July 4: The Mystery
Independence Day! A relatively cool day (low 90's), perfect weather for a hike and hawk watching. The end of my hike took me under the site of last year's Cooper's hawk nest, the one that failed because a predator took the tiny chicks. I looked up into the tree to see if there were any remaining vestiges of the old hawk nest. There were a few sticks left, probably the ones that formed the beginnings of the nest. And -- to my very great surprise -- there was a long tail poking out of the sticks!! It was a hawk!!
I had my little Canon camera with me, and I wanted to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me, so I lay down on the rock wall directly beneath the nest and took photos. I soon determined that it was one of the Cooper's hawk fledglings, with yellow eyes and vertical streaks on its breast. The young hawk did not fly, but eyed me with curiosity as I snapped photos. It remained still and quiet as I stood back up and left for home.
As soon as I had uploaded the photos, I enlisted the aid of Patticake and Pop6 to try and decipher the mystery. Why had the little hawk picked that spot? Why was it laying on the nest, as a mother hawk would to incubate or brood her chicks? Did it know that it was sitting on the remains of a nest its parents had built more than a year ago? Could it somehow tell - by smell or intuition or some other sense - that those sticks on that limb had once belonged to one of its own kind? Had it followed Rufous or Henrietta to that limb?
Pop6 reminded us that we have seen what may be similar behavior as we watched the web cam of bald eagles at Decorah, Iowa. At Decorah, the parents built a new nest this year, but now that this year's eaglets have fledged, they follow the parents and now frequent the tree where the old nest is located. And Patti, too, thinks the young hawk may have followed a parent there and liked the spot. Simple as that? Maybe, but still interesting!