Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Ms Still Sit While the KJRH RT Nest Season Ends

As you may have heard, Kay abandoned the Tulsa nest on the evening of April 2. Jay hung on valiantly, continuing to try to incubate the eggs, even overnight, despite being shooed away several times by Kay, but he gave up on Sunday, April 5.

We're putting together a summary of events, with our observations, so we can get Blakeman's best guess about why the nest failed and maybe some understanding of some of the behavior we witnessed.

In the past few days, Kay and Jay have been spotted and photographed in the area.

Today, Kay and Jay made separate appearances in the nest, seemingly to survey the situation. Both looked healthy and well fed, much to our gratification. I managed to get one of Kay's visits today on video, which I'll put up shortly. When I do, I'll send you the link.

In the forum, we discussed what, if anything to do about the eggs. So I wrote to Blakeman for his opinion. Attached, below the pictures, I've forwarded our correspondence.

It was tough to give up on the eggs––harder for us, I believe than for Kay and Jay––but we're thrilled to see them continuing to thrive and still claiming the KJRH territory as theirs. It helps us to look forward to next year.

P.S.: Here are the most recent photos of them, courtesy of Cheryl in Tulsa. Sally got some great screen shots of both of them on the platform today as well. I imagine she'll send those to you.
(Unfortunately, for whatever reason the photos Bob sent and Cheryl took refuse to show themselves at the moment. They wish to remain blank boxes with a red x in the corner. I'll try again to get them to expose themselves after Blogger has a change for a little rest.

Yes, Bob, I think you are absolutely right. Since watching my first failed nest, Pale Male and Lola's, the first season after the nest was destroyed by the Coop Board at 927 Fifth Avenue and the carriage installed, I've watched the birds gradually leave the nest and slide back into their non-breeding behaviors without looking particularly upset.

When a hawk looses his or her bonded mate, the remaining bird absolutely does look extremely upset. Therefore it isn't as if they are incapable of feelings or we are unable to read them, Red-tails seem to accept nest failures as more a natural part of life without the feeling of despair that Hawk Watchers often feel.

The males attempting to tend nest without the female do look quite concerned at times about, I assume, where their mate may have gotten to and also understandingly confused but not despairing.

I see no reason, barring loosing one of the pair, for Kay and Jay not to return next season firm in their bond to nest on the KJRH TV tower once again. Ready for the 2010 chapter of their story to unfold before our eyes.

Typically the County M formel stares at me from the nest while she and her mate wait for me to go away so they can continue their usual business. While at the KJRH nest, Kay and Jay have begun their retreat back into the behavior usually not begun for some months yet.

In the meantime Bob McCargar of the Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum has first an update and next questions for our resident Hawk expert, John Blakeman of Ohio--


Here's my latest question: Is there any argument to be made for removing the now-abandoned Tulsa eggs from the nest? Kay last sat on them on April 2,at about 5:25 PM. Jay continued to incubate them, although Kay would come into the nest from time to time to send him away.

After Jay left, Kay would hang around for a few minutes but would then leave without sitting on the eggs. Jay stayed on the eggs as much as possible, leaving to get something to eat, presumably, and spent two of the next three nights on the eggs.

Finally, he left the eggs at 7:28 AM on Sunday the 5th.At this point, I can think of two possible reasons to remove the eggs.

First, to attempt to determine at what point the fetal development stopped. Was it the day they were exposed to the cold for 4-5 hours, or was it later?

The second reason would be to optimize the chances for another clutch, whether this season or next. We might be able to get the station's cooperation in removing the eggs, but we don't know if it's worth the effort, for any reason.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


Bob, good thoughts regarding egg removal, but here are my perspectives on the matter.

Yes, if the eggs were removed an egg expert could dissect them and come up with a probable date of death. But this presents four problems. First, you've got to get the eggs out of the nest. That means you've got to find somebody to climb up there and do the job. That, alone, may not be easy.

Secondly, anyone climbing up there will have to abide by all Oklahoma and OSHA work rules. Climbing up a tower like that, even if it has internal steps or ladders, will entail some detailed adherence to strict tower safety rules. Because of those, the tower owner may just nix the entire operation, understandably.

Thirdly, one can't extract hawk eggs from nests just because it's a good idea or good understandings might derive from the action. There will have to be state and federal permits to allow this, and it wouldn't surprise me to find those to be denied, given the common status of the red-tail, on the presumption that nothing useful could be learned from the eggs' extraction and dissection.

