The Saga of Rufous and Henrietta Hawk

The Saga of Rufous and Henrietta Hawk

Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:23 pm

Rufous and Henrietta Hawk are a Cooper's hawk couple who raise their family in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Their territory includes the home of forum member Raptorz4ever, who has kept a diary and photo album of their activities for four years.

For Rufous and Henrietta's history, go to for the full story.

Year 2009 - Fledged 1
Year 2010 - Fledged 3
Year 2011 - Fledged 2
Year 2012 - Brood lost to predator

Now it is 2013, time for a new nest and a new beginning. The hawks arrived back in the Valley Ranch community on February 14, Valentines Day. They are busily building a brand new nest in the top-most fork of a 75-foot live oak tree, well out of harm's way.

February 14, 2013

It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air! Rufous and Henrietta both flew into the cypress tree today to announce their return! It’s really good to see them in their old territory, and I can’t wait to see where they will decide to build their nest.

Last year’s failed nest is still partially intact, with a substantial platform of sticks that could be refurbished. But every time I pass that tree, my eyes trace the predator path that still exists from base of tree right into the nest itself. I do hope they will not return to this tree. However, I am not about to try and advise Rufous and Henrietta on their choice of a nest location. They have far more experience than I do!

Henrietta high in tree; Rufous below

February 16, 2013

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!

February 23, 2013

This morning Henrietta was perched in the cypress tree watching Rufous as he flitted about, moving from limb to limb. Watching him, I knew that he was looking for just the right stick. He snapped one out of the tree, and I held my breath as I watched him swoop out and up, into the live oak tree nearest our house. I could not contain my excitement!

Henrietta is large and has lighter brown feathers on her back.

Rufous’s back feathers are steely grey.

Rufous continued to select sticks from the cypress tree and sometimes from the ground below the tree. Each time he flew up to the same spot, high in the live oak. Thank goodness they are building well out of harm’s way in a tree that is close by. In fact, it is the same tree where they built their first nest and raised the families of 2009 and 2010. The nest is not in the same spot, but close.

Henrietta continued to watch Rufous as he industriously flew back and forth with nest building material. Finally, she reached out and, with a single snap of her beak, captured a fairly large stick and flew with it up to the new nest site.

March 2, 2013

To my chagrin, laborers arrived on Wednesday to repair the walkway that runs directly under the hawks’ nest tree. Their work continued on Thursday and Friday. We are happy to have the walkway replaced, but fear what this interruption has done to Rufous’ nest-building plans.

On Friday and again today, I see that Rufous is an “early bird,” and gets his nest-building done early in the morning. Today, he was finished with his activities by around 9:00. This is encouraging! Hopefully when the workers return on Monday, their noise won’t bother the hawks at all.

I did notice today that the nest appears thinner than it did a week ago. Some of the sticks must have blown down by the wind. On Friday, I saw the hawks mate briefly, so bonding has begun in earnest. Rufous needs to get busy!

March 11, 2013

During the past week, the hawks have continued nest-building on every calm, fair day. They do not work in the rain, and they do not work when the wind is blowing, which happens often in Texas. Despite some downtime, they are making progress on the nest. Viewed from below, you can see that daylight still shines through the nest, so more work needs to be done.

March 16, 2013

Tonight, just at twilight, Jay saw both hawks fly to the cypress tree nearest our house. Shadowy silhouettes close in the gathering dark, they mated, then Rufous side-stepped out and away from Henrietta on the same limb. After a few moments, he flew, but Henrietta remained quiet and still for another fifteen minutes or so before she flew.

March 24, 2013

The nest appears to be complete. Rufous has taken advantage of every nice day to fly in new building material. The nest appears to be almost conical in shape, about 18” in diameter, and maybe 12” deep at the center.

This morning, we saw Henrietta standing on the side of the nest. Is she inspecting Rufous’ handiwork? Is she thinking of laying an egg? Is she surveying her kingdom? Whatever is on her mind, she knows that her work is about to begin in earnest.

March 27, 2013

Disaster strikes!

As I left the house this morning, I saw tree landscape trucks working on the far side of the canal. No problem, I thought, since tree trimming had been done weeks earlier on our side of the canal. They’re just working on the next part. Right? Wrong!

