Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Red-tails Everywhere

A Red-tail Hawk on a power pole on HWY 59 between Edgerton and Milton WI starts a big stretch.
It's forty some degrees, sunny and mild. The first day above freezing in well over a month and a half and the Red-tailed hawks have come out of the deep freeze in force to hunt along the roadways in the afternoon sun.
Sam and I, well, we've been wondering whether they'd decided to head towards a more southerly clime. We see that indeed, they haven't. Even here it's too late in the season to leave a territory unprotected from other raptors looking for hunting grounds to raise their young in.
The Bald Eagles seen in the area months ago had followed the ice south for awhile during the many days with minus zero temps here and we now assume that with the melting of the ice on the river they will be heading back up and possibly even further north then their winter hunting grounds on the Mississippi. (Wisconsin is third in the U.S. when it comes to Bald Eagle population.)

The Red-tails are showing themselves today curved crops and all. We pull onto the shoulder, trying to look innocuousand it seems to work. The RT remains on the wire and ignores us concentrating on more important matters. We then turn around and in the midst of the turn into and out of what we thought was a dairy farm driveway, we discover that it isn't what it looks like. Instead it is a Long Grass Prairie Restoration business. Wisconsin is down to less than 2% of it's original grasslands causing the disappearance of the Marsh Hawk and the Barn Owl...perhaps there is hope for them after all.

We head back in the direction we'd intended in the first place and suddenly there is another Red-tail on a power pole on the other side of the road. Is this the mate of the first? The one on the wire? They certainly are close together. We manage to get over onto the shoulder going in the correct direction without getting squished and creep up on her riding on the shoulder of the road. We don't get out but rather Sam attempts photographing her, peeking the camera out the window of the car. We've found getting at all close or having any kind of proturuberant object (gun fear?) will make the local Red-tails take off in a snap.

We watch for awhile and then she looks at us and begins a big stretch. Her body begins to build tension.

Then she's up and flies from her pole, crosses the road and lands in a tree. (upper right quadrant) Her back to us, she blends with the branches.

Before long, in seconds in fact, her mate appears in the sky and lands on the same branch. ( And it isn't the same bird we were looking at earlier on the wire either. Note the difference in belly band.) She is looking one way and he the other in savvy bonded Red-tail fashion.
Marion the school bus driver reported a nest near here as well but we don't stay to spot it today as Sam and I are almost run down by a speeding semi.
And not more than a eighth of a mile away, the third Red-tail still sits on the wire. And down the same road but a scarce couple of miles away is the territory of the Krideri pair with it's nest. The long grass prairie people seem to have created another raisin in the "raisin bread" just like Central Park.
(This refers to the Raisin Bread Theory of raptor territory. Think of the land as raisin bread. The bread part is just your usual hawk hunting ground. What comprises the raisins? The raisins are those places in which the prey options are so high that hawks tolerate other hawks of their species in much closer proximity than is commonly considered "normal".)
Donegal Browne

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