So I had a memory card in my camera that needed to be checked. A few days at the Detroit River Hawkwatch usually means a few pictures, right? With luck, I can secure a good one, right?
Dozens of photos were taken. Most are somewhere between junk and trash. Bad light. Soft focus at best. Poor position on the bird (a head turned the wrong way, for example).
All my whining aside, I did manage to find one that is....okay.
I know. A pretty poor shot overall. It is just a bird in the sky to many, I guess. But to me, it is a Red-shouldered Hawk.
How in the world can I tell? The shape rules out falcons (they have pointed wings). The tail, while a squeak long to my eye, is far too short (when compared to the rest of the bird) to be an accipiter or Northern Harrier. Eagle? No way. Osprey? Nope. Turkey Vulture? Uhhhh, no. All are just wrong.
We are now left with the buteos (BOOT-ee-ohs). We don't really need to do the rundown on the possible eastern buteos (there are five species) as one fieldmark is painfully obvious. No, it is not the tail pattern.
Look at the wingtips. Just inside the black tips you can clearly see an area that almost seems to glow. Hawkwatchers call those "crescents" based on their resemblance to the moon during certain parts of the month. As I understand it, these areas on the wing are not white. They lack pigment. No browns or black or tans. Just structure. No color.
We could almost think of them as being like small waxpaper windows on a large, wooden frame. Put a light behind it and the frame will block most of the light. The light striking the waxpaper simply passes right through it. On a sunny day, the waxpaper might even seem to glow!
So, there have you it. So many photos. So many mistakes. But this one came out okay under the circumstances. ID was a cinch. Clear as a moon-shaped window on a sunny day.....