A bitter north wind and snow have been swirling the last few days, a typical spring in Big Valley CA. However, prior to this streak of bad weather I went out to check on two nearby nests where red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) raised broods last year. Both are located in the Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA). One is easily accessed and the other requires a longer hike.
At one site two hawks were sitting on branches above the nest. When I neared they both flew, circling the tree and landing again – all the while angrily scolding me for my presence. I do not think they were courting yet and there was no indication that the two hawks were repairing the nest. I know I am putting my own interpretation on the situation, however, I think they are claiming the tree and nest before other raptors do so. I did see a single ferruginous hawk in the tree a few days earlier.
Red-tailed hawks build their nests in tall trees where they have a good view of the area. Cliff ledges or even man-made structures, such as window ledges, are also utilized as nesting sites. There is a famous red-tailed hawk, Pale Male, that lives on a building ledge in New York City. The male and female build the nest together from piles of dry sticks and line it with fresh and dry vegetation and bark.
In one picture both hawks are flying near the tree. In another the top of the nest is visible. Since I have many photographs of this pair I added two more of them flying and landing on the snag. The fact that they are scolding is obvious from their open beaks.
I do hope this pair decides to set up housekeeping in this snag.