When I returned in the afternoon, they were just finishing up. The hawks’ courtship cypress tree was gone! Sheared off at the ground! The landscape trucks and a wood chipper were parked right beside the hawks’ nest tree. The whining, grinding wood chipper was just finishing the last limbs of the cypress tree. And Henrietta and Rufous were gone!

I sought out the head tree cutter-man and let him have a piece of my mind. I told him the hawks were protected, and he said, “We haven’t touched their tree.” Didn’t care. Didn’t bother. He told me red-tailed hawks had eaten two of his dogs! What a jerk! I turned on my heel and shouted, “Progress!” over my shoulder.

Where are Rufous and Henrietta? Will they return? Why would they?

March 29, 2013

Yesterday, I worried and grumbled about the wood chipper and my hawk neighbors. This morning, I went out early, and – no hawks. But, when Jay left the house around 8:00, he rushed right back inside and announced, “Henrietta’s back on the nest!”

I am so happy. Surely nothing else bad will happen! I grabbed my camera & went back out. Using Jay’s shoulder as a tripod, I snapped Henrietta’s photo from our front walk.

April 6, 2013

All week, Henrietta has spent most of her time at the nest, mostly perched on the nest rim. By Friday (yesterday), she was completely down in the nest, with her tail or head sticking out. From this behavior, we believe there are one or more eggs in the nest. Like all raptors, she lays her eggs asynchronously, about two days apart. Each egg must have time to develop inside her body, travel down her oviduct, and form a hard shell before it’s ready to lay.

On Wednesday, Jay and I had a nice surprise. Nickolas and Nathan, our favorite eight-year-old twins came for a visit, with their mom Kelly. They ran upstairs to the loft and watched the hawk nest using my binoculars. Then they ran outside and could see Henrietta standing over the nest. It’s so much fun to share the hawks with kids, although this pair was more interested in going back to the playground, where they had parked.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw one of the hawks fly to the nest and place a new stick, so they are still working on the nest. This will continue, even after the young have hatched and until they fly from the nest. The hawks have not, however, been seen in the cypress trees, near the tree that was cut down last week. They likely perceive that there is danger in this area, because of the disappearance of one of the trees in their territory.

The hawks now fly into the tree from across the street, where they perch in live oak trees. And this is cause for a new concern. One afternoon, as I was parking my vehicle, Henrietta swooped low, crossing the street, then soared upward into her nest. Her flight path was so low, in fact, that she could have been hit by a car if one happened to drive by. Too much speculation, Betty! Let’s not play “what if” with nature!

April 13, 2013

Rufous has begun to perch again in the cypress trees. Perhaps they no longer sense a threat there now. It’s a good vantage point to keep an eye on Henrietta and the nest. All the eggs must have been laid by now, as we seldom see Henrietta anymore, only a tail sticking out of the nest.

Today, we met a new neighbor. Sreegan lives directly across from us on the corner. He was carrying a DSL camera when he came up to introduce himself, so I showed him where his next subject matter could be. He was thrilled to see the hawk nest.

About the same time, Keith strolled over. He is maintenance man for the condo complex we live in. Keith has been watching the hawks for some time, and has developed a real interest in them. He and his kids have even been looking at our web site and reading about hawks from home. His question: Have you thought about putting a camera in the tree so we can watch them? Boy, have I ever!! Good question for next year. We’ll see.

April 17, 2013

Last night we had a terrible storm. I lay awake listening to the wind howl and leaves blow against my window, thinking about Henrietta and wondering how she was faring. The nest is high in a fork of an up-reaching limb, so it really sways in the wind.

This morning there is no sign of Henrietta. Perhaps she is deep in the nest, but we don’t see her tail.

April 19, 2013

Still no sign of Henrietta.

April 21, 2013

We still see Rufous in the cypress trees, almost every day. Today blue jays screamed at him and chased him all the way to the top of the tree, irritating him so much that he finally flew. I wonder if he had one of their young for lunch earlier?

April 25, 2013

Today, Jay thought he saw a bird in the nest. Going back for a second look, we could not see anything. But… just a glimmer of hope?

April 25, 2013

Henrietta is back in the nest! Her tail sticks out like a giant rudder as the nest flows in the breeze. Where has she been? The nest is so small, only about 14” in diameter, she couldn’t possibly have been down inside… I don’t think. Part of her would have to stick out. She has fooled us like this before, and I am so glad to have her back. Now, how long has she been incubating eggs??

