The big birds were out today – Birds of prey at the VOA

We no sooner set foot on the path around the lake at the VOA when a big hawk swooped out of a tree, flew close to the ground, and then soared away.

I was juggling my camera trying to get a shot, but the settings were wrong from yesterday’s trip to an amusement park, and I wasn’t able to get anything worth showing.

Not to worry.

I quickly spotted another hawk in a tree,

who stood his ground at first,

but soon decided to put some distance between him and us.

I suspect he was intimidated by our killer dog Arthur.

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I believe this is a red-tailed hawk, primarily because it looks like the pictures on the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds Red-tailed hawk page. Also because the odds are in my favor because, according to  Cornell, the red-tailed hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America. Also the behavior was right as the red-tailed hawk soars above open fields, slowing turning in circles. They have broad, rounded wings.

But one of the women in the park thought it was a peregrine falcon and said that they are becoming common here now.

Which is one of the reasons why, although I still think the first bird is the hawk, I think this bird that flew across our path as we were leaving was a peregrine falcon. It’s color was darker than the hawk. It’s wings were not as rounded. And its tail was longer, and straighter.

This looks a lot like the silhouette of the peregrine falcon in my Peterson Field Guide, and the photos of the peregrine falcon from All About Birds.

We weren’t done yet.

As we were driving away, I spotted this bird in a tree outside the park.

I thought it was another red-tailed hawk. There were several hawks soaring in circles in the general vicinity of the park. But I suppose you could argue that it was the same one we saw earlier.

I was a little uncertain about the identification because when the bird ruffled his feathers, the tail looked more square and not as curved as the one we had seen before.

I wanted to show you this lightened version so you could see the dark band on the belly. I think this is a characteristic of the red-tailed hawk.

I hoped to capture this bird in flight, but he was fairly incorrigible and wouldn’t be scared away by my shouting, Mark moving the car closer, or beeping the horn. Mark eventually opened the car door and closed it and the hawk took off. Sadly, my photography skills fell short. Not much help here.

This bird-watching stuff is not as simple as it looks.

A windy morning at the VOA

The wind is brisk. It chills the early May morning air and bends the tall grasses bordering dense fields of lavender clover.

Ducks are slow to wake

at water’s edge.

But the geese are ready to start the day.

A little house sparrow already hunts for food.

And an American Coot is out on the water.

Nature’s garden paints a picture in lavenders, white, and yellows.

A robin turns her head to watch me pass.

Another finds a worm.

While red-winged blackbirds

guard the fields

from tops of trees

and stems.

A juvenile learns his trade.

High in the sky birds chases a hawk

Eventually driving it to the ground.

The wind flips leaves on a young oak tree, bends the reeds, and ripples the water.

Geese with their goslings head for the water.

A robin scavenges a dried, stiff worm from the walk, keeping her eyes on the little white dog

who merely watches.

The man and the dog both stand and watch.

The dog-walker making it possible for me to share this walk with you.


Photos taken at the Voice of America Park – Butler County, Ohio