Sunday's for the Birds: Eye-to-Eye with a Hawk

White-tailed hawk recovering from leg injury.
The first time I spotted a white-tailed hawk, my friend and fellow birder, Ruth, and I were on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The raptor flew onto a low-lying branch of a spindly tree on the roadside. He posed and let us snap several shots. We pulled out our bird books, searching in vain to identify him. Back in our hotel room that afternoon we finally put a name to the bird: Buteo albicaudatus hypospodius, a white-tailed subspecies, which makes its home on the Texas Coast; maybe not the largest or most powerful buteo, but certainly the most stunning. Its ruddy shoulder patches give its contrasting grey and white plumage a hint of elegance. That was four years ago and I've been looking for another ever since.
         While attending the Annual Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, two weeks ago, I drove through the campus of the University of Texas’ Marine Science Institute. The place holds fond memories for me. In the summer of 1984, I became an avid birder while studying estuarine ecology at the institute. During this recent visit, I noticed a set of cages near what used to be the turtle tanks and stopped to take a look. Suddenly, two dark eyes locked onto mine. I stood back for several minutes not wanting to frighten him. His right leg had been injured and he was fortunate to have been brought to the institute for rehab. I took only one photo and left him to enjoy his solitude. On my next trip to the coast, I hope to find the cage empty.