Miller Canyon, Sierra Vista, Cochise County, AZ

June 15, 2016
Waking in the wee hours with the heft of current events swirling in my head and heart, I did something I used to do as a young person when I couldn't solve complex problems. I got in the car and drove.

This time I knew where I would go, senseless as it may have seemed - a one-day turn-around trip to Sierra Vista - for a visit with a special bird. But, I felt surrounded by senselessness not only at the Pulse in Orlando but with a spineless Congress that allows yet again an unhinged person to kill at will with a repeat-fired weapon.  And this was my way of coping.

With previous help from a birder/photographer and reports on eBird, I knew where to locate a bird that in the past several years had nested high in Miller Canyon at 8,000'. This spring, it chose the lower canyon (under 6,000') that is more easily accessible for me.

What transpired with the NORTHERN GOSHAWK clarified my existential muck.

Unlike the Cooper's and Sharp-shinned hawks, the other two North American Accipiters, the Goshawk is rarely seen. Normally found at high elevations in mixed forests or near its edges, it is not a backyard bird.

By 7:00 a.m., I was on the trail. Fifteen minutes later, it happened.


Where was it? Yikes -- heading right toward me, knifing through the forest gliding toward me (I'm short) at shoulder level then up and over almost touching my hat. Again, it was coming toward me - with the same action. I got the message but my feet hadn't moved.

The Goshawk perched a short distance away in the forest. My feet were already stepping eastward away from the bird whose nesting territory I must have unwittingly invaded. My emotions were now filled with remorse countered by the exhilaration of that bird in flight protecting--immediately--what was of utmost importance to him. It meant no harm to me at that point; it was a muscled warning to leave its area. It gained my utmost respect.

When I turned to look back, I searched tree tops for nests and looked for the Northern Goshawk. Nothing high; so I started scanning all the trees.  OMG!  There it is--perched on a branch, its red eyes observing my every move.

What will happen when I switch my binoculars for the camera, I wondered. Very slowly, with the sun now nicely behind me, I lifted my little Canon SX50 and took a photo. 

It kept staring; I kept snapping. 

The Goshawk appears to be a male; the female is larger and its chest markings more coarse. Note its white eyebrow. Its blue-gray back is not visible but you catch some of its color in the tail bands. It's a chunky bird with a shorter tail than Cooper's or a Sharpie.

After five minutes or so of snapping photos, I put the camera aside and just stood and observed the Goshawk. Then, it relaxed and started preening. Although tempted, I didn't lift the camera again but left within 10 minutes of our encounter.

Other birds flew in and out and sang their songs. An Indigo Bunting was not interested in posing, nor were the Black-headed Grosbeaks.  But a Cassin's Kingbird and the Mexican Jays gave me some good looks.

Water in the creek brought the Cassin's (above) to me.

The Jays flew in and out while I was there but eight of them flew in toward the water as I made my way out of the area.

Mexican Jay (3 above)
The drive down and back was long . . . but not senseless. . .It was epic.

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  1. Heavy hearts for all but the birds make us present in our own lives. The NOGO was reminding you to stay present:)