I walked along the river, through early morning shadows, on a warm, late-winter morning. The river moved slowly, even sluggishly, as the higher-altitude snowpack had not yet begun the spring melt. The water swirled and rolled over the uneven, boulder-strewn bed, offering those peaceful, running-water, background sounds. The rest of the bosque, however, was still and quiet, as there was not even a breath of wind. As I walked through the willows along the river’s edge, the sun crested the Sandias to the east, and the day’s first light came streaming across the high desert, over the river, and through the cottonwoods, leaving a pattern of speckled light on the ground beneath the tress. It was so peaceful and quiet—but not for long. A cast of Cooper’s Hawks soon came darting in and around the cottonwoods. I marveled at their speed and their grace, as they cruised through densely packed branches, often stopping abruptly on a favorite perch. The hawks seemed more intent on chasing each other through the bosque, than in avoiding me. They would come in close, and fly right over head, and remained entirely unconcerned by my trespass into their morning routine. Soon enough, a mature adult landed on a nearby branch, and waited like a statue for its partners to come in on the chase. While the hawk looked off in another direction, I put a large cottonwood trunk between the two of us, and just out of its view, ever so slowly crept in for a close up. I wasn’t fooling this hawk, however, as it knew full well I was there. As I peeked around the tree for my first shot, I found that it was looking right at me. Feeling lucky, I stepped out from behind the tree, and simply spoke to the Cooper’s in a soft, low voice (I find talking to the birds and the deer and the coyotes either calms them down, or calms me down). Luckily for me, the Cooper’s dropped his fully upright, watchful pose, and simply started making its way further up the branch to reposition itself. It seemed to be looking for the others that had been playing the game of chase. As the Cooper’s moved along the branch, I snapped a few more photos. And as it stopped to look at me one more time, I kindly thanked it, turned, and walked away.
Cooper's Hawk; Rio Rancho, New Mexico
NatureWildlifeHawkCooper's HawkRio RanchoNew Mexico