Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Three Krideri in the Trees

Mid-afternoon, we've just seen the last of our second big snowstorm in a week and I am making my way between long term care facilities on a country road. I've not seen a mouse or a bunny or even many of the usually extremely fat, short bodied, legged, and eared, Midwestern squirrel in days. They are under the snow, hunkered down, or enjoying a stretch of winter pseudo-hibernation. Up ahead on the border between field and trees I see the familiar sight of a Red-tail in flight. Stay on the road, watch the hawk, beware the ice--wait, there are two of them. No three! By the time I get to the section of woods that meets the road, a very pale Red-tail, I mean very pale. I mean, parts of its head are paler than Pale Male's belly, crashes through the branches of an oak and flops onto a branch. Can't miss this, I pull over onto the narrow snow heaped side of the road.
Keeeer! Keeeeer! The screaming starts. A big female Red-tail swoops towards our friend who's crashed through the oak, she banks and I see it, her tail instead of the rich vibrant orange I'm used to seeing, looks like a Dreamsicle that's been licked down almost to the vanilla ice cream . She turns again and her belly is the color of snow with a few bits of leaf debris on it. She is exotic, a ghostly beauty and I realize she must be a krideri, and she's menaceing Mr. Sitting-on-a-branch who's a second, by zooming at him. Another Keeeeer, and her mate shows up and he takes the air space over the tree. He's a third and he blends marvelously with the snow and clouds. Their palemess makes perfect sense in this setting; they're models of evolution at work.
Mr. S.o.t.b. takes his chances and heads out of the tree. It's a Red-tail battle up there with those on Fifth Avenue only with no buildings. Therefore sometimes instead of going around the barrier, as must be done with buildings, there is some tricky flying between branches. These birds know their territory extremely well. There's a chase in open space, one bird one direction and another the other way.
By now I have the camera dug out of my bag and good grief, where did they go?

(Yes, we're the victims of a point and shoot camera folks.)

Find the Krider's Hawks.
I can't decide if there are one or two in that tree. But look closely and you'll see how much lighter the krideri, mid-right facing out, is compared with our eastern B.j. borealis.

And there's another, back turned, dark against the sky, up right.
Find the nest.

I've not been able to get back and check it out but unfortunately it may well belong to a squirrel.

The Hunting Ground
And there it is, just as The National Geographic Field Guide To The Birds of North America, describes it, "Habitat variable, woods with near-by open land...".

The Guide talks about the borealis, the harlani, and the krideri but somehow looking at the pictures and reading the dry text, well, it just isn't the same.

Donegal Browne.