Saturday, April 21, 2007

Prey of the Day?

Sunny and 70F in NYC, and from all reporters, a perfect day to while away the hours sitting on The Bench and hawk watching. (There was that little matter of the model motor boat noisily and repeatedly zooming toward the ducks in the Model Boat Pond, sail only please and don't harass the wildlife, but Katherine Herzog, Stella Hamilton, and Clare seem to have taken the guy on and won. Though he did curse them out at The Bench, someone called the Park Police, and when they appeared, Boat Man hastily grabbed his "toy" and disappeared.)

Today's topics: Prey of the Day, and Red-tail Manners

Lola waits for Pale Male to rise from the bowl. She's near center which is an unusual position for this wait. Of late, she'll wait to the side. Giving him a little poke if necessary to get him moving. Then he'll go out one side and she in the other. Today is different. Why? Hawks do seem to avoid unnecessary habit when possible. It seems to be part of their "nature". Perhaps to keep their enemies guessing?

Pale Male finally comes out of the bowl. Lola gives him the "look".
Though there are a series of what I think of as "Hawk Courtesies" involved with Pale Male, Lola, and prey on the nest that are most always observed. I'm assuming that the sight of prey combined with certain moves may set off wired responses that one needs to avoid with one's mate if one wishes to remain whole. Therefore delicacy is needed not to inadvertently set one's mate off. For one thing, Red-tails hardly ever look at each other face to face, eye to eye, unless it is aggressive. Watch where the eyes are in this series of photos dealing with today's dinner delivery.

Pale Male lands on the nest, releases his hold on the prey, turns away, and waits for Lola to emerge from the nest bowl.

As she comes out, Pale Male looks at the prey, so Lola knows exactly where it is. She sees the cue with her head to the side.

Pale Male turns his head away and Lola starts to walk over to pick up her dinner.

Lola looks to be about to put her talons on the prey. (Pale Male watches obliquely, just in case. Those talons are very sharp and he wants to make sure to duck if he needs to if and when she takes off.) Though she may take off with the prey in her beak, she sometimes puts her foot on the prey first. A taking of possession? I'm not sure, but it does seem like it might be a clumsy move, holding something down with your foot while trying to lift it at nearly the same time with your mouth. Perhaps so for humans but her coordination of moving her foot off, getting the prey into her beak, and taking flight is perfect. And it takes her about a nanosecond to do it.

Once again there was the problem of just exactly what the prey-for-the-day was. (See the correction for Thursday after "Wisconsin Waterfowl".) Well it's grayish, isn't much help. Long time Hawk Watcher Stella Hamilton, another with a dynamite eye, called it. She saw a long naked tail. Today's dinner was Norway Rat.

Pale ducks a little when Lola takes off, turns, watches her go, then proceeds to the nest bowl. Though they seem to avoid direct eye contact most of the time they are almost always in visual contact with each other during breeding season.

Wisconsin Waterfowl

Double Crested Cormorant

This photo of a Mallard Hen does have some glare, but I found the reflection giving her that double headed duck look kind of fascinating.

Lola with Thursday's Dinner

First, I got an email from Katherine Herzog correcting my credit of the person who called the type of prey that Lola had for dinner. Turns out, it was actually sharp eyed Elizabeth who had called it from the Hawk Bench. Sorry Elizabeth.

Kat's first email of the day-
"Actually, although I'd love to take the credit, it was Elizabeth who made the call. She uses binocs but her unaided eyesight is rather remarkable....I thought I saw Lola eating bird feathers when I was using the scope! Must have been fur instead. I tend to double-check things with E when I think I've seen something because she sometimes sees things quite different and she's the one who is usually right."

Then upon her further thought another email arrived in my box from Kat-

"Could that "critter" Pale brought to Lola possibly be a half-eaten, tail-less, squirrel....I'm noticing those big hind legs/feet? No tail and Pale usually leaves a rat tail on.....but it looks like a squirrel more and more to me....a young one for sure. Don't think rat legs are that big as they do not use them in tree climbing."

