Dave Thomas had a wonderful experience this past spring and was kind enough to write up his observations for us here. I’ll include a few of the photos in this post but will put the full album of the 20 photos on our Facebook Album. It’s a wonderful visual chronology!
Red-shouldered Hawks Nesting at Lansdowne, March — June, 2010, by Dave Thomas
In February, a few residents of our condominium in Lansdowne (part of Leisure World of Virginia) noticed a pair of hawks being very active around a tall oak tree behind the rear parking area of our 11-story building. For those who know the area, the oak is less than 100 yards from the property boundary with our neighbor, Landsowne Resort.
The hawks took over a squirrel’s nest nicely located at a large tree fork opposite the ninth floor. They then greatly enlarged the nest and drove off squirrels that occasionally came back to look.
During March the pair evidently mated and settled in. Even before the trees leafed out, however, the interior of the nest was impossible to view, so we could not be sure when and how many eggs were laid. Much later, it became clear that one young hawk was being raised.
The twenty photographs and captions capture a fragmentary “natural history” of the story as it unfolded. Even though the photography was difficult, and still distant despite a good telephoto lens, it was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience for us.
The photographs are selected from well over 1000, most of them sequences at six frames per second to capture fleeting moments.
For example, the snake was visible in successive photos both approaching the nest and being fed to the young hawk. Unfortunately, sharp focus is often difficult to achieve, but the events were faithfully recorded.
I thank many neighbors who watched developments carefully and kept me informed, and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members who identified the hawk species and nesting behavior. Finally, I have greater awe than then ever of the remarkable work done by dedicated and talented nature photographers. –Dave Thomas