The young hawks have started branching! This means that they leave their nest to hop along nearby branches, practicing their balancing and flight skills—and equally important, their landing skills.
Look at this sequence, which I was lucky enough to catch just as I got to my viewing site. The nest is that mass of twigs in the lower right quadrant of the photo, and in the first picture, the hawk is standing on it facing left, stretching his wings over his head like a high diver…which he sort of is, or will be. A second young hawk is perched about 10:00 from the jumping one. (You can click on the photos for a larger view; I wanted to leave the photos this size rather than cropping further, to give you a better sense of the aerial context in which he’s doing his exercises.) Total elapsed time for all eleven photos is six seconds.
Young Cooper's Hawk doing wing stretches
Young Cooper's Hawk gets ready to jump
Young Cooper's Hawk lifts wings to jump
Young Cooper's Hawk in mid-leap
Young Cooper's Hawk touching back down
Young Cooper's Hawk lands
Gawain is strengthening both his legs and his wings as he jumps on the nest. Just as he lands in the photo above, he twists and fly-hops over to the next branch. turns around, and awkwardly returns to the nest, seeming to almost tumble head-over-heels into it:
Young Cooper's Hawk leaps out of nest, legs akimbo
Young Cooper's Hawk makes it to the next branch
Young Cooper's Hawk turns around to hop back to nest
Young Cooper's Hawk lands awkwardly in nest
Young Cooper's Hawk rights himself in nest
Anyone else remember those awkward teenage years?
Here’s one last photo of one of our young hawks for today, still looking like an angel up there on the branch below the nest:
Young Cooper's Hawk on branch below his nest
Of course, as they get more independent of the nest it’s harder to find them in the woods. But their mom is still staying nearby, watching their arboreal gymnastics.
Mother Cooper's Hawk watching her children like a ... hawk
Last night’s West Seattle Blog reports that a different young hawk was found in the next watershed over, apparently unable to fly. It sounds like someone who’d earlier seen the same bird was harassed by the young one’s protective mother, and finally a noble rescuer put her baby in a carrying case for transport to a local wildlife rescue organization.
Was that the right thing to do? It’s hard to say. If it was really young or injured, yes; if it was just on the ground for a little while, having lost its grip on branches above, then maybe a good approach would have been to lift it up onto a higher branch (to get it out of the way of dogs, for instance) and let it fly-hop its way back upwards with its mother’s encouragement.
But it sure is good to know about the folks out there who take the time and trouble to try to care for a young wild creature. Hopefully we’ll get to learn more about what happens to it!