Snow-filled Mountains, Eagles, and a Red-tailed Hawk 

Our Quick Encounter with a Red-tailed Hawk

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We enjoyed our first snow of the season by heading to the Ashokan Reservoir in Olivebridge for a hike to photograph the still-frozen trees and, with some luck, see wintering Bald Eagles.

The best way to describe the view of the mountains after it snows is that it looks like something out of Edward Scissorhands. The trees and mountains were cast in ice and snow and looked magical. Seeing a Bald Eagle would put an exclamation point on this fabulous day.

There are specific trees at the reservoir we refer to as eagle perches where we frequently see eagles, and today the trees held just snow. Eagle Beach, where eagles often stop for a drink, was also empty. So we’re 0-2 at our typical eagle spots.

But just as I began using my telescopic lens to scan a tiny strip of land not covered by snow far in the distance, Dan and I both saw them. Two adult Bald Eagles on the island.

Even with a 600 mm lens, it was a challenge seeing the birds up close, but the proximity of eagles made the trip worthwhile.

On the way home, another adventure awaited.

Two adult Bald Eagles on a tiny strip of land at the Ashokan Reservoir

Quick Encounter with a Red-tailed Hawk

A beautiful Red-tailed Hawk flew across the road in front of us and landed on a strip of grass, not covered by snow, very close to the roadside. Our first thought was the hawk was grabbing a small rodent only its hawk eyes could see. It was close to 3 pm and would be dark soon, so knowing the hawk found some nourishment before dark made us happy.

Then all of a sudden, Dan looks into the rearview mirror and yells, “Noooo.” After the hawk landed in the grass, the bird quickly turned around and took off right into the path of an oncoming truck. Dan said it looked close and wasn’t sure if the hawk had made it, so we immediately turned around and headed back to investigate.

The beautiful view of the snow-covered Ashokan Reservoir

We expected to find the hawk lying upside down by the road. I was already dreading calling our local wildlife rehabilitator to tell her she had a new patient. Then I worried if we had towels or blankets in the trunk to swaddle the bird. Tyvek grocery bags don’t work for an animal with massive talons.

Luckily we didn’t find any feathers or blood near the roadway. We walked around the area, looking for any signs of a distressed hawk. The fresh snow made it easy to look for tracks. Clearly, this bird cleared the truck and flew off. Convinced it was just a close call, not a collision, we headed home.

Why Birds of Prey Hunt by the Roadsides

It got me thinking about hawks and other birds of prey getting struck by cars at alarming rates. Owls, hawks, and eagles hunt along highways because the lack of tree cover makes it easier for them to see their prey.

Counting highway hawks is one of my favorite hobbies to pass the time when driving on the NY State Thruway or on Route 84 traveling to Connecticut. I count the number of hawks I see perching on trees looking below for prey. It makes me happy knowing that those hawks hunting in big open spaces have less chance of eating a poisoned rodent.

Owls, hawks, and eagles hunt along highways because the lack of tree cover makes it easier for them to see their prey

But there’s another reason why you find so many rodents hunting on the side of the road. And it’s a human-made peril. People love tossing candy wrappers, potato chip bags, fast food containers, and other food wastes out car windows onto the roadside.

Please Don’t Litter

Food litter attracts scavengers like rats, mice, squirrels, opossums, and skunks, which attracts hawks and other birds of prey to the roadside, and then bad things happen.

So while people don’t purposely slam their cars into birds of prey, they deliberately toss garbage out of car windows. So you’re doing the same thing, with the same effect. Any animal, in this case, a hawk, is in peril being so close to the roadside.

The answer is simple, let’s eliminate this danger by not littering.

A litter-free environment makes the world safe for humans and birds of prey.

We’re inspired by birds, nature, and wildlife we encounter outdoors, like beautiful Bald Eagles, Owls and Red-tailed Hawks. So please visit our shop for holiday gift ideas. And most important, we donate 25% to bird and wildlife advocacy groups to support their important work!


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