Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blakeman on RTs and Snakes, Cavert on Tulsa RTs and 100 Degree heat, Kolling Gets the Scoop on Condors

Photograph by Chery Cavert
Jay does his duty as sentinal of the territory in 100 degree Tulsa heat.

Hi Donegal,
It is hot in Tulsa - the high was 100 today!! As it has gotten hotter, the trail of the Red Tail Hawks has gotten colder. We have not spotted Kay or Thunder again for over a week. Jay waits patiently at the KJRH nesting tower on a variety of shady perches every evening and has also been spotted on the tower perches in the morning.

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert

I posted the one of him trying to stay cool on the KJRH observation thread, right after someone posted about how hawks handle temperatures --

"An interesting observation about our current temperatures and birds. This from a paper published online at Stanford University..
The ability to maintain a high and constant body temperature enables birds to exploit a remarkable range of habitats -- tropical, temperate, and polar. This achievement is not without cost, however. The "expense" of metabolic heat production must be repaid by taking in sufficient energy to balance what has been expended, and mechanisms must be available to shed excess heat when necessary. If the environmental temperature falls, birds raise their metabolic rate to prevent their internal temperature from falling as well. In contrast, if the environmental temperature becomes too hot, birds must mobilize water to lose heat through evaporative cooling (as we do when we perspire) and avoid death from overheating. Since birds have no sweat glands, heat must be lost through the respiratory tract by panting, or in nonpasserines by the rapid vibration of the upper throat and thin floor of the mouth ("gular flutter").

This can pose a pretty big threat to urban birds as the concrete jungle acts as massive heatsink during the day and takes a long time to cool. A bunch of strenuous activity late in the day can be hazardous to the birds (like being pursued by Blue Jays). That's probably why the hunt to so much at dawn, besides catching nocturnal prey heading back to the den."

Forecast calls for a string of days flirting with 100, lows in the mid 70's.

We have had some sightings of the Langenheim Twins.
(More on the Langenheim Twins tomorrow, plus Cheryl's photos of them being mobbed. D.B.)

The hawk hangout in my neighborhood has not produced any sightings of red tails lately, but I have seen a Cooper's hawk hunting there about every evening.

I have attached a couple of photos of Jay on one of his evening perches. This evening he looked particularly hot - photo is blurry due to the distance and lighting, but his beak is open and he was not calling out!

We will keep exploring and mapping our various sightings, always hopeful that we come across Kay and Thunder hunting or hanging out in the cooler shade of Tulsa's urban forest.



Yes, Red-tails commonly sit on one foot and extend the other one out into the air, with the clinched fist you described so accurately. They do this when they are utterly contented, usually when they aren't even watching things in the landscape.

And the Oklahoma Red-tail capturing a rattlesnake is also not uncommon. Red-tails find snakes of all kinds pretty easy to capture and kill, and apparently good tasting. Of course, a bite from a rattlesnake could be fatal, but the snake apparently can't so easily sink its fangs deep enough through the feathers to inject venom.

Actually, the snake usually has little opportunity to strike. The hawk takes the snake as it is seen slithering along in the grass. The snake never knew what hit it. An adult hawk has the good sense and experience to nail the serpent in the head, not on the back.

Inexperienced immature Red-tails, however, can get themselves into trouble trying to take a larger snake. I watched a falconer's first-year Red-tail try to take black snake, and it hit the snake in the back, not the head. Wrong move for a constrictor snake. We got to the writhing ball of snake and hawk in just a minute. The snake had wrapped itself around the now startled hawk, who had no idea how to extricate itself from the writhing contractions of the encircled snake. We two falconers had to be rather careful ourselves, trying to untangle this avian-reptilian mass. We weren't too concerned about the snake biting us. But the hawk kept lashing out with its talons, trying to strike something. Had the hawk landed a pair of talons on one of our hands, it would have never let go.

Fortunately, it was a smaller black racer, just about three feet long or so, and we were finally able to unwrap if from the terrified hawk -- who I'm sure never deigned a feeding attempt at a slow-moving snake again. Lesson learned.

Those who watch rural Red-tail nests commonly see snakes being brought to feed the eyasses. Red-tails will eat just about anything they decide to capture. Snakes, when available, are common culinary fare, even poisonous ones.

--John Blakeman

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling

Karen Anne looks out her deck door and sees a very strange bird at her feeding station. Gosh, it looks remarkably like a chubby Ground Hog. But Karen Anne has been a busy woman and tracked down some information that we've been looking for--

HOW ARE THE CONDORS AFTER THE BIG FIRE IN THEIR NECK OF THE WOODS? FROM KAREN ANNE-- "Here's an email I received in response to an inquiry I sent about the condors."


We have confirmed that 2 of the 3 chicks survived the fires, and based on GPS data, we believe the third also made it, but have not been able to confirm this due to the nests' remote location.

We have been able to account for all but two of our wild birds, and it has been over a month since we last saw these two. We have not given up on them yet, however, as time goes by, it is not looking good.

Please visit our website to learn more, and perhaps make a gift to the condor emergency fund that will help us get back on our feet after this crisis.

Thank you for your interest!

Sayre FlannaganWildlife Biologist
Species Recovery
Ventana Wildlife Society
19045 Portola Dr. Suite F-1
Salinas,CA 93908831-455-9514

And remember photos and more on Tulsa's Langenheim Twins tomorrow--and their new names!

Donegal Browne

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