A Duck-Hunting Cooper’s Hawk

During one of my recent kayak outings, I had “Rubber Ducky” sitting under some willow trees, photographing ducks as they flew over me and into the marshy area directly in front of me. As I photographed, a large bird approached from the far end of the marsh. As it got closer, I identified it as a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). This was exciting since we do not often see Cooper’s Hawks in our area (although I saw two of them at this location during last spring’s bird migration).

Since the bird was very obliging and headed directly toward me, I quickly placed him in my viewfinder and focused. As he got closer, I continued to hold the focus until he was close enough to grab some reasonable images. Here is the first image, as he turned slightly away from me while surveying the marsh below him:

 

  Cooper's Hawk

 

The hawk then began a bank to his right, and without warning he launched into a rapid dive straight down, towards the marsh and a group of mallard ducks that were feeding in the area. I managed to capture the hawk as he made his bank, but his dive was so quick and unexpected that I was unable to keep him in the frame as he made the dive. As this scene played out, he broke from his dive ~30 feet or so above the marsh … the ducks had already launched and were in the process of “getting out of Dodge”! Here is an image of the hawk as he started his dive, eyeing a duck breakfast sat out before him:

 

Cooper's Hawk starting a "dive" towards ducks

 

 As the hawk broke from his dive, he regained his composure and glided past me, resuming his flight over the water behind me:

 

Cooper's Hawk

 

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