Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Asking After Hawkeye of Fordham and the NYBG

Hawkeye the Ever Vigilant, Fordham Fledge Day- June 14, 2007

I just got this off the NYBG blog. I'm heartbroken. This is the first time I've shed tears for a bird. Maybe because I've only been photographing birds for the last two years, this is the first time that one I've watched regularly has passed on. How awful. : (

Pat Gonzalez

Sadly, Hawkeye, the adult male red-tailed hawk that
nested on the Library building and raised three young this past spring, died July 31. He seems to have ingested poison by eating a rodent that had eaten poison bait, teaching us, once again, that all of nature is connected and reminding us of the impact we have on the food chain. To see photos and read the complete story of eyewitnesses, see the Fordham University blog and The City Birder blog.

Yes Pat, terrible but true. Dear, smart, experienced, clever, beautiful Hawkeye is dead. Likely killed by secondary poisoning from consuming a poisoned rat as were the three 2008 Riverside nest eyasses.

He died while I was at the Pennsic War and by the time I got back and heard about it, not only did I think I was the last to know, but also, his death was so hard for me I could barely think of it without repeatedly bursting into tears. His death has made me terribly afraid for not only the younger inexperienced hawks but also for the mature and wily hawks of name, we have watched season after season.

Long ago I came to the realization that the older hawks, Pale Male, Lola, Pale Male Jr., Charlotte, Mama, Papa, Tristan, Isolde, Big Mama, Rose, and the others weren't just extremely lucky in the game of Rat Russian Roulette. They must have discovered a clue, a "something" that warned them that a rat was poisoned beyond just behavior. Because a poisoned rat initially doesn't act any differently though it is still capable of poisoning the hawk that eats it. So this clue, whether smell, taste, a small bite that induced illness but wasn't virulent enough to kill but taught the clue or something else which cued these hawks not to eat those rats doesn't seem to be present with the new second generation rat poisons.

If Hawkeye, a very successful urban Red-tail who lived, ate, fed his mate Rose and his family, season after season without anyone being poisoned was fooled, then every hawk in the city could be poisoned on any given day. That thought is nearly more than I can bear.

Despair can destroy will but it can also out of desperation catapult one into action. Take action. Investigate. Educate. Do what you can at the very least to get these poisons out of your hawks territories and eventually outlawed all together.

A question occurred to me. If we know that these poisons kill hawks through secondary poisoning, how can this be seen as an accidental poisoning. We know it will kill them if exposed to it by rat eating and these hawks are protected by the 1918 Migratory Treaty Act, why cannot those who put out these poisons be prosecuted under that law?

Donegal Browne

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Fifty Bluebird Flock

Hope may be in sight as I have my fingers crossed I'll have a different computer by Friday.

In the meantime...there is a small wood with quite a number of oaks and some old farm machinery which tends to attract migrating birds. I went to check it out. I got out of the car and WHOOSH!

Not turkeys this time nor cranes but a flock of at least 50 Eastern Bluebirds exploded out of a farm machine parked on the edge of the wood and into every possible direction. Needless to say, as you don't see 50 Bluebirds exploding into the air, I missed the shot. But I did rediscover a few that weren't well hidden in the treetops.

To tell the truth I'd never in my life seen so many Bluebirds all at the same time. It was quite astounding. All those nesting boxes around the country must be doing some good.

A Rough-legged Hawk flies over and the Bluebirds freeze while looking up.

Chipmunk who had been shoving wheat seeds into his cheek pouches from the adjacent field, scurries over and ducks under some old planks.

Could this be a Towhee?

The Roughie has gone on so it's time to get back to the two staring males who've been staring at each other.

It took me awhile but I now see why these two are so divergent in size. The smaller bird is on the far edge of the machine, there is an expanse of space and the larger bird is on the closer edge.

Notice the grayish back on the far bird and the paler belly. It is likely an immature Eastern Bluebird.

After the explosion these two spent the entire time I was there, staring at me. The Bluebird has been fantasized into this happy creature. And they might well be happy but they are happy while being tough little predators of insects. While hunting from a fencepost they look very much like the larger avian predators, the buteos, when it comes to facial expressions.

In Arkansas this is called a Sweat Bee, in Wisconsin a Hover Fly, what do they call it where you are?
Donegal Browne

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Turkey Trotting- Close and Personal

I was just heading for the north gate of Thresherman's Park when ZAP! The five wild turkeys I'd photographed coming round the north gate a few weeks ago, suddenly appeared in a running, or more technically true, appeared turkey trotting at a quick clip in their turkey line smack dab in front of my car. I hit the breaks. The dust flew and the Turkeys cleared the road. Galumphing their way up the hedgerow beside the south section of the woods.

You'll notice in the first photo that the rear guard turkey is facing the woods, possibly to make sure nothing dangerous is there laying in wait, while the others head for the hills. But by the time the second photo is taken, they've paused.

Why? Good question. Well, I had stopped. Is that good or bad in the turkey mind? Are we all waiting for the other to make a move so we can react?

Or is it a moment of indecision? Whether to bolt into the bushes which makes it tougher (and slower) going to get to the top of the field and continue foraging but is possibly safer or to take a chance and trot east rapidly and make it to dinner in half the time?

I didn't get out of the car, but I had shot down the window for a better view. This is perhaps what sent them into action once again, though they aren't really trotting now. It is more of curious walk.
The the hindmost turkey goes up on his toes and gives a few wing beats. A signal to get going? Conceivably, as the rest then finally do get focused and head off.

Boss Turkey's wings settle.
Well they started to anyway but still give looks over their shoulders at me.
Boss turkey then starts stepping out even more briskly in their direction. And they decidedly pick up the pace.
Until there is only Boss Turkey's head above the rise that precedes the dip that they know will obscure them from me. They'll likely pause out of sight until I'm gone. Therefore I go and make it easier for them to continue about their business.