We returned to San Lee Park on a gorgeous late winter morn to check on the progress of the early-blooming native wildflowers;
we found the trout lily colonies exploding, and a few more liverwort in bloom,
but few other species blooming just yet.
As we made our way back toward the dam, we wandered from the path for a closer look at a red-shouldered hawk calling from just up the ridge.
Perched high in a majestic oak, her rusty breast glowed like smoldering embers against the brilliant blue sky above.
As we stealthily switched to a longer lens, the solitary female was joined by an apparent suitor;
with muted vocalizations and very little in the way of pleasantries,
the pair proceeded with their ancient rite of spring.
Historically, red-shouldered hawks may have been the predominant species of hawk in this area, but over the past century, they've been supplanted by the red-tailed hawk throughout much of our region. Most of this shift is associated with habitat loss; the red-shouldered hawk prefers mature forest with an open understory and ready access to water, and much of this habitat has been lost to agriculture and other forms of human development.
Fortunately for the hawks and for us, Lee County is still home to a decent amount of habitat suitable for the red-shouldered raptors. We're aware of at least four or five red-shouldered pairs around town; three in area parks, and one in a wooded residential development built around a substantial stream.
Nature is resilient, and never fails to amaze and astonish us, particularly in those few remaining places where human development has been limited.
Here on the wooded ridge, overlooking the stream-fed lake below, we experience yet another of those moments; glad that someone who came before us had the foresight to conserve and protect this little hundred-acre wood, and determined to do our part to ensure that it remains protected.
For the hawks and their progeny, and for us and ours...