Saturday, May 15, 2010

Red-tail Updates: Mama Emerald Menaces Me Plus Rose and Vince Do Lunch for the Kids

This is Mama Emerald. Mama Emerald does not like me. No she does not. Not one little bit. Though I am a good distance from her nest she has taken severe umbrage to my presence and has taken to kiting just a short distance from me then seeming to come down towards me, still not in a true swoop, until I wonder when I should throw myself to the ground, though she is no longer screaming which seems like a very good thing.

Then she swings round me. And I swing round with her. She isn't going to get behind my head. I'm keeping my eye on her.

And does the whole kiting business all over again. Menace, true and simple but not currently livid anger. I mean who needs a hot hawk over their head, right?

Eventually it is kind of a stand off and as I'm not stepping one step closer to the nest, the line in the sand is extremely clear to me...

She does another couple of pass rounds.

And then heads way way over to that far copse of trees.

Now why is it that the Ms last season allowed me to stand much closer to their nest? Their nest was out in the countryside too. I have a theory.

Remember when I began to notice that if humans stayed on roads, on sidewalks, on places that humans normally travel, many birds would continue to go about their business even reasonably close to humans, as if the humans weren't there until on foot hit the ground out of those proscribed human travel areas? Then everyone would take off in a flash?

Well I think Mama Emerald's wrath may have something to do with that. The Emerald Grove nest is situated in a tree far off the road, on land that is absolutely plastered by No Trespassing signs and has been lying fallow for some time. Not only grasses surround their copse of mature trees that hold the nest oak but it is surrounded by bushes and saplings. The nearest plowed field is not at all close. Therefore I'm thinking the closest human who ever comes by is the farmer in the far field with his tractor---no human may have come near the nesting site during breeding season is years. Therefore I have intruded very far off the proscribed human pathway area though I am still much further away from the nest than I was when I observed the Ms. Which means that even with rural hawks the attack perimeter that surrounds a Red-tails nest is fluid depending on habituation. Which of course makes sense but sometimes nailing down reasons for behaviors that look like no brainers turn out to be motivated by something completely different than one had decided they were or just plain wired in.

(Pick up the thread of the Emerald Grove Hawk sequence in the next post down. Still having trouble with Blogger on that particular post by the way so it still isn't complete. Hence the above sequence out of sequence.)

Photo by Richard Fleisher
But in the meantime Richard Fleisher has a beautiful day to take photographs of gorgeous Rose and Vince.

Photo by Richard Fleisher

Here's the scoop from Rich--

New photos of our Rose, Vince and offspring have been posted on my flickr page. These were taken Thursday afternoon and showed the need for wildlife photographers to be extremely patient. After spending more than an hour watching Rose doing nothing but sunning herself on the nest I suddenly found myself with a wonderful photo opportunity. Vince showed up out of no where with the late afternoon meal in his talons.

Photo by Richard Fleisher.
He landed on the nest, dropped off dinner and stayed on the nest no more than five minutes when he took off as suddenly as he appeared.

Photo by Richard Fleisher
Rose picked up the meal and walked back and forth with the prey (I cannot tell if it is a young squirrel or a rat) in her mouth before settling down to rip up the catch and begin feeding it to the hungry youngsters.

If you look very very closely at the prey, the tail is furry it hasn't the nakedness of a rat's tail. I'm betting on young squirrel.

For more great shots of Rose and Vince check out Rich's Flickr page-

Donegal Browne

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Emerald Grove Street Nest-- I'm Getting A Hard Hat With Eyes, Plus Yellow-crowned Night Herons

Blogger has taken a dive. It's been awhile so I guess I can't complain too much. Currently the cursor keeps running off the page and then runs across the desktop and runs across whatever. Kind of a Harry Potter thing. And it won't load the rest of the photos that come before these. Therefore Blogger must have a rest. Go ahead and check out what's here and see what you come up with.

More begging.

