Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Red-tailed Hawks on M are Caught in the Act--I finally catch them while feeding

May 4, 2009, 8:20:12 am
(We're starting a bit in the middle here as Blogger doesn't want any more photos on this post. The previous part of the visit will come in a the next entry posted. It will work out, honest.)

This is Dad. He's gotten some food in his beak and is leaning in to give a tidbit to one of the eyasses. Note carefully his head position and the position of the top of the eyass head to the right. He goes left and is feeding an eyass which is out of our sightline.

8:20:22 am

Dad gets another portion, now you can see the white under his beak, and gives it to the eyass on the right. This seems to be the end of a feeding as everyone is mostly out of sight. Eyasses tend to play for a short amount of time after a feeding and then collapse into a nap.

Dad looks around surveying the area.

8:25:21 am

Then looks into the bowl and checks on the status of the babies.

Now the other side of the territory gets a look.

8:27:23 am
Now another look at the eyasses. I've begun to think that this pair feeds, waits for the babies to disappear into the nest asleep, and only then does the parent leave.

Which makes sense in a tree nest with the access and visibility of this one. There is more danger from predators when those tiny heads are visible against the sky. And also explains why I kept coming by and thinking the nest was empty for some days. A sitting bird is always visible in this nest and when suddenly I saw no one there on repeated trips, I began to worry.

8:27:37 am
It's been around 7 minutes since we last saw an eyass. They are likely asleep by now and from Dad's body language and expression, I'd say he'd like to leave but I'm holding him up by sitting here. I'd also athropomorphically, that Dad is not a "morning bird". His expression is a touch grumpy.

(Yes, you can tell how a bird is feeling by their faces and the set of their bodies. As many of you know, I have Quicksilver, an African Grey Parrot. A person who lives with a parrot and doesn't learn to read their parrot's mood by body language and facial expression is likely to need a good many band-aids for their fingers.)

8:29:37 am
Nine minutes since last eyass head disappeared. Dad is still surveying but he's starting to go slitty eyed just a little. Rule of Thumb-- The more slitty eyed; the more annoyed.

8:31:38 am
Oh yeah. Look at the slant to Dad's eyes. He is normally quite a round eyed hawk as hawks go and he's had it with me. 11 minutes, and he'd really really like to leave but he won't until I do.

Okay, okay. I pack up my equipment, put it in the car, get in, start the motor, and when I look up to see how Dad is doing....he's gone. I wonder if he had to deficate? Or whether he just needed the hawk equivelent of his morning coffee.

The next day--May 5, 2009, 2:24 pm

Sorry Mom, it's me again.

One eyeass head visible to the right.

For a moment I thought I saw an eyass peering out from under her.


Nobody under her now though. Mom gives me another look.

2:35 pm--Yup, I'm still here.

I get the impression that if Mom was feeding, which it looked like she was when I pulled up, she isn't going to continue again until I leave. I wait ten minutes and she doesn't budge. Back into the car I go and motor off.

3:47:39 pm
I make myself scarce for an hour or so and then come back, radio blaring. And Yo HO, mom doesn't even look up that I can tell. At least I think it's Mom.

I'm working on a new hypothosis. It seems to me that if I try and hide behind bushes for instance, a half mile away it makes the hawks more nervous than if I'm just out front about being there. Like I'm going to be able to see anything at all even with a spotting scope in comparison to their eyes? I'd need to get a clue. They always see me while I can see hardly see anything at all and they feel even more skittish. Time to take a new tack.

Also remember how one of the local men told me that if you keep the car motor running the wild animal is less likely to flee?

Working on that premise...I decided to be as wackily obvious as possible. I realize this nest is a special case in that these are Red-tails with some experience with humans. And the experience has made them wary but also canny about how humans act who aren't paying attention to wildlife in particular, ie. who aren't hunting. Also, unusual out of the ordinary behavior makes them curious. Remember how the male evenually did several fly overs of me looking down, checking me out? I mean what kind of decent predator, blares Greenday, right?

Also keep in mind that they have seen me stop by for many days now and I haven't taken a shot at them, I haven't stepped from the verge into the field, a definite line of demarcation I imagine, just like sidewalks are in town to wild animals.

I can take photos of the Crow families at close range, the Dollar General Red-tail and Whistle the train chasing hawk as long as I'm on the opposite sidewalk or the parking lot. These are places where people normally frequent without attending much to wildlife.

Now if I just had a tractor and permission, I could get very close to the nest as long as I kept the motor running and still see perfectly normal behavior or so I'm told by farmers here.

But enough of theorizing--back to the real deal.

3:48:13 pm
Mom rips another portion, and both eyasses wait politely. As far as I can tell, both eyasses are fed at every feeding, with alternate bites. At some of the city nests, including the Trump and Cathedral nests, it appeared that sometimes food would arrive, and an eyass would be fed until it was full, then the second and on onward until it was gone. At the next arrival the eyass who'd had the most food was fed last. I wonder if that has to do with our seeing feeding when the eyasses are older? Or perhaps it has to do with the size of prey? So far I've not seen the prey being fed except on one occasion--Dad with the vole in his beak. Though likely it is, as John Blakeman has often told us, a diet high in voles and small rodents. Small prey. These youngsters are likely fed lesser amounts more often at least at this stage in life.

Mom stops feeding and looks at me.

Forget this waiting in a row thing. The eyasses toddle into the bowl and towards Mom who watches intently.


The eyass on the right has taken on the look of the musical aliens in a Spielberg movie as she peers between the twigs on the rim. The other eyass appears to be looking out from under Mom.

As usual I see nothing of the parent who is not on the nest.

3:50 pm
Oh dear, see Mom's body language. Her musculature is tight. Note her eye.

It's been two minutes and I haven't budged. Look at her eye in this photograph and compare it with the one above. See how it is slightly slittier?

The babies by this time are probably asleep and she's like to go hunting again. I imagine she has begun to look long suffering. I feel guilty. I get in the car. I move a few feet, look up--She's gone, bless her.

I wonder if I were to stop and get out again if she'd come back? A question to be answered...but not today. I've bugged them for two days and that's enough for the moment.

What a two days it has been for a hawkwatcher!

Hi Donna. So excited bout your Ms!!!! I bet you are BUSY watching them. Updated screen caps from a few nests.
BIG juveniles eagles nearing fledge from Norfolk.
Growing RTH trio on the window ledge at Franklin Institute-they were gnawing on what appears to be a mouse they were "cuddling" in a fluff-ball clump.
2 new eagle chicks in the Hornby Island nest


There is another eagle nest in Sidney but I haven't been able to get a good shot of that one. I am new to that nest, currently there is concern of siblicide of the youngest by the two older ones who viciously pick on it, grabbing it with their feet and biting it repeatedly on the neck. http://www.hancockwildlifechannel.org/staticpages/index.php/20090302200021473


Photograph and narrative by Robin of Illinois

Passing by the window, glancing out at my feeder tree and arbor, I screeched to a stop and whiplash- reversed. What? There are ducks at my feeder tree! The photo is low tech and low resolution and taken through a window that could use some cleaning. The female's feathering is nearly perfectly camouflaging her. The male mostly stood watch, staying always within 2 feet of the female, but he did some feeding too, while she stood watch. They were eating the corn that I put out in a tray feeder for the squirrels, which the birds have scattered to the ground. They did not fly up to the tray feeder, just happily grazed the spillage under the tree. They would feed a while, then amble the 40 feet to my front gardens where I had the sprinkler running, then come back and feed some more, then back to the sprinkler, grooming in the "rain." Such a treat!



Many thanks to all...D.B.

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