Entries tagged with “hawk”.

Dave Thomas and Ian Richardson have been keeping a good watch over the Red-Shouldered Hawks nesting in a tree at Leisure World. Between the two of them (and some “big guns” as they say in the photography community), they’ve caught some terrific photos of these three young birds as they grow up.

Here you can see shots from May 11th and May 25th to compare their size and development.

In one ofthe photos, Dave tells us, “one is moving an evergreen twig, which I suspect is part of learning how to build a nest.  The other standing hawk joined in the activity.”



Red-shouldered Hawks at Leisure World near Lansdowne are raising three chicks this year! Dave Thomas sent over this great shot. Here’s his update on the hawks:

They are feeding on a frog (which I glimpsed in an earlier photo of this sequence). They seem to be healthy, vigorous, and growing fast.

This nest is in a tree behind our high-rise condominium. The nest started in 2010 with one offspring, then two last year.

The nest was removed by tree trimmers late last summer but it was rebuilt over the winter, so the hawks seem to consider this a good location. (We’ll see if we can prevent removal of the nest this year!)

The photo was taken May 5 from the balcony of a 9th-floor unit in the condominium, probably 50 yards away.

The telephoto shot is cropped heavily to get this close-up, so the quality is not great, but at least it is good documentation of our third year of hawks.


Yesterday, January 22, was our annual Birds of Prey field trip, and it did not disappoint! Laura McGranaghan wrote up a great account of our day to share with you here:

What a great day to Search for Birds of Prey. Despite the 100% cloud cover, temps in the low 30’s, snow and drizzle, we all had a great afternoon as we drove the back roads of Loudoun county in search of raptors.

Liam McGranaghan led the drive assisted by Laura McGranaghan, Joe Coleman, and Liz Dennison. The 12 participants were treated to a wonderful diversity of wintering Birds of Prey that Loudoun County offers during the winter months.

Our drive began at 1pm with light snow falling. As we headed south from Leesburg on Rt. 15, we couldn’t believe the number of Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks we were seeing. Within the first 6 miles, we had already counted over 8 different hawks!

One of the first of many highlights we had was a pair of Barred Owls tucked into a cedar. They sat quietly until one of them decided we should be offered a better look. He flew to a nearby snag and posed for some photos, then flew off.

Next, we were able to view a pair of adult Bald Eagles working on their nest as they rearranged sticks for some “home renovations.” What a joy!

From there, we turned around and drove to an area north of Leesburg. We stopped at a field being hunted by a few Red-tailed hawks searching for their lunch.

At this point, Liam snuck off to do some “hunting” of his own. He returned shortly thereafter to show us just what the hawks are eating this time of year.

In hand, he had a live and healthy Meadow Vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus. He explained how many of these rodents are in the fields which surrounded us and how they are such a critical food source this time of year for raptors as well as other animals like foxes. He then returned the Meadow Vole (unharmed) to the location he found it.

Next, with hopes of finding a field of Northern Harriers and dare we hope…… Short-eared owls, we headed on! With only a few reports of Northern Harriers this year, and no reports of Short-eared Owls, we weren’t sure what the late afternoon would have in store for us.

Then, there it was…a “Gray Ghost”, the adult male Northern Harrier flying HIGH above us! With excitement building, we continued to travel north to an area rich with tall grasses. Then another Northern Harrier….. then another, wait, another! How exciting and what a way to end the day!

It couldn’t get better than this ~ so we thought. As we were getting ready to leave, that’s when it happened.

Up flew a Short-eared Owl! (You’ve heard this before), then another, wait, another!

All told we had at least 5 Short-eared Owls!

We had great views of them through our spotting scopes as they sat on fence posts in the field in front of us. (Our photos are no comparison to what we saw through the scopes)

Now, that’s the way to end the day.

Here’s the list of raptors seen over the course of our afternoon:

Bald Eagle (adults)  2
Red-tailed Hawk   15
Red-shouldered Hawk  19
Coopers Hawk  2
Northern Harrier  6
Barred Owls  2
Short eared Owls  5
Kestrels 6

More photos can be seen on our facebook page. Thanks to all of you who came out and we look forward to seeing you soon!


The saga continues from last year with this family of Red Shouldered Hawks in Lansdowne.

Dave Thomas spied this one coming back to possibly nest again. 

Here’s his note and photo.

Our red-shouldered hawks are definitely back — often together, feeding, rebuilding their nest, and of course screeching loudly. 

This one glided onto a branch not far from where I was watching this morning (better than any individual photo from last year).


