ARTISTS AND BIRDS

"Black is Beautiful!"

Common Black Hawk

        You may wonder why so many enjoy ‘birding’. The answer is . . . because you never know if the ‘unpredictable’ will happen. It was one of those mornings when we just had to take a drive into the country, soak up the beauty of the coming day, and renew our link to humanity. My Honey and I drove past Ivins, made the turn toward black hawkGunlock, and focused on every flying, perching, running thing we could see. Already there were people on the reservoir enjoying the water, but what they couldn’t enjoy was at the north end of the reservoir where the Santa Clara flows in.

        When you think of hawks, the Bald Eagle comes to mind, hunting for Coots on the water, Jack Rabbits and rodents across the vast stretches of earth, or as an opportunist who will dine on a dead cow. Then there are the Sharp-shinned Hawks who fly like arrows through the sky to attack birds, or the Harrier Hawks that sweep over marshes for most anything that is smaller and moves. Well, this was one of those ‘unpredictables’ for as we pulled off the road at the north end of the reservoir where the Santa Clara flows into a delta, there in one of the Cottonwood trees was a Common Black Hawk. It was not common to us like it is for those living in Arizona, New Mexico, or West Texas. He was beautiful and black, and almost invisible to the eye. Our motion of grabbing our binoculars, even from a hundred feet away, sent this large bird to a new perch deeper in the grove of Cottonwoods. As he launched to fly we saw a white band on the tail and his yellow legs. This is a hawk that hunts creatures of the riparian. Fish, snakes, amphibians, all things associated with water. This was a great find for us. We continued to watch this black beauty who was still looking for breakfast, as it was obvious he did not want to leave the area. This extremely wary bird moved deeper into the Cottonwood grove and finally out of sight. Black Hawks love the habitat of mature Cottonwood stands with large branches and tall canopies. Next time you are at the north end of Gunlock Reservoir, watch carefully in the Cottonwood groves and you may see a black shadow move.

        The artist of the Common Black Hawk is Keith Davis. He was the first to see it. We try to take drives at least once a week to view the wild life, and witness the ever-changing seasons in southern Utah. If you have an interest in learning how to identify the bird species you see in southern Utah, come to our Red Cliffs Audubon Meetings and Field Trips. For more information about these events, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.

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