Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Snowstorm, Feathers In the Snow, Junco and Sparrow Anti-raptor Moves

This is the bottom half of today's post.
I'm working on the top half. Up soon.

Snowstorm at night.

The snow storm during the day. Ordinarily the snow doesn't catch on the glass but in this case there was quite a wind driving the flakes. They hit the door and melted.

And if I looked carefully this is what I saw. Individually droplets capturing a bit of the view.

I was blithely walking to the bird bath with a bucket of water, and nearly had a mini-heart attack. Dove feathers in the snow. The first concrete sign of a raptor and likely a Cooper's. Why a raptor and not a cat? No tracks on the trajectory of several tufts of feathers going across the snow.

My first thought, I do dearly hope it isn't Doorstep Dove. Not that I didn't hope it wasn't Friend too but the previous day I'd seen Doorstep out in the feeding area totally alone. Usually a sign there is a Cooper's around and someone isn't paying attention. But you don't get to be a four or five year old Mourning Dove by being dumb. After several hours of wondering, Doorstep and Friend showed up on the bird bath at dusk for their last warming of the day and I admit to a sigh of relief.

The next day, after putting the leavings of Silver's Nutri-berries outside, I looked out and there were 32 Mourning Doves making short work of them. I don't see her here, but amongst the flock there was a dove who looked a little worse for wear. Though not bare any where, thank goodness in the cold, she was missing several patches of feathers including part of her tail. Whether she belonged to the feathers above, I don't know, but she'd managed to survive a close call and was happily pecking away.

I realized while staring out the patio door, (staring is a good pastime, you think of things), that what I have out there are a number of game trails. Note one of the "game" heading toward the sunflower seed feeder from the right.

But more that that, why do all the trails merge in the area of the goody stump? Does just about everyone check out the goodie stump on the way to the feeders just in case there might be an exotic tidbit before the indulge in the same old seed? For the most part, the "food" is the seed area. And it isn't that they're having a drink as you'll note the trails run past the water bowl. Most of the trails apex at the goody stump and then follow my large path towards the house. Cover? Okay there is a single animal trail that meanders from the multi-trail apex to beneath the bird feeder. That's a crow walking through the snow. They do have a tendency to break their own paths. I don't know why they do that yet.

Speaking of the crows, most days there are several episodes of crow calls and or ground visits in the back yard. Today there were none. The weather is downright frigid, with below zero temps on and off. I can't imagine all the crows are frozen solid so if they haven't visited here, have they gone somewhere else? Perhaps a little winter vacation until things become less inclement? Another question I haven't the answer for. Yet.

Of course if you look back up at the full shot, there are two well worn paths which start at the foot of the two Maples nearest the feeders and go to the feeders those belong to the squirrels.
Yesterday's squirrel count was 6 by the way.

In fact all the trails start at cover and converge. The Cottontail Rabbits come from under the Spruce trees or from under the hedge or travel close up to the perimeter of the house. (Yes I know the above line isn't in bold or as large as the others. Blogger doesn't care and it doesn't want it to change. Very strange.)

Speaking of cover, there has been a Cooper's Hawk in the neighborhood and so the birds are being very nervous and wary.

First I noted that the Junco's have an interesting rapid retreat. If startled when in anti-predator mode they take to the air and all appear to be making a bee line for the Spruce trees but upon getting nearly there, they all zig zag in the air across each other's flight paths and then ZAP they disappear into the evergreen boughs. I'm thinking that the last minute maneuver to an attempt to loose the Cooper's focus so she isn't able to just easily follow one in and pick them off a branch having kept her eye on them and their straightforward trajectory into the boughs. It appears that a Coop can fly through a tree, even an evergreen tree, as if it doesn't even exist. It is their specialty. They go in at speed and grab their victim on the way through. If they aren't sure exactly where the prey is, the quick fly through doesn't work all that well.

The House Sparrows on the other hand when startled fly directly and as fast as their little wings can carry them in a tight group, back to their stick and snow igloo and dive into the recesses. They have a different flight adaptation from the Juncos because they hide in a dense pile of sticks the Coop is too big to enter.

Moonrise. Not just another light.