May 1, 2013

We continue to observe Henrietta in the nest every day. Her tail may point North, South, East, or West, but she is there.

This morning, Rufous came to the cypress tree with his breakfast. Here is the crude video I made while he enjoyed his meal, obscured by the new growth of cypress leaves.

Click on pic to view video:

May 9, 2013

Today I walked out to take a look. Henrietta was on the nest as usual, with a tip of her long tail sticking out. As I was watching, a technician with Oncore energy equipment came to check out a utility box near the bridge. His name is Carlos, and he walked over to see what I was watching. Oh, how I love to tell Henrietta's story! He asked me what the hawks looked like, and suddenly Rufous obliged by flying to the nearby cypress tree, where we could get a very good look at him. Carlos tells me that Oncore might be able to supply an electrical outlet from the utility box.

May 14, 2013

We have a hatch! At least one of the hatchlings has arrived!

This afternoon our neighbor Debbie was out walking Charlie, her friendly blonde mutt. (Debbie and her husband Jim have lived in Valley Ranch even longer than we have.) She reported seeing an eggshell near the nest, and Jay hurried out to take a look. Sure enough, he came back with the fragile half-shell cupped in his hand. The membrane inside the egg was still pliable, so we knew a hatchling had recently emerged. We were surprised to find that the egg is almost as large as a hen egg, and I took some photos for comparison. As you can see, the eggshell was smooth and slightly off-white, with tan speckles and swirls. We could detect only the slightest tint of blue in the shell.

May 16, 2013

Last night a Level EF-4 tornado ravaged the town of Granbury, near Dallas, killing 6 people. There was not much to do in Valley Ranch but wait, hope, and pray. We could see the cypress and live oak trees whipping about in the wind, and knew that Henrietta was clinging to the nest for her life and the lives of the tiny, helpless chicks beneath her.

When morning came, I held my breath as I hurried out to survey the damage. Although wind was still gusting, the nest was intact. And there, like a banner of hope in the storm, sailed Henrietta’s tail. What a brave Mom she is!

May 19, 2013

Henrietta no longer hunkers down in the nest to brood her chicks. We now see her mostly at the side of the nest, or braced just above the hatchlings. In the video, you can see how even a mild wind tosses the nest. It is hard to imagine how the nest survived Wednesday night’s storm.

Click on pic to view video:

May 26, 2013

Yesterday I saw Henrietta feeding her brood. Mostly what I saw was a hawk bottom and tail, but the movement of her head told the story. She was bobbing up and down, tearing pieces of meat from fresh prey, and feeding her chicks. I wonder how many there are?

Today Henrietta was perched on a limb very close to the nest and just above it where she had a good view of the chicks. We could see her body and tail very clearly, but her head was hidden. I wonder if Henrietta thinks she is hidden when she can't see us??

May 30, 2013

Jay and I check on the nest every time we leave the house or come back home. Tonight, we looked to see if Henrietta was perched above the nest as usual. Then suddenly, we both saw movement in the nest! A tawny-colored blob appeared right in the center of the nest! One of the chicks was moving about! I ran inside to get my camera, and when I returned there was more movement in the nest -- a flutter to the right, then another tawny blob on the left. There may be three little hawks in the nest!

Henrietta was not happy with our attention. Soon she flew to the nest to make an attempt to settle her now-active brood. Good luck with that, Mama Hawk!

June 4, 2013

Every day we see the little hawks in the nest. At front and center, almost always perched where he can see and be seen is a bold one that I have named Captain Jack Sparrow. To Cap'n Jack's right (our left in the photo) is Matey, who is always there by Cap'n Jack's side but remains hidden except for the top of her head.

On the far side of the nest, I finally found William Tell, and got a good picture of him.

Looking closely at the far side view, I am not 100% certain there's not a fourth nestling in this small band of buccaneers.

About an hour later, I went out to take another look at the little hawks, and found them moving around and flapping their wings. Watch closely, and you'll see all three: Cap'n Jack in the middle, Matey flapping her wings on the left, and at the end of the video, Will gives us a wing-wave from the right.

June 6, 2013

The hawk chicks will not be in the nest very long. They are three weeks old now, and their juvenile plumage has already begun to show. Active, playful, and curious, they flap around in the nest and look about to see the great world around them.

