Monday, December 10, 2012

Calling all raptors

On that difficult Tuesday morning from Tomales with a storm coming in, I was literally surrounded by other living beings. No, there was almost no local traffic on Highway 1. The residents of Point Reyes were hunkered down in warm houses.

But hawks were sitting on fenceposts and telephone wires. Lots of them. Those spacious marshes along Tomales Bay must be great for hunting. Loads of visibility.

The last hawk I passed was sitting quietly on a fencepost right next to the road, so close it was tempting to take a photo. But I felt lousy and didn't want to interfere with whatever was going on. Perhaps the annual Point Reyes Rodent Festival? I wondered, struggling onward to Fat Angel Bakery. Where the humans in this region hunt for warmth and calories and caffeine....

The chest was a rust color dappled with white, that's all I remember. You could see the rosy rust area quite clearly. Never seen it before. I checked photos in the Audubon Field Guide to Birds (Western Region). At least 3 kinds of hawk can have that coloring. The only one ruled out was the Red Tailed Hawk.


I looked up hawks and falcons that frequent Point Reyes, to cross-reference with the ones with the right coloring. Well, Point Reyes is Hawk Central. Twenty species, or the whole Audubon list, hang out there! Too much information makes things worse.

Look closely, middle right.
I know bird people and also know I am not one of them. Smaller birds and their quick flitting and detailed quirks are not my thing. Reminds me of the most annoying aspects of my job.

For some reason I do love raptors. Their physical beauty and the way they fly (or just sit there) makes me happy. Maybe it's their calm presence, neither defensive nor aggressive. They know how to just be.

That morning passing the Druid's Hall in Nicasio and the Spirit Rock Zen Center on the way to White's Hill, aren't we humans searching for something like that?

Whatever else happened this year, I crossed paths with not one but two Peregrine Falcons. One in Humboldt County in July and the other in the Sierras in September. Both on days of inner turmoil.

In their presence I felt calm. Like there's an inherent order to everything and they are guiding me to it.

It was time for another look at the Field Guide and a Google Images search for "red shouldered hawk". Many images did the trick...


  1. Nicasio! Have I gushed to you about how much I love Lucas Valley Road? Possibly my favourite road ever. It is the driving reason that I've done the Marin metric century twice (with plans for a third - only I'm debating the Mt. Tam century next year). I have a fondness for Wilson Hill, too, but LVR keeps me coming back.
    I feel the same way about crows. I get jarred out of bad mental loops most often by them. Good thing there seem to be more every year.

  2. How tall was that beautiful raptor? I also love their grace and presence. Coloring in your photo is consistent with Red Shouldered Hawk, and they're really large. The RSHs I've seen around home are darker-plumaged.

    1. I was feeling too lousy to take a photo so Google Images provided that one. But I think the bird was about 15-18 inches. Not small.