Hiking Windy Hill

Last weekend in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve we saw a baby rattlesnake, two birds of prey, rabbits, lizards, and stellar (blue) jays.  I’m on a personal mission to identify the birds — one may be a young golden eagle, the other a ferruginous hawk.  I’m inspired to find out even though I’ve never been much of a birder before.  We also saw the oak-studded golden hills of the open space and panoramic views of Portola Valley (follow link to see view in 2nd pic).   Its very dry now as we near the end of summer and it hasn’t rained in months and months.   Here’s a pic from last spring:

Oak at Base of Windy Hill

Oak at Base of Windy Hill

Critter notes: The very small snake had diamond-ish stripes, no rattle, and the telltale triangular head of a rattler.   

I saw a small eagle or very large hawk (which?) on top a tree midway up Spring Ridge Trail.    I had binoculars and as soon as I focused on him, he flew away.   He had solid rusty-brown feathers fluffed on his chest.  I held him in my sights all the way over the ridge.  As he soared, I could see 1/2 white under the wings.   Initially, I assumed it was a hawk, but as I look on the web, I think the young golden eagle pictures fit better.

Prior to that, coming down from the summit, I could see a white and dark bird flying low over the flat top of Spring Trail, hunting.   It might be black and white, but it had a thin body so I didn’t think it was a gull.   I’ve seen that bird before (or one like it) on Windy Hill.  Several windy afternoons in the spring, I saw the light-bodied bird hovering with wings up, making a nice V.    It held its position against the wind, hunting, while I wished for a camera.    The closest match in my Northern California Birds book is the ferruginous hawk which sometimes hunts with  dihedral wings.

That reminds me of a fun bird interaction.   One very windy day a raven came hurtling over the hill right over us.   I let out a shout and he pulled in a wing for a barrel roll right in front of us before heading on down the hill.  Of course I had no camera and couldn’t have gotten it going fast enough if I did.

Now I’m determined to hike with a good camera, even considering a tripod if necessary.   What I suspect I really need to bring is the time and patience to wait for a good view of the birds.

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