A couple of winters previous, I discovered a large nest at one of the local parks. I believed it to be a hawk’s nest based on size and I had seen Cooper’s Hawks fly out of the area before. Late this March I saw a pair of Cooper’s Hawks in the area and hoped they would nest. Due to the circumstances of this year I had a lot of time on my hands.
I was visiting a lot to look for spring migrants but always took the time to check the nest area. On April 7th I discovered the female incubating. I used my books and online resources to work up a calendar for incubation, nesting, and fledging. I looked forward to the next three months.
For the next month I would stop and check to see that incubation was still occurring. I did not remain longer than needing to see her on the nest. On May 13th I heard a calling hatchling. On the 16th I witnessed the mother feed the young and fly off to discard the carcass away from the nest. On the 27th I saw my first movement of a hatchling in the nest and mother fly in with a meal.
As the calendar flipped over to June, I estimated the unknown number of babies to be just over two weeks old. On June 1st, I saw my first nestling cloaked in white down feathers with its alien like appearance.
On this day I captured a photo of the mother calling to her young and presumably the father for more food. Or she was letting me know she saw me. She usually greeted me with a call and flight making her visible out of the thick canopy above. I kept my distance and made no threatening movements or sounds. One would not know the nest existed unless it was seen before the trees leafed out. It was well hidden.
On June 5th I returned to check on the nest and discovered four nestlings! They were as curious of me as I was them. The nearby squirrels grabbed their attention periodically as they jumped from tree to tree as if they were Tom Cruise portraying Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible. It was fun watching them turn their heads in unison to the noise of the world around them.
With the help of my friend Molly we named them Things 1, 2, 3 & 4. By the next weekend they were nearing four weeks of age and beginning to look like young adults.
On Saturday the 13th they were starting to venture out of the nest to the nearby limbs. On the limbs, they preened and stretched.
As they began to fledge, I knew my time with them was nearing an end. It was beginning to become more difficult to see them as they ventured around the nest tree in the dense foliage. Soon though, I was in for quite the surprise. As the older birds began to vacate the nest, a fifth baby hawk was discovered in the nest on June 17th as its four siblings were nearby. Thing 5! It was amazing how quickly they had gone from their white alien appearance to their immature plumage. They were flying from limb to limb. Stretching, flapping, and preening.
One fledgling flew from the nest tree to a tree about halfway towards their mom’s favorite perch. It then called triumphantly to its siblings and mother.
As I left on this morning, I got a shot of their mother half hidden in shadow and half in a beam of light shining through the canopy. Proud. Beautiful. Tired. A week into summer I would see them around the nest for the last time. I found four of the fledglings in a tree near the nest.
In early July I saw an immature Cooper’s Hawk in the park. It had to be one of the five. They are sorely missed. I have read many articles about how people have turned to birding and the outdoors during the pandemic. It is amazing what is happening all around us if we take the time to enjoy it.