Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pale Male Looks and John Blakeman Responds

Pale Male Looks...

At the Hawk Bench

Towards Oreo

At the nest

Towards one of Lola's favorite trees.


To The Ramble

And UP.

John Blakeman, an Ohioan, who has spent many years watching and working with Red-tailed Hawks, responds to the photo of Pale Male looking directly up at the sky.


The photo of Pale Male peering blankly into space was not blank at all. The bird was decidedly observing other hawks passing high overhead, just now at the height of the autumnal migration of red-tails and a few other species.

As long as these migrants stay high above, they will not be challenged by the residents below. Our man, Pale Male, was just checking things out, making sure that the migrants were staying high above.

My falconry red-tail does this from time to time. She cocks her head sideways a bit and peers up at an angle into pure, clear air. Initially, it appears to be a fruitless or pointless posture. But I've learned to look into the sky where she is looking, and it's not directly out in front. Hawks have two foveae, or retinal concentrations of sensory cells, and when they want to see a high, distant object, they use the fovea that causes them to look out sideways.

When I see this, especially when I have a pair of binoculars, I can scan the same sector of the sky and often discover what the bird was watching. Usually, it's a tiny hawk many hundreds of feet high above. As long as the migrant drifts high overhead, the bird is dismissed. But if it drops toward the ground, the resident hawk will often fly off and challenge it. Usually, just the bird's flight alarms or warns the intruder and it high-tails it right back into the sky or out of the territory.

In this photo, Pale Male was surmising his enter realm, including the most loftiest reaches overhead -- here, prompted by the stream of November migrants heading southward.

--John Blakeman
And for the celestially minded, astronomy season has started, check out the first outing of the season on Ben C.'s site- Sounds like a grand time was had by all.

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