A Follow-up Visit to Hawk Nests in St. Louis Parks

July 16, 2014

Last Saturday morning I visited a few hawk nests that I had been watching earlier in the spring. My first stop would be Tower Grove Park, where several weeks ago I had spotted a lone, red-tailed hawk nestling looking down at me as I looked up at a nest atop a tall, narrow pine tree. I remember how fluffy and awkward the little hawk appeared as it watched with curiosity as I searched for a good vantage point to take its picture.

I met my friend and co-worker, Andrea Schuhmann, at the park at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Andrea is our new Natural History Biologist at Busch Conservation Area,  and she was eager to become more familiar with the parks and urban wildlife of St. Louis. We walked to the west end of the park to look at the nest and we weren’t surprised to see that the awkward redtail I remembered had fledged. As we began looking in the surrounding trees for the young hawk, a gorgeous, immature red-tailed hawk, swept downward from out of nowhere and landed in a “stick-out” about 15 feet off the ground in the nest tree. We were so close, I wondered how I would ever get a shot but we soon realized the hawk was very used to biped visitors to its territory and had no plans to leave its favorite perch.

As I pulled my tripod and camera off my shoulder to set up for a shot, I saw that the hawk was now anything but “fluffy and awkward.” A better description at this point would be “stunning and intense,” as you can see from the featured photo (500 mm; 1/80; f/4; ISO 400; Av). I spent the next 15 minutes photographing the impressive raptor from every angle while Andrea watched it through her binoculars, reveling in all of its inquisitive head turns and immaculate feather detail. When we finally decided it was time to head to the next park, the redtail was still sitting on the perch so we left it there and patted ourselves on the backs for being so darn lucky.

Our next stop was Lafayette Park, where I had photographed a pair of Cooper’s hawks as they built a nest earlier this spring. I hadn’t had time to return to the site so I was eager to see if the nest had been successful. As with the redtails of Tower Grove Park, we didn’t expect to find anything in the nest but we hoped to find a group of young Cooper’s hawks flying and feeding in the area. Upon arrival, we were not disappointed!

I hadn’t even finished mounting my camera on the tripod when Andrea spotted the first Cooper’s hawk on the roof of a neighboring building. Minutes later, we spotted an immature bird with feathers and blood on its beak and talons. After that we found another, and another. Yes, we were immersed in Cooper’s hawks, counting at least five at one point! We watched as the young birds made awkward predatory attempts on squirrels and clumsy landings on tree branches. At one point, a young bird landed in a Cypress tree at eye level and it was so close, I couldn’t even get its entire body in the frame. I hope you enjoy the up-close detail, including a nice look at its spotted “britches” as Andrea described its leg plumage.

DJB_LP_2014_1032Immature Cooper’s Hawk; 700 mm; 1/80; f/5.6; ISO 400; Av

We could have stayed and watched the goofy young Cooper’s hawks all morning but we finally decided to call it a day, and a great one at that. Perhaps the Cooper’s hawks will be as refined as the redtail we had visited earlier, given a little time. The one I caught perching on a bent tree trunk (see below) was well on its way.

DJB_LP_2014_1035Immature Cooper’s Hawk; 500 mm; 1/30; f/4; ISO 400; Av

I continue to be overwhelmed by all of the urban wildlife in the St. Louis area. It is a weekly struggle just to decide which direction to go with so much opportunity. But I always have “country” wildlife on my mind as well, as you will see next week when I share some brand new river otter images that were taken a long way from St. Louis. Until then……

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  NatureFrames@Rocketmail.Com


8 comments on “A Follow-up Visit to Hawk Nests in St. Louis Parks”

  1. Beautiful shot of the red-tailed hawk! I love the dark colors and the sharpness of detail on its face and head. Also, the clenched talon adds intensity to his looks! Love it!

  2. Those are such wonderful hawks with great backgrounds. Well done.

  3. As someone who makes it her business to sensitize people to urban wildlife, I find your posts even more wonderful when they are dealing with them!

  4. GREAT Shots of Red Tail Hawk, and the Coopers Hawk. I love the poise the the Red tail has. Pretty exciting Danny, Thanks for sharing.


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