Monday, December 29, 2008

Hundred Hawk Day

We began the second day of our Christmas road trip from the Colvin Run Habitat to Frisco, Texas, by leaving Memphis, Tennessee. By the time we arrived in Frisco, we had counted 105 hawks of various types, sizes, and colors - all while we were traveling at 70 mph along I40 and I30. The highest hawk density was between Memphis and Little Rock, Arkansas, where we observed an average of one hawk every 2 minutes = 52 hawks in 107 miles. In the bright sunshine and brilliant blue skies, spotting them in small groups of trees and on posts and rails was quite easy. Maybe ten were observed in flight.

A good number were hawks that we are familiar with - red-tails, red-shoulders, even a few sharp-shinned hawks. On three occasions, we observed red-tails swooping down from a post or tree to grab a small rodent. On two of these observations, the red-tail was parallel to the line of our travel. On one of these observations though, the hawk came right to left across the road to grab something on a very wide median - no problem as the hawk was well in front of us. However, after picking up the prey, the hawk made a U-turn and came back across the road. At that point, I had to swerve the car to avoid taking out the hawk with my windshield.

There were several hawks observed that are not frequently seen in the Habitat or on the East Coast. I believe that on two occasions, we believe we observed Golden Eagles. Even though we had observed several red-tailed hawks of considerable size, the size of these golden eagles was remarkable. Their all brown exteriors was in stark contrast to the white, white/brown, or reddish brown breasts of the other perched raptors. A quick bit of research showed that while the golden eagles do not nest in Arkansas, they do winter in Arkansas. We hope we got the observation correct.

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