Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Red-tailed Hawks On M--Styles Differ, New Pale Male Movie

Just a few seconds before this photograph was taken Secundus was sitting on the branch directly above Primus' head. But the moment I got out of the car Secundus made a hop flap dive for the foliage.

Primus looks at me through a crumpled leaf.

She does a hop flap herself and then starts looking for Secundus.

Secundus is actually making quite the scene hop flapping higher and higher.

A hop flap to the tip of a twig.

And another look for Secundus.

Scanning the area, possibly for parents with food. Food being a chief topic on a fledglings mind.

Primus puffs up and looks aggressively my way.

Back to scanning the airways.

They don't happen to be walking by any chance?

In the meantime, Secundus has made it to the nest, a much better place to peer from, and is doing his own scanning.


He snuggles in and starts his trademark peering.

Switches position. Peers some more.

It's a long one.

A scan--

And back to me.
NY Raptor Watcher Pat Gonzalez sends the link for the new Pale Male movie, "The Legend of Pale Male"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Secundus Plays With His Eyes

Yes, after many adventures--begging, flying out, flying back in, begging, several crash landings back into the nest tree, climbing to the top, begging, attempting to sleep on a branch, begging--Primus left, and Secundus right, are back in the nest.

Actually for some time now I've been looking at a big pile of feathers that moved but nothing identifiable but some tail feathers sticking up at a right angle. Let's face it, they really don't fit into the nest very well anymore.

I have a feeling that Secundus is actually laying on top of Primus, who's head has disappeared back into the bowl. Better that way for Secundus as he's smaller and more squashable. He checks out the view with his right eye.
Secundus then starts peering. As we know one of his absolutely favorite activities. This one is particularly good. One eyeball looks between the stubs of two broken off twigs.
Without magnification I wouldn't be able to see his head shape which has merged with the branch, now would I?

Now some folks might think that Secundus thinks that even being behind those tiny stumps makes him invisible. Actually I've no idea what he is thinking but I think there is something wired in with birds when it comes to all the looking through even the smallest of barriers. The activity runs across any number of species, particularly the larger ones. Crows do it, as do Blue Jays, and of course Red-tails. And in actuality, without "hawk vision" in the form of lenses Secundus might well have "disappeared to my sight.

Smaller birds who are "hiding" will often go into a stance, when feeling observed, of standing with beak pointed to the sky and complete stillness. It changes their shape. Some of their "birdness" disappears head and beak on one end, tail on the other. It's gone. It appears to be a way of hiding in plan sight. And particularly when back lit, the "birdness" of a hawk while peering peering from behind something helps make them "disappear" as well.

With the larger birds, it seems to me, there is an urge to peek, and eventually they learn what kind of thing works and what doesn't.

And besides with Secundus he seems to find it the absolute best of games. "Play" in all young creatures being the work of learning the skills to be successful in life.

Here he just pokes his head out and checks the view while looking at me.

Next he obscures the view of one eye. What happens to hawk vision when only one eye is used? He's checking it out.

Okay, now sideways. One eye in light and one eye in shade. What does that do?

Back to full head visibility but he isn't using binoc vision to look at me. Just the one eye is in play for me. What is the other eye seeing?

Next, back to checking his right eye again with left eye obscured by the branch.

Something happens. Primus even pops up. Wow, Primus from this angle has begun to look like she is wearing "Planet Of The Apes" makeup.
I've obviously been standing in the sun just a little bit too long. Time to seek shade and increased hydration.
Donegal Browne
P.S. Actually I had been in the sun too long. There is absolutely no shade where there is a view of this nest. And though I religiously wear a broad brimmed hat and consume liquids, standing out on "the Prairie" on three separate stints of several hours each, with the sun beating down, did me in. More on that adventure, a true cautionary tale, to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Sunset 8:36 pm
Photo taken-8:08pm
Wind variable 25MPH
Gusts to 30MPH
Sinking sun behind tree. Back light made seeing the eyasses very difficult unless there was huge movement such as vigorous wing flaps which exposed pale coverts.

But I realized as soon as I pulled up that the energy had changed completely.

