The bad news? I didn’t have my camera. The good news? I didn’t have my camera. The occasion: red-shouldered hawks copulating!
Alerted by their squeaky sharp calls, I searched and found the pair well up in a maple tree on the hill above Bel Pre Creek. As I focused my binos, the birds finished, and the male dropped down to perch beside the female. I’m happy to say he didn’t roll over and go to sleep, but rubbed his head in seeming affection along her cheek and neck. That attended to, he began to do serious preening. She flew to another tree and perched there for maybe five minutes, while he worked through all his tail feathers. (Apparently when he gets that hot and bothered, it takes a while to tidy up.)
When she flew again, this time toward the creek, I lost her. I went back to watching her mate preen. Suddenly she came winging through the trees, crossing in front of me. She carried a stick in her beak. She flew directly to the biggest beech tree at the left edge of the macadam path up to the school, paused a minute, and then flew away, beak empty.
I scanned the tree and found a cluster of sticks held in a crotch against the beech’s trunk, about 40 feet up. I was exultant. Now I know where this year’s nest is!
Why was it good that I didn’t have my camera? Because if it had been in my hands when the female flew away, I’d probably have stopped observing; I’d have stared down at the camera display, seeking the best photos of the pair and the preening male. Thus, I would have missed seeing the female streaking across my upper field of view carrying her stick to the nest.
Note to self: don’t stop looking!