The Hawk in My Tree
In mid-November 2009, not quite two weeks after I took the window peeper photo that I shared in my previous post, I had a very unique opportunity to photograph yet another feathered window peeper. During the previous few days, I learned to look high through our picture window into the tree to see if I could spot the peeping doves, but on this day, I quickly saw a new window peeper – a beautiful hawk!
I could easily see the hawk perched up in the tree, surrounded by oak leaves that were turning a deep red color all around where the hawk stood. It was such a magnificent sight to see the hawk literally blending into the colors of the tree, and I could not have set up a better photo opportunity if I tried. Right away, I knew that I needed to try to capture a photo of the hawk, if possible, and that task proved to be easier said than done.
My desire was to capture a good close-up photo of the hawk because I knew an opportunity like this would likely never come again, and I quickly improvised a unique setup for my camera, as pictured above. I won’t say it was a particularly safe setup for me as a photographer, however, as I had to climb high in the air to get to my camera with only a little step-ladder to assist me in that process. Fortunately, the hawk was very patient and did not move as it watched me set it up, and I can only imagine what the hawk was thinking as I spent the next thirty minutes trying to figure out how to mount my camera in a spot that was high enough to capture the photos in the best possible way. Even though I was concerned that the hawk would fly away as I approached it closer and closer on the other side of the window, thankfully, it never even moved the entire time.
Once I could finally see the hawk up close through the lens for the first time, I was amazed to see that it was perched on only one leg!
As I took photo after photo, the hawk continued to perch on the same leg for almost three hours, and I quickly began to wonder if the hawk had lost its other leg due to an accident of some kind. I dropped all of my chores around the house during this time to just sit and watch the hawk, and I even shared my experience in real-time with some good friends and family members by phone and internet. I was very concerned for the hawk’s welfare, and a woman at a local wildlife refuge encouraged me to continue to keep an eye on the hawk to see if it might show a broken leg at some point.
Finally, almost three hours later as I was truly distraught from worry, the hawk slowly brought its other leg down to the branch.
I was so happy to see that sight. The hawk still favored that leg just a bit, though, probably because the center talon was broken. Fortunately, the hawk seemed to be fine overall, and at that point, I realized that I was witnessing a truly unique sight – a hawk with a disability.
A few minutes later, the hawk embarked on a beautiful flight to another tree across the street, then it finally flew away from our neighborhood toward the west. I said a quick prayer for the hawk’s safety as it left my sight, too.
A few days later, I told several neighbors about my experience with the hawk, and over the course of the next few weeks, other neighbors also spotted the hawk in their own trees from time to time. Some of them joined me in watching out for the hawk on a daily basis, and none of us ever saw the hawk struggling in any way, even though it would sit for long periods in other trees on occasion, too.
I will always remember this special November afternoon when I was blessed to spend some up close quality time in the presence of this beautiful hawk, which I later learned was likely a Sharp-shinned Hawk. We spent several hours together with only a window separating us, and I came to learn more about hawks that afternoon than any other time in my life. I know this unique opportunity will likely never come my way again, too. Thankfully, I have some great photos to keep as lasting souvenirs and to share with others, and I even framed the photo below to hang in our home.
I often think about this beautiful bird, wonder how it is faring, and even look up in my tree on occasion, hoping it surprise me and make a return visit once again to my tree as the leaves are turning beautiful shades of red in November. What a wonderful site that would be!
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