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From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I have grown fond of Harley through Albatrossity’s photos and stories over the past few years, even holding my breath in the fall when Harley arrived a bit later than usual. Today, Albatrossity has a Harley update for us.
I hope you’ll take a minute to read the Albatrossity post from almost exactly a year ago, which provides an interesting perspective as we were heading into the realities of the pandemic.
What follows is an update on Harley from Albatrossity:
Lots of jackals have cats, dogs, ducks, rabbits, or some other pet. I don’t (for lots of reasons), but I do have a nice hawk in the neighborhood who has been my wintertime companion for the past 8 winters now. His given name is Harley (my kids gave it to him), and he is a dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk of the Harlan’s subspecies, Buteo jamaciensis harlani. I wrote a bit about him here last March, at the onset of the pandemic.
He and I have made it through that summer and another winter. He is free to fly elsewhere, I am not. Although I have had both shots of the Moderna vaccine, travel by airplane will probably not be happening for a while, since much of the rest of the world remains unvaccinated and still threatened by the coronavirus. I suspect Harley, however, will head home within a week or so, and I will have to wait until next fall to greet him again. His summer home is somewhere in Alaska or Canada, almost certainly, and calling him with some urgency right now. His mate is probably also on her way home.
I, for one, will miss him here in his winter home. So here are some shots from this last winter to help me remember him until we meet again.
Here’s a shot of him, with a nice snake snack, from about the time when he was last seen here in March 2020, before he headed north for the summer.
For some reason, most of our winter-resident northern hawks arrived very late this season. Typically I see Harley in mid-October; in the previous winter season he arrived Oct. 7, 2019, for example Perhaps the food and the weather were good up north in the fall, but I do confess to some anxious moments as October moved along and he had not yet arrived. This concern was exacerbated when another dark northern redtail (of the western/calurus subspecies) showed up and seemed to be using his favorite perches and hunting spots. Perhaps he wasn’t coming back, and his productive winter territory now belonged to this newcomer. But on November 1, I spotted him, along with the newcomer. He’s on the right, with the black-and-white tail; she has a red tail and is perched on the irrigation system.
They seem to have sorted things out re hunting rights, and both of these birds could be found here for most of the winter. Sometimes. they would even sit side-by side. Notice that she is somewhat bigger than he is; that’s typical for Red-tailed Hawks and many other raptors.
The mid-February incursion of arctic air into the central plains this season was soul-crushing and death-dealing. But most of the local hawks made it through, and indeed I found Harley a couple of days after our coldest night of -21F. Arctic-breeding hawks are pretty tough, I suspect.
Southerly breezes predicted for this weekend and early next week might push Harley north soon, so here’s the last shot I got of him this season. I hope his mate also finds her way home, that they raise a couple of fat and healthy hawklets, and that we meet again in October or November. It will be a different world for us humans, but not so much for Harley.
Love your photos and your writing. Have a great summer, Harley!
Very nice. Is there some sort of watchtower that gets you off the ground for some of these shots, like the last one?
Those pictures are gorgeous ??
Hope he returns later this year.
Great photos, especially the in-flight ones. Thanks.
As always, the photos are spectacular! Thank you, Albatrossity.
(P.S. Also, try saying “nice snake snack” three times, fast.)
Oooh Harley got him a winter girlfriend! So glad they’ve come through and can get started on a busy spring. Looking good!
Wait. How do we know that’s not Mrs Harley?
Albatrossity and hawks on a Sunday!! What a delight – and how wonderful to hear reports of Harley. I bet he was watching out for you as well!!! :)
It’s so interesting to read Albatrossity’s lovely post about Harley that was written last March.
This is an open thread, so feel free to talk about anything.
Will Harley and mate’s kiddos migrate with them next year or will they have grown enough to be on their own?
So, to my surprise, are sparrows[*]. I was shocked to see so many of them during and after the February freeze. There’s a big yew hedge near me that’s noisy with them every evening, I guess that’s where they sheltered.
[*] Or maybe wrens. Or starlings. Some kind of little brown bird. Fairly sure they’re not penguins, anyway.
Thanks for the great report and pics. Safe journey, Harley…..
J R in WV
Thanks for the thoughts today, Professor, and the photos.
We don’t have specific birds we grow fond of, but we do have a parliament of owls on the farm. Big Barred Owls roost in the giant twisted trees up along the ridge top, just a few hundred yards North of the house, behind us. I hoot with them some nights just to be a sociable neighbor, and they hoot back to me.
I wish I knew what they think when they hear me. I’m pretty good at the Barred Owl Typical Hoot, but some nights when there are several owls hooting at each other, sometimes, rarely, they go crazy, and quit their normal call and response, and just shriek and scream together, like mad owls.
That’s amazing, and more than a little scary late at night. I wish I had a way to provoke them into that kind of thing and record it with Hi Quality sound equipment.
And I didn’t care much when the biggest Barred Owl plucked a chicken out of the cedar tree outside the the kitchen at the little old farm house we lived in for the first 15 years out here on the farm. I would see a big clump of feathers in the tree where the Owl first made contact with a yardbird, and then there was a little string of feathers down the side of the tree and across the little bottom, to the site of the dismemberment. I believe Boss Owl then spent the rest of the night taking chicken dinner to the owlets back up on the ridge-top where they nest. It only happened in early spring when a next generation of owls was being hatched. A yardbird is a small price to pay for a batch of young owls. Especially OUR owls~!!~
Thank you, yet again, Albatrossity for the insightful writing. Travels with Harley tells a timeless tale that bears consideration on multiple levels. Them there’s those lyrics from Eskimo Blue Day, which captured my attention when first I heard them and remain a valid appreciation of the human condition.
@BigJimSlade: No, I am at ground level, waiting for the hawk to bank toward me so that I can get a shot like that. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t!
@Amir Khalid: It’s probably not Mrs Harley, since it is thought that Red-tailed Hawks do not typically spend the winter in the same territory as the mate that they spent last summer with. But of course, we don’t know for sure. I do know that Harley has had this winter territory to himself for the 7 winters before this one.
@debbie: Young Red-tailed Hawks generally migrate south in the fall, and back home in the spring, on their own.
I completely missed this when it was posted, but I’m glad I caught it, however late in the day. Just lovely pictures and stories — I feel like these are the equivalent of family portraits, Harley is such a familiar presence.
Thank you for the wonderful photos and commentary.
Even though they eat cats, have a soft spot for hawks since living in NM. Maybe because every now and then they leave a feather.
You really don’t have to worry about a Red-tailed Hawk eating your cat. They would have to be pretty desperate to attempt that. Most raptors can carry something about half their weight. The average weight of a Red-tailed Hawk is 2-3 lbs; they look big, but they weigh less than the average chicken. Most cats weigh a lot more than that!
Not to say that a starving hawk might try to take a cat or kitten, but I suspect that the odds for that cat or kitten to be struck by lightning are probably higher!
What a lovely bonus Albatrossity post. Some of the “it’s been a year now that…” posts can be depressing, but seeing Harley again and in his proper place in the cycle of life is wonderful.