The year is 2020. The Earth took a breath.
The 4th consecutive year of my observations of a family of Swainson’s hawks in Calgary, Alberta. This is their story (and mine) through my lens.
Note: The accounts herein were written in 2023 – the photos, notes and email messages from the time helped me write the story.
NOTE: This is not a scientific journal. However, I am fully aware that once the birds have left the nest, they aren’t “babies” anymore. By the time we see them out and about, they would more accurately be called fledglings and juveniles. I will use baby/babies/young ones/littles/juveniles interchangeably when referring to the offspring of Mama and Papa hawks.
MAY 16-17, 2020
It all starts around May of each year. That’s when Mama and Papa hawk have made their way back to their stomping grounds after migrating thousands of kilometres to start a new family.
I have to say, to go for a walk in the neighbourhood, stop to take pictures of them both and not have them swoop or yell at you, is super relaxing!
JULY 26, 2020
So excited to see three babies in the nest tree today!
And yes, Mama is right there watching us. She’s not too happy. We didn’t stick around too long.
AUGUST 10, 2020
Finally seeing the babies out of the nest tree.
Have been seeing them hanging out on rooftops, treetops and wires in their neck of the woods.
AUGUST 13, 2020
I went to see the babies earlier in the afternoon. Funny that I managed to get an almost perfect shot of one of them in flight but those pesky power lines were right in front of them.
Later in the day, I had the most amazing experience with the baby hawks to date.
It was late afternoon. Time for another bike ride to see if I could spot my avian friends. I rode all the way to the end of the alley – nothing. No one is around. Well that’s weird, I guess I’ll go home.
As I pedalled my way along, I noticed something moving in the tall grass to my right. What is that? Oh. My. Goodness. All three babies are in the grass having dinner! I stopped immediately, fumbling to turn the camera on. How did I miss that on my way up??
They are so close that I can’t get all 3 in frame with my Sigma 150-600mm lens – even zoomed all the way out. In hindsight, I could have taken my phone out of my pocket and get the shot that way but I was so enamoured with what was happening in front of me that I stuck with the big camera. I’m glad I did.
One by one the babies finished eating and flew up to the trees and rooftops close by. That is when I took what I believe are my best photos of anything, ever. I finally left the scene once all the babies flew off in different directions. And that, my friend, is the story of my best birding outing ever.
AUGUST 14, 2020
Saw all three babies lined up along the pathway railing. Can you spot all 3 of them?
AUGUST 15, 2020
Speaking of railings… The little ones are still working out the best way to perch and stay perched on the rounded metal railings. They do a little jig until they get it just right.
AUGUST 18, 2020
The young ones seem to be quite active in the middle of the afternoon. It’s a great time to capture them learning to be raptors. Everything about them is fascinating to me.
AUGUST 23, 2020
Sightings are getting fewer and farther between. Well, more like I haven’t had the chance to get out there. But when I do, I sure love it when I see a couple of them together.
SEPTEMBER 7, 2020
Another homage to the hawks – sculpted from polymer clay. Roughly ½ scale of a real baby hawk. I started this sculpt in April and just finished it the beginning of September.
I am very new to this medium and I had all sorts of issues and dilemmas throughout the sculpt. The feet are way too big, lol. I’m not completely happy with the colours either but for a first go of it, it’s not too, too bad?? The “branch” is real.
We have named him Max.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2020
After not seeing any hawks for at least the last couple of weeks, I was surprised to see this one up in a poplar tree near us. Last photos for 2020. Until next year…?