I walked outside late Monday afternoon, thinking I'd put something decorative up on the front wall at the south end of the house. As I turned the corner, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a magnificent hawk sitting on the wall. Never before have I been that close to such a bird: it was truly an awe-inspiring moment. We regarded each other briefly, and then s/he flew up into my neighbor's pine tree. Not wanting to miss even one second of watching it, I called to my daughter to bring me my camera. She was as awed as I was to see it and watched with me as I took the hawk's picture. I was only able to get this one shot before s/he flew away.
I'm hoping a sharp-eyed reader will be able to confirm his identity for me. Based on this picture and the description I gave to a birder friend in Iowa, we think it's a Cooper's hawk. Although sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks were a possibility, we ruled them out based on size. The wall s/he was perched upon is just over 36 inches long and there were only a few inches of clearance on either side of the hawk. Its coloring was more of a light to medium brown than gray, and its very broad breast was streaked with that color. Its tail was rounded at the end but I didn't get a close enough look at it to see the bars that would have definitely IDed it as a Cooper's. I was too shocked and thrilled to notice!
UPDATE: I posted this on my blog at the Houston Chronicle and the estimable Birdwoman confirmed that it is indeed a Cooper's.