Two hawks, one dead squirrel. High drama at the office.

Sure, the office is in a beautiful setting. Almost peaceful with its trees and wildflowers. Within the canopy,  however, different life-and-death dramas play out every day. Here, a red-tailed hawk, harangued by bluejays and mockingbirds, seeks a moment’s respite in a tree with a squirrel he’d caught for lunch.

The rest did not last long. The smaller birds screamed and even bashed him a time or two and he took off for another hiding spot. Alas, that last flight cost him. As he landed, his squirrel slipped from his talons and crashed through the branches.

A a second hawk, who followed the action and withstood an assault by other small birds, cashed in on the lost lunch.

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Hawk No. 1 with his squirrel lunch, which he carried from tree to tree under attack by bluejays and mockingbirds.
Hawk No. 2, the interloper, withstanding attacks from a pair of mockingbirds who screeched and hit the hawk. The hawk, unusually, was undeterred. Red-tailed hawks tend to be scaredy cats. 
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The interloper, keeping his eyes on the prize, just waiting for a free lunch.
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And the loser, wheeling off sans lunch. 

Urban hawk

One of several red-tailed hawks that make the green belt along Coleman Creek in Little Rock’s University District their home. This fellow was probably looking for lunch.

Red-tailed hawk in a tree.
KEEPING WATCH — Red-tailed hawk pauses in a sweet gum tree.
Hawk in tree.
LOOKING DOWN — Hawk checks out possible lunch int he brush below.

Rising above

It’s so good to see our campus hawk cruising the thermals during a lunchtime photo safari.

SOARING SPIRIT -- The campus hawk spirals above the parking lot and green spaces on a beautiful, overcast spring day.
SOARING SPIRIT — The campus hawk spirals above the parking lot and green spaces on a beautiful, overcast spring day.

Own the sky

A very noisy hawk spent part of this morning soaring both on and through the mountain updrafts looking for a meal. She owned the sky.

SKY HIGH — This hawk is little more than a dot in a dramatic skyscape. After weeks of drought, moisture has reappeared overhead, some of it even falling as rain.
ON THE PROWL — The hawk descended below 1,000 feet.

The higher ed hawk

It’s not uncommon for the thrum of traffic along South University Avenue in Little Rock to pierced by the shriek of a hawk. Folks who work at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and the adjacent extension service offices have observed a female hawk nesting in the same place for at least five years. Her landings near high office windows or railings are a delight to watch.  It’s also a relief to her fans that despite the rise of new campus buildings and the demise of some of the higher pines, she continues to make the university her home.

Below, some hawk shots taken during morning strolls around campus.

WATCHING — Hawk perches some 60 feet above campus.
WAITING — Juvenile red-tailed hawk waits out the harassment doled out by blue jays, catbirds and other smaller birds. It eventually flew back toward its nest.
HAWK’S NEST — Described as being “big as a La-Z-Boy.”

Get your gator face on

The Big Buck Classic in Little Rock draws scores of thousands of people during its three-day run. This year’s event at the State Fairgrounds rambled through three or four buildings, including filling the floor at Barton Coliseum.  Arkansas 4-H  and Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas brought some reptilian and avian stars that kept small tight clumps of people forming around their handlers.

SMILE -- This young alligator fascinated young and old at the Farm and Ranch building at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.
WINGSPAN -- Hawk spreads its wings for its handler during a presentation at the Big Buck Classic in Little Rock.

The great weight of ornithological ignorance

In keeping with our lazy naturalist philosophy, we couldn’t ever really be called serious bird watchers. We don’t keep a log, but do have the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America handy, to see just who it is flitting about in the trees. (And a friend of our Minnesota uncle and aunt who is a serious authority on birds.)

QUIET MOMENT -- Phoebe rests for a minute.

Today, we discovered how little we really know about ornithology as we struggled to figure out some of these birds. Below are terrible pictures taken today. (one of these days will have to take out the “real” cameras with the real fast glass to shoot.)

Seen yesterday or  today, but not captured in pixels: Eastern bluebird, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, Eastern towhee, a Carolina or black-capped chickadee, dark-eyed junco and a big red-tailed hawk.

What was captured was a cardinal, and we think, a western wood peewee, downy woodpecker, an eastern phoebe, a hermit thrush and a lone female bufflehead.

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MYSTERY NEST -- About 30 feet up in a deciduous tree. We're not sure what this is.

Ornithology edition-UPDATE

The snow has hit and is falling fast. Friend and colleague Donna took  this shot of a hawk sheltering against the snow just outside her window.  Just amazing!

Red-tailed hawk in pine tree
Red-tailed hawk takes refuge from the snow storm in a pine tree.

This morning:

With a snow storm on the way, the local bird population seemed more active and visible than usual. Dozens of dark eyed Juncos came speed-grazing through the yard, from east to west, almost as if they were stocking up. Meanwhile, eastern bluebirds, wrens and crows were flitting through the bare winter branches.

two hungry birds
Two of a flock of dozens of birds peck their way through the winter landscape.
Wrens fluff their feathers against arctic air.
Wrens fluff their feathers against arctic air.
bluebird pair in trees
Male and female bluebirds -- hard to spot amid the gray tangle of branches.
Goldfinch looks for remaining grass seeds.


Bufflehead cruises its winter home
A lone bufflehead cruises the pond that has been his winter home over the last few years.




Another winter birds scene, 1,700 miles west — this purple finch was enjoying a pomegranate on a cloudy December day in San Diego.

Purple finch
Purple finch enjoys a feast of juicy pomegranates left on the tree.