Thursday, February 11, 2010

Red-tail Update: The Red-tailed Hawks on County Rd. M, outside Milton, Wisconsin, and the Morningside Hawk Late Bedtime

Photo: Donegal Browne
March 15, 2009 The tiercel, Mr. M, camouflages himself with leaves and pokes his head up.

Budding hawkwatcher, Kim Gilmour, who with husband Roy have property across the road from the the M's nest writes--

Thanks for the prompt response. Roy said he saw a couple of hawks, sitting in the tree in the last week or so. Am I to assume that they will be or are already beginning to start to nest? If so I will start to carry my binoculars and spotting scope so that I can check it out on my way home from work. I still have the two jobs so can't go over every day but I can also let Roy know to keep watching. I haven't yet witnessed any pairs circling but will keep an eye out and keep you informed.

Rural hawks often have a territory of 2 square miles give or take so it is quite possible that they may be sky dancing out of our view from the road. I didn't see them do it last season either though I was on that road several times daily and I always am looking for hawks.

As you can tell from the date on the photograph, by March 15th, there was a hawk sitting the nest. And they were doing it full time as I watched them switch places that day.

Pale Male and Lola copulate for at least a month before they take to the nest full time. It is currently February 11th, so yes there is very likely nesting activity going on. They will be twigging, arranging materials on the nest and also copulating.

Photo: Donegal Browne

March 15, 2009
Also there was a foraging party of three Crows attempting to harass the sitting bird off the nest on the 15th, the hawks may have been sitting for several days when I discovered them. Add Roy's sighting of two birds in the tree helps confirm that there is nesting behavior going on now.

Pale Male and Lola copulate for at least a month from our first sighting of copulation to Lola's first overnight on the nest. As it is February 11th now, that further points to current nesting behavior when compared to their behavior last season.

So keep your binoculars and spotting scope handy and check them out when you can.

As you look, if you hear a sound that is like a noisy gull making a repeated staccato sound, that will be your hawks copulating. The sound may help you find them.

Though the act does not take long. Copulation in most species of birds is very quick, only about 5 seconds or so in Red-tails. If you see the formel, Mrs. M, perched flat instead of in her usual upright stance for perching, it is likely the Mr. will be showing up very soon to tread her.

Often they will then sit companionably in the same area. There is rarely any sitting close enough to touch, but they will sit companionably close, well close for hawks, for awhile after copulation. Be aware that it is normal for them to face opposite directions in order to keep a look out in case there is anything they need to take care of within the territory.

Afterglow is no excuse for non-vigilance in hawks.

From Nara Milanich of the fire escape roost as of Wednesday the 10th--

Our friend stopped by last night briefly, hanging out on the escape for a minute before taking off at dusk.
Tonight, s/he is back [Likely Isolde D.B.), surveying the snow from the rail of the fire escape. S/he's been there more than an hour, just looking around, and it's past 7:30. Every other time, s/he has tucked his/her head under and gone to sleep at dusk. So why the late bedtime? Is it the snow? Incidentally, we don't see the mate anywhere around.


Let's just surmise for now that it was Isolde on the fire escape as the photos of your previous visitor have been her.

Why was Isolde wakeful? A very good question but unfortunately not one we can answer definitively as far as I know.

Bonded pairs do keep in visual contact at this time of year so unless something has gone amiss she would likely already know exactly where Norman had gone for the night.

Would the snow have obscured her actually seeing him when she checked in on him periodically as they do and made her wakeful?

Or as we know now that hawks do on occasion fly around at night, was Stormin' Norman out cavorting with the snow? Highly unlikely I realize but as it was Norman, who's usual behavior tends toward the very energetic and non-stealthy, who can tell?

Or hawks being such visual creatures did Isolde just like looking at the snow?

Or was it just the fact that her usual long sight was impaired, if it was, and it kept her awake and even more vigilant, than usual? As she would have been waking every few minutes anyway to check in on her surroundings as birds do at night.

Or for those who prefer a romantic deeply anthropomorphic explanation--perhaps she was thinking of her former mate of many years, Tristan, who disappeared around the time of a snowstorm just about this time of year two seasons ago.

Donegal Browne

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