Saturday, April 14, 2007

Katherine Herzog's Report From the Bench

Lola watches Pale Male coming in from a distance. G.S.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dear Donna,

No snow in the Big Apple but upstate NY is getting socked with the white stuff. In Manhattan the rain started in the early morning and is now, at 9:51am, raining steadily at around 40-degrees F. I can't help but think of Lola sitting bravely in her nest and Pale close by....dealing with this colder-than-normal, miserable, soggy weather.

The only slight change in the incubation routine, from the Hawk Bench Watcher's view, is that Lola is really almost in a trance with the nest incubation and is taking fewer and shorter breaks. When Pale delivers food (and it seems always to be pigeon, not rats, mice or squirrels) Lola takes it and flies somewhere to eat it in the park....but she returns, not like in the beginning of the incubation 25 to 45 minutes, but in 15 minutes or less.

When she takes a non-food break, she's been returning only after say, 10 to 13 minutes. Well, let's keep our fingers and toes crossed....we expect hatching to begin next week. Tax time, April 15th, has been the benchmark to start expecting the first hatching this year....but, as we are all aware from the last two disappointing years, don't count your chicks before they hatch. We'll all be delighted, to put it mildly, but this year the atmosphere around the Hawk Bench is discernibly muted and I think that's a good response....let Mother Nature take control of events and let's be pleasantly surprised if she smiles on us this year.
I wish you well and hope see you soon.


Here's to the third time being the charm! And keep your fingers crossed for the very wet hens, sitting tight, no matter the weather. Rob Schmunk and I have been discussing the possibility that bad weather may well be harder on the hens using tree nests.

Also a thought, it could be for the best that Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte changed nest sites with this season's weather as I've always suspected that their nest failures on the Trump Building could have had something to do with poor drainage, not to mention the high wind up there during downpours. The summer their second clutch succeeded was a very dry one.

So raise a glass to the five pairs of valiant nesting Red-tails...

Donegal Browne

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Get Ready Eastcoasters, The Snow is Coming Your Way


Food for warmth.

Find the Juncos.

A favorite spot to eat and shelter from the snow at the same time.

Squirrels get theirs no matter what.

Watching it snow from the edge of the feeder.
At dark there was still a little Chipping Sparrow dozing on the lee side.

The Spruce where the Dark-eyed Juncos roost.
Six inches of snow last night and today. And another Snow Warning for this evening in Southern Wisconsin. Hope the Red-tail hens are eating well as they've no doubt found themselves under a blanket of very wet snow while sitting the nest. It's falling in a ground level air temperature of 33F. This snow is very wet and this snow is very heavy. Absolutely perfect for snowmen, but they aren't popping up, by April people have had enough even here.
Doorstep Dove and Friend were also here today and I now know one way to tell if it's going to be below freezing. Doorstep will be in her spot by the door at dusk the night before.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Raven vs The Squirrel

Alright! There's a crow in the yard! I get points! I get points! Okay there is also a squirrel in the suet but I'll think about the appropriateness of that later.

Wait a minute, that "Crow" isn't acting like a Crow. He looks at me looking at him and doesn't take off. I creep closer to the glass door. He's still doing what he's doing. I grab the binoculars. No wonder he's not acting like a Crow, I think he's a Raven. Fat beak, coarse neck feathers. Is his tail wedge shaped. Can't tell; he starts to vocalize. Certainly sounds more croaky than a Crow. (Do I get points for a Raven? I don't know.) Raven forages in front of the goodie stump. He's finding something. Perhaps tidbits left by the cat eating the stiff pork chop?
Raven turns around, strides toward the bath and flaps up.

Raven bends over for a drink but comes back up immediately, cocks his head and looks down at the bowl. Pork chops can make you thirsty.

He picks up the loose skim of ice from the top of the water in his beak and chunks it over the side. Has a more comfortable drink and then looks straight at me.

