Patience, Grasshopper

Patience reveals treasures for both the hawk and those who attempt to observe it in action.My first notice of the Red-tailed hawk was when it came out of nowhere and perched in a tree at the edge of a farm pasture. I got the camera on it and grabbed one shot before it launched to the far side of the field, to perch atop a fence post at least 100 yards away from where I sat.

After a short time, the raptor relaunched and sailed, a foot or so off the ground to another post; it quickly dove from the post and glided low over the grass, talons extended, in what turned out to be a failed attempt at dinner and then, obviously frustrated, flew to an adjoining pasture. I know the feeling of knowing whatever I’m seeking isn’t going to be found where I’m looking.

I followed the hawk with the camera but lost it again as it went behind the farmhouse. I slowly drove up the road, looking back behind the farmhouse for the hawk.

Suddenly, there it was, on the ground near the fence. I let the car drift mostly off the road and stopped far enough into the weeds that other cars could get by. There would not be many, I knew, but experience has shown that a guy with a camera only rarely makes drivers think there might be something interesting they can’t see on the pavement in front of them.

A car, by the way, makes an excellent “blind” for watching wildlife. Often I have come upon a herd of deer or a bird of prey and there was nary acknowledgement of my presence as I passed by.

But stop the car or, having passed the best sight angle, back up to see what I missed, and off they go. They know that vehicles regularly pass by. Sometimes, they stop. But if the vehicle backs up, or humans get out to walk around – that ain’t normal.

Some critters are more crafty. Great Blue Herons, for instance, do not mind so much being seen, but they are camera shy. I’ve coasted the canoe up close enough for a shot and had the heron stand peacefully for the admiration. Then I’ve picked up the camera and pointed it in the direction of my subject – which immediately launches to fly some distance along the shore, like a playful dog not ready to go home, jogging just out of reach of the guy holding the unattached leash.

There are human cultures, also, that don’t like having their pictures taken.

My window already was down as I rolled gently to a stop adjacent to the hawk and watched it eat, its body between me and its prey so I could not see what it was dining upon. I poked the camera partway out the open window pressed a few frames. The bird cocked it’s head at the sound, decided it was coming from me, and went back to his dinner.

About 100 feet away, slightly up hill, alight on another weather-dried and cracked fence post, an adult Red-tail surveyed the field where its offspring stood guard over its meal, neither eating nor escaping. Red-tailed hawks mate for life, though if one partner dies, the other will find another mate. Together, the parents raise the chicks to self-support.

Eventually, I went home with several really neat portraits of the youngster, including two with its nictitating eyelids partially closed. That’s the third eyelid some creatures have that allows them to continue seeing while it sweeps and moistens their eyeball, sort of like a human wearing goggles while swimming.

All it took was a camera, patience, and a whole lot of luck.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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