As hatchlings, they were covered with short white down, faintly tinged with a cream color. This natal down has been replaced by a second coat of long, woolly, pure-white down. And now, dark feathers are appearing, first on their wings and tails, then spreading to cover other parts of their bodies. At this stage of their development, the wing feathers (remiges) are about one-third grown and the tail feathers (rectrices) are less than one-quarter grown. The feathers are still partly covered in sheaths that the young birds will soon preen away.

In this photo, as Jack leans down to peer at the ground below, dark feathers are apparent on his head.

And here is a photo of Matey, as she finally pops up (on the left) from the nest bottom to say hello. Jack remains in the middle, eyeing us through the sticks.

June 7, 2013

This afternoon, Jay announced that both Rufous and Henrietta were on the edge of the nest. Of course, I grabbed my camera and rushed outside. When I got set up, there was no sign of the adult hawks, but my jaw dropped when I saw some very good-sized baby hawks up on the edge of the nest. They look like they have grown up overnight, when in fact, they are standing up straight on their legs.

Baby birds move around on their tarsi (sort of like walking on their ankles) until their legs get strong enough to support their weight. Being able to stand up straight is a major milestone in a raptor’s development. And it appears that Jack, Matey, and Will have all mastered the art of standing.

June 8, 2013

Today was a very eventful day! Early this morning, the little hawks were all peering at me from the confines of their nest. I call this photo “Peepers” because you can see the eyes of each one curiously studying the strange creature below.

Later this afternoon, I walked out just to take a look, and there was one of the little hawks, perched on a branch beside the nest! I expected them to begin moving about in the tree next week, but this seems very early! The little hawk perched confidently for quite awhile, and then fluttered back into the safety of the nest.

All the while, Henrietta maintained her vigil only inches above the nest. If she is not perched on the limb in this photo, she is probably somewhere else in the tree where we cannot see her.

We have also seen Rufous on guard duty in nest tree, but more often in a tree nearby. Rufous brings meals to a perch near the nest, where he de-heads and plucks the feathers from his prey. While I was watching today, Rufous called to Henrietta, and she flew out to retrieve the prey he had ready and waiting for her.

June 11, 2013

Another day older, and a whole lot bolder, the little hawks are venturing out into the live oak tree. This morning, one was way out on a limb. I could barely see him, until the leaves started fluttering, and I could see his wings flapping. He remained sufficiently hidden by the foliage that I could not get a photo of him.

And here is the pic everyone has been waiting for! The zombie pic! Here is a shot of a little hawk looking almost exactly like the little zombies in the forum’s slideshow.

While the boldest of the little hawks ventured out into the tree, another tested a small branch close to the nest, while the third remained in the safety of the nest (or perhaps he knows he will have the best chance of getting a meal if he stays there).

Here is a video of the soon-to-be-fledgling doing a balancing act on the small branch.

June 12, 2013

Last night, just before it started to get dark, Jay and I took one more look at the hawk nest. As we approached the nest, I could hear the familiar eee-ewww call of a baby hawk pleading for food. Sure enough, two of the little hawks had flutter-jumped higher in the nest, no doubt to get themselves on the same level with Henrietta, who remained placidly observing them. I took the following photo, which has become a topic of debate and a downright mystery.

Here are zoom shots, showing (1) what appears to be a pair of hawks in the upper right-hand part of the photo, (2) the second little hawk clinging to a branch (upper center of the photo), and (3) the top part of the nest, visible at the bottom of the photo.


(1) In Zoom 1, are there indeed two hawks? Could this be a young hawk with an adult partially hidden on a limb behind it?

(2) In Zoom 3, the nest, how many chicks remain in the nest?

Raptor Central forum members engaged in a discussion about these issues last night, and I tend to agree with Dixnora, who thinks Zoom 1 shows a little hawk and an adult behind it; and two chicks remain in the nest. Pop6 pointed out that s/he has stated all along there are four young hawks in the brood.

On closer examination of an uncropped version of this photo, we found that Henrietta was perched in the tree in her usual place, so if Zoom 1 shows an adult hawk, it is not Henrietta! Hmmm.

Raptor Central forum members convinced me that there are four young hawks, not three! The fourth one must be a stowaway, since s/he has remained hidden so far. We will call him Stow.