Then a third-

"Another reason for thinking "Squirrel" not "Rat" is that this is the season for squirrel youngsters recently weaned in the last month or so. The breeding times here in the NE are January and June (45 day gestation period) to have the just weaned youngsters up and running and taking advantage or their two main food source seasons: Spring - where they feed mostly on tree buds and flowers....Fall - for berries and nuts. So, there are lots of small, naive grey squirrel youngsters running about which would make easier prey than their larger and more worldly parents."

Now I'd been out in the field all day, had gotten home and was editing a Double Crested Cormorant photo, when I suddenly thought, what's happening in NYC, I better check my email. There were all three of Kat's emails.
Ah Oh.
Quick! Up came the detail of the photo of Lola and her prey from Thursday. Kat's arguments are pretty good and the fur on the creature had seemed less slick than a rat's should, though in it's current condition it probably wasn't looking its hairdresser best, but how do you tell one headless, tail-less, member of rodentia from another long distance?
Staring at the photo, the obvious stuck me. What I had taken for rather blurry fat rat toes are actually furry fat squirrel toes. As rats have naked feet and tails this specimen is most definitely Squirrel.
Kat called it after all.

Donegal Browne

Friday, April 20, 2007

Day 39---Unusual Behavior : What just Happened?

The sun came out and so did the hawk watching eyes. I hear the Bench was full and then some for most of the day. Many thanks to all who contributed their help, time, and energy to the report. Now if we could just figure out what actually went on. Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.

4:44 pm WHAT! Is Lola about to mantle?

Sigh, looks like it's just a stretch.

5:05 Lola watches Pale Male circle above The Crows building. Most who noticed thought that he was circling to get her attention so she'd know where he'd stashed her dinner. Then suddenly about 5:07, Lola got up and called to Pale Male and left the nest with speed. No one seemed to be able to figure out just what was going on in the next two minutes. I can't figure it out from the photos either, can you?
(The photographer, who wishes to remain anonymous due to blurring, was pretty harried so these are definitely documenting material.)

For nearly a minute, from 5:08.02 to 5:08.56 the nest is empty.

5:09 Lola looks into bowl for some moments. (Sorry, no one timed it. They were all desperately trying to figure WHAT JUST HAPPENED...AN INTRUDER??? Though no one I communicated with saw one. Something with the eggs????)
5:15 Lola head in bowl, turns eggs?, settles back in.

5:41 Pale Male sighted attempting to gain enough altitude to get to the nest. He flies back and forth between Woody and Fisher, flapping, attempting to find an updraft, back and forth, back and forth, makes the nest level but flies by, finally he lands on the nest with what must be Lola's very heavy supper.
5:42 Lola goes over to Pale Male, picks up the big rat at his feet, takes it to nest left and begins to eat with vigor. (PM seems to have removed the head. A snack? Or just to reduce the weight? Fell off on the way?)
5:44 Suddenly Lola picks up the rat again. (Just look at those big fat rat feet.)
(Correction: After many machinations we've decided the prey was actually a squirrel. So it's big furry squirrel feet. For details see the next post up. D.B.)

5:45 Lola begins walking toward the bowl of the nest. The Hawk Watchers hold their collective breathe. Is she going to start feeding? Has there been a hatch? She gets to Pale Male's side near the bowl, , his nictitating eyelid comes into play, (?), she lays the rat down, picks it back up and Lola then turns back and heads to the left side of the nest again. ?

5:58 Back on her side of the nest, Lola continues to eat.
5:59 Pale Male waits alert, while Lola finishes her dinner. Katherine Herzog reports Lola ate external portions, parts of fur and possibly the feet.
6:?? Mocking Bird attacks Pale Male in the air, and when he lands on the Oreo Antenna the harassment continues.

7:04 Pale Male sits on the Oreo Antenna , he deserves a little sit down time, and Lola who's deep in the nest hasn't been seen since about 6:40pm.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NYC: Lola Lays Low, WI: What's with the Cardinal?

