During our drive back and forth between Austin and Baton Rouge for Christmas, Annie and I saw an unprecedented number of hawks along the highway, perched high on billboards, trees, and telephone poles, keenly alert for prey. We counted something like 14 on the way to Baton Rouge before the light was gone, which we thought was pretty amazing. Annie has a real eye for them, spotting them amid dense stands of wood as well as on far off fence posts, even while she was driving. (I prefer to believe she simply has a sixth sense about them, rather than that she wasn't watching the road. We each have our illusions that get us sanely through the day.)
On the way back, we counted an astounding (to us, anyway) 42 separate hawks! Apparently we were in the middle of their annual winter migration, a little later than usual. I wrote to the Texas Ornithological Society in Houston to see what species of hawk they might be (from photos, I thought maybe they were Cooper's Hawks), but President David Sarkozi said from my description they definitely sounded like Red-Tailed Hawks:
Most of your hawks were likely Red-tailed Hawks. The eastern form
expected on that drive is very light colored. Cooper's are forest
birds and don't spend a lot of time in the open, while Red-tailed
hunt from perches. There is an old adage in Texas birding, all
roadside hawks are red-tailed hawks until proven otherwise.
They're certainly beautiful, majestic, impressive birds. The white plumage on their chests really catches your eye when they're perched, and I can see how if you were on the ground looking up, that would blend right into the cloud cover. Were they there every year, but I never noticed them? Had we not moved out into the country, would we still have been in the right frame of mind to pay attention? I wonder how many other marvelous creatures are in our field of view every day, unnoticed and unremarked, there for us to gaze at, rapt, had we only the courage to look.