June 12, 2013

Today the little hawks were moving in the branches around the nest again. This morning, two of them were perched above the nest. This view of their undersides causes me to doubt that the Zoom 1 photo we looked at yesterday is two hawks.

June 13, 2013

The young hawks are getting bolder and bolder. Jack and Will have ventured out onto a different part of nest tree.

Seeing movement in the nest, I moved my camera. “Aha,” I said to myself, “there are surely two more hawks in the nest.” And indeed there were two hawks. When I loaded the photos to my computer and zoomed in, I was surprised to see Henrietta in the nest keeping Matey company! They both appeared to be intently watching Jack and Will, who were out on a branch beside them.

Later in the evening, around 7:45, I looked out of a window at the front of the house and saw a bird flutter up to the live oak beside nest tree. The awkward manner of its landing made me wonder if it could be one of the fledgling hawks, so I went outside to take a look. I could hear little hawks calling from all around eee-eww eee-eww and there was a great rush for the nest. A food delivery had just been made!

I hurried back inside for my camera, and was able to capture this video of part of the meal. Thanks to Patticake98 and Dixnora for helping to decipher the video. We see five hawks: Two of the hawks have tails toward the camera, bobbing up and down as they eat their food; two of the hawks are on branches outside the nest; and a fifth hawk’s tail can be seen on the other side of the nest, bobbing up and down – this would be Henrietta, helping to feed her little ones.

The two hawks outside the nest may be Matey and Stow, the smallest and youngest of the brood. It is usual for the larger raptor chicks to eat first, and the little ones get what’s left. Hopefully there will be plenty for all. They seem to be doing very well!

June 14, 2013

This morning I was drinking my morning juice and watching out the patio window, when I saw movement in the cypress tree. It was one of the fledglings! I snapped this photo, not a very good one, but it shows the bark and needles of the cypress tree. The little hawks are now flying to trees surrounding nest tree.

June 18, 2013

The fledgling hawks are all over the neighborhood now. Yesterday evening, Jay and I watched two of them as the sun shone through the cypress tree. We could only see their silhouettes because of the sun, but they appeared to be playing a game of “King of the Hill,” hopping from limb to limb, swapping places with each other, and moving higher and higher in the tree.

Today, I checked the nest, where we hardly ever see any activity now. I did see two of the fledglings in nest tree, and managed to get a photo of one of them.

Neighbors frequently look for the little hawks as they walk by nest tree. Casey and Ginger, his red pit bull mix, came by this afternoon. We listened together for the hawks, and sure enough, could hear one calling a little eee-eww whistling call. We will hear these calls for weeks – probably until the first of August – as the young ones call their parents begging for food.

Later in the afternoon, Linda, John, and their dog Sweetie came by, and we spotted one of the little hawks on the roof of the house across the street.

June 20, 2013

Jay had a close encounter with one of the little hawks today. As he was walking toward our front door, the little hawk apparently mistook him for Rufous, and flew straight toward him. The hawk got about ten feet from Jay when he figured out he had made a big mistake and did a fast U-turn, scrambling into a magnolia tree in our front yard.

By the time Jay fished out his smart phone for a photo, the hawk had retreated to the familiar safety of the cypress tree. But Jay still got a couple of pretty good pics using his phone.

The young hawks spend a lot of time in the cypress tree, where the branches are relatively small and at right angles to the tree trunk. The foliage provides cover for them and they can still see out. They move around a lot, appearing to play games: King of the Hill, Chase the Squirrel, Hide and Seek, you name it!

June 21, 2013

About 7:30 this evening, Jay and I walked about watching for the little hawks. We had no trouble finding them! They were in the trees across the street whistling eee-eww eee-eww. Occasionally one would fly back across to nest tree and then back, or out to the dead willow branch in the greenbelt.

Soon we figured out what was going on. It was dinnertime! One of the adult hawks flew to the nest with dinner in talons, and all four little hawks were screaming and flapping and pushing and shoving. Someone – or maybe it was two – mantled over the nest, and two others perched nearby, waiting for their turn. The nest still serves a purpose – it is a dinner plate.

June 22, 2013

I was just about ready to go for a walk, when I saw two of the little hawks fly from the cypress tree up to our roof. I always take my little Canon point-and-shoot camera with me on hikes, so I got some photos of one of the young birds on the balcony near our roof.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of Slats or Silva, I hiked over by the Trinity River, but did not see the hawks, nor did I hear any young hawks whistling for food. Perhaps they have chosen a different nest site this year. I saw plenty of other birds, including several cardinals.

