Friday, May 02, 2008

The Cathedral Nest, Turkey Copulation, Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte

Isolde peeks above the rim of the nest at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

After numerous visits by Rob Schmunk to view The Cathedral Nest, he finally sees some Hawks--

I still don't know whether there's been a hatch at St. John's or not, but at least I saw both Isolde and Norman today.

Isolde was sitting up in the nest at 5:25 and looking around. One pic I took shows her with an odd sideways look toward that back corner of the nest where the nestlings were always hiding last year. Maybe there's been a hatch, but maybe not, because she soon hunkered down and I didn't see her again over the next 30-40 minutes.

Noman showed up 10 minutes later. Stood on the edge of the nest for a couple minutes, and then he flew over to the scaffolding for 10-15 minutes. He was obviously casing the joint for prey, and subsequently made one of the worst swoops I have ever seen to grab at something in a tree alongside St. Ansgar Chapel. More of a controlled fall almost, as he was swooping downwards but had his wings scooping air like a parachutist. Anyway, he missed. He subsequently perched atop St. Luke's for a couple minutes, and was buzzed by a small bird a couple times.

To see Rob's full report and his photographs go to his blog--

What is that going into the bushes--but that was later...

I was watching the back of a White-crowned Sparrow mulling the fact that the species is another example of the "eyes in the back of the head" coloring.

It was gray and rainy but the White-crowns had just arrived back in the area from their winter digs and were hot footing it around eating like little demons to stock up for further travel, when my cell phone rang. It was Gaylord, a farmer who lives near Thresherman's Park and who knows that I've been looking to see some of the elusive easy-to-spook Wisconsin Turkeys. Gaylord told me he'd seen some Turkeys. In fact he'd seen a Tom that was so big he thought at first it might have been an emu. He gave me directions and off I went in a big hurry as I'd been called before and come up empty as the turkeys had gone by the time I got there.

But wonder of wonders he was still there. Albeit extremely far, far, away across a winter wheat field. Just stopping the car makes the hens head for the woods, but the Tom is still displaying. I fear that if I get out of the car to digiscope he'll head for the woods as well.

I attempt some photos through the window of the car. I've a feeling they may be very bad but I'm fascinated and I don't want to scatter them.
Tom's tail spreads even further.

It looks like he's lying forward on his breast.

His tail shifts again.

Wait there's a hen coming out of the woods to the right. She looks. She stretches her neck forward and cocks her head. She looks extremely curious.

Is he lying down? I'm completely unfamiliar with Turkey display behavior. Okay that's it. I have to see better. I get the scope, attach the camera, turn it on and do the best I can for the fastest photo possible. But by the time I get it on the ground...

Mr. Tom Turkey has made it to the woods and is walking into the bushes. But even with the glare one can see he is huge and he is beautiful.
After bringing the photos up on the computer, I became rather suspicious that what I'd been watching was Turkey copulation. If I'd been as familiar with turkey copulation as I am with the Red-tail model, I'd have been able to decide yea or nay. But I just didn't know enough.
What to do?
I went to the Milton Family Restaurant during Friday Fish Fry. It's frequented by local folks of every level and I figured there had to be somebody familiar with Turkey behavior. Sure enough, when I presented the photo to a friendly farmer and his wife at the next table (after finally deciding how one asked this question in a small town restaurant) I started small, "Is this more than one turkey?" Then just blurted out, "Is this a photo of Turkey copulation?" He looked, laughed, and said, "That's what it looks like to me."
So there we have it, from people who know. Those are photos of turkeys copulating. Which also explains why the uninvolved hens beat it to the woods immediately when the car stopped but the Tom (and his partner) were a touch busy to hot foot it immediately.

Photo by William Walters.
Then it was back to the migration. I spied my first female Goldfinch of the season.

But she was rather shy when it came to a close up and stuck her head in the feeder.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are moving through.

And of course, eating those high calorie sunflower seeds for energy.
Photograph by William Walters
And look there, something to look forward to--there are sure to be any number of Battles of the Bath. But never fear, I'll be back to investigate the NYC crop of eyasses very soon.

Speaking of Red-tails, Mai Stewart had a question for John Blakeman--

Hi John -- Just read Donna's website & was wondering, in light of the behavior reported on the above pair -- is it likely that they would/could have eggs this late? I know nothing about the cycles of RTs -- what do you think? Is it really possible? And if so, that could/would somewhat ameliorate the disappointment of 927.
Best, Mai

The 7th Ave pair could, indeed, have a late hatch.

That is the goofiest pair I've ever encountered, anywhere. Their nest site is so un-Red-tail. No self-respecting Red-tail should be even perched on a concrete and asphalt NYC city street, let alone have it's nest up on a building there. Pale Male at least gets to see wooded greenery across the street in Central Park. The 7th Ave pair sees just more big city urban streetscape. That pair is weirder than some of the people in the city.

John A. Blakeman

They can and they have before. Keep your fingers crossed and knock wood. Sooner or later we will see what Charlotte and Pale Male Jr., the Red-tails of the Unexpected, have come up with for this season.
Donegal Browne


Karen Anne said...

Where do Charlotte and PMJr hunt? In a park?

Donegal Browne said...

Junior and Charlotte hunt pigeons, squirrels, and rats in the southern section of Central Park and adjoining green spaces. Plus Junior also hunts pigeons on the sidewalk by the carriage horses on Central Park South (59th St.)and on 58th where someone feeds birds. Both Charlotte and Junior flush pigeons from the roofs of buildings and catch them in the air. They may have other strategies and areas but those are the ones that I've seen in the last few years.