Red Shoulders and the Camera's Eye, Page 2

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Anxiously I awaited the return of the hawk, for I was afraid the eggs would become chilled. The camera was pointed at the nest, and I watched through slits in the canvas for the first appearance of the bird. Suddenly, off among the trees, low over the ground, I saw the dark colored hawk gliding swiftly and silently toward me, the rufous color of the wings and the browns and blacks of the back harmonizing with the somber color of the leaf-strewn forest floor. It was the male, as was proved later when the female appeared, and as the bird flashed through the grim woods, the most conspicuous thing was the bright yellow cere of the beak. He flew rapidly and without hesitation, and then, sailing upward, alighted upon the nest without a glance at the blind. I held the motion picture camera steady over a little crotch and pressed the trigger, and as the machine began to whirr, the hawk raised his head quickly and locating the barrel of the lens pointed at him but a few feet away, he sprang suddenly into the air. He alighted, however, in a tree twenty feet away and called querulously for possibly five minutes, and then launching on wing, darted back upon the nest. His left wing was partly open and half raised as he walked to the center of the nest; he eyed the blind for a moment, and then, apparently oblivious to the noise of the machine, settled upon the eggs.


Motion pictures are worthless without motion, so, after taking the footage desired, I waved my hand from the blind and flushed the bird. He returned within a few minutes and alighted at the rear of the nest, this time all fluffed up like a brooding hen.

The first attempt to photograph the red-shouldered hawk marked the only time that both birds were seen in the nesting tree at the same time. Scarcely had I made the amount of footage I desired, when the larger female came in on silent wing, but with voice raised in strident shrieks. She dropped gently upon the nest, and at the same time, the male jumped from the eggs and flew swiftly away.

The succeeding days were full of interest, for I made many trips to the hawks' domain to study and make our photographic records. The old birds would return within a half hour after being disturbed, on cold days, but when the weather was bright and warm they did not appear at all solicitous. Then, when conditions were best for photography, I often had a long wait. Sitting upon an unpadded two-by-four, sixty feet in the air, is not a pleasant way to spend five or six hours at a time.


I whiled away the hours watching the various small bird migrants that were beginning to make their appearance. Creepers and nuthatches worked along the outspread limbs, and red-headed woodpeckers and flickers tapped noisily on all sides. The woods began to show a faint sign of green the latter part of April, and I noticed that the hawks had decorated their nest with small branches of leaves.

On April 27, I again returned to the blind. It was now more than three weeks since we had begun photographic operations, and I feared that the eggs were chilled and that the young were not going to hatch. The old one flushed wildly from the nest when we were one hundred yards away, and after I entered the blind I did not see or hear her for more than an hour. It was a beautiful day with a soft light through the changing woods and the brown leaves were hidden under a growth of pink-faced spring beauties. As I peered through the blind I heard the querulous call of a crow in a nearby tree, and, glancing that way, saw my hawk sitting motionless, eyeing the blind. Her pinkish breast, cut by shadows from the small branches, made her practically invisible against the sky. I watched her closely, and for an hour she merely made short flights around the blind without risking a landing upon the nest. She had been quiet all this time, but finally, apparently unable to stay any longer, she stood upon the gnarled limb of the oak on which she had been resting, and after challenging me loudly with her crest raised, she glided into space, alighted on the nest, and with feathers ruffled like those of an old setting hen, she dropped upon her eggs.

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