Links Miscellany-Blakeman on AS IT HAPPENS, Lily the Bear Goes Into Labor, and the Cooper's in The Library of Congress

Various misadventures of life, like a dead car battery, have kept this post from completion and updates are speeding in. Therefore this is going up. More coming soon.

Blakeman on As It Happens - Wed Jan 19.
Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Robin of Illinois has been watching the bearcam and guess what? Lily the Bear has gone into labor!

Here are the links involved-

Den camera (with sound):


And from Jane of Georgia, yet another trapped Cooper's Hawk--

Last Updated On: 1/21/2011 12:52:39 PM

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Library of Congress building is known for its majestic, domed, high ceiling and wonderful artwork. Now, library officials say, if you look up at the artwork, you may catch a glimpse of a majestic, large bird.

A Cooper's Hawk was spotted in the main reading room of the library on Wednesday, library officials said.

The hawk hangs out about 150-160 feet high, at the library's highest point.

"There are windows and some spaces up in the dome that small birds and pigeons sometimes squeeze through," library spokesman Matt Raymond said. He believes the hawk probably squeezed through, chasing its next meal.

Workers at the library have tried to get the bird down, to no avail. That's why they've resorted to calling bird experts to come in and remove the bird. Preferably, safely and of course, quietly.

According to rehabber Cathy Horvath's theory, this Cooper's Hawk would likely be another young male in trouble.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pale Male and "Ginger"? Another Tiercel Down the Shaft, the Watch Goat, and the Sheepskin Eagle Nest

Photo by Francois Portmann of
A head the color of a Ginger Snap Cookie and the grace of Ginger Rogers of the movie, Fifth Avenue Girl?

As many of you know, I'm a firm believer in New York City's resident Red-tailed Hawks having names. Why?

It builds rapport with new community watchers.

A name is far less cumbersome to say, as opposed to the pale headed male with the nest on 927 Fifth Avenue, let alone type it.

They often describe a physical or environmental characteristic of the hawk making the bird or her territorial location more memorable.

It's more respectful (and fun) therefore when local photographer and birdwatcher Murray Head suggested to Marie Winn, , author of Redtails In Love, that perhaps Ginger might be a fitting name for Pale Male's new girl, the reasons above, below the top photo, and Marie went with it, it seemed like a pretty good idea. They've been around a lot longer than I have and they've put it out there to see if it would float.

It floats well with me-- I'm voting yes, to Ginger.

Dianne Moller with her Egyptian Desert Falcon

While we have the Horvaths, wildlife rehabilitators extraordinaire in New York City, in this area of Wisconsin we have the renowned rehabber Dianne Moller of Hoo's Woods. I went to see one of her educational programs on Wednesday over at the Lutheran Church.

A stately bird without question, and a species I'd never seen before as well. This is a very large falcon, in fact possibly the largest.

If you're wondering why Dianne has a bird that isn't a native, part of the answer is that besides being a raptor rehabilitator, and educator she's also a falconer. And this bird in many ways was a rescue. She was originally the mascot of the Atlanta Falcons, but not for long as instead of just doing tricks with a lure, this girl wanted to hunt, which is after all her nature. When she saw huntable creatures which she sometimes did as a crow flew by the stadium full of people and off she'd go. This wasn't really what the sports team had in mind so Dianne ended up with her and I'm sure the bird is much happier for it.

I got to chatting with Dianne and it turns out she knows our redoubtable John Blakeman though her work as a board member of the national falconers association. The world can be very small.

Bon Bon is a Merlin Falcon. She's quite dark for a Merlin as Ginger is for a Red-tailed Hawk. A Merlin is bigger than a Kestrel and smaller than a Peregrine.

Bon Bon

Diane's previous small falcon of many years, a Kestrel, was taken by a Cooper's Hawk when she was flying him.

I asked her if she still had Time, her Peregrine/ Gyrfalcon, and she told me she had been flying him, he took off after two Red-tails, refused to be called back to the lure, and the two Red-tails killed him.

