Saturday, May 05, 2007


The Wade Tiercel, we had to wait a good while to get a clear look at him,but it was well worth it. And doesn't he look quite a bit like someone we know? Check out that pale head and that scant belly band.
But first speaking of waiting, a news bulletin from Stella Hamilton, guardian of Red the Squirrel, directed to those who looked and waited for Red in vain today...

Clare and I waited for hours for Red to appear. I , for one, had been in her yard since 11:30 this morning.... No Show. So, I decided to go warbling in the Rambles. I returned at 2:15 to meet up with Clare at Locust Grove. Still no Red. So off we went to the Hawk bench. We returned to Locust Grove at approximately 5pm. Still no Red. We called several times to get her attention, we whistled and we chattered ,still no response. After 6 hours of looking for her, we decided to call it a day and try again tomorrow. But just as we were heading toward the Pinetum to look for her , I looked back and there she was at the foot of one of the trees near her favorite walnut tree. What a relief it was to see her!

For Those that didn't see her today, Please tell them Red is OK. She immediately ate 3-4 walnut halves and followed that with long licks of water that Clare has provided in clear plastic cups placed between branches at one of the smaller trees outside of her fenced in yard. I will return tomorrow to see her again. I hope all is well with you in WI. See yah, Stella.

And now back to the
5:30pm My cousin Carol and I arrive at the Wade Farm to Suzan Wade and her niece Krista for a jaunt in search of Red-tails. Suzanne and husband Ron have seen them on their property for years, but haven't really tried to examine their lives, so today we're off to find out a little more about the Wade Red-tails. Carol and Suzan take the two seats of the little all terrain vehicle called The Mule, and Krista, on a visit from Ontario, and I crawl in the back with the equipment. Off we go. Suzan says just yesterday she watched as an RT swooped down on a mouse in the field, mantled the catch, and then took off.
First we check a stand of trees not far from the house, there is a largish nest in a Pine, but not quite "largish" enough I think, so we keep looking.

5:59pm We see a Red-tail fly towards a stand of trees surrounded by fields, perfect RT territory. He lands in a tree close to the trunk and he's hard to find. Before I can get the camera on him he's off again. He does a flyover to check us out. He looks pale to me, not much belly band.

6:09pm Ah Ha! There's the nest. At first I think I see movement and perhaps an eyass but on further scrutiny it's a moving leaf and crooked twig combination that fooled me.

The tiercel continues to circle, if I go towards him he tries to draw me away from the nest by circling away. If I go towards the nest he circles towards me.

6:13pm We look at the back of the nest but still no sign of eyasses or hen.

We cool our heels and wait. There's a pair of Canada Geese taking their ease in the corn field but no hawks in sight.

6:40pm As the resident Red-tail has made himself scarce, and if the hen's on the nest she's sitting low and tight we decide to take a look at the marsh. Yes this rather large chunk of real estate has any number of micro-habitats. Krista and I hanging onto the back of the mule, start being whacked by branches as we chug through the brush to get there. Solution? We lie down and hold on tighter. Thwack, Thwack go the whipping branches. Past that barrier, we suddenly come out into the open marsh. We hear all sorts of birds and we know that there is a Sandhill Crane nest out there in the Bulrushes, but unfortunately, number one, the Bulrushes are too high from this side to see the pond where the birds are, and number two it's begun to rain and promises to get worse. We hop back in and start back..thwack, thwack. The rain stops.

How about a look in the woods, the Red-tail often perches on a wire out on the edge near the road. Great by us. Off we go, bumpity bump, bumpity bump across the rows of the fallow corn field. Bumpity bump, bumpity bump, bump, rather fun actually and here come the woods.

7:07:21pm What? A gate? unfortunately the road into the woods and hence to the paved road where our RT sometimes perches, has developed a gate since the last time the Wades went in. Suzan asks Krista to see if she can figure out how to open it. She hops out and looks. I hop out and look...
7:07:57pm Unfortunately the gate, is not only a gate but it's a padlocked gate. What now?
7:09pm Not to be stopped by a piddley padlock and a gate, we move some brush and dead branches to the side and off we go around the gate. (Trespassing? Well, kind of maybe. I think the story is that a farmer rents the fields off the woods and he put the gate up to reduce people driving through, but the Wades actually own the land...I hope. Gulp.)

7:11pm We get out of the Mule, and start to walk on the dirt track. Suddenly Suzan stoops and fingers a plant that is growing right smack in one of the tracks. She says, "Isn't this..." and we say together, "Jack in the Pulpit!!" I'm excited, she's excited, we're all excited! Jack in the Pulpit is bizarre looking and a native plant that has become very rare. Okay, let's face it all true natives that bloom in deciduous woods are pretty rare. We're extirpating them all over the country like crazy.

7:18pm Wow, look at this one. Suzan and I stare at it. We know it's something but neither of us can remember what. (I don't have my guides here does anyone know?)
7:20pm And then something else or is it? Look carefully at the bottom. It's emerging from a sheath, yes indeed, one more Jack in the Pulpit and we keep heading up the road, hungrily scanning the forest floor near and in the road. These forbes congregate where the invasive Asiatic Honeysuckle and Rosa Flora aren't.

7:21pm And here's another Jack in the Pulpit. This is all rather amazing as seeing this many just doesn't happen.

7:25pm And more of the mystery yellow number, this one surrounded by Mayapples.

7:30pm And yet ANOTHER young Jack in the Pulpit. This one is more mature and is developing it's dark stripes. It was a bang up productive year for the parental plant or plants last year. Suzan decides she's going to drag out her wire tomato plant "cages" in order to protect the young Jacks from getting squashed by snowmobiles. (By the way, a strange idiosyncrasy of this species, if disturbed they will sometimes shift sexes, as in from female to male.)

7:32pm Quite beautiful, but does anyone know what it is? This portion is the tip of a branch of a small tree?

7:35pm But our Red-tail isn't perched by the road tonight. And on the way out of the woods there's a dandy example of Shelf Fungus growing off the trunk of a tree. We head back towards the nest, still hoping.

7:58pm It's nearly dark, with drizzle, we're running out of time and the nest still looks empty. Though from the tiercel's behavior I know the hen has to be in there. And come to think of it where is he?

My cousin Carol, poor dear, has been subjected to more than her share of near whiplash experiences due to my hitting the brakes every time I suddenly saw a Red-tail cruising over or sitting on a power line. But as it turns out, it's stood her in good stead as she's the one who spotted the resident hawk standing on the broken tip of a tree, looking rather like he's ready to come and get us.

The Red-tail looks towards the Mule. One close look with magnification by Suzan Wade, and yet another hawk watcher is made on the spot. Plus the tiercel is given a name, Kristopher Red-tail. In honor of Krista's visit from Ontario and her namesake grandfather who had wise enough children and grandchildren who protect the woods and the marsh and the other special places on the farm for posterity.
And to put the capper on the day, some of my favorite bird nests, the mud wattle structures made by swallows. These are nestled under the eaves of the shed.
P.S. Okay it was Saturday and therefore to the roar of lawnmowers I was reminded of something. I have to admit it. There is one grand thing about a newly mown lawn...the way it smells. Heavenly.

Donegal Browne
(For the most recent posts, click on Palemaleirregulars at the top of the page.)

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