Kim was lucky to see him. Though they're present year-round in Pennsylvania and are the most numerous raptor at hawk watches this month, sharp-shins are very unusual in my Pittsburgh neighborhood in winter.
The last time I saw a sharp-shinned hawk was quite recent, though. Last Monday I sat on top of a cliff called Giant Ledge in the Slide Mountain Wilderness of the Catskill Mountains and gazed to the east. It was a chilly overcast day with no bird activity. The maple and beech forest below me was clad in reds and yellows. I could see for miles. No birds.
Then one small hawk rose from the valley floor 1,000 feet below. He circled to gain altitude and in a matter of minutes rose past my line of sight until he was above all the mountains. Then he set his course and disappeared to the south. Flap, flap, glide.
(photo by Kim Steininger)