the same way as Pale Male and Lola recognize those they trust too.

I turn to look at the Sandhill Crane Pair. They are really very far away but the male spots that I'm looking at them immediately.

And in the blink of any eye, the female hunkers down behind the edge of a dip. With only her head visible. I take some photos of the foliage and I notice that there is a flock of small birds flitting around. They go to a wire then flutter to the ground and then right back up to a perch. They are quick. I can't seem to get any under magnification. What are they?

It turns out that they are Bluebirds. A small flock of them. I've always wondered why blue and rufous were good colors to be. Seemed to me that you'd stand out all the time and someone would eat you. But at this season the Bluebirds blend in rather well. And as they are teeny predators perhaps the coloring also helps them sneak up on insects

Even the littlest predator can get "that look" of focus so familiar in Red-tails.

Ah yes, and there is the glare. "You know don't you, that you're disturbing the prey? To say nothing of disturbing me."

What's that?

He fixes on it and flit. The game's afoot!

Then it is back up to the hunting perch. Look how blue his back is in that particular light.

I get the eyeball once again.

Back to hunting.

Ah, Tree Red-tail has returned and is checking me out on the way past.

Tree Red-tail just keeps going. Eventually disappearing beyond the field into the far tree line.
Time to get back in the car to make sure I'm back to where I know where I am before dark.

I pull over to check out something in the hedgerow to my left and when I look to the right, there is Bessie, the Holstein, eyeing me. She does have a very nice set of horns which are perfect for Halloween, don't you think?
Did you ever wonder why in a big herd of Holsteins that there will be one or two Jerseys? For the dairy herd uninitiated, that's the reddish one behind Bessie. Also note that Daisy there has just raised her tail. Do you know what that means? Glad I took the shot when I did. At any rate, the reason for the Jerseys in a Holstein herd. Jersey Cows have milk with a very high butter fat content. It's higher than the Holsteins, which makes for more choice milk. So why not have a whole herd of Jerseys. A few farmers do, but a Jersey doesn't give as much milk as a Holstein, so it's a compromise due to economics.

I'm almost back to Milton, in fact far less than a half mile to the house.

I scan the sky and there is yet another Red-tail, circling across the sky.

Coming my way in fact.

With a lovely glide directly above my head.
I head into the house and open the drape....
Guess who?

Central Park nature photographer Eleanor Tauber made a jaunt to the Conservatory Gardens and made some luscious photographs--here are two to savor.

Photo Eleanor Tauber
The Bath

Photo Eleanor Tauber
And the Water Lily

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