I was sitting on the bed wondering what to do with all the things surrounding me that had come out of my parent's storage unit, when my cell phone rang. It was Jim Blank. He's an great spotter of wildlife, and good about giving me a call when something interesting turns up. Some of you will remember his wonderful photos of the twin fawns from last season.
At any rate, he'd been out on the road that led to Storr's Lake on the way to yet another storage unit, he collects and fills them instantly, twenty minutes before and he'd seen two Red-tailed Hawks perched close together on a power pole.
That piqued my interest. It's past the usual time for copulation, one of the few occasions that a pair tends to sit intimately together--but twenty minutes before? They'd likely be gone by the time I got there. But as the spot wasn't far, and I couldn't stand the thought of carrying all the storage boxes surrounding me around anymore, I thought I'd quick pitch my equipment into the car, and zip the short distance to the road to Storr's lake.
And amazingly as I headed toward the lake, there in the distance, sure enough, were two of the proper shaped specks on a power pole in the distance. As they were standing there bold as brass facing the same direction, and standing looking into the sun instead of having it at their backs, I thought they must be two fledglings making themselves obvious so their parents could find them easily with the carry out.
But then as I got a little closer, I saw they didn't have peachy breasts. Well, some eyasses do have white breasts, but they didn't really have much at all in the way of heavily contrasting belly bands either.
Remembering to always pass by the hawks you're trying to look at before stopping I drove past them. They looked down and watched me go by. Then I realized I'd have to turn around as there was no where to get off the road and I drive past them again.
And again they watch me go by with mild curiosity and go back to their business. Looking into the sun I can't see the color of their tails. A good ways down the road I pull into a business parking lot, park, get out the magnification and--imagine that. Definitely not fledglings. They both have dark eyes.
So what are two adult Red-tails doing facing the same direction, a pair normally perches front to back so they can see in all directions, beyond the fact they are staring into the sun instead of hunting with the sun to their backs?
As I'm rather sick of having Red-tails on power poles flush the instant I take a photo, and it is blazing hot, I decide, I'll set up under the first tree across the street, take a few photos, walk to the next tree, repeat the process, and see how far I get.
Well they didn't flush but the female (on the right) doesn't fall for my crummy human stealth routine of tree hopping and gives me "the look". I'm looking at her look and it reminds me of someone. Then it comes to me, that's the look almost eight year old Isabella "Issy" Blank, daughter of the aforementioned Jim, gives people when she feels put upon. Due to the "look" and their curiosity inducing inexplicable behavior, the formel immediately became Issy, and the tiercel-- J.B., for Jim Blank who'd given me the initial call.
In fact J.B. is being surrounded by a mob of very unhappy individuals who don't like what he's doing one little bit. I'm guessing that he's crossed some sort of territorial line. Were he and Issy actually watching the activities of the Crows earlier? Were they up to something and that's why their behavior was unusual?
J.B. stands higher and looks further afield. Reinforcements are arriving from the W and NW.
Will J.B. and the mob be coming this way?
In the meantime a group of male Cowbirds, do a couple of dusultory flyovers.
And in the woods to the NW, I hear the calling of one or two crows. Was J.B. just the bait and after gathering the mob, led them on a merry chase while Issy stealthily flew over and stole whatever was worth eating over there? Was it the old bait and switch, Red-tail style? If so will Issy save some for J.B.?
From W.A. Walters, gleaner of the NYTimes--
U.S. June 23, 2010
In Battle of Bug vs. Shrub, Score One for the Bird
By KIRK JOHNSON
An Asian import likes to eat tamarisk, which seemed like a good idea. Enter the Southwestern willow flycatcher.