#ABArare - Gray Hawk - California
On Nov 25, Eric Culbertson photographed an immature Gray Hawk in Carpinteria, CA, east of Santa Barbara. Once accepted, this will be the first record for California. It was close to Highway 101 (El Camino Real), first seen hunting from a powerline along Via Real and then flying across 101 to Santa Claus Lane and eventually moving east to another spot along Via Real. Culbertson created a map to show these locations.
It has been seen every day since then in this same general area, often near Seaside Gardens on Via Real and various locations along Santa Claus Lane. Most sightings have been east of Hwy 101's exit 88, but there was one from Padaro Lane west of the exit. For the latest news, check the Santa Barbara group. Also, Christopher Taylor has a page with news on the latest sighting plus maps, photos, and video.
The hawk has been seen on utility poles and lines, on fences, and in trees, sometimes low.
Birders are advised to be on good behavior. (Of course, birders should always be on good behavior!) It's been suggested to stay at least 200 feet from the hawk. Some have been approaching it too closely, causing it to flush. This not only affects other birders chances to see it, but it could endanger the hawk. It often flies across Highway 101, which is a very busy road, and at least once it's come close to being hit by a truck. Causing it to fly unnecessarily only increases the risk of it becoming roadkill. Also be mindful of where you are parking; do not block bicycle lanes. Obey no trespassing signs. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. This is a busy, high-traffic area. Do not become so focused on the bird that you put yourself in harm's way.
video by David Bell
Gray Hawk is not known for long-distance vagrancy*, but in an email to Calbirds, Paul Lehman points out a few instances: two from Kansas — a sight-only record of an adult in April 1990 followed by an adult photographed in Oct 2005; an adult in Baja California Sur in Oct 2010; and a report from Illinois in 1871.
(*In fact, when I read the original report, my mind replaced "Carpinteria" with "Calipatria", a town near the southern end of the Salton Sea, because I didn't expect it to be so far from its normal range. The closest area where it is usually found is southeast Arizona.)