8:08 pm
Therefore once loaded into the computer I artificially lightened the photographs so we could see what was going on. Also there was a good breeze blowing which caused the boughs to sway and leaves to shift.

The verge between the corn field that holds the nest and County Road M. There is alfalfa, Wild Grape, Queen Anne's Lace, Wild Carrot, Virginia Creeper, a variety of grasses and much more. All of which give shelter and dinner to the voles that the Red-tailed Hawk family eats.

I've not been watching the nest every minute, and as I'm the only one watching, great swaths of time are not observed. Not like Central Park or many of the other urban nests where there are enough people watching that there is often a kind of hand off of information between observers as one watcher arrives and another leaves.

That said, I've only seen one non-vole meal--a black snake. And the rest is the standard diet for Wisconsin Red-tailed Hawks--voles, voles, and more voles.

I've begun to wonder if vole isn't a better diet than the urban pigeon and rat that eyasses are fed in the city. These rural eyasses look bigger, stronger, and better feathered than their urban counterparts before fledging. Of course it could be something to do with cleaner air and the local rainwater which bathes them in the nest. Or, and perhaps more likely, I'm certain that the two Ms are staying on the nest/in the nest tree longer than an urban eyass would and therefore are bigger and stronger and better feathered because they are just plain older.

8:10 pm

I couldn't digiscope both birds as they weren't close enough to each other so both would fit---and I had a feeling something might just happen very soon. In order to get both birds in the lens I switched to video.

Two minutes later the wind had increased, the eyasses were flapping, and everything was moving. The top bird flapped vigorously. The second, lower an slightly to the left, was hop flapping herself off of branches by a few inches. Then making a very short flight of a couple feet to another higher branch. She then turned out to face me and went back to the heart stopping flapping that took her a few inches off the branch, then a new branch, more hopping and strong flapping. And suddenly she was airborne. WOW!

Primus (At least I think it was Primus) was in the air. she flew strongly round towards the back of the tree, flew towards the tree line, did a nice turn and then reappeared on the other side of the oak and did the typical crash landing of a newly fledged hawk on the right side of the tree.

I shot video of Primus fledgling, or at least the first part, Couldn't catch the behind the tree and crash landing segments unfortunately...I think anyway.
And my slow connection won't let me upload the video. So it looks like we'll all have to wait for me to find a charitable person who will let me use their WiFi before many of our questions can be answered about exactly happened and to whom.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Donegal Browne

One Visible M and One invisible One

I can't see the belly band nor are the two eyasses next to each other for comparison so I am tentatively saying that this is Secundus.
In fact I don't see Primus at all during this trip but there is rustling in various parts of the oak tree, therefore I surmise that Primus is branching in parts of the tree that keep her masked from me. Also Secundus keeps looking at differing areas in the tree at something I can't see.

7:39:54 pm
Suddenly I remember I sat a $50 Nikon battery down on the counter in the ladies room at Thresherman's Park and neglected to pick it up again. SHOOT!
I jump in the car and race back...MUCH MORE TO COME...

Monday, June 08, 2009

The County M Red-tailed Hawks, Sally on Orangey-breasts, James Hanks Sighting

And hour before there had been a terrential rainstorm, a complete gully washer. But as they say here, "This is the prairie. If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes and it'll be different."

And it's pretty much true.

In actuality today it was changing from moment to moment. Note the many light shifts through the sequence.

But back to our birds-- Can you believe it? Secundus is actually snoozing and missed my entrance. Primus does register my presence.

Secundus stares at me-- It's her again--the one with the hat.

Primus on the other hand seems to be having evil thoughts about bugging her brother.

How about a little ducked head with raised shoulders?
Secundus could care less.

How about a little sideways head? Wasted. He wanted to flinch but only withdrew his neck back a little. Still staring.

He's not even taking notice. What now?

Ah ha! Wing stretch! Nothing.
A teeny jerky jump?
Nope. Not a twitch from Secundus.
A big jump directly over his head. He actually turned his head. Ta da !

Primus jumps over S's head again and back into her original position.
Or did his head turn only so he could lean it on me? DRAT!!!

WHOA!!! What is THAT?

And by the time that Primus looks down again, Secundus is doing the smiling and he's asleep.

