A Chipping Sparrow’s Song – and a Red-shouldered Hawk in the Woods

On a warm, sunny afternoon with soft blue sky and veils of chalk-white clouds, a Chipping Sparrow sang its long, level trill from somewhere among the white blooms of a Bradford pear tree in a neighbor’s yard – the first Chipping Sparrow song I’ve heard this spring.

Much later in the afternoon, about an hour before sunset, another Chipping Sparrow sang from a pine tree in our own back yard. This one sat where I could see it well – the smooth gray breast, dark-brown, streaked wings, white eye-stripe and black streak through the eye, and bright red-brown crown. An American Robin flew into one of the white oaks and began to sing, too, a more musical, cheery song, and it stayed and sang a kind of serenade for several minutes. A Belted Kingfisher rattled as it flew over, heading toward the creek, and about a dozen honking Canada Geese passed by.

Not far inside the woods on the edge of the yard, a Red-shouldered Hawk sat quietly on a low limb of an oak. Its colors blended in so well with the leaf-brown floor of the woods and the dark trunks of the trees, I’d been outside for several minutes before I even noticed it was there. It sat with its back to me, surrounded by trees, but in a spot where it was clearly visible. Its smooth, velvet-brown head looked down toward the ground and in the direction of a large brushpile. In the late afternoon light, it looked as if the hawk had soaked up the warmth and color of the sun, and glowed in earth tones of brown and red-orange, with the contrasting black and white bands of the tail and black-and-white checkered wings.

While it faced away from me, it turned its head around and seemed to look directly at me several times. Then it shifted position so that it sat in profile, showing more of the reddish barred breast. Most of the time, its head was turned down toward the ground, watching for small animal prey – the brushpile is probably a pretty good spot for it to hunt.

After several minutes, it spread its wings and flew, low and suddenly, through the trees and further into the woods.

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