As I came to the end of my hike, I passed under nest tree and saw one of the little hawks in the tree. The young hawk watched me with curiosity as I snapped photos with my little Canon Camera.

No sooner had I gone inside than Susi started begging for her turn. So I slipped her little walking jacket on her and got her leash, and back outside we go! I scurried back indoors for the Nikon camera this time, because there were two of the young hawks low in the cypress tree where I knew I would be able to photograph them.

I speculate that these are Jack and Will, the adventurous pair. And Matey and Stow hang out closer to nest tree. But that’s my imagination! Bear with me!

There very well may be differences in the demeanors or personalities of the young hawks, however. While I was observing, a workman drove out of the greenbelt underpass on a small tractor. Jack remained steady and still, watching him. And what did Will do? Watch the video!

June 29, 2013

During the past week, we have seen the young hawks many times in the trees surrounding our home. Once, I even saw one in the middle of the street! Hopefully they won’t make a habit of that. Here is another photo that Jay snapped using his smart phone:

The constant begging for food has diminished, but we can still hear the whistling eee-eww somewhere after listening for only a few minutes.

This morning, as I was finishing my hike and heading for home, I heard the little hawks calling. I was about a block north of my house, walking along the greenbelt, when two of the hawks flew up to the roof of a house, one in pursuit of the other. They were both squealing “eee-eww eee-eww,” which I interpret as “mine mine mine,” NO “mine mine mine.” Here is the sequence of events that I saw. The first hawk had prey in his talons, and intended to eat lunch on the chimney cover. The second hawk crept closer and closer… and eventually stole the remains of the meal.

Obviously, it was lunchtime. As I reached nest tree, one of the parent hawks made a prey delivery, dropping the food right into the nest. There was a great rush to the nest, with squealing youngsters making a bee-line for the meal. One would mantle over the nest; then another would charge in to displace him/her.

This little hawk waited patiently nearby, watching for an opportunity to steal the meal. I was pleased to note that he/she appears healthy, alert, and active.

July 4, 2013

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!

Later in the day, Susi and I went out on the patio. When I heard a little hawk in the cypress tree, I was glad I had taken my little point-and-shoot camera with me. I could see the hawk on a limb on the far side of the tree, so I kept the tree trunk between us and slipped up on him. Here are the pics I took from the left, then the right side, through the gnarly limbs of the cypress tree.

The young hawk was relaxed and holding one foot out, but when he saw how close I was, he flew, squealing.

July 6, 2013

Today was another great day for a hike, with below-blazing temperature and a soft south breeze. A half-marathon was taking place on Sam Houston Trail along the Trinity River, so I did not really have a chance to see much wildlife. I did see the young Cooper’s hawks when I returned home though. One was perched in the dead limb of an old willow tree beside the greenbelt. Another flew into nest tree, soaring in with wings spread wide and straight like a cross. He looked like an adult bird until I saw the tell-tale streaks on his breast. As he flew into the tree, I heard him call kek-kek-kek softly, so he is already acquiring his adult vocals.

Susi and I went out to the patio for a cool-down, and I heard the chatter of a squirrel. I listened for a minute, trying to determine where he was, when I saw a mockingbird flying around. The mockingbird was not happy; in fact, he was furious, and charged into the cypress tree, where (guess who?) one of the young hawks was stalking the squirrel. Suddenly, the little hawk exited from the tree in a rush, with the mockingbird in hot pursuit right behind him!

July 24, 2013

For days, we have caught glimpses of the young hawks in flight, often one chasing the other. No doubt, this has become more of a competition for food than a game. By now, the flight feathers of the birds are fully developed. The blood has receded from the tender shafts, leaving a sturdy feather that is “hard-penned” to the bone. Only now can Rufous and Henrietta leave their chicks to hunt without fear of injury. The young predators-in-training have all the equipment they need for successful hunting. What they lack is experience — successes, failures, and time must provide that.

We can still hear the young hawks calling occasionally. The call is a little lower-pitched and more strident now. They have probably learned that hunting is best performed from a position of stealth.

Last evening, I walked about listening for the call of a young hawk and heard only the pulsing hum of cicadas, resonating in the trees.