Primus looks me in the eye--Wanna "play"?

Another smile--What could she be planning?

Hey, hey what is that?
Where's Secundus? Collapsed into a buteo pancake.
Now it's Primus' turn to go groggy. Secundus his un-collapsed himself to peer through the twigs to take over the watch duty.

Primus sees something and the twig running past her face gives her an even bigger smile. These two have really begun not only to watch for their parents with the take-out to come but now are monitoring prey on their own time.

A little breast preening.

Some preening to mid-back. I can't imagine that Secundus' head isn't getting completely scrunched by Primus' wing. No doubt he's used to it.

Lest we forget where they are. It's way up there.

Foot up, smiling...

And finally Primus' head begins to nod a bit and her nictitating eyelids creep up and down. Nap time. (I imagine Secundus is much relieved.)

Dear Donna,

I am still trying to research the orangey-breasted eyasses out west. Another cam watcher sent me these links. In both of these I think it is pretty clear that the eyass's breast is orangey tinged or at least not pale cream colored. Of course, adult RT's are darker out west so is that a factor in determining juvenile coloring? You can compare the color on the eyass to the parent. I will send a couple of stills in another email. And the skunk for dinner in the second video is so cute! The first one is of the Portland eyasses playing on their fire escape jungle gym!

Both of those have fledged and are now in rehab due to mishaps, according to the web site, by the way. Tough life fledging in the city.

From Jayne, the "other cam watcher"--


Sally, I couldn’t get a clear shot of the Portland chicks before they fledged (I think the second one fledged, haven’t seen him today). If I remember correctly you’re trying to see if the West Coast chicks have different bibs than the East coast?

Anyway, Portland was very hard to capture because of the intense sun in the morning, and the darkness in the afternoon – add that to the fact that I don’t think they were ‘broadcasting’ in as high a quality as we’re used to.

Here’s what I’ve discovered on YouTube. The first video is of the Portland duo on 5-31-09. There is only one fairly clear shot of one of their breasts as around 1:45 in.
The second is from San Francisco Bay Area (based on the tags) that has a very clear shot around 1:05:

Portland: Red Tail Fly Boys? By MyWildifeVideos

San Francisco: Baby Hawks get Skunk for Dinner by d2ryu

To my untrained eye, it seems that their breasts are more golden than orange. What do you think?

Hope this helps!

Sally and Jayne,

Very interesting. The non-orangey breasted eyasses we get in NYC are a definitely white-ish, not particularly golden at all but you're right to ask what color would they be in an Western bird if the parents are dark and it was the recessive or what seems the recessive in the east.

In the young hawks on County M, Primus who has a darker head, is much orangier than Secundus who is lighter headed. He is more golden peach but I still count it as orange

Actually the adult in the Skunk video reminds me very much of Charlotte of the south Central Park Hawks, Pale Male Jr.'s mate. She is a dark chocolate brown as well. Jr who is lightish and Charlotte who is darkish produced eyasses with orangey-breasts.


And a chance meeting with James Hanks in Riverside Park leads to another Red-tail sighting---

Hi Donegal,

I met you in riverside park a few weeks ago near the hawk nest, we were discussing how I used to see red tails flying around NY Presbyterian Hospital (Washington Heights) and you asked me to let you know if I saw them again. Today I caught sight of one on 159 and Riverside. This is the first I’ve seen of hawks up there this season, for all I know it could be one of the same pair nesting in RSP [Riverside Park D.B.]. I will let you know if I start seeing it regularly up there.


Thanks James, every single sighting helps us figure out what our clever Urban Red-tails are up to.

From Eagle Watcher Kristine Ovens---
"A poem inspired by watching a wee eaglet grow into the magnificent bird she will become."

From the Sutton Research Center

When JJ flies
All eyes
Will face the skies
Joy and sadness
Follow our madness
We came as strangers
We will leave as friends
One small bird
Who grew
And grew and
Before our eyes
Touched hearts and
We learned and grew
Along with you
When JJ flies
All eyes
Will face the skies
Touched forever
Bound together
When JJ flies

Kristine Ovens
Victoria BC
May 2009

Just a sample of Francois Portmann's beautiful photographs at--

Donegal Browne