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Red-Tailed Hawk | Held Moment

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

I'm not sure how I ignored the sound for so long.

That squawking -- somewhere near our backyard, and loud enough to hear through the closed studio windows. And incessant.

When I finally stepped out, there in the branch of a pine tree in the far back corner of our yard was the silhouette of a hawk. Actually, it was the silhouette of a hawk and its dinner hanging from a branch. As I came back out with my camera, I saw him take wing, prey enclutched in its talons and heading low and short to our neighbor's backyard...neighbors I barely knew but was about to get to know a lot better.

They weren't home -- the neighbors -- but the hawk had settled himself and his dinner upon their shed. I relinquished my personal guideline of not going in anyone's yard to photograph, and figured this was an exception.

I was right.

I had never been this close to a Red-Tailed Hawk before.  He seemed far more concerned with settling down to his meal than with the fact that he belonged there and I didn’t, or that I was taking his photograph.  He pulled at the remains, his hooked beak the right tool for the meal.  Then, he looked up...right at me…

...and stared.

This bird-of-prey – his own prey still fresh and his perch maybe 10 feet away – was staring at me.  I stood at the intersection of excitement and fear, not knowing if wonder or wisdom would win out.


I took a step back and stood there, focusing my lens upward and thrilling inwardly at the lighting that played naturally. He was sheer power, from his yellow-green eyes that pierced me, to his expansive wings, to his hooked dagger of a beak.  I slowly walked the length of the shed to see him from a different angle, unsure if he would come toward me or fly away. 

Instead, he went back to his meal, unaware of the neighbors who came home, unaware that we were mesmerized by this wildlife right here in the suburbs, so very close.

Meanwhile, there we stood mesmerized, watching this great bird. A glimpse of wildlife right in our suburban neighborhood.

An unexpected gift.

So, to say I was surprised to hear the repeated squawks again the next day would be an understatement. But I did, and they were as repetitious as the day before -- and closer. There he was out my backdoor and right over our side fence on top of our next-door-neighbor's shed.

Two clicks of my camera and suddenly he flew off -- low and fast and into the pine branch of another neighbor's yard on the other side of our home. Squawking repeatedly, sometimes partially lifting his wings, preparing for his next flight...

...the Red-Tailled Hawk soon took off, landing right in a pine in our front yard.

Now his squawks were accompanied by echoes of a similar sound, as nearby Mockingbirds ganged up on him and tried to get him out of their territory.

He landed on the next branch...

...viewed the territory from his perch...

...looked right at me...

...and flew away.


This experience occurred in July, 2018. I will never forget it.


I send a [very] short email each Saturday called, "A Closer Look." Simply, it is one photo, and a short bit of original writing -- much shorter than this blog post. Its purpose is to give you a moment to take a closer look at nature and, hopefully, encourage a pause in your own day to see what is right there. There also will be a [very] occasional newsletter. If you would like to receive "A Closer Look" please go to the bottom of the Contact page on my website:, or simply click here.

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