Our local Audubon bird-watching group met today. It's a small group, led by Tania and Stephen, a team of very knowledgeable experts. They know about Rufous and Roxie, but I am reluctant to say much about the hawks in front of group members. After all, most bird-watchers do NOT like to have Cooper's hawks in their frame of reference. However, this group seems to tolerate Rufous and Roxie in their spectrum of bird interests. As our stroll along one of the Valley Ranch canals came to an end, Stephen noted that we had seen plenty of phoebes and swallows (the focus of our watch today) but not much else. At that point, Nancy suggested, "Why don't we continue this way and take a look at the Cooper's hawk nest?"
Have I mentioned that the nest is hard to locate from the ground? Well, this group pointed out three other nests in the tree before they finally spotted the hawk nest, high and sequestered by leaves, in the live oak tree. And then, of course, they could discern the shadowy shape of Roxie, keeping her vigil above the nest. As we moved from one vantage point to another, little buffy white shapes began to stir about in the nest.
It was a fun experience for me, and others seemed to enjoy it too. Stephen pointed out a great egret and then a green heron further down the canal, and the group moved on to put a very satisfactory end to their day of observations.
A rainy period has begun. Storms are all around us, and about 2.5 inches of rain have fallen today. I think about poor Roxie and wonder how she is keeping her chicks dry. However, whenever there's a brief respite, I walk out to check on the nest, and there is Roxie, drying off on her perch above the nest.
Today we had a visitor. Chris Bushman, who is Operations Manager for Valley Ranch, came to our door looking for someone who could tell him about the hawks in our area. Jay responded, "Well, here's the hawk lady right here!" as I came bounding down the stairs. Chris had learned of the hawks last summer when plans were announced for landscape improvement in this area. Alarmed that the hawk habitat might be included, numerous Valley Ranch residents (including yours truly and Tania, the Audubon expert) circulated emails to make sure the landscape people knew of the hawks' existence. Over the winter, many improvements were made along the canal area, and no hawk was bothered. Now, Chris was here to find out if it would be a good time to trim trees. (Yikes!) I can't begin to express how thankful I am that we live in a community that values ALL of its residents, even the winged ones!
|Chris walked about with us to see where the nest is located and could see Roxie firmly entrenched at her guard-perch. He could see a little peeper looking down at him.
And then, as if on cue, Rufous flew overhead to a rendezvous point across the street; Roxie called her "whanh" call and flew to retrieve the prey he had delivered; then she flew to our neighbor's rooftop and began to prepare a meal for her chicks. Rufous then flew back overhead, as if to say, "Did you get a good look?"
Chris smiled and told us he could see this is the worst possible time to trim trees, and this area could wait awhile, perhaps until fall. What a relief! While the hawks are accustomed to lawn mowers, utility workers, sanitation workers, and porters cleaning the canal, trimming their trees would be stretching things for them.
Storms, wind, and heavy rain have persisted all week, with water overflowing the canal several times. North and South Texas have experienced flooding, and several deaths have occurred. And still... baby hawks are growing and have to eat. It must be a challenge for Rufous to feed his family during fair weather, much less watching for a window of opportunity and making sure he takes advantage of it!
This afternoon, the skies began to clear, and I looked out to see John, a member of the bird-watcher group peering up into nest tree. I walked out to chat with him and saw that he was concerned that the nest had fallen during the storms. This is just another example of how well-concealed the nest is! He was relieved to see the nest and baby hawks moving about. I hope he was able to get a few good shots of the nest and Roxie, who was also there, as usual.
Continue to Chapter 10: Feeding, Flapping, and Footing
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