I'd been trying to shoot through that gap between trees in 30 mph gusts of wind that kept blowing the trees, the nest, and lots of leaves into the way of the camera while Mama Emerald was deciding whether or not she was going to take my head off. It was quite the adventurous day. By the way the photo above is under magnification, I was about 4 times further away than it looks.
Mama Emerald of the Emerald Grove St. Red-tails is in a very bad mood. There has been cold drenching rain for the last four days. I only took photos for 37 minutes and she had had it from the moment I got there. Today I only saw one eyass. that doesn't necessarily mean something has happened it just means that's all I saw..
Emerald flew into my sightline from the east and landed on a power pole. See her?

By the way Emerald is an extremely large and powerful Red-tail.

She planes her wings flawlessly in the high winds and did much kiting while watching me today.

Emerald even menaced me after I'd gotten into the car and driven a quarter mile...

Photo by Francois Portmann
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
This looks like something a Night Heron would ordinarily be doing, preening, right?
Photo by Francois Portman
But then Francois took this shot. Two Yellow-crowned Night Herons taking a walk and suddenly the one in the rear seems to have been possessed by demons and is about to make the head of the guy in front spin around backwards, or Mr. Behind Crazy Bird has been holding a secret grudge because he always has to walk in back and Mr Ahead Oblivious Bird is about to get bushwhacked.
I absolutely love this photograph but I've no idea what is actually going on in a real world that doesn't necessarily contain demon possessed Night Herons or vindictive grudge holding Night Herons either so I'm going to ask Francois if he knows what is going on.
For more terrific Yellow-crowned Night Heron stuff go to Francois' blog-
Donegal Browne
More tomorrow when Blogger is rested.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Water Street Peregrines, Rock River Bald Eagles, and Brant Geese in Brooklyn, BRANT GEESE???

Photo by James O'Brien
James had the wonderful opportunity to photograph the DEP banding of New York City's 55 Water St. Peregrine Falcons. As you can see Mom is not the least bit amused though all was well in the end, of course.

Photo by James O'Brien
Here is the basket of babies waiting to be examined, measured, and banded. It turned out to be a nice even, 2 females and 2 males.

Photo by James O'Brien
Check out the whole sequence of the proceedings on James' Flickr site-
And for commentary too, his blog--

Photo by Donna Browne
Rock and Jane the Janesville Area Rock River Eagles, Oct. 2009

This Spring there have been a number of sightings of a Bald Eagle flying along the Rock River in Janesville, WI. Blog contributor Beakerless has seen the Eagle several times and as of a week and a half ago, he saw an Eagle again. The thought is that the other Eagle in the pair is tending a nest which we haven't discovered yet. If we could find the nest, it would be the only verified Bald Eagle nest in the County.

From local watcher, Beakerless-
April 30th saw a mature Bald Eagle fishing the river near the Library and Racine St Bridge in Janesville. On May 1st we were walking the Spring Brook Trail and saw a mature Bald Eagle scoop up a fish and fly into the trees near the bridge at the beginning of the trail. Near Marling Lumber yard. Not sure if it was a male or female but it was awesome.

Marling Lumber yard is on the bank of the Rock River directly across from where the Eagles, pictured above, were fishing and roosting in the evening last fall.

Photo by W. A. Walters
Bill Walters, our usual gleaner of the NYTimes, happened to be doing extra work on a movie in Red Hook, Brooklyn when he noticed these geese in the harbor about 2 miles east of The Statue of Liberty.

Photo by W. A. Walters
At least he thought they were geese though he said there was something duck-like about them, perhaps their way of swimming?

I looked closely, they weren't Canada Geese. The proportion is different and the coloring. They look small to me. Besides where is that big white face patch?

I'd not seen these birds before. Which isn't all that unusual when it comes to waterfowl as we know. I pulled out the field guide and started looking.

Ah ha! Well probably ah ha! Standing there next to the Barnacle Goose in The Peterson's Field Guide, Birds of Eastern and Central North America, Fifth Edition, is the Brant Goose, Branta hernicla.

They are smaller than canadensis, check. But the telling field mark, beyond "Where's the white head patch?" as there are other geese besides the Canadian ones with a white head patch, is the fact that the black of their necks goes to the waterline, check, whereas a Canada Goose has that big chunk of buffy breast above the waterline. And if it were a Barnacle Goose, yes the black would go to the waterline but it would also have a white head patch that includes their eyes.

