I followed a Red-tailed hawk family through their nesting season this spring. It was quite an endeavor for me as it meant 3 AM alarms and a good hike uphill to crawl into my blind before daylight. It was well worth the effort and I witnessed a number of grand sunrises and the setting of the Super Moon in June. It was truly a spectacular place to spend the morning.
The female was always on the nest when I arrived but flew to a better position to watch as daylight came upon us. She would come into the nest typically bearing a branch of greenery from a cottonwood which she would place onto the nest. The little ones seemed to be very aware of her presence. She would call or scream frequently, especially if an intruder came through. The male, whom had a raspier call, was not always present but would show up occasionally, sometimes with food. I watched as he carried in what looked to be a ground squirrel but was then distracted by a third hawk. He dropped the squirrel and both parents chased off the intruder. I was disappointed in not seeing the arrival of the food to the nest. The little ones spent the day moving around the nest and stretching their wings. At times the Violet-green Swallows would fly by captivating the two chicks. They would extend their necks and visually follow the small, quick bird as it came in close to catch bugs lingering over the nest and the chicks.
I visited the nest sight every 7-10 days and the chicks grew quickly. On what was to be my last visit, the two were quite rambunctious at first light. The larger of the two would jump off the edge of the nest and land on the rock below. My unfounded fear was he would fall off. He eventually took a jump/flight and landed 12 feet below on another rock. This left the younger chick scrambling as he was not sure it was time to leave. The younger chick aborted several attempts, scrambling back up to the nest. He finally “went for it” and landed next to his sibling on the rock below.
They stayed on this rock for a short time as if pondering their next move. They flew another ten feet down and landed on the ground where they hopped down the slope to climb into the cottonwood trees. I lost them at this point and had to say good-bye.
It was a grand morning but I found myself a bit sad as I realized my time with this family was now over. I wish them well and hope to see the parents return next spring to raise another family.