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Yesterday’s post completes my cycle of images from the Svalbard Archipelago. I leave it with more than a tinge of regret, it was the adventure of a lifetime, and I spend a considerable amount of time every day thinking about the trip. But, all good things must end, and with today’s post I’m returning to my still-beloved desert.
A few days ago I was nosing around the riparian area at Sabino Canyon. This year the local Cooper’s Hawks gave birth to and raised a brood of four. The youngsters are now fully fledged and behaving like a bunch of rambunctious children. They will hang around the nest site for another week or two while their parents continue to feed them and then, disperse to fend for themselves. I was walking under a tree when I heard a racket directly above me. It was the kids, bickering among themselves. Suddenly, something dropped at my feet. I looked down and realized that the object was a freshly killed bird, a young Cactus Wren. One of the parents had brought the prey home to the youngsters and, in fighting among themselves for the prize, they’d let it go.
I had a moment of inspiration. I picked up the bird, walked over to a downed log, placed it on the log, sat down in the dirt about 15 feet away, and waited. I could hear the young hawks yelling, now at me, and I decided to see what would happen next. I sat for about 20 minutes as the birds continued to yammer at me. Finally, one of them, the largest of the brood, flew down from the tree and alighted just above the dead bird.
Female Cooper’s Hawks are larger — sometimes much larger — than the males and this bird is a giantess. I have no doubt that she is a female. She sat on her perch for a minute or two longer, and screamed at me once or twice. She clearly knew I was there and it became a test of wills to see if she would succumb to her hunger. She eventually did and hopped down to the log where I’d placed the Cactus Wren.
She spread her wings in order to mantle her prey. Hawks instinctively do this when they capture prey, as if to protect their booty from interlopers. Then, she grabbed the bird in a talon, gave a triumphant cry, and, in an instant, was gone, back into the trees where she could eat in safety.
Young hawks like this one must learn how to hunt. They have the instinct to capture prey but not the skills, and a lot of them never acquire them. This bird’s boldness and aggressiveness may serve her well in the coming weeks and months.
Note: I have a new camera, a Canon 5DS-R. It promises to provide images with a hitherto unimagined level of detail and quality. I’m still learning its ins and outs but I’m hopeful that it will provide a whole new level of photography. The images in tonight’s post were made with that camera and my 180 mm Canon f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by a Canon 600 EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 250, M setting, f7.1 @ 1/160.