A couple of weeks back, I headed out to Cherry Creek. Unlike previous years, such outings were more rare this year, for a variety of reasons. In particular, I have driven through the park on quite a few occasions, and I simply did not see the variety of birds that I have in years past. Water levels are a lot higher this year, which effectively eliminated the mud flats that made late 2011, 2012, and part of 2013 so good for shorebirds. The waders spent their time at the wetland end of the lake, and the shore was often overflown, flooding the land, making accessibility difficult to say the least.
I was quite happy when I drove up to the Cottonwood Creek wetland, and right then a young hawk landed on the huge partly-dead cottonwood tree that is sort of the icon of the back end of the wetland. I pulled over, hopped out, and started to move towards the edge of the water. Usually hawks fly off at this point, they seem to prefer to eat in peace and it looked like he had something in his talons. I prepared to get some flight shots…however he just stared at me for a moment, then decided to preen. So I got right up to the waters edge, and started getting some close up shots. I popped on my teleconverter, and got even closer shots. All the while I’m waiting for the inevitable jump to flight, with the hope of capturing an action shot…something I don’t have much skill with so far.
Well, to my surprise, this hawk seemed entirely unintimidated or unannoyed with my presence. He just sat there, check out the area, periodically checked me out, and the rest of the time he preened, cleaned his very large talons, fluffed, and otherwise just hung out. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a hawk sit on the same branch for so long, but I spent a good deal of time there waiting for him to fly and give my my action shot. Finally I decided to get up and find a more active bird…and, of course, the moment I started to stand up he dropped off his branch…strait towards me. He whistled by overhead barely a couple feet away…I could hear the wind sliding through his wings. He perched on a tree just on the other side of the road, checked out the nearby field for a moment, then took off after a meal.
Two feet up, giant talons…over my head…
Of course, then being unprepared…I still didn’t get my action shot. 😛