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I’m sure many of us think of cyclical events when we mark the change of seasons. For those living in the north, for example, the first snowfall probably signifies the advent of winter. When I used to live in the Washington, DC area, decades ago, I identified spring with the blooming of cherry blossoms.
Now, living in southern Arizona, I equate the true beginning of spring with the return of Swainson’s Hawks to the local farmlands. These big hawks — cousins of Red-tailed Hawks — are migratory. In spring and summer they are native to the western plains of the United States and Canada. In autumn they migrate thousands of miles to Argentina’s pampas. And in spring, they return.
It usually starts with a trickle — one or two birds here and there — followed by dozens, then hundreds of birds in huge flocks. There will be early mornings when pecan trees and fields in the farmlands will be festooned with Swainson’s Hawks.
I look forward to the Swainson’s Hawks’ return every year. Beginning in mid-March I make weekly drives to locales in the farmlands where these birds traditionally gather. For the past two weeks I’ve gone out there and seen nothing, not a single Swainson’s Hawk.
But yesterday morning, as I drove past a stand of pecans, I looked ahead and saw a familiar shape on one of the trees.
As I drove on, I saw another, then another, then still more of these hawks. Not that many, altogether, perhaps a dozen birds, but a definite harbinger of what will be coming within days. The Swainson’s Hawks are on the move — spring has arrived.
I have the same experience with these birds every year. My pulse quickens with my first sighting. I am a bit emotionally overwhelmed some days later when I see hundreds of Swainson’s Hawks darkening a single field. And, then, I become a bit jaded towards the end of the migration and after encountering thousands of Swainson’s Hawks.
But now is no time to be jaded. I am excited to see these birds because they signify renewal. There will be much activity to photograph in the coming weeks and not just Swainson’s Hawks.
Image made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1250, f5.6 @ 1/4000, +1 stop exposure compensation.
This is a great photo, did you take this?
Yes. I take all of the photos that appear on sonoran images.
A sure sigh of Spring, I’m still waiting for their arrival. Nice image.
Love the detail, looking forward to your upcoming captures.
One wonders how so many raptors can find enough prey in one area to survive!