I recently had the opportunity to photograph a Red-shouldered Hawk up close. He was on a tree branch next to the main path around my favorite pond and there were no sticks in front of his face! Ted and I were walking together and didn’t see the Hawk until we were quite close.
Red-shouldered Hawk – click image for larger view
The Hawk was unconcerned about our presence and after taking a few shots I continued on my way, turned back and got a profile head shot. It’s not much of a photograph with no background, but I thought it was interesting to see the feather and head detail.
This is the tree the Red-shouldered Hawk first chose when he first left the open area with his frog lunch. He was much more protected than on the ground but I could tell he was still uneasy as at least two other Hawks were calling nearby.
He took to the air again and I thought I had seen the last of him. I turned the other way back towards the end of the pond to watch the herons and heard a kerfuffle of wings and squawking off to my right.
I’m not quite sure what happened next as my view was obstructed, but soon the Hawk with the frog changed direction again. You can see a third Hawk in the tree in the background between the tail and wing of Hawk One below.
He went on his way without being followed and presumably finished the frog in peace.
I had been watching this Red-shouldered Hawk as he watched a low marshy area from a nearby branch. When he spotted lunch it was just a matter of seconds from branch to capture.
I was fortunate that he landed in a sunny spot several feet below where I stood giving me a good view.
He held his prey with both feet. When I developed the images I could see that lunch was a frog.
He ate little bits at a time, tearing pieces off with his beak. He changed directions several times with little hops. I could hear several other Red-shouldered Hawks not too far off and there was a small flock of Ibis about 10 feet away.
I doubt the Ibis would challenge a Hawk for a meal, but I’m sure other raptors would. After eating part of the frog the hawk re-arranged himself and his grip.
A minute later he flew up into a nearby more protected tree, then flew down the pond to a higher vantage point.
I heard them long before I saw them while I was walking around one of the ponds near the swamp. They have a plaintive whistle that they tend to repeat over and over, and over. I finally spotted them in separate trees about 150 feet (45 meters) apart, casually watching each other. The path I was on went between them.
A pair in this territory raised three chicks last season. I never saw the nest but after the chicks fledged I watched them on training runs through the trees several times.
My path eventually took me closer to the hawk on my left and a slightly different angle.
These are more shots from a grey day in late December. It snowed here all day today basically leaving the greater Charleston area paralyzed so I’m revisiting some skipped images.
I heard several Hawks calling around Magnolia Cemetery but didn’t see any. Sometimes they perch on head stones or in the trees around the pond. Oh well, nothing wrong with getting photos of an Ibis displaying his tree landing talents. I’m guessing he didn’t see the Hawk, either, as he executed a perfect touch down.
He blended right in so I lightened him a little. You can find him in the photo above by following the Ibis’s beak in a straight line left. Below, the Ibis has passed the Hawk.
You can see from the other photos that the Hawk moved only his head, neither intimidated by the Ibis nor thinking he’d make a good meal.
I did spot the Hawk after a few minutes and got a now deleted photo of one wing disappearing over a Magnolia tree.
Old-growth swamp forest, to be more precise, and a great home for Barred Owls. Some of the trees here are 1000 plus years old and the water circulating around them provides a perpetual feast for owls.
There are currently two pair of Barred Owls frequenting the boardwalk area maintained by Audubon South Carolina. We heard them calling to each other in the distance throughout our visit and then spotted this one napping.
Dappled lighting through the leaves and the stillness of the owl makes me wonder if we walked past his mate without realizing it.
Beidler Forest sits within the Four Holes Swamp, a 45,000-acre matrix of black water sloughs and lakes, shallow bottomland hardwoods, and deep bald cypress and tupelo gum flats. Four Holes Swamp is also a major tributary of the Edisto River, part of the Charleston area’s famous ACE basin. Over 17,000 of the swamp’s acres are owned by the National Audubon Society and make up what is known as the Francis Beidler Forest.
Audubon Center & Sanctuary at the Francis Beidler Forest, South Carolina, 9/17/2017.