Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hawk Eyes

BIRDS of prey have always been somewhat of a mystery to me. You see them on posts at the side of the interstate, sometimes soaring overhead in the woods. But always so far away, until today, when we were lucky enough to see a wild hawk in closer proximity than ever before. We first noticed a sound not unlike seagulls. Clearly not seagulls in Atlanta, we traced the sound to two large birds in a tree. A naturalist confirmed they were red-shouldered hawks, possibly drawn by members of their own species kept in captivity at the center for rehabilitation. They circled in the sky a couple of times, then landed again on a branch not 15' from the ground. The hawks were then perfectly obliging, staying neatly in place as we crept closer to admire them.

As they flew, Emma noted that they didn't flap their wings. She thought they were very clever to spot little animals on the ground while flying high above, so we decided to train our eyes like hawks as we continued our walk and see what we could discover. It worked! We made a new identification (to us) of an Eastern towhee, then had our first sighting of the season of turtles basking on a log. We also discovered, sadly, a red-bellied woodpecker "sleeping" at the base of a tree, which Emma covered with a leaf blanket. Even Alexander learned something. He's been squawking like a hawk (or is it a pterodactyl?) ever since.

Some fun facts:
  • "Hawk" is a general term used to describe the entire group of diurnal (active by day) predatory birds
  • Hawks can see in colour
  • Most hawks pair for life
  • Kestrels don't have such great eyesight, but they can see ultra-violet light. This enables them to see the trail left by their favourite food, voles.

No comments: