Monday, February 11, 2008

Birds-in-Flight: Cooper's Hawk

Four species of hawks have been observed in the Colvin Run Habitat: Red-Tailed Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and Cooper's Hawk. In our birds-in-flight series, we showed the first two in the last two postings. The Sharp-Shinned Hawk has been photographed, but never in flight. The Cooper's Hawk is perhaps the most frequently observed hawk in the Habitat, but the least frequently photographed in flight.
In the last post, I discussed the poor technical quality of some of the in-flight photos - low light, hawk subject in motion, photographer in motion, difficulty of auto-focus when hawks are in the trees. In these photos of the Cooper's Hawk, we eliminate the low-light and photographer in motion challenges. In the first photo, the Cooper's Hawk is stationery. In fact, he allowed me to get directly under his perch 15 deep up a tree; he then stayed still for several minutes while I photographed him. The result was a clear, crisp photograph.
On a different day, but with similar lighting, I took the last three photos. The Coop was stationery, perched about 30 feet up in a different tree. I approach a step at a time (that is, approach, stop, photograph, take one step, then repeat). When the Coop gets uncomfortable with my approach he takes to flight.
When the Coop did take to flight, he simply leaned foward and began to glide (second overall photo) - wings are tucked. As seen in the last two photo, the Coop finally extended his complete wingspan and began his down stroke.
These are great examples of the Cooper's Hawk navigating in flight through thick tree branches.

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