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European Starling Mimics a Hawk

We were out for our afternoon walk with the dog when we thought we heard a red-tailed hawk. We stopped to listen and take a good look but what we saw were two smaller dark birds in the top of the evergreen. They were chattering and I was thinking it was a myna bird….somewhere I had heard one before and I remembered its distinctive whistles and calls.

Starlings 2 11
I tried to zoom in and get a good look but they were too far away. They flew away.

Starling 2 13 11
We continued on the trail and then we heard the chattering again. This time I was able to get a little closer and take another photo. I cropped this one so it is a tad blurry but you can see what the basic shape is for this bird.

When we got home we pulled out the field guide and it told us that the starling and the myna are related. What was the most fascinating fact we learned is that the starling will mimic the red-tail hawk. You can hear it on
European Starling (scroll down and listen)
This is exactly what we heard!

Still learning after all this time!

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Red-Tailed Hawk Encounter

We often see Red-tailed Hawks in our area and they are an awesome sight as they soar high above us. If you listen carefully, their call can be heard from very far away because it is so distinct. Try clicking the photos to see them larger.
red tail hawk colored feathers
This particular hawk landed in a little stream area at the flower farm. You can’t see the little bit of creek in this photo where he is sitting at the water’s edge. He had swooped down over our heads and we thought for sure he was after his prey but he landed and sat for a few minutes which allowed us to take a few photos. My boys commented that he was a lot bigger than they thought and he was a big guy. I looked it up when we got home and our field guide says they are around 22 inches with a wingspan of 52 inches and weigh around 45 ounces.

red tail hawk in parking lot
He waddled through the tall grasses and up into the near-by parking lot and we were able to really see his red tail feathers. He turned his head and gave us his best “hawk eye” and then he flew off.

red tail hawk flying
Off he goes!

For more information on these gorgeous birds, I highly recommend the article. This page has inspired me to try sketching the Red-tailed Hawk in my nature journal, Naturalist’s Notebook, although my sketch will be a far cry from this piece of art. 🙂


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Even More Lovely Than I Imagined: Winter Weeds

Our Winter Wednesday – Winter Weed Study

We really enjoyed our Discover Nature in Winter reading in the chapter about winter weeds. It is a totally new topic of nature study for us. I feel like we are just getting our feet wet this year and as the years go by, we will be able to observe more subjects. I gathered a few of our photos from recent walks here at the beginning of the entry.

The one thing that the boys noticed about the winter weeds that we observed is that during this season it is not the flower we are looking at but rather the seeds.

We discussed how the seeds were important at this time of year as food for many of the animals that inhabit the area. We also talked about how the rain and the snow knock the weeds over and as they lay on the ground, they are dispersing their seeds in that way as well.

I hope that we remember to look at these particular plants in the summer to compare the differences. It would make a great nature journal entry.

These last photos are from yesterday’s family hike. We took a couple of hours to hike along the American River which was just roaring! It was the first time that all six of us were out on the trail together in a very long time.I told my husband as we hiked along that it was great to have us all spending time in the fresh air and I relished the conversations and relationships that the kids have with one another.

Here are a few of the weeds we saw as we hiked along.

It was such a great afternoon and as always, with any trip to the river, there was eventually rock skipping….so many lovely rocks to choose from.

How about a wildflower photo from the day?

I love a good purple wildflower photo. 🙂

One last treat from the day…..

A beaver dam!

I am so glad that I organized the Winter Wednesday activities. It has given our family a new perspective on the winter season and another reason to get outside and enjoy the day together.