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I have a new sport: hawk-stalking...

Yeah, long time, no post. Mostly because I'm lazy. I actually have a bunch of pics I've been meaning to share, but keep not getting around to posting them. But today's batch is too exciting not to; plus I wanted to play with the pics as soon as I got home, to evaluate the performance of my new digital camera.

The first set of pics is a few I took on Monday, of a robin who industriously if precariously built her nest right outside my office windows.

I believe that if you click on any of the pics, you'll go to my Flickr page, and then, you can click on the "All Sizes" option above the photo, to see the full-size versions. All of these have a larger version uploaded, although I did reduce all of them by 1/4 of the size they came out of my camera.


^ This was the basic, non-zoomed shot. Those are my office windows.


^ This was a shot taken standing in the same position as above, but at the new camera's maximum (10x) zoom. Given that I was so relatively far away, I'm surprised that she had her beak open like that, in what I assume is an alarmed or threat posture.


^ Here, I had walked up quite close beneath her, and took this on zoom. (I had to walk close beneath her, she's right on the path to the door of my building.


^ Here, she had flown up to the roof above the nest. She had just been preening, that's why she's all fluffed up.

But, on to the main show...


We've had red-tailed hawks living at Harvard for years now. I think they live on the north edge of the Yard, whereas my office is on the southern edge. But sometimes they do fly down to where we can see them. Occasionally one will come and sit on the roof of the big building next door to me, or in the big tree in the courtyard next to my building, and call, and I can hear them inside. I've watched them circling sometimes, too.

Last week, a juvenile showed up on a low branch of a pine tree as I was walking to the bus in the evening. I didn't have my camera on me that day -- of course, since that juvenile was then joined by a second, and both of them cried until their parents showed up circling overhead. 9_9

That made me vow to always bring my camera, in hopes of catching them again. I just got a new, better camera, and I hoped to get some good shots. Then I realized that I couldn't really wait until they decided to both come down to my part of campus, and alert me to their presence. If I wanted pics of the hawks, I would have to actively go hawk-stalking...

Today was a lousy day, light-wise. I don't know, maybe it helped in some of the pics, to cut down on the back-lighting. I would also warn that these aren't often the greatest pics in the world. I was pretty satisfied with the quality of some of the maximum-optical-zoomed pics, and I think the remaining problems with the pic quality are just a combination of the limits of even a good camera with that range of zoom, plus the difficulty I had in holding still sometimes (even though the camera also has Image Stabilization, it was clear that at times I was testings its ability).

So yeah... hawk-stalking. I did some Googling and found that someone else mentioned in a blog post somewhere that the hawk nest was supposedly up on Oxford Street, so I thought I'd walk up there at lunch to see if I could spot it, or them. As it happened, I was just walking past Memorial Church, in the Yard, when one of the juveniles swooped past me quite close, and about 20 feet away muffed an attempt to grab a squirrel. He then flew over to a light-post in the Yard, near the other end of Mem Church, with me in hot pursuit.



^ These pics and the one above were taken while he was on the light-post.

Then it became a game of pursue-the-hawk, as he flew off from there, and up onto the edge of the roof of Mem Church, hiding in the gutter:


Then the little bastard flew back and forth a couple of times, from the peak of the Mem Church porch roof, to the roof of Thayer Hall, and so on. I couldn't even SEE him on the roof of Thayer, so I started walking north again, intending to walk up Oxford St.


Instead, as I rounded the building, I found a family staring intently at a tree (the Yard is chock-full of tourists at this time of year), and sure enough, there was a hawk in the tree, who as I ran over flew up to a bigger oak nearby, just near the north gate of the Yard, by the Science Center. This was somewhat annoying, as the bigger oak had more leaves obscuring the view.


^ If you look closely at this picture, you will see that below her foot on your right, there's a skinny tail, and a silhouetted shape on the other side of the branch she's sitting on with backlit whiskers -- yes, she has a rat under her foot.



^ This is not a very good (sharp) pair of photos, although you can see the dead rat more clearly. I just liked them for showing her fluffing up all the feathers on her head, for some reason. While I'm not posting it because it wasn't very interesting, I also got a shot of her from behind that showed that SHE is one of the adults, with a fully red tail.

