The Westville Conservation Area along the Three Mile River in Taunton, MA is a 54 acre wildlife preserve that caught this writer, and former resident of that city, totally by surprise this week. Taking a shortcut to run an errand, there it was, catching me out of the corner of my eye and causing me to make a u-turn on a very chilly, frosty morning to check it out. Having a half hour to kill and my camera with me, I looked at the site map on the kiosk and took off to do a partial hike, planning to return later in the day to finish exploring the trails.
Not a few minutes into the hike, I spotted a hawk at a distance, high in a tree by the edge of the open field. With my newly acquired tripod in tow, I set up to take a shot, concerned that it would fly away if I approached any closer. Disappointed at getting only one picture before it flew off, I folded my tripod up and continued on hoping I might see it again. Sure enough, after passing a wooded area filled with Wrens, Mourning Doves and a Cardinal pair, the trail opened up onto another field and there it was, closer this time and perched, facing me, at the back corner of a larger open space. Getting a much better look at it, it was clearly a hawk I’d never seen before, either in the wild or captivity. The greenish beak, the downy white feathers above the feet, the long rectangular tail and the vertical striping on the breast were distinguishing characteristics that I would later discover marked it as an immature Cooper’s Hawk which feed on birds, Mourning Doves primarily.
Once again it took flight to land atop a cluster of tall White Pine trees along the edge of the same field forcing me to hike further to gain a perpendicular line of sight in an attempt to maximize my camera’s 35X optical zoom. This must have been a more precarious perch as I was just able to get him in view before he spread his wings and flew away far into the distance. But not before I’d managed to capture that takeoff action in the final shot.
Turns out my camera battery was just about to die and so I would not return that day. This made me recognize two things, one, that I needed a spare battery, but more importantly, how grateful I am for the gift of a surprise especially one that corresponds to my love for the uniqueness and beauty of nature.