Two Hawks on a Winter's Morning

The places we go sometimes turn out to be much wilder than we realized. That was my experience while walking on the Penn State campus on this winter morning, as I looked up and spotted two hawks sitting in a tree above my head.

It was cold out, about 19 degrees F. I was between buses, and had decided to treat myself to 20 minutes with my camera. I hadn't been to the Arboretum this week, and I thought I might walk over. So I was on Shortlidge Road, in front of the Ag Engineering building, which is fenced off for renovations, when I looked up.

And saw a huge hawk sitting at the very top of the tree. I've occasionally seen red-tailed hawks on or around campus, so I assumed that was what it was. I even spotted one among the science lab buildings on the Monday before Thanksgiving a few years back, eating a squirrel. That one, engrossed in its meal, let me get as close as just a few feet away for photos.

So I stopped and took many pictures of the huge hawk, leaning against a metal sign pole to steady myself. Then I suddenly realized something that had been staring me in the face from the very beginning: about mid-way down the tree was a second hawk! (You may see photos of the individual hawks - tip-top hawk and mid-way hawk - in the extras.)

By now, I had spent enough time with the hawks that I knew there would be no visit to the Arboretum. But I was hoping to get a few pictures of the tree row and fence along the president's lane, in the snow. So I crossed Park Ave. and snagged a few shots, before checking my watch and starting to head back toward central campus for my next bus.

It was then that I spotted a huge bird flying over the Business Admin building at the corner of Shortlidge and East Park, and darned if it wasn't one of "my" hawks! I watched carefully as it cruised, wings out, and finally landed nearly on TOP of a hawk that was now already sitting at the very tippy-top of the first tree on the president's tree row. It almost seemed as though the two hawks had been following me!

I had never seen two hawks sitting on the same branch before, so of course, I was snapping away on the camera like crazy. The hawk on the right (tip-top hawk from the first tree) was definitely bigger than the one on the left. The larger bird is likely to be the female. Bird-loving friends and I are speculating that the two may be a breeding pair. (I looked it up; they say early March is their mating time.)

The two birds sat there just like this for just a few minutes, before the one on the left crowded the one on the right, and suddenly there was a kerfuffle of feathers. The one hawk - the bigger one on the right, I think - took off and landed on a tree further down the lane.

The show was over and I scurried off quickly to catch my bus. I was breathless from excitement and hoping that I had caught a few sharp shots in all of the pictures I took, free-hand. The sight of those two big hawks sitting side-by-side on that tree branch will stay with me forever. (And as we know, the birds' faith is in their WINGS, not in that skinny little tree branch.)

I have only one thing to say about the whole turn of events: OUTSTANDING! I actually felt like I ought to clap when the show was done! It was one of my top bird experiences anywhere, ever. It was one of the best "20 minutes" I ever spent on campus. :-)

I have to confess that the soundtrack song was running through my head the minute I spotted that second hawk. For we all know, don't we, that two hawks are better than one? ;-)  So here's Bruce Springsteen and crew, with Two Hearts.

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