My nephew-in-law, Brian Fairhurst, and I spent Saturday afternoon searching for these raptors.
Brian is a bird enthusiast. He spots raptors all the time from his deck in the hills of Lafayette. He sees a golden eagle at least once a week, sometimes pestering a local red-tailed hawk.
On Saturday, we drove to Bolliinger Canyon Road in western San Ramon and hiked up the steep trails to the top of the Las Trampas Hills.
In a couple hours, we observed five different types of raptors. Well, six if you reluctantly count turkey vultures in that group.
Brian and I agree turkey vultures shouldn't be classified as raptors. They flutter when they fly and they don't kill live prey. They're more like storks.
And while on I'm on the topic, why is the quail the state bird of California? In an outdoors-oriented, rugged state like California, shouldn't the state bird be a hawk or an eagle? Our state bird should be a bird of prey, not a bird that is prey.
I mean, the state animal is the grizzly bear. That's more like it. OK, I'm going to work on this.
But I digress.
On our Saturday hike, Brian and I had no trouble spotting raptors. Although we never saw an eagle, we did see hawks and falcons riding the thermals created by the ridge line's stiff winds.
Next a prairie falcon, which we saw twice zooming across the sky with the speed only a falcon can obtain.
After that, a number of red-tailed hawks, including a couple that were "kiting" while hovering in the wind above potential prey and another that had snatched a fairly large snake from a valley below us.
We also observed a beautiful American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America. We saw it zip across the sky as well as sit on top of a lonely telephone pole near a ridge line.
Finally, a Cooper's hawk that soared high in the sky, searching the hills and rocks for something to eat.
It was quite an afternoon, which included some magnificent views both east and west along the Rocky Ridge trail. We could see the Peninsula and the valleys south of Moraga on one side and Mount Diablo and the San Ramon Valley and Tri-Valley on the other.
So, as long as weather is going to be sunny, take a hike. And enjoy the sights and the birds that soar and glide among us.