Sunday, May 04, 2008

ISOLDE DOES IT AGAIN! Feeding Behavior at the Cathedral

Isolde feeds.

From Rob Schmunk's iphone--

There's feeding behavior. Isolde just got done with a feeding, took out the trash, and perched at 301 for a minute.

When I read Rob's email, I let out a whoop. I'll admit it. I was worried about this nest. Not only did Isolde lose Tristan at a critical time in the breeding season, and had been frantically looking for him, until she recruited Norman, but when most of the other nesting Red-tails in New York City seemed to have already laid their eggs, Isolde was being flushed off the nest by workman. Were there eggs when she had been frightened away for great swathes of time?

And then there is Stormin' Norman. He's young, he's manic, and he's oblivious in any number of ways. He doesn't stick around and he didn't always show up with food for Isolde in a timely manner.

Just look at Rob's mini-report. Isolde feeds and then takes out the trash herself. Usually that's a dad job. Or Mom may take it out if Dad has just taken over the nest. But in this case, Isolde does it without back up. She then takes a moments respite, and heads back to the nest.

But I'm not so worried anymore. Isolde has a good handle on the situation. She's a dynamite hunter. She's raised eyasses before and she knows what she's doing. Whatever Norman's current shortcomings, he'll eventually catch on. And as we can currently see, Isolde is coping quite famously, thank you.

And they've had a hatch!

Crow being harrassed out of the backyard by a single male Red-wing.

Ohio Raptor expert John Blakeman, comments on the my observation of the male Red-wing riding the Red-tailed Hawk--


Your observation of a Red-winged Blackbird pestering a Red-tail flying over the Red-wing's territory was interesting.

In an intensive study of 99 Red-tail nests in an Ohio county in the early 1970s, the red epaulets of numerous Red-winged Blackbirds were discovered in many of the nests. Just how the Red-tails were able to capture the blackbirds was, at first, unexplained.

Then, the researcher, David Cornman, a friend at Bowling Green State University doing a Master's Thesis study on the Red-tails in Wood County, saw just what you saw. Red-tails would fly out over alfalfa fields, in which a multitude of Red-wing nests had been placed by Red-wing females. Red-wing males would come out and harass the hawks as they flew over and across the nest-laden fields.

At the start, the hawks paid no more attention than did the one you saw. Each day, with each Red-tail over flight, the testosterone-crazed male blackbirds would approach ever closer, finally often landing on the hawks' backs, just as you saw.

But Red-tails are pretty clever predators. They won't pass up some easily snagged warm muscular protein when it so conveniently presents itself.

After allowing a blackbird to continue to pester the hawk on several daily nest-area over flights, the big hawk simply flipped over and snatched the pestering blackbird out of the air, quick as a cat's pounce. With virtually no effort the Red-tails of Wood County, Ohio were able to provide lots of fresh Red-winged Blackbird flesh for their growing eyasses on the nest.

I would imagine, then, that a day or so after your photographs, your Wisconsin Red-tail, too, took advantage of the hunting opportunity the blackbird offered. Today, his epaulets probably adorned a Wisconsin Red-tail's nest.

In a few weeks, the hawk will lazily fly over the same marsh or field and attempt to lure in another male Red-wing -- probably with success.

--John Blakeman

Last season the nests in the park and the yards in the area were heavily predated by American Crows. Too many "edges", which give easy access to nests by the Crows in their three bird raiding parties even while being mobbed by Robins, Grackles, Starlings, and a horde of dickey birds all at the same time. But with the manic aggression of male Red-winged Blackbirds there haven't been any Crows allowed in the yards for more than a moment since they arrived.

So perhaps this season the Crows will have to avail themselves of some other sources of protein besides that obtained raiding nests.

Remember Muckhead the male Goldfinch in yesterday's post? He's the only one I've seen this season at the feeder. And I've seen him a lot as he's been stuffing himself. So today when I looked out and he zipped to the back of the sunflower seed feeder and peered at me, I thought, "That's a new behavior. I wonder what caused that?" So I kept watching.

Then still holding onto the back, he slide himself out sideways for a better view. That was also new. Hmm.

Towards evening I caught him at it again. This time he kept an eye on me but remained in front.
Wait just a moment, that's not the same bird. This one is rounder bodied. While the first male looks like his toupe has slid down into his eyes, this birds black head spot is different from the first's.

This is when I began to worry a little about myself. Was I becoming one of those wacky bird watchers who wear bad tweed and insist they can recognize every individual bird from season to season. Now it's one thing to tell Red-tailed Hawks apart. They have such variation in color, size, shape, and belly band, once you get the hang of it, it isn't that tough most of the time. But GOLDFINCH?? Who can tell the difference between individual Goldfinches?

Then of course the obvious realization dawned on me. The longer you look at any group of individuals, the more sensitized you become to the things that are different. It's okay. I won't start yearning for bad tweeds even in the summertime.

Goodnight Goldfinch Two.

Donegal Browne


Karen Anne said...

Isolde reminds me of the Dayton peregrine Dad, who managed to raise his brood after the Mom disappeared.

If Norman the Pig Boy :-) continues his feckless behavior, might Isolde look for a new mate next year? Or is she stuck with him?

Donegal Browne said...

That is an excellent question. I've heard only one instance in which someone suspected that a female may have gone on to greener pastures as usually it's the male that goes with the territory or so it's looked to us as Pale Male has survived so many mates. It's clear now that if a female is the remainder bird, she goes with the territory as well.

As we know, Red-tails have widely divergent personalities and styles and they're very observant. One hopes Norman will observe better behavior or hormones will click in urges that will spur him to do the things we expect of a bonded tiercel. Perhaps Norman is doing better than we suspect by the moments we catch him, at least in our eyes, falling down on the job.
Or not. It is up to Isolde after all. Perhaps the joys of a boy toy make up for his lack of Red-tail decorum.:-) Or perhaps next season, while Norman is doing one of his disappearing acts pre-breeding season another tiercel may become smitten with Isolde and give Norman a run for his money.

If Isolde helps Norman run the new tiercel out of town we'll know she's satisfied. If not. Well....

Mirela said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.