How the coronavirus led to an eye-catching image

  • Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.com, 2020A juvenile Red-tailed hawk launches from a bush near a Hawthorn Mall parking lot in Vernon Hills.

    Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.com, 2020A juvenile Red-tailed hawk launches from a bush near a Hawthorn Mall parking lot in Vernon Hills.

  • Paul Valade

    Paul Valade

 
 
Updated 3/1/2021 12:03 PM

Last year I was fortunate enough to capture a few images of a juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight. The photo was taken in the early months of the statewide shutdown. I probably would not have gotten the picture if it weren't for the pandemic.

Let me explain.

 

A reporter sent me to Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills to take photos of the empty parking lots. The mall had shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions. As I was driving through one of the lots, I noticed the large hawk sitting on one of the medians. I probably would not have noticed it if the parking lot had been full of vehicles.

I was able to position my car so I could get a clear view to shoot pictures out of the window. I didn't want to spook him.

I grabbed my camera with a 300mm lens and stayed focused on the raptor. Within a minute, he took flight. I captured a few shots with different wing positions but fell in love with this image. The beak, the talons, the eye and the stripes made the photograph special.

Thanks to Nan Buckardt, director of education with the Lake County Forest Preserves, we were able identify it as a juvenile. She said it was probably hunting for mice in the bushes on the median.

"Red-tail hawks get the red tail feathers with their first molt in the first summer after hatch year," she said. "Red-tails like wood areas for nesting (build large nests on tree tops) but hunt in open areas. They eat rodents, snakes, rabbits."

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