He rouses his feathers,
hops off the bath and starts coming my way with purpose.
A Crow struts but is skittish and secretive around people, this guy on the other hand strides around with major hutzpah. He knows I'm watching, and he's watching me but he's going about his business like it's his yard and I begin to believe it is his. I realize that brazen behavior can have its rewards. I should try it.
Just then Suet Squirrel runs over about two feet from Raven and hops at him. That was brazen. Raven jumps a number of inches off the ground, startled. He then hops at Squirrel.
Suet Squirrel goes up the south Maple in a hurry and the Raven strides in the other direction and out of my sight. I peek. Has he gone round the house? I can't see. I go out the front door, hustle to the corner, and slide an eye past the edge of the house. No Raven. Did he fly off without my seeing him? Back in the house, no sign of him through the patio door. Drat. I climb up and stand on the sink, press my forehead to the window and try to look directly down into the flower bed. No good Then I see him on the black cover of the can crusher. (Don't ask.) And here comes Suet Squirrel zipping down the other Maple. He heads along the sidewalk that leads to the barrel and the suet. He's about to to scamper along the sidewalk right in front of Mr. Raven. I hop off the sink, scamper myself over to grab the camera. Flash there goes the squirrel at top speed to the left and whoosh, there is the flap of black wings past the window in the other direction. What happened?
I'll probably never know. But when I've waited long enough to think they aren't coming back, I go out. No Raven and no Squirrel but there is a rather hefty swatch of squirrel tail fur laying in the grass to one side of the sidewalk. Just how did that happen?
I don't know what happened but I do know now, I don't get yard points for Ravens.
Donegal Browne

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Raven and The Squirrel

Coming soon-The Squirrel vs The Raven
Suet Squirrel may have sharp teeth and toenails but the Raven has brains and stealth!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Egg Hunt Predation

The day being Easter, I was out in the backyard helping the Easter Bunny hide eggs for the big hunt. Everything hidden, both the boiled dyed eggs and the plastic candy filled numbers all snug in the hiding places, I went in to round up the huntees in the house.

Now as there was to be a hunt in the park across the way as well, I was not only hunting the huntees I was also keeping an eye on the backyard in case some of the park hunters bled across.

When suddenly, there was a Crow standing in the yard. Gadzooks, I'd been attempting to get them to stand in the yard long enough for a photo for weeks. Wait just one minute. What is that Crow pecking at in the grass and whoosh, he's off carrying a yellow blob! That crow just stole a hard boiled egg and I hadn't been in the house but a minute or two.

Had he been watching me hide the eggs? Did he recognize it as an egg or did he have to taste it? Was this bird an old hand from past Easter's and knew immediately what was what? It certainly hadn't taken him long to peck a beak hold and take off with it.

Another round of the indoors to make sure everyone had found their basket and WHAT NOW? There's a long haired off white cat sitting in front of the goodie stump, the place I put crow edibles in an attempt to detain them long enough to photograph. And the kitty is eating something. Crunch, crunch . It better not be a song bird. I grab the binoculars. Well, well, kitty is having a stiff pork chop meant for the crows.

"COME ON, GUYS!" If the huntees don't get it together soon, there won't be a whole lot to hunt. Okay, they were unlikely to put the stiff pork chop in their baskets, but it's the principle involved here.

Finally all are assembled, there's a rush through the door and the hunt is on. The competition is cutthroat. Ever since many a long year ago when my daughter Sam's older half sister massacred her older half brother in egg count on a hunt during a snow storm, Corinna followed the footprints in the snow to the eggs while Christopher didn't catch on, the yearly Easter Egg Hunt egg count has taken on serious significance. The Hunt finished and the count begun in the kitchen, Sam noticed that what she'd taken for a broken plastic egg that had spewed it's candy coated Mini Kisses all over the ground during the hunt, didn't look broken at all. It looked gnawed.

On closer examination, yes, definitely gnawed. In those few unattended minutes, a squirrel had sunk his teeth into it and gnawed the tip off. Talk about vigilant wildlife.

And though there were many unanswered questions regarding the Crow's expertise and behavior with eggs. We did learn an important behavioral fact about squirrels or at least one squirrel.

He didn't like candy coated Mini-Kisses at all.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter and Horse Humor

A sign of Spring and of the season, gorgeous Lenten Roses.
Photo by Eleanor Tauber, super Central Park photographer

Now to Horse Humor-

Orange Cat climbs up the gate, wobbles, and then just as he catches his balance...

Nudge! Orange Cat is nosed off the gate in a hurry.

Look carefully at Horse's mouth.

He sure looks like he's smiling to me.

(By the way, can anyone tell me what the coat of the polka dot horse, enjoying the joke up left, would be called?)

Donegal Browne