Posts Tagged: Red-tailed Hawk

Seeing Red

Red Twig Dogwood at the Horicon Marsh

Red Twig Dogwood

Swaths of Red Twig Dogwood brighten an otherwise brown winter landscape along Dike Road.  The gravel part of the road that crosses the Horicon Marsh is not yet open for us to drive through.

Red Twig Dogwood

We can look forward to clusters of white flowers on the Dogwood in late spring.

The Moon at the Horicon Marsh

Have you heard of the rule of f/11 when shooting the moon?  I have heard that a good starting point is to use ISO 100, an f/11 aperture, and a shutter speed of 1/200 when taking pictures of the moon. Tweak from there.  The above shot was taken at ISO 100, f/6.3, and a shutter speed of 1/1000.  It was taken at 3:30 in the afternoon.  I was happy with the detail in this photo, since most of my shots of the moon are featureless white blobs.  If you have tips for shooting the moon, please let us know in the comments area.

Red-tailed Hawk at the Horicon Marsh

Red-tailed Hawk

This Red-tailed Hawk was keeping watch high in a tree along Highway Z.  We had sunshine today at the Horicon Marsh after a number of gray days in a row.  Whether sunny, gray, or we’re seeing red, it is always a great day to visit the Horicon Marsh.

Fabulous Feet

Red-tailed Hawk at the Horicon Marsh

The Snowy Owl was elusive today as I drove through the fog shrouded Horicon Marsh.  Several vigilant hawks were perched high in trees, including this Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk at the Horicon Marsh

He fans his reddish brown tail feathers as he takes flight, confirming his identity.

Red-tailed Hawk at the Horicon Marsh

Sharing the backside of a hawk flying away isn’t a prize winning shot.  What I found interesting though, is how relaxed his feet are as he releases his grip on the tree branch.

Bird Leg Anatomy

Hawk Leg Tendons

Hawks have three main leg bones that form a “Z.” Muscles that attach to the back of the leg bones have long tendons. These tendons pass through grooves behind the “ankle” and end at the underside of the toes. (Tendons attach muscles to bones.) Think of the tendon as a big rubber band going over a pulley. When a hawk straightens its leg, the muscle contracts and shortens. There is less tension on the tendon since it does not have to travel as far, and the toes open. A hawk uses this mechanism when it approaches a perch or its prey. The hawk then flexes its legs to grasp the perch or prey. Flexion stretches the tendon and puts more tension on it, causing the toes to close. We have a similar mechanism in our wrists and hands. Try to bend your wrist back and grasp a pen. Then bend your wrist down as far as you can. Your grasp will loosen on the pen and it will be harder to hold. This is referred to as a tenodesis grip in humans and is used as a tool in physical and occupational therapy to rehabilitate damaged tendons.

A hawk’s body weight increases the effect.  This passive closing of the toes allows the muscles to relax and the hawk can stay perched for long periods of time without expending energy.

Hawks also have keen vision.  As soon as they see my car slowing down, off they go to find another lookout post to survey the Horicon Marsh.


Shades of Autumn

Sumac at the Horicon Marsh

It is a calm, gray, fall day, perfect for a drive on the auto tour.  Sumac is turning red, orange, and yellow.

Sumac at the Horicon Marsh

The velvety, reddish brown fruit is rich in Vitamin A.  Apparently, birds aren’t all that excited about eating it, but they will resort to it if other food is scarce.

Trumpeter Swans with Cygnets at the Horicon Marsh

Trumpeter Swans and their growing cygnets enjoy a leisurely swim.

Trumpeter Swans at the Horicon Marsh

A little boy was walking with his mother along the road as I was standing taking pictures.  He exclaimed, “Mom, she is taking pictures of that white bird!”  He was so excited and so was I.

Cattails at the Horicon Marsh

The prolific cattails are going to seed.  Cattails are actually an herb.  Each spike can contain 220,000 seeds!

Milkweed at the Horicon Marsh

Milkweed is also an herb.  The plant contains cardiac glycosides, similar to Foxglove, that are used to treat some heart diseases.  These glycosides are absorbed by Monarch butterfly larvae.  Milkweed is the only thing the larvae eat.  The glycosides make the larvae and adult butterflies toxic to birds and other predators.

Canada Geese at the Horicon Marsh

Canada Geese take a break before migrating south.

Great Blue Heron at the Horicon Marsh

This Great Blue Heron stands in the water near the road.

Red-tailed Hawk at the Horicon Marsh

I love the coloring of the Red-tailed hawk.  His eyes looks so dark and almost hollow. Red-tailed Hawks have keen vision.  They can see their prey, like a mouse, a mile away.


Some of the information today was found in the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers:  Eastern Region.