Pale Male sits on Green Awning
What with the still cloudy, cool, and moist weather the Irregulars haven't been spending all that much time just sitting around on the Hawk Bench. It's more like a number of brief visits and pass-throughs. Today's limited news, reports Pale Male on Stovepipe, Pale Male sitting on the sill of the second window from the right on the second floor from the top of the Green Awning/Barbara Walters Building(She supposedly lived in the building at some point back in the day) and Pale Male surveying his territory from the antenna on The Oreo but no one who wrote in saw Lola at all.
Yes, I'm firmly convinced she was on the nest otherwise Pale Male wouldn't have been in evidence. He'd have been on the nest. They didn't even see the top of her head poking up above the twigs or an eye peeking through them. Certainly different from yesterday when it seemed Lola and Pale Male were switching off more often than usual for meals, short breaks, and nest readjustment activities. Was this just bad timing on the part of the Irregulars or is there a big change in behavior between yesterday and today? Could it have significance?

We are on Day 38 since Lola's first overnight of the season on the nest. I just pulled out original hawk watcher, James F. Lewis' invaluable chart, History of the Fifth Avenue Red-tailed Hawks as of 4/21/06. Lola sat for 36 days in 2002, 40 days in 2003, and 39 days in 2004. Friday will be day 40.

Okay, reader Jamie Bottom wants to know, "What's with the Cardinal?" Well who can resist one in the first place, and in the second place, this guy has been spending 99% of his time in the top of this tree here in Wisconsin, singing, and singing, and singing. Now as he's been spending so much time singing his heart out up there, and I've seen any number of Cardinal pairs, I'm figuring he hasn't a mate and he's attempting to get one.

He certainly gets points for effort. I'll let you know how he does.

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Any Day Now? A Report From the Bench

Different? It often strikes me afresh just how different or similar an individual of a group is from another while in the same category. They're both birds in the photos. They're both males. They both can fly. They have feathers and wings and sharp toenails and strong beaks and expandable tails. There is a size difference. One little, one big. And one sings and one doesn't. Or does he?
Does Pale Male sing? The first thought is a resounding no as the immediate sound that comes to mind is the famous battle cry, Kreeeee. But perhaps we shouldn't rush into anything. Charlotte made little soothing purrs...coos...little somethings to her eyasses. Then again, I suppose it all depends on the definition of song. Alright, how about a courting vocalization? Female parrots are often wooed by beaus vying to produce the most complex vocalizations. When it comes to raptors there is the Screech's trill. Might not Pale Male like so many male birds endear himself to Lola in early spring with a quiet little something?
The Report From the Bench.
In answer to your question, no, I haven't seen any kind of digging with the feet by either hawk within the center depression of the nest. I also haven't seen anything I'd call egg turning either. Yesterday and today there was an instance of an adult dipping his or her head into the center depression of the nest, tail in the air, but no noticeable shifting of the head as one tends to see in inducing a "roll" to turn an egg.
As for today, when the male and female changed nest duties, it was a very rapid in and out and then off the nest. I began to wonder as yesterday had the same windy moist weather that the increased pace occurred perhaps because of the increased number of people, that by late afternoon, had appeared on quite a number of terraces. I'm assuming as it wasn't exactly balmy out and they were facing the nest, that the viewers were there to watch the hawks. The hawks saw all those eyes turned in their direction and as you've said they've done when helicopters fly over, the birds felt a need to cover the nest contents. Of course, I'm just musing as I've no evidence one way or the other.
One exception, Lola at 3:43pm took off to the north before her replacement arrived on the nest. In less than two minutes Pale Male did land and cover the nest. Pale Male was being attacked by a Kestrel at the time so perhaps Lola felt the need to go after it. Pale Male then curved round and took over the nest. I noted that one of Pale Male's eyes looked marginally squeezed shut when he took over (See Photo), and wondered if he had sustained an injury and that was the reason Lola waded in to help but the slitted eye may be a momentary aberration caused by a twig or nothing at all as I didn't note it later. There were three other nest exchanges which as I said were in, out, and off in a quick sequence before 6pm.
I did not see any prey being eaten but I suspect Pale Male had left food hidden for Lola and she ate it out of sight as her crop expanded during the afternoon.
The temperature was in the 40s, high gusty wind, cloudy, with some rain. By the way it looks like a good portion of the earth to say nothing of the mulch in Central Park has come off the high ground and is now in the walkways and in the Conservatory Water. I'm told on Sunday the Mallards were swimming outside The Boat House and I don't mean on the lake side. They were swimming to the north in the area that is ordinarily the walkway.
And for those in the city, I understand that the loons are still in residence for anyone who haven't seen them yet and still would like to look them up.
Best regards,
Ludmilla Stern
Many thanks for the report!
Donegal Browne

