Saturday, January 2, 2010

Red-shouldered Hawk

Happy New Year's, everyone! I want to thank everyone who visits this blog. I've been at this, in one form or another, for a long time - before the term "blog" had been coined. My blog is - for me, anyway - a good place to share some of what I know or am learning about natural history. There is NEVER a shortage of material - if time permitted I could put something up here every day.

I'm also fortunate that a fair number of people stop by to read this blog. Over the past month, people have surfed in from 73 countries and every U.S. state except Wyoming. C'mon, Mr. Cheney, point that browser this way!

Anyway, whether I ever hear from you or not, I'm glad you find this corner of the blogosphere interesting enough to check out.

Now, I know a number of regular visitors hail from places that rarely if ever see snow, and temperatures seldom drop low enough to raise even a goosebump. The next few photos are for you.

Saturday, January 1st, the Wilds, Muskingum County, Ohio. Temperature about 22 degrees, along with strong winds. Heavy leaden skies blocked out any sunlight, making it seem even colder. We were there for the Chandlersville Christmas Bird Count, and, believe it or not, had nearly 40 species in our patch.

Today, January 2nd, on a boondock lane in the backwoods of Hocking County. Temperature: 18 degrees. Deep in this hemlock-choked hollow, blocked of any wind, things did not seem so bad, though. Plus, the Eidermobile has heated seats - a most pragmatic luxury in such conditions! I was there to participate in the Hocking Hills Christmas Bird Count, my sixth and final count of this CBC season.

Anyway, to the subject at hand. An absolutely gorgeous Red-shouldered Hawk allows me to fawn over it at close range. This is one of the world's most beautiful raptors. Adults, like the bird pictured, possess an almost impossibly ornate suite of plumage characters: bright orange-red scalloping below, black and white checkerboarding on the wings, a diminutive bright yellow bill, and a wonderful tail barred in black and white.

Nearly anyone would find this animal of interest. Even someone who had never really looked at birds before would probably be starstruck by this sort of view of a Red-shouldered Hawk. And the viewing opportunities are far more plentiful than they were just a decade or so ago in Ohio, as this raptor has been on the upswing.

This bird sailed across North High Street in downtown Worthington yesterday, right in front of my car. He kindly sat down in a tree at the intersection of High and North Street, across from the venerable Dairy Queen, where I used to go sometimes for lunch back in high school. Many thousands of people pass by this location every day.

The nearby neighborhoods have aged to the point where the trees are now of suitable size to support breeding Red-shouldered Hawks, and the star of this blog post is one half of the local pair. Red-shouldereds have increased in many other urban areas in Ohio, too.


A short vid, showing the hawk and his busy neighborhood. The bird is seemingly well acclimated to people; he allowed me to act the paparazzi a scant 50 feet or so from his tree, scarcely bothering to reward me with a so much as a sideways glance.

The graph depicts the past 40 years of Christmas Bird Count data from Ohio. It doesn't take an ornithologist to see that the story is a positive one. There are likely two factors leading to this recovery. One, the gradual purge of DDT from the environment. This pesticide had terrible impacts on raptors, and caused great declines in many species.

Two, the overall recovery of forested habitats has allowed Red-shouldered Hawks to reclaim many former breeding areas. This is very much a raptor of woodands, and suffered when deforestation was at its worst. Now, as forests are aging they are becoming suitable habitat once again. This holds true even in older heavily treed neighborhoods in urban areas. A common companion species of Red-shouldered Hawk is the Barred Owl, which shares similar haunts. The owl is also beoming a more frequent urban dweller, and many of the wooded ravines in Columbus now sport both the owl and red-shouldereds.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Happy New Year to you too Jim. I am one of your readers that doesn't post a comment every time but I sure do read every word and look at all photos. I find your posts so informative. Gee I learn something almost every time and I am entertained while learning. Good job on the blog and thanks so much for your efforts. They are greatly appreciated. Wishing you a birdy, herpy, botanical New Year. Cheers.

Jana said...

That's a beauty. You've given me another bird to search for.

Thanks for your blog and the links to other fascinating nature blogs.

Happy Twenty Ten!

Cathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donice said...

Hi Jim, I'm a regular reader and slowly becoming a passionate birder - also wanted to say I'm glad to see you in the Sunday Dispatch and will look forward to your columns there, too.

Cathy said...

Here's a revision of my previous comment - the link should work:

That's good news, indeed. Handsome bird.
Appreciate your sharing the beauty and the good tidings.
My partially albinistic junco is the last picture on the scroll down:
Looking Up

Anonymous said...

Great view of this great hawk, love watching them soar here in southern Oh. in summer. Happy New Year Jim, and thanks for past year of great posts!
Gary Wayne