I get annoyed when trash and papers get snagged in the woods behind our house. A busy road runs behind us at the top of a short hill, and I am forever cleaning up stuff that gets caught in the branches of the roadside trees.
That white plastic bag stuck in the trees in the center of this photo was particularly irksome. It was caught midway up, very noticeable in the barren winter scene, and it was a cold day to go out there and detangle it.
When the bag fluttered in the chilly breeze, it looked odd. Then I realized it was not trash at all, but a big red tailed hawk checking out the back yard.
My photo is terrible. How I wish I had a camera and the quick moves to capture this scene without scaring the hunter off. This hawk was huge, which means it was probably a female. The female Buteo jamaicensis is a third larger than the male, which is typical for hawks in general.
Here's a better, professional photo of a red tailed hawk, found on the internet via Jerry Liguori:
I couldn't get over how big the hawk looked out in our back yard. I think she had fluffed out her feathers in the deep cold, making her look even bigger.
Red tailed hawks are common here and are the best defense against vole populations. The hunting is excellent in our yard. We see more red tailed hawks in winter when northern birds join the resident birds here. In summer we hear the high wild screech of red tails overhead often. It's the sound movies use for raptor calls -- when you hear an eagle on TV, it's usually a red tailed hawk you're hearing.
These hawks normally hunt by soaring overhead in wide circles, and then attacking in a controlled dive with legs outstretched. I didn't expect this hawk to make any catches from her perch in the tree, and when she flew away her wide wing span and sheer size in the air was quite a sight.
That was no roadside plastic bag out there.