If you look closely the Brant Goose does have just a bit of white on it's upper neck but nothing nearly large enough to cause you confusion.

And yes, check, for habitat they are found "mainly salt bays, estuaries" so the harbor fits fine. Of course these guys are just passing through as they spend their summers nesting in the tundra.

All that fit, check, check, check, but I was still having my waterfowl I.D. paranoia so I emailed a shot to photographer and excellent birder Francois Portmann asking if they were indeed Brant Geese. He concurred.

It is ever so much nicer to get it right---than to get it wrong, isn't it?

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fordham's Vince and Rose, the Queen's Ravens, and the New Kids on the Block

Photograph by Richard Fleisher
And here we have a grand shot, including belly band, of young Vince of Fordham. Also note how dark his wrist commas are. See the dark line of feathers towards the top of the inner wing? His head color continues down rather farther on his shoulders and chest than some other hawk's do.

Right now his very light eyes will be an obvious difference between he and Rose but they will darken gradually over the next three years until they'll be no help at all in discerning which bird of the pair one is looking at. Hence the reason for getting into the practice of looking at the other marks of possible difference that may help in identification later.

Photo by Richard Fleisher
Rose's very fluffy bottom bookended by her two very alert and healthy looking 2010 eyasses. Hawkwatcher Christopher Lyons suspects there may be a third.

Photo by Richard Fleisher
And beautiful dark eyed Rose herself.

Here is what Richard Fleisher, photographer, and one of the major watchers of the Fordham nest had to say--

Hi Everyone,

I finally got around to shooting the Collins nest and processing some of the photos.

The shots dated 5-5-10 are of Vince. Today's shots clearly show Rose and two frisky eyases. I have attached one of the shots of Vince, one of the nest with the two chicks and a close-up of Rose.

I have located additional photos on my flickr site -


Photograph by Francois Portmann

A Queen's Ravens Update from professional photographer, Francois Portmann--

The Ravens nestlings are growing fast.

Heads of only two of the three Raven chicks were visible this past weekend, reaching a little higher out of the nest. They were unattended when I arrived on site. Soon one adult flew in with food, dropped it on the metal beam and started to “prepare” it for the chicks, going back and forth between food stash and nest.

For more go to

An Update from Sally of Kentucky, who keeps tabs on the Sutton Eagles and the Portland Fire Escape Red-tail nest--


I guess you haven't heard, but the 2nd of the two sooner lake eaglets of "Fred and "Ethel", "Ponca"-named for a kind and avid nest watcher and animal lover who passed away in January, has perished. It fell from the nest the night of May 4th and was discovered missing the morning of the 5th. Sutton Center staff went out and found it dead on the ground beneath the nest tree, no apparent injuries. The initial thought was that it was predated as the adult was seen taking a threat defense posture and then taking off from the nest, but apparently not. Anyway, so goes life in the wild. Sutton Center is planning to put transmitters on one or two eaglets this year so we are watching for that news.

The RTH fire escape nest in Portland has lost one eyass of the 3, hope is that it is not a frounce problem again this year.


Today I looked out and there was Doorstep Dove and Friend's first set of this years fledglings puttering around in the feeding area. Doing what they are supposed to be doing at this point, feeding themselves.

Do not think they still aren't being overseen by a parent. I looked up and there was Friend in the guardian spot of the Maple tree, alternately attempting to preen his feathers dry and surveying the area for possible predators. Doorstep, I suspect, is already sitting on another set of eggs.

If something dangerous should appear, Friend will take off like a shot from the tree. No, he isn't abandoning his two fledglings to fend for themselves. His rapid retreat has two important advantages for the fledglings. First it warns the youngsters that it is time to take to their wings, and second his noisy Mourning Dove flight will draw the eyes of the predator, distracting it from the kids who will be busy taking off to follow him.

And so it goes, Spring comes round on the gere once again. We loose some birds that we have watched intently, with wonder and held great affection for, but new ones are hatched or come to our attention that we may learn to hold in their own special esteem as well-- if we continue watching with fresh eyes of wonder and as intently as we have watched before.

Donegal Browne