Saturday, December 22, 2012

Red Car Property: Red Tailed Hawk Failed Hunting Forays* Updated

Photo: Diane Edwardson, December 22, 11:13 AM.  I think this was a young Red Tail we encountered on the Red Car Property, just south of the Silver Lake Ave Public Staircase.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)  The photos below are in sequence, shot today.
Photo: Diane Edwardson.  I saw what I first thought was an escaped chicken on the slope below Lake View.  I had enough time to fish my camera out out of my pocket and grab a shot.  Meanwhile, a car heading to an event at Rose Scharlin, stopped for quite some time to look at the bird too.  It finally took flight, flashing its red tail, to the nearest California Black Walnut Tree. 
Photo: Diane Edwardson.  It was definitely not a chicken, but a very large Red Tailed Hawk.  By now, a second car had pulled up and was watching the bird in the tree.  I had time to shoot quite a few photos.  I was concerned the bird was injured, because you usually don't see adult Red Tails spend more than a few seconds on the ground.  This one had been there for minutes, taking off empty handed.
Photo: Diane Edwardson.  You also don't usually see the Red Tails hanging out in the Black Walnut Trees. I'm willing to speculate the branches are to dense.  These are big birds who tend to make steep dives with the sun at their backs when hunting.  This is NOT typical neighborhood Red Tail behavior that I've witnessed before.
Photo: Diane Edwardson. Suddenly, something caught its eye in the succulents on the steep slope behind the Black Walnut tree.  It clumsily flew through the branches and flapped about grabbing onto the succulents for several seconds, just hanging there.  Then it clumsily took off, flapping low over my head. 
Photo: Diane Edwardson. The hawk disappeared through the dense trees of this Riverside Place backyard.  Again, not typical for the Red Tails to fly through the dense trees.  That's Cooper's Hawk and Red Shouldered Hawk behavior.  Red Tails are soaring birds who need more room for their large wings. 
Since I was not completely convinced the hawk wasn't injured, I went down the Silver Lake Ave Public Staircase to Riverside Place where I saw the hawk flying low over Riverside Terrace.  It appeared to be flying more normally.  I think it was just a young and inexperienced hunter.  Red Tails can hang out with their parents for a good year learning how to hunt.  It's only been 6 months since they left the nest. 
It was a pretty cool wildlife encounter though.
*December 24, 2012: The neighbor at the last house on Corralitas, before the Red Car Property, just told me of a similar recent encounter with what is likely the same hawk.  His young children alerted him that a hawk was walking around on the ground on the Red Car Property. 
The neighbor thought the hawk might be injured so he had his kids get into his truck to watch while he investigated.  The hawk wasn't even phased by the neighbor walking up nearby.  It seemed to have a rat or other prey it was eating on the ground.  It eventually took off and flew really low over the neighbor's truck, into the very dense Brazilian Pepper Trees on the 2 Freeway next to Corralitas.  His kids said it had something with a long tail in its talons as it flew over the truck. 
The neighbor said it was the same thing I did, that it was so weird because the Red Tails usually only spend a few seconds on the ground and hang out near the tops of trees and telephone poles.  This one has not been following typical Red Tail behavior patterns.  This young Red Tail needs some parental guidance for sure.