Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spotting Hawks

I went to my training today, and met up with a friend of mine from work. He knows I'm a falconer and is fascinated by the birds. His first question for me as I sat at the table was whether I had seen any birds. I ticked off the eagles, the red tails, kestrels, etc. He nodded his head, and then let me know he hadn't seen a single bird.

One of the things I've come to realize is that most people live their lives half asleep. They are so busy worrying about what comes next, that they don't realize what's happening right now. On a perfect day to view hawks, with a nice long drive, it is almost impossible not to see them. You just have to look.

When you become a falconer, one of the first things you learn when you become an apprentice is how to spot hawks. It's a side effect of America's falconry system. Apprentice falconers are required to trap their first bird out of the wild. Therefore, it is important for the new falconer to learn the new hawk's habits and needs. You look for ducks on water because they find the things they need there. Hawks too need certain things.

I took some pictures with my point and click on the way home, I hope they help.

First off, we'll focus on red tailed hawks. They are common and easy to see. They sit up tall and they are large. Their chest is broad and white and has a distinct belly band.

Now, what does a red tail hawk need? Large tracts of land from which to hunt. An easily accessible perch. A broad view of the surrounding countryside.

Good place to look? On the side of the road. Start by looking at that tree close to home. You know the one, it sits away from the other trees. Maybe it's off by itself. Look in the top of that tree. Now as you drive down the road, there are hundreds of those trees. Peek at them as you drive, way near the top. Look for a large black shape near the top, sitting up.

Not there? Check the power lines, tops of poles. The higher the better. Remember, we are looking for a commanding view.

Flat land? What about those billboards. Maybe on top, maybe on the rail. Look real close, remember they are big.

(look next to the one)

Those big black birds circling way up in the sky? Forget 'em, they are vultures. Sometimes a peregrine will sneak in there and circle with them, or a merlin, but that is getting pretty advanced.

Keep your eyes open, they are there, if you know where to look.


Isaac said...

Who was it that said, "The duck hunter is constantly looking up to the sky, the deer hunter is constantly looking out to the woods, the non-hunter just isn't looking."

...or something like that.

Seems applicable here too.

Doug said...

I've never heard that, but it is definitely true!

Drives my wife crazy that I won't look at the road when I drive. There is just too many other things going on.


Anonymous said...

I always look for hawks. When I was a kid my grandmother told me that sighting a hawk on the start of a trip would bring good luck. To this day I alawys look for one when I'm traveling.

I'm not sure if I see as many hawks as I think I see, but it makes me happy to think I do.

I also stopped by the say Welcome to the OBS.

Doug said...

Thanks Kristine.
I can't help but look for them. Keep your eye on the sky, you will see them everywhere. Thanks for the welcome.