Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Legend of Pale Male

The White-bellied Nuthatch are back and...

The Legend of Pale Male opens in theatres November 24th.

Here's the link for the trailer.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Walmart Red-tailed Hawk and the Red-winged Blackbirds

I pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car, and suddenly noticed that one of the fixtures on a light pole seemed to have an extra lump. An extra electrical gee gaw? Or perhaps a hawk?
Can you see the lump?

See the pole beyond the black car,that appears to be coming out of a small tree, center? What is that lump on top of the fixture?

The lump then proceeds to fly off the pole.

Aha! A lump no more but rather a Red-tail in pursuit of a bird. But in the air? Not a hunting technique that isn't often effective for Red-tailed hawks. Closer scrutiny of the initial picture once it was loaded into the computer shows the hawk, leaning over and peering into the tree below its perch.

Then there are two smaller birds in the mix. But like a good predator the pole sitting Red-tail keeps her eye on the initial prey and pursues it to the exclusion of other gyrating bird distractions. (At least that may be what's going on. I have my doubts as this is a mature hawk. Besides always remember, "Never underestimate a Red-tail".)

Still focused.

And then there are three smaller birds. From exactly where, I've no idea.
The initial bird of focus is gaining ground while the other two appear to be lagging intentionally. I'm beginning to suspect a planned Red-winged Blackbird group effort.

Now the two extras have repositioned themselves under Pole Sitter.

My actual view at the time.

The distracting lower bird is doing all kinds of flapping, curving, and general eye catching moves. And the Red-tail appears to be giving him the eye.

The hawk is now the center of a mobbing triangle.

Bottom bird, now appears to be staying in the blind spot directly behind the hawk's tail. Or at least what the Red-wing may believe is a blind spot. It may well not be considering how Pale Male Jr. lures pigeons to catch up to him in their anti-predator circling maneuver by slowing down, then flipping round in midair on a dime, and nabbing the closest pigeon.

And gotcha! The bird lands, folds his wings, and pecks away at the Red-tail's wing. Now keep in mind that a Red-tail is perfectly capable of whipping round upside down with talons up which might dump the Red-wing off. A move they use when a Peregrine is attempting to nail them in the head from the air. But Pole Sitter doesn't do it. Why?

The move I've seen Red-tails in the country use to dislodge a Red-wing is to make a sudden flight just barely under a tree branch. In the cases I've seen, the Red-wings flew off in time not to be knocked for a loop, but it's conceivable that an unwary Red-wing could get smacked by the branch, disabled, and the Red-tail could have his way with him.

As Wing Bird comes off one of the other birds starts a dive from above.

Finally a glimpse of shoulder patches, if there was any real doubt previously which species tends to land on a Red-tail in flight and peck them while riding. Indeed these are Red-winged Blackbirds.

More buzzing. The Red-tail seems to have pretty much forgotten, (Or is this a ploy?), that she was initially doing the chasing.

Naked eye view.

Now there are various moves above Pole Sitter by the Red-wings.

Look carefully. The birds are to the right of the pole.

Now a touch from above instead of below and behind.

And then there are four.

And Pole Sitter just keeps flying...
This may well be one of those instances where the Red-tail continues this game until the Red-wings get just a little too cocky and Pole Sitter, biding her time over days, eventually ends up with a delectable snack.

The easily recognizable wing patch feathers of Red-wings are regularly found in Red-tail nests.

It is said, "Patience is a virtue", and most successful Red-tailed hawks have it in abundance. To say nothing of the added virtues of the top-of the-line Red-tails such as Pale Male-- who have all the other virtues as well, including stealth, the ability to incorporate varied hunting techniques, learn from their own experiences, the knack of unpredictability, and lest we forget the wonderful gift of cleverness.

Donegal Browne