I find this fascinating as though I've seen falcons go after Pale Male and Lola and also Isolde and Tristan I've never seen a moment where I thought the falcon was in danger of its life.
This was something new to me. I knew that Peregrines could kill Red-tailed Hawks but hadn't really considered that the reciprocal action was possible. I've never seen it in the city and many urban Red-tails are often tormented by Peregrines and the hawks take defensive or evasive action. The concept of a Red-tail pair double teaming a Peregrine and actually taking her out was a revelation.

I'd gone to the event with my cousin Bruce and his wife Mary, and on the way home Bruce decided that we should track down some of the tips he'd collected about possible Bald Eagle nests in the area. One such was that there was an eagle's nest on Sheepskin Pond that could be seen from the road. We scanned the trees for big dark possibly nest shaped blotches. We saw several but they turned out to be big wads of grapevine with and without entangled black trash bags. We weren't having much luck.

Mary said that one of her cousins lived on a farm just adjacent to Sheepskin Pond and perhaps we should drive up to the farmhouse and ask if they knew the nest's whereabouts. We drove up the drive, got to the house and what should we see, but a big, long haired, strongly horned goat having a snack out of a plastic bucket.

Goat took one look at us and decided we were intruders.

He ran along the side of the car giving us the eye just as a farm dog would. At this point Mary, commented that she wasn't getting out of the car no matter what. Goat then galloped the other direction and stationed himself directly in front of the door to the house. Gosh. We sat and looked. No one seemed particularly eager to hop out and go knock on the door as they'd have to get past goat to do it.

I was just about to volunteer to try and get past the watchgoat guarding the door, and had my hand on the door handle of the car, when Bruce commented that it didn't look as if anyone was home anyway. I took my hand off the door handle. Good enough for me. And off we went without an further advice from those in the farmhouse.

We headed east on Hwy 59 yet again when Bruce said, "Look over there! Is that a nest? I squinted through the moisture on the window. Gloryoski! It was a nest. But from this distance, it could be an old large Red-tail nest as it faced a field on this side of it or an average sized Eagle's nest with what looked like might be a frozen pond, Sheepskin Pond (?), on the other. It was just too far away to really decide. And as the goat was up there guarding the house whether peopled or not, there wasn't much hope of getting permission to tromp over and get a closer look.

I zoomed in with my camera, and clicked away. As the whole hunt had been spur of the moment, not one of us had a pair of binoculars.

When I got home I stuck the memory card in the computer, brought up the pictures, and enlarged one of the photos to get a better look.

Whoo hoo!!! Large, cup shaped, with a smoother construction than a Red-tail nest, it was indeed an Eagle's Nest! Not that I wouldn't have enjoyed observing another Red-tailed pair, but an Eagle's nest will be a new experience altogether.

I didn't see any eagles about but that doesn't mean a thing. There could well be a female on the nest and particularly from this distance I'd never have known. But I think it is still early for the eagles to be nesting here in Wisconsin. Which reminded me. Watching this nest was going to be a far steeper learning curve than I'd dealt with in quite sometime.

I better start boning up.
I'll keep you posted.

Another tiercel down a shaft, further evidence of wildlife rehabilitator Cathy Horvath's supposition that males keep getting themselves into trouble in far greater numbers than females.

(No wonder Pale Male has all these young females flinging themselves at him whenever he's single, all the males their own age are in rehab.)

Here is what Bobby Horvath had to say about the rescue--

We received a similar call today from Equinox Gym that another hawk appeared trapped in an air shaft on 85th st. between 2cd and 3rd avenues. They sent us a picture and it was true , Another redtailed hawk unable to get up and out. Peter Richter answered first and he was available to try to retrieve it and he did .

Thanks again and great job.

Seemed much smaller space,about 10 ' long by 5' wide and dirty with pigeon body parts probably from other birds that also fell and couldn't make it out. There was only brick on both sides so no place for this bird to perch so it was on the ground , making it a little bit easier but still a challenge to catch.

He, yes another boy, was thin , beak and talons dull from the cement and dirty with pigeon droppings on his back from healthy birds perched above on the roof maybe giving a little payback . I hope its not intentional but they did make their mark numerous times so he will get a nice shower and cleaning from Cathy .

They only discovered it today but I'd bet he was there a while since this condition doesn't happen overnight . There are no injuries and hes feisty and strong so just a little food and rest and hell be back shortly.

