Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blakeman on the Unusual Tail Markings of Pale Male's Mate Zena and It Must Be Spring as Everyone Is Back For at Least a Cameo Apperance

                                                               Crop of original photo (see next post down) courtesy of
 Ohio Red-tailed Hawk maven John Blakeman on the possible reasons that the tail of Pale Male's mate Zena has unusual markings and is missing some of the "normal" ones--
The horizontal stripe on Zena's tail feather is known as a "hunger trace." It can occur for two reasons. Most often, especially in eyasses (seen in immature hawks, before they have molted to adult plumage in their second summers), hunger traces are from actual hunger, periods of time when the eyass failed to eat enough food to fully grow emerging feathers while on the nest.
Feathers are pure protein. An eyass going a day or longer without food will have hunger traces in all developing feathers. Most eyasses have minor, insignificant hunger traces in just the smaller parts of the feathers, not the quills. These are insignificant.
But a strong hunger trace that creates a weakness in the shaft of the feather is ominous. The feather is weak and can later break off. The hawk cannot recover from this and will not be able to fly. It will starve.
The second cause---perhaps---is a fright response to lightning in thunderstorms. You can imagine, perhaps, the sounds, heat, and light when a lightning bolt strikes a nearby tree. Hunger traces are clearly caused by hunger, but perhaps also by lightning-induced fright.
Zena's hunger trace has not caused any problems, as the entire tail feather remains intact and fully functional.
In haggards (adults), hunger traces occur only on the feathers developing at the time the trace occurs, which, then, is only in a few flight feathers. A two-day strong rain and storm period could keep the bird from eating. Or, a lightning strike in a roost-tree in August might cause the trace.
The lack of a dark band near the end of some of the feathers is a not uncommon plumage variance. The band, across all the tail feathers, is called the sub-terminal band. But a small percentage of red-tail simply have only portions of it, or it's absent altogether. It's absence creates no problems.
--John Blakeman
Many thanks John, I had no idea what might have caused the aberrations in Zena's tail!

It's that time of year again when the feeding area becomes quite crowded with returning residents and visitors on their way through-and everyone is keeping an eye on everyone else.  Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel fresh from her burrow meets the beady eyed gaze of a male Dark-eyed Junco. 
Doorstep accompanied by friend both keep an eye on the newly returned female Dark-eyed Junco.  Three female Juncos held out for most of the winter until fed up with the rude behavior of the males of their species during the few bouts of snow, took off for an all girl trip further south.

Note that the feathers on Doorstep Dove's back still remain half raised and have ever since her interaction with the Cooper's Hawk.  Possible nerve damage?  Whatever the case it doesn't seem to have diminished her capabilities one whit.
 Pyewacket the cat, alert at the door, meets the stare of a male House Finch.  Neither gave an inch.
 The Grackle, accompanied by the ground feeding and ever vigilant House Sparrows, having been thwarted by the weight bar on the mixed seed feeder avails herself of the hordes of seed she spilled on the ground as she pumped the bar up and down with her repeated attempts to fool it.
 I looked out the the door and who should be staring back while perpendicular to the goodie stump with the use of her handy rigid woodpecker tail feathers but a Northern Yellow Shafted Flicker.
Here's a look at the splash of red on her head. 
Note the glimpse of yellow on the rear edge of her feathers.
And when it comes to staring the Common Grackle's yellow, and I admit even at human size, scary eyes take the top prize for potent looks.

Donegal Browne

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pale Male's Mate Zena's Quirky Tail Plus Is that Rue Anemone and Can They Live Through Being Transplanted. Don't Miss the Red-tail P.S!

 Photo courtesy of
Some excellent marks, at least currently, to definitively recognize Zena in the field by her tail, from Sally of Kentucky--
I only see 2 feathers with a dark terminal band, most just have a white tip.  Plus the right outer feather is pale and shows perhaps a stress mark? Its misshapen.  Good ID for her until she molts at least. :)

It will be very interesting to see if after the next molt she retains the lack of a terminal band on most of her tail feathers.
                                              Photo by Donegal Browne

 A couple dozen of these plants were discovered in a woods that was being cleared of invasives.  As my  Peterson's Field Guide to Wildflowers has currently done a disappearing act,  I'm tentatively identifying them  as Rue Anemone.  Though I'm perfectly willing to be corrected by someone whose field guide hasn't taken a powder or who knows for sure in the first place.
                               Photo by Donegal Browne

By the way, see the red stems?  Each of those stems appears to be an individual plant, though I've not dug them up to make sure.