Fifth Ave. Nest Report and The Cedar Waxwings, WI

Many thanks to Ludi Stern, old friend and new hawk watcher for the raw materials for today's portion of the blog on the Fifth Avenue Nest.
2:45 pm Pale Male on the nest.
3:01pm Lola to Stovepipe and preens vigorously.

3:08pm Lola fly-by of nest then to far right light fixture of Carlyle, Kestrel dives at her, he keeps it up.

3:09pm Lola off Carlyle, Kestrel follows and buzzes her.

3:10pm Lola back to nest.

3:11 Lola in Pale Male out, he's off to south and disappears into tree line.
3:15pm ?

3:28pm Lola pulls wet dead grass out, moves small twigs to higher position.
3:42pm Continues to move wet grass into higher spot.
3:44 Lola moves twig.
4:28pm Pale Male discovered on Stovepipe
4:30 Rain increases. Lola shifts another twig. She disappears and comes up with another beak full of soggy "dried" grass, stuffs it into higher position in nest.

4:43pm Jays have been scolding. Now there are four converging and scolding near the Bench.

4:44pm Pale Male sighted above Stovepipe, he circles, heads south, circles over Model Boat Pond, he's holding a twig, lands on the nest, Lola is off.

4:46pm Lola lands on the top railing of Stovepipe. (Yes, there's the railing but no Lola. Hey for a newbie, Ludi is doing pretty well.) She repeatedly looks down and left, then drops down one level to the railing in front of the door. The top of which can be seen near the bottom of the above photo. She looks down and left several more times from that position.4:50pm Lola drops down and further left to the third level down, and disappears behind what looks like a terrace wall. Food stash? In the meantime Pale Male has placed his twig and with active purpose pulls small branch size pieces of the nest out and wedges them in other spots. He shoves and tugs working furiously.
5:02pm Lola returns and quite as lightening Pale Male is off the nest.
5:06pm Lola, head in bowl, tail in air, does something for a few moments within the nest bowl.

5:19pm Lola peeks over the top of the twigs.
6pm Lola no longer visible.

The First Wisconsin Cedar Waxwings of the Season
(And it's 60F besides!)

Driving to the grocery store here in Milton, I looked up over a wooded area backing a subdivision and there were two Red-tails being attacked by a Peregrine. The falcon was managing to keep above them even though it was double teamed. Unlike the urban Red-tails who almost always have the use of an updraft to help them with altitude these two hawks were having to flap furiously while circling to try and get some height. The Peregrine took another swoop and suddenly they were all obscured by trees as I was the one loosing altitude, as I was forced to go downhill by the flow of traffic. I turned off in their direction, looked, but not a raptor in sight. So it was back to errands but on my way home, I went another way just checking to see if there was a nest in that stand of woods. Still no raptors but in a little berry bearing ornamental there were 14 Cedar Waxwings gorging themselves. The first I'd seen this year migrating through. Did I have the camera? No I did not. So it was a race to the house to get the camera, good thing Milton isn't very big, and get back before either the sun went down or the birds got full. When I returned most had dispersed but a few beauties were still having a late supper.
Donegal Browne