Fourth is the problem of finding someone with sufficient experience in egg dissection. Surely there are some professors at any of the Oklahoma universities who could do this. But if they would wish to do the dissections would need to be first affirmed.

Lastly, there is no biological imperative to remove the eggs. At this late date it's almost impossible for the pair to re-clutch, to lay another set, especially given the apparently reduced food situation this year. Red-tails very seldom lay a new set of eggs under any circumstances. And this situation is not at all favorable.

So, if the eggs are allowed to remain dead in the nest, will this have any untoward outcomes for breeding next season? None whatsoever. This happens all the time, with, say, about one fourth of red--tail nests having unhatched eggs each year. The birds are programmed to return to the nest site next year and almost surely they will do so. The dead eggs will eventually rot and disappear.

Consequently, I think it best to simply write off this year's breeding at the nest and hope for better things next season. This failure is not so infrequent, even with old, experienced red-tail pairs. It's part of the nature of the species.

--John Blakeman

Remember the Ms switch yesterday, when the formel hugged the ground until she got to the back treeline? Then she flew the treeline, much lower than usual and I thought I'd not caught her at it. But looking once again at the landscape shots, I finally found her flying just below the tree boughs. See her?

Once again the Barn Swallows at Thresherman's Park have refurbished their wattle nest and are incubating. Some of the feathers you see sticking out to the right, are just that, disconnected feathers for nest lining. I believe a few others are actually still connected to a parent.

Last season Rose Cuthbert reported on the Red-tails in Langenhiem Park in Tulsa and when the call went out for Tulsa prey reports she answered-

Hi Donna,

Robin asked me to mail you with any info I have on the availability of prey for the Langenhiem pair of Red Tails.

In the park itself I have seen plenty of rabbits, lots of young rabbits and some squirrels. The whole side of the park has been recreated by some work the city did on the creek that runs down one side and lot of new landscaping has been down through about half the park. I do not know how this may or may not have affected any mice or voles.

I have seen two prey grabs out of the creek area of what I think were rats, but cannot see that well at that distance and wouldn’t bet on it. What I can be sure of is that something was grabbed up and flown off with. Hope this helps.

Hi Rose,
Sounds like there could be a prey depth deep enough to feed young hawks. There certainly seems to have been something strange going on with the pigeons around the KJRH nest.

Any pigeons in this park?

Comparable to the past?

Do you know where the nest is this season? Same or different location from last season?

I realize I’m bombarding you with questions to which you may not have not answer. That’s fine, I'm just endlessly curious about how it all works in urban Tulsa.

Sometimes when there is a disturbance of the earth with construction it disrupts the rodents and there are more exposed beasties to hunt. It sounds like the birds have been availing themselves of the bounty.

Thanks again. Do please send in any observations you might run across this season.



Photograph by Dave Treybig as is the note below--

Aware of your interest in birds and birding, I thought you might be interested in viewing the attached photo.

Outside my office window, I have a few flat stones that serve as a makeshift bird feeder. The top rock is there to keep the northwest wind from blowing the birdseed onto the front porch.

Just as I was about the take a photo of the dove at the feeder, a titmouse accustomed to feeding there came flying in (from the top right side of the photo), thus attempting a blind landing at the feeder. Imagine the titmouse's level of surprise when it landed on the dove's back.

I was surprised when the dove tolerated the titmouse standing, uninvited, on its back. The titmouse stood there for three or four seconds, assessing its unexpected, awkward situation, as the dove continued unconcernedly to eat the birdseed.

I quickly took this photo.

The titmouse then flew away to a nearby feeder, the dove continued eating the birdseed, seemingly oblivious or uncaring about the titmouse on its back.

Endlessly entertaining, these birds.

David (& Margot) Treybig
Hardy, VA

Endlessly entertaining? Indeed birds are! As is your perfectly timed photograph. The Mourning Dove truly does seem utterly unconcerned about her passenger. Though Titmouse looks a touch surprised by the footing. Thank you David for sharing the moment.

And from our Blackwater Eagle Reporter Robin of Illinois--
Blackwater Nest Update 04/07/09: Photographer Bob Quinn
has posted new photos showing our local eagles and ospreys.


Live nest cams from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Flicker, Carolina Wren, Barn Owl, and EasternBluebird

Donegal Browne

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