Speaking of which, I've flagged the individual plants, there are only perhaps two dozen or so in the woods which is marked to become show grounds for the Rock River Thresheree, hoping that the skid steer which is roaring around in said woods removing stumps and Asian Honeysuckle doesn't squash them. Or that the small engines which will be displayed in the woods for three days each year won't take total precedence over these wildflowers which may have been discovered in only the third county in the state (the National Resource Conservation Service only knows of two in WI) where they still live, by the possible insistence of the Small Engines Committee that a road and paths must be installed over the top of where the flowers currently grow for the ease of exhibitors.

Just in case they're doomed where they are,  I've made some inquiries as to the odds of at least some of the the plants living through being transplanted to a safer location. 

Why is it always something?

   Photo by Donegal Browne
But back to our inquiry, note that though this plant has much the same shapes when it comes to leaves and sepals as the plants above.  (No, those petal looking things are not petals they are technically sepals.)

  The coloration of the leaves is strikingly different, and the sepals pinker in this model than those above particularly before opening. 

A different species?  A subspecies?

Donegal Browne

P.S. NYC Audubon is collecting information from those of us who are members of the NYC Raptors Group about the location of all known Red-tailed Hawk Nests in all the boroughs of NYC  in hopes of relaying the information to those who are responsible for placing rat poison in the parks in hope of finding some kind of compromise that could help stop the continuing epidemic of Red-tail deaths in New York City.  Particularly as we are now going into breeding season when dense hunting occurs.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Zena Over Nights Plus Vince and Rose of Fordham Take to the Nest

 Photo courtesy of
The word from the Hawk Bench in Central Park, is that Zena, Pale Male's new mate, over nighted on Saturday, the 24th.  She likely laid an egg that day, but it is also possible she just had the feeling that it was time to "get situated" to lay an egg. 

 The incubation day count for the Fifth Avenue nest, starts on the first overnight but the span of days between that day and when hatching/feeding behavior is noted tends to run longer than the time frame noted in the literature for Red-tailed Hawks,   which is 28 to 35 days.
 Photographs of Rose (above) and Vince (below) by Chris Lyons, one of the chief watchers of the Fordham nest.
From Chris Lyons of Fordham-

I saw them [Rose and Vince] copulate Monday before last, but hadn't seen either of them on the nest until today, Wednesday,--a head briefly poked up over the rim of the nest--it was Vince, giving Rose a break from her incubation duties.  I found her perched on a tree on the other side of Martyr's Lawn, and got some photos.   Her banded leg was clearly visible. 

I believe this is Rose's ninth consecutive incubation--seven at Fordham, once over by St. James Park, once at the Botanical Garden.  All her known breeding attempts to date have been successful--the last one remarkably so, with four fledged young.   

 And here we have the plucky Vince, named for former Fordham student, Vince Lombardi.  Yes, the football coach who spent many winters in the snow of Green Bay, WI with the Green Bay Packers.  Note the signature relaxed tiercel pose seen in many a photograph of  Pale Male and also of Tristan, late of the Cathedral Church Nest of St. John the Divine.

 And why is Vince plucky?  Because upon his appearance after the demise of the beloved Hawkeye, and his bonding with Rose, Vince was often seen perching rather close and staring menacingly at the Great Horned Owl Dad who was guarding the family's nest cavity. 
And here we have the human habituated Vince turning round, prey in talons, with what could be construed as a questioning look, as in---And you want WHAT?

Donegal Browne

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Who, What, Where, When Miscellany

WHO is that in the blurry photo late in the day?  And is that a notch in his tail?
WHO has a heavy black eye stripe?
And heavy streaks.
WHAT is that in the tree?
"WHAT" is a paper hornet nest.
WHERE?  Rosie sits her nest on the Bobst Library overlooking Washington Square Park.  My next question is why are her hackles raised?
WHEN was this nest made?  Is it last year's nest, or this year's nest?  And beyond that whose nest is it anyway?
And WHY is this male mallard leaving all the other ducks behind in the pond and flapping off on his own?   
         Could it be the sheer joy of flying on a beautiful day?