Joe just sent over the field trip report for last Sunday’s Birds of Prey trip – what a great adventure! Here’s his write-up:

From 2 pm to a little past 6 pm 13 people searched for birds of prey on a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy field trip in central Loudoun County this past Sunday.  Not including the many vultures, both Black & Turkey, kettling on a beautiful winter afternoon, we found 29 birds of prey, many of whom were close enough and perched long enough for us to get great views of them.  In all we saw two Bald Eagles at & near their nest on the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project, two Northern Harriers, one a subadult male and the other an adult male, one subadult Cooper’s Hawks, four Red-shouldered Hawks, 13 Red-tailed Hawks, 7 American Kestrels, the most any of us have seen in such a short time period in a long time, and an unidentified buteo.   It is int’g to note that Phil Daley and Joe Coleman who did some scouting for the trip earlier in the week had a lot more Red-shouldered Hawks, mostly in pairs.  Phil also watched one of the eagles adding a stick to its nest on Friday.

The first stop on Sunday was at the intersection of Tailrace Rd & Rte 15 where we hoped to re-locate the shrikes who have nested in that area for the past few years but haven’t been seen for several months.  While we didn’t find the shrikes the first harrier, a subadult male, was sitting in a field a couple hundred yards down Tailrace, and the second harrier, the adult male crossed the road just a little further down Tailrace. 

Our next stop was the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project where we immed. found a Bald Eagle sitting in the nest.  Whenever it stuck its head up to look around we were able to see it but it was invisible the rest of the time.  When its mate flew across the wetlands towards the nest a few minutes later all the waterfowl, mostly mallards but also a fair number of American Black Ducks and a few Green-winged Teal, rose in to the sky.  The ducks settled down when the eagle perched in a dead tree in the middle of the wetlands providing all of us with great views.  When the eagle in the nest flew across the wetlands the ducks rose up again.  A few minutes later one of the eagles returned to the nest with a fairly good size fish in its talons.  Both eagles ignored the two Red-tailed Hawks flying around in the immediate area.  As we were leaving we found a perched Red-shouldered Hawk at the other end of the wetlands about 40 feet off the road that we were able to closely observe until we were ready to leave. 

After turning on Evergreen Mill Rd, a heavily-traveled road that runs from the Dulles Airport to Leesburg, we found a male and a female American Kestrel in front of the Loudoun Country Day school campus.  As a result we were able to get great views of them hunting, kiting, and perching on the utility lines. 

Our next stop was a small wetlands along Evergreen about a 1/2 mile down the road.  Here we saw two Red-shouldered Hawks, one with something in its talons fly in front of us and also a subadult Copper’s Hawk that obligingly perched for us so we could spend some time watching it and check off all the diagnostics for that species.

We next visited the Lucketts area where we found more Red-tail & Red-shouldered Hawks and Kestrels.  We also found a Horned Lark at the same location, the alpaca farm across from the intersection of Culps Hill Ln & Rte 661, Limestone School Rd, where a flock of Horned Larks was found on the January Birds of Prey field trip led by Laura & Liam McGranaghan. 

From there we headed to a spot where we thought we might find the Short-eared Owls who use to frequent the fields before the many large houses with expansive and finely manicured lawns were built. While we didn’t have any luck finding owls we did watch two more Red-tails head to their evening roost as well as a beautiful sunset over the Catoctin Ridge to our west.

On & off during the afternoon we also heard and saw several small flocks of Fish Crows, the most any of us have observed for a few months.

Our only disappointment, after having great looks at all the above species, was the lack of owl sightings.

Joe Coleman & Phil Daley


The wild kingdom plays out across our back yards.  Joe Coleman sent this over and since it can be rare to see this, I thought I’d share.  It’s all part of the cycle after all.  Here’s Joe’s story:

I am just getting around to downloading some photos taken in my backyard on Dec 28 of a Cooper’s Hawk catching an adult squirrel. 

I was getting a glass of water at the kitchen sink and looking out the back window when I noticed quite a fight taking place at the base of a holly tree. 

Fortunately my camera was in the house so I was able to grab it & start taking photos.

All of the photos are a bit blurry due to the light and the action which was pretty fast paced but they are still pretty impressive. 

I remember how skeptical people have been whenever we’d tell stories of Cooper’s Hawks catching squirrels(remember John Drummond’s)  - well they do.  

After these photos were taken, the hawk, with a great deal of effort and with its wings fully extended, managed to drag the squirrel about 30′ over to some briars where it spent several hours on it.  

The other birds and squirrels in the yard came out to visit the feeders during these hours while keeping a careful eye on the hawk.