Back in November,
when autumn’s trees unveiled winter’s bare-limbed vistas,
new hawk patterns appeared over Little Crum Creek.

Which hawk, then, was daily greeting sunrise above a nearby field: 
the customary Cooper’s or the newly suspected Red-tailed?

One day I watched one bolt from its branch for a mid-air strike,
but hawk and prey suddenly vanished in a snowy cloud of feathers.

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While the Cooper’s Hawk seemed to preside over spring and summer,
the Red-tailed’s claim began to mount in fall.

I’d frequently spot one abandoning a perch,
its namesake tail fanned in flight.

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Another soared,
intermittently flapping,
in high wide circles above the field.

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Soon closer visits permitted better scrutiny. 

Based on the belly’s vested coloration
and relatively short tail feathers,
these two, above & below, look like Red-tailed Hawks.

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For contrast,
consider the thinly-streaked belly & breast coloration
plus the long, thickly-banded tail feathers
of a mid-December Cooper’s Hawk
in the following two photos.

(Its tail feathers seem too rounded for the lookalike Sharp-shinned Hawk.)

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In January, and now February,
this accipiter has seemed scarce. 

But count on seeing a Red-tailed just about any day.

Since December’s late snowfall, this buteo’s been our most prominent raptor.

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