On Thanksgiving Day, which is also the US Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day, I looked out the bathroom window and saw a large white blob on the top of a tree. Was it snow? But no, none of the other trees had white blobs on them.
So I went across the hall to my office loft to get the upstairs binoculars, and grabbed a note pad. If this was a bird, I was going to do it right and note all the pertinent details! Luckily the bird, it was, was still there when I got back. It was a very large puffy-looking brown bird, with a big white bib. That was the white blob I’d seen with my naked eye.
I noted that it had a pale beak and yellow feet. It had a white spotted pattern all over, chest and sides and possibly back, in a fairly regular pattern. It seemed to have white on the crown, and I noticed brown streaks on its neck, in the white. Wow, I felt like I was getting good at this! And I felt so happy to have this visitation on Monday morning, Thanksgiving Day.
The bird stretched its wings out a little and I noticed it had fat feathered thighs. Then it spread out its wings and tipped off the tree top, slowly soaring down into the valley below. I watched a few minutes to see if it would reappear with some prey in its beak, but it disappeared from view and I didn’t see it again.
So I went with my notes to check the Sibley guide. The owl section quickly showed me that this bird was not an owl. Its head was too small, and it didn’t have disc-like eye areas. So turning to the next likely suspect, I discovered my old friend the red-tailed hawk. I made a positive identification. This one was a juvenile, which is why it had the white bib. Aha!
I look forward to seeing it age and change colours! I had a peek in the Audubon guide too, just to see the pix there, and noticed they describe the call as a “high-pitched scream with a hoarse quality, keeeeer.” Whereas the Sibley guide describes the voice as “a rasping whistled scream cheeeeeew falling in pitch and intensity.” I favour the keeeeeer myself, and this is the noise I attempt when talking to the hawk as I run by.
Red-tailed hawk has long been a resident in my valley, and now it is clear that the hawks are carrying on. Fooling around with each other, too! Their presence here is something I am very grateful for. In the early evenings of winter, sometimes the hawk circles above and calls out to me when I go for a run. They have been a faithful companion over the years, when it is quiet and lonely here.
I am thankful.