(I am using gendered pronouns arbitrarily here. I really couldn't tell the gender of any of the birds. I think the only way you'd be able to tell is if they conveniently landed next to each other -- which bonded mates will actually do -- because the males are noticeably smaller than the females. But none of the ones I saw today landed in that much proximity to each other.)



^ Perhaps the adult was responding to this -- all the time she was sitting there, there was a juvenile on a branch above her. The upper photo here isn't great, but you can see his open mouth as he was crying at her, wanting to be fed. The lower pic is better (more worth your going to see it full-size). On both, I think you can kind of see the horizontal banding on the tail-feathers, which the adult's tail lacks. (Better shot of that below.)

Juvenile red-tails are the same size as the adults, once they are flying; but you can tell they're juveniles because their tails are brown, rather than red. (They turn red around age 2.)



^ Far from taking pity on her offspring's cries to be fed, the adult just mantled her wings and starting tearing the rat apart herself. I choose to imagine that her line of thinking was, "you'd better learn to hunt for yourself, junior, if you want some of this yuuuummmmmmy rat!"

These are also not good-quality pics. I have a ton that are just blurs. It was proving really hard to keep still enough for a good pic, and I think the camera kept trying to helpfully focus on the leaves or the branch she was on.



^ Finished eating, she turned around to peer down at all the people who'd gathered around to watch and take pics.

The lower pic is probably one of the best quality ones I uploaded in this batch, and is worth clicking through to look at in its largest size.


^ Then the adult flew away, leaving junior on the branch above, unsure what to do next.

And that was my lunch hour up, so I helpfully pointed out the juvenile still in the tree to some tourists, and went back to the office.

I foresee more hawk-stalking attempts in the immediate future. If I understand these things correctly, there are only a few more weeks while the whole family hangs around, and then the juveniles are likely to depart. I don't know whether the adults will depart for a few months, or not. It'd be cool to figure out the nest location before that.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
Ooo, pretty.
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
Well, except for the dead rat. ;-)
Jul. 25th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
*handwave* It's all part of the harsh beauty that is the circle of life. Etc. etc.
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
Great shots! Tell me about your camera!!
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
It's this one:


I got it at BestBuy last weekend; it runs about $250.

Given its cost and that it's not the highest-end, I'm pretty pleased with it. On July 4, I bought a Nikon CoolPix for the same price, which was very sleek and pretty, but the picture quality just was not All That. The reviews on the Canon were good. Short of getting an actual SLR or something, I think this is pretty worthwhile.

I also tested it on doing indoor shots, and macro shots, which it did very well. (Within the next few days I'll probably post this one pic of my cat's nose which was like wow.) And it photographs surprisingly well without a flash. (It's kind of cool, you have to manually flip up the flash for it to activate at all, making it easy not to use it.)
Jul. 24th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
Wow, I was impressed with the picture I took in the car, but these are great. How's it doing on batteries?
Jul. 24th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
The ones that came with it are so-so. Lasted for about 150 pictures? Maybe more -- it was flashing at me when I ended today's session, but they hadn't fully crapped out yet.

It takes AAs. I got a set of rechargeables, so I'm about to charge them up and reload it. We'll see if they last better.
Jul. 24th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Those are great!
Jul. 24th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
I love these photos! Love them! and I'm glad to see you post.

Also, I sent you an email recently! Did you get it?
Jul. 24th, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)
These are just fabulous shots!!!! Very crisp.

Thank you for posting them, they're just great. *hugs*

PS. That rat never had a chance. :)
Jul. 24th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, such fabulous pics! Hawks are such gorgeous birds. Very, very cool.
Jul. 24th, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)
OMFG, if I may say. These are so incredibly gorgeous!!!!!
Jul. 25th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
Oh Holly, these are fabulous!!! Really, really fantastic! The next time I need a reference photo for a painting with a hawk in it, may I have permission to use some of these! This post has made my day!!! Thank you so much for sharing them with me...Hawk Stalker - sounds like an Elf Quest name to me! What a wonderful thing to be doing! We see hawks all the time in our area, but rarely have that good of an opportunity to see them like that! Assuming you had the "zoom" function on? you could not possibly have been that close! Please, as you continue to "stalk" these amazing birds, keep sharing the pictures! I suspect we will all keep watching for them...
Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
And... replying to this one, too, to see if you get notification of it...

(Also -- of course it's fine if you use any of the pics for reference. :)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )