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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Welcome Back Gray Ghost

My lifer Gray Hawk in 2013
For the record, I visited Southern Arizona, and south Texas over several years and could not find a Gray Hawk there. Then, oddly enough, early last year a juvenile Gray Hawk showed up where no one ever expected to find one, by a beach in Santa Barbara county, in the little town of Carpenteria, California. Birders came from all over the west coast to see that beauty.

Trekking there with my friend Don and we located the young bird on power line. The bird was breath taking. I was particularly taken with its large, gleaming amber eyes.

So, imagine the joy when the same bird returned this year, in it all its adult plumaged beauty. Yesterday when I left Death Valley, I bee-lined west in hopes of seeing my lifer Gray Hawk a second time. 

 Arriving at Carpenteria, I drove right up to another birder - recognizable because who else would be staring intently at a shrub with binoculars? He told me he saw the hawk the previous day and was currently looking for a Prairie Warbler. The warbler showed up last year - totally unseen by me *sigh* - reappearing this year. Encouraged, I searched for the hawk a couple of hours. Finally, disappointed, I gave up, got a room for the night, returning early this morning.

After an hour's search I was none the wiser where the hawk might be and was bummed to think I might just not get to see the bird again. Then, while debating whether to fish or cut bait, I was driving past the exact spot I saw the bird last year. I glanced up and TADA!  There on the same power line stood the gray ghost - in all of it's new Sunday-go-to-meeting feathered best.

Same Gray Hawk, all grown up in 2014!
This has to be the prettiest hawk I ever laid eyes on
I mean, a hawk in a gray tweed suit! What's not to love?
When I tore my eyes off the bird to try another camera setting I looked up and the gray ghost had vanished. But I was on cloud nine and took off to tell other birders I'd spotted the bird but when you have such great news, there is never anyone - save ebird on line - to share the news with. 

When I returned ten minutes later I found the hawk again and another birder at the same exact spot, only the on the opposite side of the street. This time the bird perched in a palm tree and I chatted with the other birder for several minutes before the hawk decided it was time to stretch its wings. I wonder if the bird will return again next year? If it does, dare I hope it turns up, with a mate in tow? Probably not, but it's nice to think on. Of course it's also nice to think on what the heck it is surviving off of in the first place - crickets? lizards? mice? And what twist of internal birdie GPS makes it turn up in Santa Barbara of all places? Well whatever it survives on and whatever brings it to California, I loved getting a second look at my 'lifer' Gray Hawk.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, what a stunning looking bird. I hope you get to see him with a mate next year.