We're finally having some spring-like days, with the first native spring wildflower (Hepatica) blooming in the Woodland Wildflower Garden. Wind-pollinated trees are releasing pollen, too.
But one of the most dramatic happenings in late winter is the courtship and nest-building of our red-shouldered hawk pairs. They're monogamous and mate for life, staying in the same territory. They generally keep other red-shouldered hawks out of their territory, except occasionally they'll tolerate a family member.
Out in the Garden this morning with fellow garden naturalist Sue Watts, we were amazed to see what appeared to be three adult red-shouldered hawks, carrying on with their kee-aah calls. They're vocal during breeding season particularly. Their behavior looked territorial, two seeming to chase away the third. Garden volunteer Ette Ruppert (also a Master Naturalist like Sue) had seen some nest-building behavior last Friday, and took us to where it was (same site as last year). But the nest didn't seem to have progressed.
Later I was out along the Arboretum Road with another friend, and we spotted a hawk on a large, well built nest. I managed to get a blurry shot (I'd gone home specifically to get my camera after seeing them this morning). Another hawk was nearby, and much to our surprise they flew on the same branch, and apparently continued with courtship and mating, judging by the flapping and activity. Then one of them, presumably the female, returned to the nest.
We'll be keeping a eye on this pair in the coming weeks, at least as long as we can see the nest!
(Here's a link to a nice series of photographs of a pair in Florida.) And you might enjoy this post about our Garden red-shouldered hawks from 2008.