A Totem for Linda

Was on the fence about what to feature in my upcoming post.  I happen to be in one of those rare times where I have plenty of options with images all processed up and ready to go.  Then an interesting thing happened which tipped the scales in favor of this rather stoic looking Hawk. 

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

I happen to really like the shot above and purposely let the barrel of The Beast out to give you the full view of the sight that caught my attention.  Linda was the one who spotted this one while we were standing outside Quinta Mazaltan in McAllen, TX back in January.  For someone who denies being a “birder” or as she puts it, one of “those people” she is certainly gaining an eye for our feathered friends.  Linda can also identify a large swath of birds just from following me out into the field – another fact she will deny in public.  Back to the image, the scene made me smile – from the Hawk’s perspective. “What ya’ feeling like for dinner honey?  How about some Purple Martin.  Yes, and I know just the place to get a carry out!”  For the concerned, you can rest easily knowing no Purple Martins were hurt in the making of this post. 

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to find out what got me thinking about this Hawk – hint A SNAKE!

Our Red-Shouldered Hawk was just hanging out enjoying the evening.  Talons were still out just in case something caught its fancy.  For some reason didn’t lighten the two shots above enough.  It was slightly overcast and drizzled a bit while we were there – if you recall, the Pacific Slope we got while we were there also suffered from the overcast day (link here).    That had the added difficulty of the tree canopy –  No excuse on the Hawk, just didn’t bring those up in the digital darkroom enough.  Luckily my other images were properly compensated.

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

So, what tipped the decision to the Hawk.  Three words – Western Fox Snake.  Not just any Western Fox Snake, rather the FIRST Western Fox Snake to visit our little place in the country.  Now, being in the woods, we are no strangers to Snakes.  On the small size, the Garters will slither through and check out the landscaping from time to time.  On the large size, the Eastern Rat Snake and Corn Snake will drop in less frequently, but when they do they are usually in the 4+’ range.  Even had a Racer visit our old house once, but that is about all the variety we get.  You would think with all the water around us we would get the “Water Moccasin” (our general term for any water Snake), but we have yet to spot one.  

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

Last night Linda and I were cleaning up our walkout basement.  The grill cover was sitting on a chair thanks to forgetting to take it with the grill when I moved it to our upper porch.  Switched it to the top of a trash can so I could finish cleaning in that area.  Once done, I was talking to Linda on rather we should replace it – a damn Chipmunk decided it might taste good and put a few holes in it.  Linda went to reach for it as I opened it up a bit with a shovel I was carrying.  I saw our visitor coiled up in a fold and the micro second thought of distracting Linda was dashed when she reacted as expected.  She screamed and bolted for the door – missed the door thankfully as she would have gone right through the glass.  Instead she hit our stone covered foundation wall… hard.  Cuts to elbow, knee, possibly hands and a knock on the head.  Mind you that all happened in less than two seconds.  After blinking twice in hopes it was just a mirage, I was left standing there, mouth opened and wondering what the hell just happened. 

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

The rest of the story is just a bunch of fear shedding – “Never going outside again, they are probably in the house, we’re moving, need to pack, hell let’s go now, why aren’t you moving”,  Pretty much the standard scenario whenever a Snake is stupid enough to reveal itself – except this time she was bleeding.  In due time we will both have a good laugh about it (keyword both as I already had my chuckle).  Can’t wait until she gets to explain the massive spike on her pace maker stats when we get up to Mayo in the winter.   Okay, so why the Hawk, merely ‘cuz they like to eat Snakes and now Linda’s totem animal.  Not to be overlooked is the fact one almost dropped a Snake out of its talons over Linda’s top down convertible – kinda of like splitting hairs if you ask me hehehe.

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

We have Hawks in our yard all the time.  Predominantly Cooper’s (link here) that like to salivate over our bird feeders (not the birdseed, the visitors).  I did have a Red-Shouldered like this one appear once (link here – laughed out loud when I noticed the comment from Linda about Snakes on that post).   Alas, our latest experience didn’t result in any kill shots.  It simply sat there enjoying the late afternoon wind down before unfurling its wings and heading off into the distance. 

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

I did manage to get a shot of the underside and the top of the wings.  When it comes to Hawks I make it a point to get as many angles as possible and not just to appease Ron’s demands.  Depending on the morph, lighting, season and age, Hawks can get a bit messy in the ID phase.  Oftentimes it comes down to a combination of features and 9 times out of 10 it will include the belly feathering or the wing barring.  The other tenth is the tail and wing positioning. 

Red-Shouldered Hawk found at Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, TX in January 2021

Trying to get familiar with the various wing angles and positioning of the numerous Hawks for better ID in the field (usually backlit from the sun).  From what I can tell, the Red-Shouldered has a very wide ‘M’ on their beats.  Will have to keep my eye out and see how this compares to the other Hawks I come upon.  Wait.. almost forgot to give you an interesting takeaway.  You are going to really appreciate this one … sarcastic for NOT.  Cornell felt obligated to enlighten us that by five days old, the little Hawks “can shoot their feces over the edge of their nest”.  Blink twice, open mouth and wonder if you could have ever lived without that amazing tidbit.

Take it easy everyone and Snake yo…err, see you around. 

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