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Posts Tagged ‘immature Cooper’s Hawk’

When I first spotted this stunning hawk last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was really struck by the length of its tail. I suspected therefore that it was not a Red-shouldered Hawk, the most common hawk species in our area, but the colors did not quite match up with my mental picture of a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), the second species that came to mind. I scoured my hard-copy and on-line resources for information and similar shots and gradually came to the conclusion that it might be an immature Cooper’s Hawk.

I posted my photo and tentative identification to the Birding Virginia group in Facebook and was a little shocked to receive confirmation of the identification from multiple viewers. One response was particular helpful, because it helped me to focus on the reasons why they concluded that it was an immature Cooper’s Hawk—I love comments in which a person is willing to take the time to explain their reasoning. The viewer explained, “Long tail, short wings, outer tail feathers are shorter than the inner tail feathers, flat, squared head with a strong suborbital ridge. Yellow eye instead of red/orange, and brown feathers instead of gray feathers indicate that it is not an adult.”

I feel like I am always learning, gaining additional knowledge and honing my observational skills. Feedback really helps in that process and I always welcome questions, comments and suggestions from all of you.

 

Cooper's Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m a real beginner in watercolors and probably should stick to exercises and simple subjects, but that is not what I want to paint. I’ll look at some of my wildlife photos and think, “I’d like to try to paint that,” knowing full well that I don’t really have the skills to do so. I figure, though, that I’ll learn as I go along, seeing what works and doesn’t work. So yesterday evening I decided to have a go at painting an immature Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) that I photographed recently.

I figured the best chance I had at making something recognizable was to simplify things, especially smaller, less important elements, like the leaves in the branches surrounding the hawk. I decided that I was not going to worry about making them realistic. I also realized that it would be tough for me to capture the fine details of the feathers, so I went for a more stylized approach. I decided to simplify my color palette too and used only three colors—lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna.

So what happened? You can see and judge the results yourself. Some parts of the painting came out pretty well and other parts could use a lot of improvement.

I learned a lot in the process of doing this painting, most notably that I really enjoy mixing colors. It was rare that I used one of the three colors straight out of the pan, with one exception being the yellow eye. I paid a lot of attention to trying to vary my colors, especially in areas like the feathers.

I realize now that painting details is really tough—I’m hoping that practice will help me improve my control of the brushes. The biggest thing, perhaps, that I need to work on is controlling the amount of water that is on the brush and on the paper. I was blindsided a couple of times when the result I was expecting did not happen, most often when I had too much water in my brush. (I also need a whole lot of practice with sketching.)

I didn’t really try to copy my photo, but thought you might enjoy seeing the photograph that served as a general reference for me as I painted.

Thanks to the many readers who have encouraged me to keep painting. It is a little humbling to see how crude my initial efforts are, but it really is a lot of fun creating something from scratch—there is definitely something therapeutic about playing with paints.

watercolor hawk

Cooper's Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At this time of the year it’s tough for me to photograph birds—often when I spot them, they are mostly hidden in the foliage. This hawk, however, cooperated by perching out in the open this past Saturday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I was uncertain about the identification, so I checked with the experts in several Facebook birding groups and they indicated that this is an immature Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii).

Cooper’s Hawks belong to the group of hawks called accipiters, also known as bird hawks. Accipiters have short rounded wings and a long tail and are better adapted to hunting in the woodlands that most other hawks.

Cooper's Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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