If you live in the Tehachapi Mountains and like nature, one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have is when some of our local wildlife choose to raise their young near your home, giving you the opportunity to make regular observations of them and their babies as they grow.
Watching baby animals is fun. And it gives you a little insight into their lives. Whether it's observing a female hummingbird on her nest, a pair of twin fawns with their doe, small cottontails when they make their first appearances, or even newly-hatched lizards that look like miniature versions of their parents, you can learn more about wildlife by paying attention to the youngsters.
My friend Toshimi Kristof, who lives with her husband, Les, in one of the higher parts of Bear Valley Springs, got the chance to watch a young Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) near their home this year.
"A pair of hawks had a nest somewhere in my yard, and in late July, I started hearing a baby hawk's voice for every morning for two weeks or so," Toshimi says. "The voice was totally different from the adults, it was very weak and deferentially calling its parents. It was perching on a pine tree every morning just outside our bedroom window and calling its parents. The voice became my morning alarm."
Toshimi continued to keep an eye out for the fledgling hawk. "One morning, I realized that the young hawk was on the ground and then moved onto a log," Toshimi explains. "It looked like it had something in its talons and was biting on it. Of course I took photos, and when I looked more closely, I saw that it was a small branch in its talons — so it was practice hunting! It was so cute to watch. After that it flew away from my yard. I hope it's doing well somewhere."
The photos Toshimi sent me show the young hawk engaging in typical hunting behavior, seizing "prey" and flying off to a perch to devour it, possibly even mantling, or spreading its wings over the pretend prize, which raptors do to protect freshly captured prey from any potential competitor.
Becoming a proficient hunter will be vital for this juvenile bird of prey, for starvation is one of the biggest threats to a predator this formidable. Redtails have few enemies that could take down a raptor of that size and strength, but hunger is a foe that is never far away.
This year's season of babies has drawn to a close, with all the birds now fledged and most of the fawns having lost their spots. But as early as February, the baby season will begin again. I hope you'll have some good opportunities for observations of your own.
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.