As with the NY Times bird these are possibly and probably migrants as there are so many juvies being spotted in the city this time of year the release spot doesn't have to be exactly where it was found. Just a safe starting point to start its journey wherever it was meant to be .

We should have 3 or 4 soon to bring back and I know the city folk are protective or even possessive so to continue cultivating the growing appreciation for these animals we would like to bring them all back to any open park to start again. Even Central park could be a possibility as long it was far enough away from the resident pair as to not disturb any territorial courting behavior beginning .

I think there are probably even more of these situations occurring with birds falling down shafts we never even hear about. I say fall because I cant say for sure they are intentional flights into these holes chasing prey but it guess it's possible. I do know with smaller birds like kestrels and screech owls that we do recover every year around this time its usually a fall into a tight chimney down into a fireplace that they definitely weren't chasing any prey into .

Ill try to take a picture soon to show the contrast of plumage of this new light colored bird compared to the darker one we got last week. All the sites lately show different juvenile hawks around the city proof that these can't all be local offspring and some have to be migrants moving through.


More Blackwater Eagles, from Robin of Illinois, We have our second egg--

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pale Male, Lola, and the New Girl, Valkyrie Plays Tennis, and No She Isn't the New Girl

Photo by Francois Portmann
Pale Male's New Girl
A reader had suggested that Valkyrie (also called Dominatrix), might be Pale Male's New Girl (Photo above) as they were both rather dark.

I asked photographer Francois Portman if he might have some photos for us to compare and yet again Francois came through with the goods.

Valkyrie is the next photo down. Compare the belly bands, the amount of white on head and under beak area, "eyebrows", and the dark patagial mark of the two hawks.

What? You came in late and missed the part about the patagial mark?

Time out. We'll recap.

Patagial is the adjective derived from the noun patagium.

Yes, and?

The patagium is the expanse of skin on the fore edge of the wing running from the head to the wrist. In this case, there is a dark patagial mark on the patagium. (Red-tailed hawks have a light under wing with a dark patagial mark which no other hawk species has in North America, making it a dandy field mark when the bird is in flight.)

Photo by Francois Portmann-
Directly above is a three view merged photo of Valkyrie of Tompkins Square Park.

Okay as long as we're talking about the patagial mark. How do they compare? Hmm.

I think New Girl's might be a bit darker particularly as the photo with Val's is taken from below against a bright sky likely making it appear darker than it might be if she were in the same position that New Girl is.

What about the white patch on the neck under the beak which supposedly all Red-tailed Hawks have. Check out New Girl first.

Looking at New Girl, one questions if the above is true. Do all Red-tailed hawks have that patch?

Whereas Val, check her neck out, comparatively has quite a visible bright white patch.

And the "eyebrow"? New Girl's, when you can see them, does appear more tawny.

And one of the biggest identifying factors to nail a particular hawk's identity--the belly band. And as Francois pointed out, just look how different they are. The difference is not only the saturation of color but also the shape appears completely different on the two birds.

THE CONCLUSION- We've definitely got two different birds here.

Pale Male just charms these floating females out of the sky whenever there is a need.

"I believe their guestimate of the new mate's age is off by quite a bit, with her light eyes."

Without a doubt Robin, by 4 years old, New Girl's eyes would be getting onto as dark as they are going to get.

Here's the link to the piece, (which includes a quote from John Blakeman about Lola's likely cause of death).

Whimsy of Valkyrie of Tompkins Square Park Playing "Tennis"
by Francois Portmann
Charming and hilarious besides.

And from Sally of Kentucky, another long time contributor, sent in this link of a supposed drunken owl in Germany standing in a stupor by a roadside. She believes the owl was far more likely to have had a head injury after being hit by a car as opposed to drinking schnapps. I have to agree.

German Police Pick up Drunken Owl

I'd not noticed before, and perhaps as we'd just had a blizzard it may be a somewhat new or irregular behavior, but at 8:30am, with the day still coming on, Doorstep Dove, Friend and another Dove, conceivably one of their youngsters from last summer, were out on the heated bird bath, warming up for the coming day.

Donegal Browne