Cindy Maxey-Droege/Maxey-Droege Imaging

January 4, 2020

I’m Not Sure What Is Going On In Your Backyard, But Let me Tell You What Is Happening At Our Home: The Hawk Is Back!

By Cindy Maxey-Droege

If you regularly drive down I-70, or any major roadway, I am sure at one time or another you have noticed multiple hawks sitting high upon poles, fence posts, or bare tree branches waiting for field mice to scamper from the long grass that line our highways.

You may not know this, but those hawks are usually red-tailed hawks. They are one of the most common and versatile hawks in North America.

We were driving home from a short trip to see the Christmas lights at Silver Dollar City, and I mentioned how great it would be to get some good wildlife or outdoor photography shots this winter. This was the day before Christmas Eve. On the eve of Christmas, we leisurely got up and I went out to fill our bird feeders and dump half frozen ice from our cooler onto the grass. I looked up, and stopped dead in my tracks…not more than 30 feet from me was a red-tailed hawk that had just captured a squirrel.

Dang! I so wanted my camera and was terrified to take a step because I didn’t want to lose sight of this magnificent bird. I slowly inched my way back and was able to get back into the house, grab our cameras, and get outside in record time. Our backyard has a big privacy fence and sits on almost an acre just blocks from downtown. To my surprise the hawk was still in the same spot.

We slowly, first from a distance, started snapping shots, and every few minutes would inch our way closer. Eventually, we were as close as five to six feet and able to get some awesome photographs of this red-tailed hawk without scaring or harming it. I’m not sure why, but the hawk didn’t seem to mind our presence one bit.

I have to admit, we are geeks, and love metal detecting on our property that has a long history. On Christmas morning, after all the exchanges of gifts and coffee we decided to get out our metal detectors because the day was so warm and the ground perfect. After not finding much luck in the front yard we opened the gate to the backyard, and low and behold there it was again, with another squirrel that had just been caught. With mixed reactions we watched. It is always difficult to see the cycle of life unfold before your eyes.

After a few minutes we put down the detectors and ran back in for our cameras, and just like the day before the hawk let us get so close we could almost touch it. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Not once, but twice we got our wish for some awesome wildlife photography in our own backyard, near downtown Lee’s Summit.

When we look up from our devices, there’s a wild world happening in our city trees, and those motion lights going off at your homes at night are often roaming herds of deer…yes, we have those too, and they can jump our fence. I hope you will follow this three-part series as we explore the birds of the backyard!

Next week watch for the pros and cons of backyard birding and lastly, week three, why birds are so important to our environment and what you can do to help.

Cindy Maxey-Droege, a Lee’s Summit resident, college professor, and part of Maxey-Droege Imaging team with Karen Maxey-Droege. To purchase photographs, visit