This time of year most of my effort in the field is spent monitoring known nests, looking for new nests, and reading bands. I carry traps and band birds opportunistically, but am more focused on the seasonal monitoring associated with nesting season.
Yesterday I checked one nest that was originally built by a redtail hawk, then taken over for two years by great horned owls. I got out my scope yesterday and started looking at the nest, hoping to see a horned owl glaring back at me. A car drove past and stopped alongside me and asked what I was looking at. I told the guy that last year a great horned owl was on the nest, but this year I could not (yet) see a bird on the nest, but the nest looked in good repair and had some fresh vegetation in it, indicating that the owls may have moved on and the hawk returned. The man drove off and our voices must have stirred the occupant of the nest, which turned out to be a female redtail hawk, who had, indeed, resumed occupancy of the nest.
Also yesterday I saw a red-shouldered hawk on a wire across from a location where a pair used to nest, but the nest disappeared several years ago. I dropped a trap and caught the bird, an unbanded female, and I banded her. A man drove up and was excited to see the bird, and continued talking with me after I released it. Meanwhile, the mate (male red-shoulder) flew over and landed on the same wire. I continued talking to the man while I reset the nooses on my trap and walked about fifteen yards to place it in view of the hawk. We were far closer than normal to any hawk I would attempt to trap, but the bird saw the mice and came down and was caught as we watched, and so I banded both members of a new pair occupying an old territory. Fabulous!
Today I recaptured a red-shoulder that was already double banded. I checked my records and found that I had originally trapped him with the live great horned owl and dho-gaza set in April of 2004 at the same location, except in 2004 I trapped him in Bob Steiner's back yard and today I trapped him in Bob's front yard. California adult red-shouldered hawks stay put and do not move very far during their adult lives, and are non-migratory. It was good to meet that bird again!
Most of the local buteos are incubating eggs now, but a few are still copulating and probably laying eggs.
I saw a Cooper's hawk soaring today and also a merlin, which was way cool. Yesterday I checked a golden eagle territory and saw the female, who was probably taking a break from incubtation while being relieved on the nest by her mate. I hoped to watch her fly back to her new nest and reveal its location, but she moved while I was watching something else for a second and so I will have to find the nest another day. Last year's nest was vacant.
It is a nice time of year to be out watching hawks and enjoying the mild weather.