Warning: graphic images – hawk catches a rabbit

28 June, 2015                        Warning: graphic images – hawk catches a rabbit

The graphic images in this post are of a recently dead rabbit clutched in the talons of a male Red-tailed hawk. I took them Wednesday afternoon about 4:00 while I was driving home from the Y. They’re not particularly gory, but if you find the sight of a dead rabbit upsetting you may want to skip over them. I’ll put them closer to the bottom of the post so you can skip them if you’re so inclined.

I’ve taken lots of other pictures this week, of course. Here’s one nobody could object to. I was walking the dogs past Freeman High School Tuesday morning (three minutes walk from my house) when I looked up and saw this gorgeous bluebird on a wire: 

Bluebird on a wire in front of Freeman HS

Bluebird on a wire in front of Freeman HS

This is the American Flag flying in front of the school: 

American Flag in front of Freeman

American Flag in front of Freeman

And this mockingbird was singing on the same wire as the bluebird: 

Enthusiastic mockingbird sharing the wire with the bluebird

Enthusiastic mockingbird sharing the wire with the bluebird

My friend Ethan and I were hiking at Pony Pasture Thursday afternoon when we looked down and saw an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina). Ethan has been a Box Turtle aficionado for many years and even “adopted a wild box turtle named “Wilson” from the Wildlife Center of Virginia. So he knows from box turtles. The turtle we saw Thursday was alive and well, just taking a break beside the trail. Ethan took several pictures of it. Since he used my camera, I got to choose my favorite one – here it is – great job Ethan!: 

Fine looking box turtle at Pony Pasture

Fine looking box turtle at Pony Pasture – photo by Ethan

Same day I got another Blue Dancer, they’re so photogenic: 

Blue dancers are always beautiful. And if one flies away, another will be along in short order.

Blue dancers are always beautiful. And if one flies away, another will be along in short order.

Another nice 5-lined skink; this was all on the same day:

Five-lined skink. Blue is a very popular color at Pony Pasture. You should have seen the sky.

Five-lined skink. Blue is a very popular color at Pony Pasture. You should have seen the sky. 

I’m going to start the hawk pictures in a minute, so sign off soon if you don’t want to see them. They’re not particularly awful. I see plenty of rabbits that get hit by cars. These pictures are less bad than that. 

One more picture from Thursday at Pony Pasture, this one from the morning (I love to visit twice a day when I can). I’ve become less fastidious (I’ve mentioned before) about identification recently. And I got a “new” dragonfly this week! I haven’t posted it yet on bugguide.net to get a positive ID but they’ll help me out when I send it to them. They’re terrific. Unless a blog follower wants to ID it first – you’ll be credited here right away! Have a look: 

That is a fine-looking animal. Look back here soon to learn what it is. Besides a dragonfly.

That is a fine-looking animal. Look back here soon to learn what it is. Besides a dragonfly.

[This just in from Anne: that is a female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). Thank you Anne!]

OK, hawk pictures – somewhat gory but not horrible. PG or perhaps PG-13. You won’t faint – I promise. But if that’s a chance you’d prefer not to take, better you should sign off now.

Coming home from the Y I take a short cut to my house. It goes right along the power line. The hawks love to sit on top of the towers and I glanced up and saw the female. So I stopped to snap a picture but I must have a thousand of these:

Female Red-tail. Probably waiting for another cottontail to make its last mistake.

Female Red-tail. Probably waiting for another cottontail to make its last mistake.

There was commotion down below and I looked down and saw the male sitting on a very tall tree stump – probably twelve feet tall. A mockingbird was harassing him mercilessly, but that’s a day-in/day-out interaction between hawks and mockingbirds. You can see the mockingbird in this picture to the left. You can also see the hawk’s foot on the rabbit. It’s obvious now, but at the time I had no idea. You can also really see how the hawks get the name “red tail” in this image: 

Red-tailed hawk on a stump; mockingbird on left, rabbit under-talon, pine trees in background

Red-tailed hawk on a stump; mockingbird on left, rabbit under-talon, pine trees in background

Almost literally that second, the hawk decided to gain some altitude. He took his meal and flew up to the crossbar of a low power line. This was when I first realized he was carrying additional luggage:

Bringing home the bacon, in a manner of speaking

Bringing home the bacon, in a manner of speaking

One last picture of the hawk with his meal. It’s a bit more of a closeup, but more of the hawk’s face than the detail on the rabbit. What I was going for here was the hawk’s face – it was hot and he was panting from the effort. It never crossed my mind before that moment that hawks – or any birds – pant in the heat but there you go. That’s a male and he probably doesn’t weigh much over two pounds. Definitely not three. And that rabbit is not a baby. And according to the Penn State Biology Department, “Cottontails… weigh between two and three pounds.” So think of how much effort it must be to fly with that thing. Incredible. Think about climbing a flight of stairs carrying something that weighs as much as you do. Anyway, here he is, panting, but holding a lot of calories: 

Panting hawk with dinner for his family.

Panting hawk with dinner for his family.

To editorialize a tiny bit, if there is anyone still reading who has a soft spot for rabbits. I have a soft spot for rabbits too; who doesn’t? They’re mammals and so am I. Hawks are not. But if you see a hawk that is an unsuccessful hunter, conjure up an image of a nest filled with hungry baby hawks. Dead rabbits are a disturbing image. Hungry baby hawks are a disturbing image. It’ll be one or the other. That’s why Joseph Campbell says “Life lives on life.” 

I’ll close this post with another plant. Another one – they keep appearing – that’s a mystery to me. I haven’t consulted with my elite corps of plant ID people yet. Watch this space though! And have a great week! Final plant: – wait – got a possibility – this may be a Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides). If I’m wrong, please inform me: [Incorrect! Thank you Kim and Betsy and Anne! That is a Lizard’s Tail (Saururus cernuus)]

Mystery plant (yet again).

Lizard’s Tail! 

All best,

Jay

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, Pony Pasture, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Warning: graphic images – hawk catches a rabbit

  1. Hey Jay

    Dragonfly is a female Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa
    Plant at the end is Lizard’s-tail, Saururus cernuus
    Great hawk shots!
    Anne

  2. Thank you for the dragonfly ID – I’ll correct it now! And thank you for the plant ID – I’m about to correct that one too. Betsy and Kim also corrected me! Also glad you liked the hawk shots. Unlike that rabbit, I was in the right place at the right time. My next hawk photography goal is to get three hawks in one picture. I think there are youngsters around.

    Thanks again and have a great day,

    Jay

  3. Gilpin Brown says:

    LOVE the photos – you are quite good!

    • Thank you Gilpin! The truth of the matter is, I’m just getting a lot of opportunities! The more times I click that shutter, the more chances I get to delete the bad ones! Thank you again!

      Have a great day,

      Jay

  4. Pingback: The eyes have it | NEWFAZE

  5. Pingback: The more I learn, the less I knew! | NEWFAZE

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