Redpolls and Raptors at Montrose / by Walter Kitundu

A friend and I went for a walk in the early hours last Saturday around the Magic Hedge and the Montrose Dunes. We weren't early enough to catch the Short-eared Owl that was seen earlier that day but the hedge was alive with Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Even on this chilly and brief visit I managed another life bird, a small flock of Common Redpolls in the clearing.

We ambled out to the end of the pier before returning carefully in the shadows behind the hedge hoping to find some secret shaded spot sheltering an owl. No such luck. We did however notice a young Red-tailed Hawk that had garnered the attention of a few photographers so we made our way to join the small group of onlookers.

It relocated to another branch but miscalculated and came up a bit short resulting in this lovely awkward moment.

Once it decided to leave it gave a few head bobs and allowed me to catch a moment I don't photograph very often, a Redtail in full crouch, spring-loading those legs with its wings just beginning to unfurl.

Branches in the way meant tucking in the left wing until...

finally clear of the obstructions the hawk flew right at us.

It perched in a spot with a better view of the park and several more escape/hunting options. This raised the ire of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk who materialized out from those same shady areas we had just walked through and silently mobbed the oblivious young Redtail.

The Coop eventually got fed up and tore off toward the south triggering a small wave of alarm calls from the bushes below as it departed.

The Redtail soon left and made a half-hearted stoop on some foraging squirrels. Unlike the Cooper's Hawk though, it flew in a wide circle around the park looking for other opportunities. I heard a local photographer mention he had seen this young bird in the area for at least a week if not more. Perhaps we shall meet again.