Sharp-shinned Hawk at Sundown

The sun was just above the western horizon when we went out for a short walk late this afternoon. It was cold and clear, with not a cloud in the fading blue sky, only the short marks of several jet trails lit by the sun. Most birds were quiet, except for the sibilant calls of White-throated Sparrows. One Phoebe perched in the top of an oak, and two Mourning Doves huddled on lower limbs of smaller trees. A large, loose flock of Robins flew over us heading southwest, and a smaller flock of Blackbirds flew over toward the south.

Toward the end of our walk, a small hawk appeared from behind a line of trees to the north and flew over us, disappearing into the woods beyond our house – a Sharp-shinned Hawk. I hadn’t taken my binoculars with me – it never fails! – but the hawk was low enough to see well, and its compact shape and crisp way of flying were so distinctive that it was unmistakable. We could clearly see the long tail with its pattern of bars, and the neat square tip. It flapped several quick times as it came over the trees, glided over us with wings outspread, then flapped again and glided as it disappeared from view.

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