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The Well-Documented Hawk

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I've photographed this sharp-shin at every opportunity. I never tire of trying to capture his beauty and urgent energy.

I've shot him in every light regime, always through windows, for he's wild and spooky.

It's hard to catch him eating. He takes his prey deep into the woods as soon as he has it subdued. A larger hawk would eat in the open, but he's closer to a jay in size than a crow, and he knows he could easily be killed by another raptor as he's concentrating on his meal.

All winter, I found his work.

I never frightened him; I let him eat, and then I'd go to see what he'd left

and who he'd had.

He liked the red ones best.

As poignant as these remnants of beauty were to me, I worried for him when he'd show up, eyes ablaze, so hungry that he flubbed every pass

for surprise is his only friend, and he's unlikely to snatch a bird by hovering over the feeders.

But still he tried, as if he could produce a meal from thin air. And sometimes it paid off, for a finch or woodpecker might be cowering on the side of the feeder. Like the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park, he seems not to be able to perceive his prey until it makes the mistake of moving.

Last spring, an orange-eyed streaky male sharpshin (still in immature plumage) cried out and dove on me as I neared the whitewashed zone of his nest. I like to think it was him, aged two, already paired and raising young. It was the first time sharpshins had nested on our land; I'd watched a nest just over the border about eight years ago, but finally they were on the sanctuary! I hope they are nesting with us again, and mean to find out. Even as populations of its bigger cousin, the Cooper’s, explode in cities and suburbs, the sharp-shinned declines.

Perhaps the woods where I hope they’re nesting will be silent, and I’ll have to wait until next winter to see my ruby-eyed friend again.

I will certainly know him. I have watched him grow in beauty and skill, taken so many photographs of his progress that even I am amazed at the gallery. I don’t begrudge him his living. He is a vital working part of this wildly skewed ecosystem, taking his pay in cardinals.

And leaving us all with an eye to the sky.


A delightful tribute to a beautiful bird. So many beautiful pictures depicting his wild within to his vulnerabilities! ~karen

Love love love the sharpie posts, even the bloody bits. I appreciate that you don't shy away from showing the dark underbelly of nature. We are so insulated, buying our meat pre-packaged from the grocery, that we forget the reality that is the living breathing animal that feeds us--and the hawks. Thanks.

Oh this post makes miss the little sharp-shin that hunted our yard in Washington. We found piles of feathers in different secret spots where he would fly off with his prize. Your photos are beautiful.

I just caught up here...swooning over your moody and magical sharpie photos in the snow. Beautiful.

And, at the end of the post called "Sharpie at the Feeder!" I howled at your reference to showpanmohsin. Love a laugh before breakfast. Thanks.

Julie, I just clicked over from Murr's blog and what a moving post, both words and pictures, thank you!

Beautiful series of posts, Julie. Thank you.

Posted by Anonymous May 6, 2010 at 8:59 AM

Thanks Julie, such wonderful photos and words. Sharp Shins are one of my favorite raptors. I have never been as to close to one as you have, though. Thanks for sharing this.

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