Hawks! And Private Property signs. Just what is the rule for chasing after hawks when their nest is in a tree that is on someone’s private property? Is there a rule? Am I breaking whatever rules are in existence for this situation? I’m not sure, but I think it’s time I found out. Recently, on one of my adventures out in Lucas, I spotted a hawk gracefully flying through the air. I followed him into a neighborhood called Travis Ranch. It is one of those beautiful neighborhoods in Lucas where the houses are spread far apart and their yards are giant pastures, with barns, barbed wire fences, horses, cows, etc…
Wouldn’t you know it, this particular hawk I was following, landed in a tree in one of these beautiful pastures that was located behind a beautiful house. Lucky for me, I have a pretty impressive zoom lens, so I was able to get some pretty decent pictures from my car! After taking a few shots, I decided to review them on the back of my camera, and I noticed what looked like a nest off in the corner of one of my shots.
Not only was there a nest, but there were a few babies in it! Oh man…this was going to be fun! I took many photographs, but I was so far away, they didn’t turn out like I had hoped. I quickly called my husband and told him that I needed a Canon 600mm Fixed Lens so I could get some pictures of this hawk’s nest. Of course, as I expected, he just sort of laughed and said “Um…no.” So…my dinky little Canon 100-400mm Zoom Lens would have to do.
This past week, I decided to go check on my little feathered friends (on my way to lunch) to see how big they are getting, and to see if I could get some pictures of the babies. As many of you know, a hawk’s nest in Lucas is not really on my way to lunch, but I had some extra time, so it worked out for me, because it just so happens that there is a Wendy’s (my preferred lunch location) in Lucas, right down the street from where I saw the Hawk’s nest!
It didn’t take long for me to find the nest, and through my zoom lens, I could see a couple of the baby hawks sitting up and moving about in the nest. Just off on a nearby branch, the mom sat keeping an eye on her babies. I got lots of pictures, but like I said before, the nest is so far from the street, that the pictures are not as sharp as I’d like them to be.
This is where the private property part of my story comes in to play. I circled the neighborhood hoping for a better (and closer) view of the nest, and as I slowly cruised down one of the other streets, I got a great glimpse of the nest. I was determined to get a decent picture, so I parked my car on the street and hopped out with my giant camera in hand. Those of you who have seen my camera, know that it is not one you can easily hide. Oh well…anything for a great photo, right?
Here I was, creeping between two houses along their tree-line trying to get close to this hawk’s nest, carrying my giant, impossible to hide camera. I got up pretty close to the pasture fence, and I was just getting my camera aimed at the nest, when out of nowhere, a giant blood-hound type dog began barking at me. Oh my God….I had been so focused on getting to the nest, I had not even seen this dog in his yard. Luckily, he was fenced off, because he was not happy that my camera and I were on his property.
It didn’t take long for this blood hound’s bark to alert every other dog within a 5-mile radius of my presence! Oh boy… Let the fun begin. I began a very quick trek back to the car, and on the way, I encountered a giant Lab, 4 Yorkies, and a Jack-Russell Terrier all very unhappy to see me! Fortunately, the lab and the Yorkies were behind a fence, and the Jack Russell must’ve had an electric fence of some sort, because he was just roaming around the edge of his yard, barking like crazy! I kept waiting for him to charge, but I made it to my car safely! The volume of their barking was amazing, and I’m surprised everyone did not come out onto their porches to see what in the world was going on. I quickly hopped in my car a sped off.
When I got home, I saw that I had some decent pictures, but certainly not what I had hoped for. Good enough to share though. So…I sent one to a friend who I knew would be able to identify the hawks, and sure enough, she did. I had discovered a nest of Red-tailed Hawks.
The Red-tailed Hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America. Red-tailed Hawks like to soar above open fields, and sometimes, you will see them atop telephone poles, looking towards the ground to catch the movements of rabbits or other small animals they like to snack on.
Of course, after she identified the hawks for me as Red-tailed Hawks, she casually mentioned how nice it would be to get a close-up shot of the babies. Well…yes it would I thought. But how? I suggested that she come with me and knock on their front door and politely ask if we could go into their yard and climb their tree to snap a photo of the baby hawks. I would happily do the tree climbing and photo taking if she would just knock on their door. Well…she did not go for that, so I have a 600mm zoom lens coming in the mail next week that I rented from ATS Rentals. Or, if you prefer to rent locally, you can try Camera Stop in Plano! If you ever want to try a lens out, these are the places to go!
You can read all about Red-tailed Hawks on the All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website. While I was reading up on them, I came across some interesting facts I thought I’d share with you.
Cool Facts about the Red-tailed Hawks
- The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.
- Birds are amazingly adapted for life in the air. The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about 3 pounds. A similar-sized small dog might weigh 10 times that.
- The “Harlan’s Hawk” breeds in Alaska and northwestern Canada, and winters on the southern Great Plains. This very dark form of the Red-tailed Hawk has a marbled white, brown, and gray tail instead of a red one. It’s so distinctive that it was once considered a separate species, until ornithologists discovered many individuals that were intermediate between Harlan’s and more typical Red-tailed Hawks.
- Courting Red-tailed Hawks put on a display in which they soar in wide circles at a great height. The male dives steeply, then shoots up again at an angle nearly as steep. After several of these swoops he approaches the female from above, extends his legs, and touches her briefly. Sometimes, the pair grab onto one other, clasp talons, and plummet in spirals toward the ground before pulling away.
- Red-tailed Hawks have been seen hunting as a pair, guarding opposite sides of the same tree to catch tree squirrels.
- The oldest known wild Red-tailed Hawk was at least 30 years, 8 months old when it was found in Michigan in 2011, the same state where it had been banded in 1981.
So, the close-up of the baby hawks may or may not happen. Here’s hoping that by the time I get the bigger zoom in the mail, the baby hawks haven’t flown the coop (so to speak)! I’ll keep you posted. Unless one of you reading this post is brave enough to go up to the door and ask permission to get in their tree to take a picture, we’ll just have to wait on the zoom lens from ATS. If you want to come with me and knock on the door, let me know! Otherwise, enjoy the long distance pictures I was able to get! Until next time…