Tuesday, September 25, 2007

John Blakeman Answers Questions

Quicksilver looks outside at the trees.

(My response and some questions stimulated by John Blakeman's email published on the blog, Sunday, September 23rd.)


I was thinking there might be danger to Silver, I'm glad you validated it so I didn't get lulled into a false sense of security and leave him out for "just a second" while I went in to get something from the house. Particularly as he is asking relentlessly to “Wanna go trees”. Greys are built for clambering around in trees: heavy bodies, short legs, long toes. Possibly he's wired to “want” to be in trees and the cues are all here.

No question if Cooper's will take Quicksilver's size bird that he'd be in danger as earlier in the season near dusk, two Cooper's were predating the bird feeder. Cooper's migrate, yes?

What would happen if a Red-tail was raised as Silver has been, I wonder? If she were hand fed from three days and lived in the house. (One certainly wouldn't want any pets or small children in residence.) How socialized might a Red-tail become to humans. Red-tails are social with their mates during breeding season so there would be a kernel to work with.

I was just looking at "The Friends of Jemima Parry-Jones" website and it seems when she raises owls for educational purposes, she carries them around with her and they live in the house along with her six setters and the rest of the menagerie. One of these domestically raised owls allows blind kids to feel her all over. Of course not all members of the same species are created equal.But I do remember when Jones did the demo in Central Park that the two owls seemed to be making what I'd say were begging sounds before they flew to the bait.

What do you think Red-tail parents are doing/thinking when they stand on the nest and stare fixedly at their eyasses.

And John Blakeman's response to me--


No. Resident, established Cooper's are likely to stay for much of the season, if not the entire winter (at least here in northern Ohio; perhaps they move out of Wisconsin in winter -- but for now, they are certainly going to be on the hunt ion both areas).

Red-tails raised domestically from eyasses soon become an uncorrectable problem. They become extremely aggressive and attack anything they believe has food, or could be food. They make no distinction between the person and any food the owner might be clutching. Simply, they just attack. There are many cases of this by unknowing citizens who find (or steal) a brancher or fallen eyass. After just a few weeks of attempted care, these birds must simply be put down, as there is no way to resuscitate their normal psychology.

Owls are different altogether. When raised from eyasses they become friendly, personable, and non-aggressive. Owls are a different animal altogether. No comparison in any way to hawks, except that they also capture live animals to eat.

What are adult red-tails thinking when they twist their heads in apparent contemplation of their offspring in the nest? I don't think it's much. The only thing that red-tails really contemplate is hunting strategies for animals observed within the birds' respective viewscapes. On the nest, they aren't great thinkers. Their highest cerebral achievement is getting small bits of food torn off and dropping those into the gapes of the begging eyasses. That, for a red-tail on a nest, is a major intellectual feat.

My beloved red-tails are neither personable nor intellectual. If the parrots of recent interest have an intellect of, say 10, red-tails (at least on the nest) are perhaps a 1.5. When figuring out how to efficiently capture game, they, in their own way, would be a 10. For other mental challenges, they will score rather low. Falconers and raptor biologists are not interested in their birds because of their expressed intellectual capabilities. It's the hunting and capturing of food, the predator/prey thing.

--John Blakeman

(My response on this tomorrow.)

In the meantime, Eleanor Tauber, Central Park Photographer had sent me the photograph above taken near Turtle Pond in Central Park, asking if I knew what it was. It looked a little familiar, but I couldn't see the leaves well enough to look it up. So I sent it off to John Blakeman who directs numerous projects involving prairies and their plants to see if he recognized it.

John's response--Hard to tell what these really are. My only guess, and it's just that, that these are some sort of Eupatorium, maybe Eupatorium rugosum, the plant that causes milk sickness.

Milk sickness? I couldn't let that pass without finding out more.

John- Now that's titillating? What's milk sickness? The plant does something bad to cow's milk and if you drink it you get sick?

Then Eleanor, sent me this uncropped photo of the mystery plant with a full view of the leaves and I sent it on to John.

The same evening I received this email and photo from Blakeman.

Exactly. This was a somewhat common, albeit fatal, malady of settlers in the Midwest in the 19th century. Milk sickness killed Lincoln's mother.

Cows who were allowed to forage in savannas and woodlots first ate all the palatable vegetation, including big bluestem and other nutritious prairie grasses and forbs.

But after a while, the good stuff was often grazed away and the cattle had to consume less palatable plants, including white snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum. This plant has a poison called tremetol. It accumulates in the muscles and milk of animals that eat white snakeroot and can be fatal to humans who subsequently consume the meat or milk of the animal.

Attached are two not very great photos of the plant (here in a local prairie savanna area).

John A. Blakeman

Bingo. And as you can see, he very likely identified it just from the blossoms.
Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

Bingo indeed!

Thanks to you and John for all the info!


Karen Anne said...

I am thinking Silver might like a "tree trunk" perch in the house? I used to have a "cat condo" whose vertical parts were actual tree "trunks", that is to say, branches about 4-6 inches in diameter with the bark still attached. some of the pieces had quite smooth bark and others rough bark. I imagine it would not be too hard for anyone with a saw and hammer to make something up for Silver.

Donegal Browne said...

It might just work. And I could clamp the regularly pruned twigs from the yard to the permanent part so he could engage in a favorite activity, leaf removal.