Portrait of a juvenile Red-shouldered HawkPortrait of a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk – Nikon D70, handheld. f5.6, 1/200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, flash fired, not baited

In July of 2007 I was fortunate to follow and photograph a family of Red-shouldered Hawks at Sawgrass County Park in Florida for a few weeks when the fledglings were learning to hunt for themselves. Because Sawgrass County Park has a high number of visitors each day the hawks were used to people and didn’t flush easily.

This juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk was perched on a metal fencepost so I opted to go for a portrait to remove the “hand of man”. My EXIF information doesn’t list the ISO used for this shot but I do know that the auto flash fired. I was still using my Nikon D70 when all of these images were created.

Red-shouldered Hawk juvenileRed-shouldered Hawk juvenile – Nikon D70, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 640, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, flash fired, not baited

The day after the portrait above was taken I was back at Sawgrass County Park hoping for decent light and to find the young hawks again, I found the Red-shouldered juveniles but the light wasn’t great because of thunder storms rolling through the area. I had been photographing this immature Red-Shouldered Hawk as it perched in a pine tree when it flew directly at me and as it flew over my head I could feel the whoosh of air from its wings. I thought the young hawk was going to carry off the straw hat I was wearing but as I turned I could see it had landed on the ground about 15 feet from me and was dispatching what appeared to be a Palmetto Bug.

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk trying to catch a Yellow Rat SnakeJuvenile Red-shouldered Hawk trying to catch a Yellow Rat Snake – Nikon D70, handheld, f4.8, 1/400, ISO 1000, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 80mm, flash fired, not baited

Not long after the juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk ate the Palmetto Bug I could hear another Red-shouldered Hawk calling and the hawk I was photographing flew towards the sound. I slowly followed the sound and used the trunks of trees as a blind as I walked. I came up on two young Red-shouldered Hawks, one on the fence and the other was perched higher in a tree above the hawk you see in this frame. The hawks were very interested in trying to catch this Yellow Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta) that had woven its body through the links of the fence. I took a few images and left because I didn’t want to disrupt the hawks.

The next time I went to the park I measured one of the square links in the fence and according to my calculations this snake was over 6 foot in length. Sorry about the poor quality of the last image, it was dark under the trees and there was a light rain falling but I did want to capture the interactions I was observing.

I enjoyed following this family of Red-shouldered Hawks that summer.