By Dan Weisz
While taking a walk in the neighborhood one recent morning, I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a cypress tree in the yard of a house. The sun was to my left so much of the hawk was in shadows. The hawk was certainly aware of us while we walked down the street directly towards it.
After we finished the walk, I grabbed my camera (of course) and returned to the area in hopes that the hawk was still perched. This time, I approached it from the east and walked through a bit of open desert to see it. Even from 50 yards away, the hawk was aware of my presence. It would look down at the ground, and then look at me.
Although I was motionless, the Red-tailed Hawk stopped to give me its full attention.
Then, it decided to turn 180° while still keeping its eyes directly on me the entire time.
It settled down facing the opposite direction. In the field, I noticed that white spot behind its eye.
A closer look showed that the bird had a small, downy feather stuck there.
It roused before settling down, relaxing and setting all of its feathers in place. It then pooped. Those two actions let me know this Red-tailed Hawk was preparing to fly off.
Then it ‘blinked’ with its nictitating membrane. The sunlight on that membrane caused the eye to glow. The nictitating membrane is a third eyelid that is used to both protect the eye and moisten it while maintaining vision.
And then, the Red-tailed Hawk took off. It flew to the right, opposite of where it had been facing, but kept its eyes on me the entire time through take-off. The pose in this photo reminds me of a ballerina (with its wings spread while on tiptoe) as it pushed off with its legs while beginning a downward thrust of its wings.
Gathering its wings for the next push, the Red-tailed Hawk still maintains its focus on me.
And on it goes, gaining height…..
…gaining height and speed….
And finally, here is the Red-tailed Hawk’s last image is it turned and flew off.