A Red-shouldered Hawk in the Willows

I was on the auto tour road located at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. As I drove slowly by Miner’s Cove, I spotted a majestic Red-shouldered Hawk perched regally in a bush near the road. Its rich brown plumage stood out against the muted greens and browns of the vegetation. As soon as I stopped my car to get a better look, it took flight in a blur of motion, swiftly crossing the cove to perch in a nearby willow tree. I managed to get a couple photos of this regal bird surveying the area before it flew off in search of its next meal.

A Red-Shouldered Hawk in the Willow Tree
A Red-Shouldered Hawk in the Willow Tree

There is very little water currently in Miner’s Cove and the refuge in general – we desperately need some good soaking rains. The lack of water has concentrated wildlife near the few remaining pools and channels. I was surprised to see the hawk at this location, but something must have caught its sharp eyes before I arrived. Perhaps it spied a rodent peeking out along the muddy banks or a snake slithering through the crisp fallen leaves.

A Regal Red-Shouldered Hawk Surveys its Domain
A Regal Red-Shouldered Hawk Surveys its Domain

Red-shouldered hawks are year-round residents of this part of Oklahoma. They prefer to hunt in wetland areas, swooping down from perches to snatch small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. While they sometimes grab birds, snakes and crayfish make up the bulk of their diet. They are adept at hunting in both wet and arid environments, adjusting their tactics to make the most of available habitat and prey.

Every photograph is a chance to make a difference, to show the world the beauty and importance of wildlife. This Red-shouldered Hawk was a special encounter that I’m grateful to have captured on camera. Moments like these remind me of the privilege of being a wildlife photographer, able to glimpse intimate scenes of nature. My hope is that images like these help inspire others to protect and conserve the wild places and creatures we still have left. We all have a part to play in being stewards of the natural world.

Cherish this earth. Believe in the impossible. Find beauty in the smallest of things and you will find it everywhere. – L.M. Fields

Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer

Equipment Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Technical Details: First Photo

  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: September 1, 2023 (08:56 A. M.)
  • Program Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f8
  • Shutter speed: 1/800
  • ISO: 500 (Auto)
  • Exp. Comp.: +0.3
  • Focal Length: 500 mm