February 16: The Great Backyard Bird Count
It’s the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count, and that is surely an excuse for a nice hike! I set out, hoping to be able to tick off a couple of Cooper’s hawks I know, but no such luck. Rufous and Henrietta were nowhere to be found.
My hike followed the Valley Ranch South canal, over to Sam Houston Trail Park, along the Trinity River for about a mile, and back along the North canal, a distance of abut five miles and my favorite route.
As I entered Sam Houston Trail Park, I saw the shapes of two large birds in a mesquite tree. Using my binoculars, I could see that they were hawks, and as I crept closer, I was thrilled to see they were Cooper’s hawks! It is the first time I have seen this pair together, although last summer I heard their young calling and saw one of the hawks. Then, during the winter, when the leaves dropped from the trees, I found their nest near the place where I heard the fledglings. In my heart, I am certain that the male is Slats, the 2009 chick raised by Rufous and Henrietta. Of course, I have no way of proving that, but I will take literary license and call this pair Slats and Silva.
I watched as Slats left Silva’s tree and flew in increasingly wider circles as he soared upward. Moving higher with each thermal, he soared north, directly above his nest for two huge circles, then northward. Before long, he returned, wings spread wide, with straight leading edges like a cross.
As gratifying as it was to see these Cooper’s hawks, it was the end of the bird count, for I saw no more songbirds the entire length of the walk along the Trinity. I suppose they had seen the Cooper’s hawks too.
During my entire walk, I did count eleven different species, more than a hundred birds, most of them mallards. On the return leg of the trip, two women asked me if I was a birder. (I have never thought of myself as a birder; after all, birds are raptor food! I considered for a moment how I should respond, then glibly lied, “I do study birds.”) When I showed them my list of species I had counted, their jaws dropped. They had planned to take their kids to the zoo so they could complete a school project to identify a dozen different birds. Amazing what you will see if you just look up, and around!
Continue to Chapter 3: Site of the New Nest
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