Albino Red-tailed Hawk at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Buteo jamaicensis
December 26, 1998

The drive up to meet with Anne and Ray at Ward Pound River Reservation was very nice. The scenery alongside I-684 was good and I especially enjoyed watching the fog rise above the water of the reservoir. It was cold when we got there - in the teens and my fingers felt cold even with my gloves on.

Albino Hawk
Albino Red-tailed Hawk

When I first saw the white hawk, I thought that it looked ghostly - silently flying in. Very, very impressive sight. Although the shape wasn't right, I also thought of Snowy Owls. But this was even whiter than some of the Snowys I have seen. Then, the "regular" hawk flew in. It was great to see the two of them sitting side by side. And, as Anne, said, they were magnificent when they flew off. We also saw some Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice before breakfast.
I did enjoy the breakfast (maybe I should start doing that more often) and then went back to the Reserve. We drove along and looked for the hawks to no avail and started exploring the park. (I did have two good guides). There used to be a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in the park and some dedicated people are trying to locate the buildings that had been there. After walking through that site, we went over some hills and through the woods in hopes of coming upon the hawks from the back. We paused to observe lots of little birds - more chickadees and titmice. Slate-colored Juncos and White-breasted Nuthatches were in the trees. High pitched sounds alerted us to some very small birds - kinglets. I was pretty sure that I saw a line through the eyes, so I identified them as Golden-crowned Kinglets. Along the way, I spotted a fairly large bird in the woods. After some searching we located it again. By shape and posture we knew it was a woodpecker, By size we were pretty sure it was a Pileated. This was confirmed when I saw large white patches on its wings as it flew away. It was my first sighting of a Pileated outside of Florida and Georgia. We saw another woodpecker, but not too clearly. From its tapping patterns, Anne thought it could be a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but I couldn't count that as I don't know my woodpecker peckings. Aside from the birds, just walking through the woods was quite pleasant. I enjoyed walking on the snow that still remained. And it was quiet and peaceful.

Flying Albino Red-tailed Hawk

We came out of the woods near where the hawks' favorite tree was. They weren't there, but there was quite a bit of activity in the shrubs. Chickadees and titmice again; a magnificent view of a Red-bellied Woodpecker, several Blue Jays, and a female Eastern Bluebird were a delight to the eye as was a Northern Cardinal. By now, the temperature had gone into the low 20s and I was feeling much warmer and took my gloves off. A flock of Canada Geese flew overhead and I watched them forming V's and echelons. We walked back down the road to where the cars were parked and passed a herd of about 8 White-tailed Deer. Stopped to watch them for a little while and then continued on. We spotted a Red Fox walking along. The fox was beautifully colored but it had the sorriest tail that I ever did see. Also saw plenty of American Crows and a Turkey Vulture.

 Albinino and "Regular" Red-tailed Hawks
Although difficult to see, the Normal and Albino Hawks are perched in the tree

As Anne mentioned, we did see the hawks again and I was able to get some video of them for a while. It is far from spectacular. As they were flying off and I tried to get my camera off the tripod, I did get some very good shots of the ground. After Anne and Ray left, I continued walking along the river. One of my favorite sights and sounds is water running through small streams and rivers. With the snow and ice on it, it was all the more beautiful. The walk was longer than I expected, but quite pleasant. I scared up a pair of American Black Ducks but saw nothing else along the trail. When I came out at a picnic area, some movement caught my eye. I was quite surprised to see a Hermit Thrush. Got some very nice looks at it.

The walk back along the road was not exciting until I came to a tree with what appeared to be lots of dead leaves in it. But the leaves were moving - a flock of Cedar Waxwings was in it. Beautiful birds. An American Tree Sparrow foraged at the base of another nearby tree. Higher up in the tree, the bright colors of a male Eastern Bluebird drew my attention. I walked over towards the closed visitor's center. They had some feeders off to the side that seemed quite busy. But there was also a bush with bright red berries next to the building. And the bush was filled with Cedar Waxwings. I was able to get quite close. How can one describe these beauties. Their plumage seems so silky. The masks and crests are striking. Bold yellow tips to their tails, a golden yellow wash to their breasts. Extraordinary. I watched them for some time picking the berries off the bushes. If I hadn't seen the hawks, this would have been the best part of the day. And, yes, the feeders had some nice birds, too. Lots of chickadees, titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, White-throated Sparrows, and a male and female Northern Cardinal.

 Albino and "Normal" Red-tailed Hawks
Blown up view of the two hawks

I made my way back to my car and as I was walking saw the hawks again. Watched for a while and then they flew off. Got my car, drove around a little and then back to the hawk tree. They were back again, Took some video and then they flew off. Did some more driving and then parked the car. The hawks were deeper in the woods. I decided to walk up the hill and as I did, the white hawk flew off. The female remained for a while and then also flew across the road and into the distance. Went back to the feeder, and although the waxwings were gone, spent some time watching the other birds. I left at about 2:30 and went to the same restaurant for lunch and then returned home.

"Normal" Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk in My Backyard

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