I once spotted an osprey perched over the water at Ridley Creek State Park.

That’s not far from the Springton Reservoir where it might easily dive for fish.

But I’ve since harbored little expectation of ever seeing one over Little Crum Creek.

Then there it was, downstream, April 10, soaring high and low in broad circles over Ridley Park Lake,  dipping, breaking, and rising for about 5-10 minutes before disappearing someplace north.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This raptor visit called for a specialist.

My nephew, who recently wrote a grade school report on ospreys, said that maybe the bird was fishing, looking for a good place to nest, or just migrating.

For more osprey insights, and for lots of extraordinary pictures, consider visiting Bay Photos by Donna.  In this post, Donna documents an osprey family’s full nesting season on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Thanks to her lens on life there, I recognized our visitor here straight away.

.

.

 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.

100_7919edcropA

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.

100_7985edcropC

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

100_7973edcropB

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.

100_8101edcropD

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.)

100_8134edcropC100_8166edcropC

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.

 100_8530cropA