August 5, 2013

All is quiet in Valley Ranch again, except for the trill of mockingbirds and the occasional cry of a blue jay. Today I saw a pair of cardinals swooping low through our yard. A juvenile robin perched on the very cypress branch where I once photographed one of the young hawks. Life has returned to normal for the songbirds.

This morning, while I sipped coffee with my friends Jim and Judie, we noticed flying insects swarming outside. It is the year of the cicada-killers. And so events continue, as one species continues down the food chain to another.

Farewell, Rufous and Henrietta. Stay healthy and return to our back yard again next year. We’ll be waiting and watching…

The End... for now

P.S. A wonderful postscript: Here is a video Patticake98 made of the season!

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  • delete
    Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:15 pm

    I can hardly wait for the next season to start!

  • delete
    Sun Aug 18, 2013 2:00 pm

    Thanks Snowbird! I enjoyed making the video for R4 and I'm glad you liked it. I can't wait till next season when hopefully we can follow your blog from beginning to end, too!

  • delete
    Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:43 pm

    Loved the Video Patticake98 & it bought tears to my eyes.

    A safe journey to Rufous, Henrietta & their family till we meet again next spring.

  • delete
    Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:53 pm

    Dear r4-so many thanks coming your way for the creative sharing of your wonderful hawks. I learned so much and laughed at the antics. Your descriptions made me able to see what you saw more clearly. It feels right that another season has so successfully finished. I'm looking forward to next year-you are a super blogger (among other talents!!)

  • delete
    Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:31 pm

    Last update of the 2013 season, I think! Many thanks to everyone for the encouragement!

  • delete
    Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:27 pm

    Are you seeing them anymore this season, Rap4? How exciting to have such a reason to go for a walk. :)

    Reviewing... to figure out how blogs work.

  • delete
    Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:52 am

    Maybe that old nest is a dining table?

    I wonder how big of a territory the Coopers Hawks claim? We have a nest around here somewhere across the road. We usually see the Cooper Hawks in the spring, fall, & winter but not during the summer.

  • delete
    Sat Jul 06, 2013 2:36 pm

    It doesn't sound like squirrels have much of a chance around raptor world in the cypress tree. Maybe that needs to find a nut tree. Great update r4.

  • delete
    Sat Jul 06, 2013 1:59 pm

    Thanks for another great update R4! You are good at this story telling business.

  • delete
    Sat Jul 06, 2013 1:46 pm

    There are a couple more updates on the young hawks.

  • delete
    Sat Jun 29, 2013 1:25 pm

    r4 and Jay-- Yippeee!!! This must be so much fun to watch. Your continuing 'saga' always puts a smile on my face. You have great pictures and have the perfect way to tell it. Thank you very much.

  • delete
    Sat Jun 29, 2013 1:03 pm

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. I hope you enjoy watching my raptor neighbors as much as I do! I posted a few more pics today.

  • delete
    Tue Jun 25, 2013 7:34 pm

    This has been such a good season for you, The Coopers, and us! Thank you so much for sharing your pics and story with us. Next year cams will be installed when??? Seriously, wouldn't that be awesome but, I know we'll be well informed next season with your pics and story updates. Of course this season is NOT over so keep up posting all the updates and great pics. Thank you R4 for sharing your experiences.

  • delete
    Tue Jun 25, 2013 11:48 am

    Hmmm-looking like a Cooper Colony there. Could it be a Cooper Group?? Hee . Thanks for letting me enjoy their adventures.

  • delete
    Tue Jun 25, 2013 6:53 am

    Great! Thank you! ♥

  • delete
    Mon Jun 24, 2013 1:51 pm

    I missed your last post R4! Now there are 4 new young hawks for you to watch over the next couple of years.

  • delete
    Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:14 pm

    There are 4 chicks & do they look great posing in the trees & on the balcony. Can't blame Will those tractors can be big mean monsters.

  • delete
    Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:55 am

    What great pics! I love reading this blog.

  • delete
    Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:12 pm

    Oh I love this Saga... You are a great story teller R4. Thank you for putting a smile on my face today. I look forward to this!

  • delete
    Sat Jun 15, 2013 10:14 pm

    That was a great video capture R4. I'm so happy for you that you have had such a wonderful experience with Rufous & Henrietta this year and then shared the daily nest activity with all of us. Its been so exciting to watch these little guys grow up and fledge through your eyes.

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