Sunday, February 13, 2011


Took a day trip to the Santa Ynez Valley yesterday. Took a sweet little back road into Solvang, then on to Lake Cachuma for a couple hours of relaxing and birdwatching.

Stopped along this road when I heard nuthatches calling. There were several White-breasted Nuthatches in the oaks; also Acorn Woodpeckers, Oak Titmouse, ad Yellow-billed Magpies.

The weather was gorgeous--sunny, clear skies, and warm. Hard to believe it's February!

Set up the camp chairs in a sweet spot with a lake view, under some huge oak trees. There were a few Scrub Jays, one even so bold as to land on the picnic table right behind us! There were more Acorn Woodpeckers and Oak Titmouse, along with a small flock of Bushtits.

But the biggest surprise came when I saw something big fly into a nearby oak. I knew it wasn't a crow or a vulture (too big for a crow and vultures never land that low in a tree). I walked around to get a better view and there, to my great surprise was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk! We had noticed a lot of California Ground Squirrels everywhere (there burrows were all over the grassy areas) and this bird was looking for lunch!

After a bit it flew to a small, bare sycamore nearby (about 50' away) and right over some burrows. It sat there for some time, then swooped down and landed in the grass. It came up empty though and went back into the tree. I kept snapping photos (with the lens zoomed out as far as it would go it was really hard to steady the camera in my excitement). Every time I focus, the camera makes a chirping noise and every time it did, the hawk would turn around and look our way.


Finally it swooped down out of the tree and headed right for us! It buzzed the chairs where we had been sitting and flew into an oak tree where we lost sight of it.

This was the coolest and most close-up sighting of a hawk I've had. A real treat. Got good looks through the binocs and some pretty good photos. I also got a short video after ti had landed in the grass (sorry for camera bounce--unavoidable zoomed out like that).

1 comment:

Tabor said...

I know how exciting that is. They are such noble predators. Great shots. The oddest was the people conversation in the background of the movie. It looked so wild.