Thursday, April 26, 2012

FLASH!!! Lincoln Karim's Companion on the Evening He Was Arrested Has Her Day In Court

As many of you may remember, when Lincoln Karim was arrested for the possession of Ginger Lima's remains, another longtime hawkwatcher was with him.  (We'll call her Ms. H for hawkwatcher.).  As you will also remember the charges against Mr. Karim were later dismissed by the court.  As Ms. H had  held the rat poisoned Ginger Lima momentarily on the evening in question the DEC felt she was implicated in something illegal. She was given a summons.

Today was Ms. H's day in court.  The judge after hearing that Ms. H had held Ginger Lima's body briefly on the evening in question asked, What did she do that was illegal? Did she kill the hawk?  No?  Then what?

As the DEC had no answer as to exactly what Ms. H. had done illegally, all charges against her were dismissed as well.


Why Don't Eyasses Talons Poke Holes in Their Nest Mates? Plus Mystery Eggs, the Fascinating Tool Using, Machine Destructing Kea, Cornell Lab Red-tail Hatch and More on Eradibait
 I've always wondered how eyasses on the nest manage not to eviscerate each other with their taloned toed, out of control feet. 

Yesterday Boo and Scout (Yes, the NY Times baby names for the hawks poll has chosen two of the protagonists from To Kill A Mocking Bird.) were napping and very restless.  Obviously their pin feathers were irking them and Rosie was tending to them by preening. They'd finally settled down when suddenly a foot shot out of the eyass pile like a punching fist.  Not that even Rosie wasn't rather surprised herself by the explosive foot appearance and she stared at it for some time.

And that is when I noticed that the "shooting foot", (Ah ha!) had its toes and therefore its talons folded in.  Part of the explanation I'm assuming for why the eyasses don't poke holes in each other while tossing and turning in their sleep on a regular basis.

And for those of you who have written in  asking  about the "hatch window" for Pale Male and Zena of 927 Fifth Avenue-- We have a couple days yet before there will be any possibility of  seeing any signs of a hatch.  

Remember the count on this nest is quite fluid.

We start the count  from the first overnight of the formel on the nest as we've no cam or overlooking window to see the bowl of the nest and whether she is actually sitting on anything.

Also the bowl of the Fifth Avenue nest is very deep.  We won't be able to see the eyasses at all until they are at least upright if not completely ambulatory.  We have to wait to see feeding motions.  Ordinarily these are initially the formel standing on the nest edge making poking movements into the bowl.

By the time that clue is seen sometimes the "hatch window" has been passed but we still haven't been able to confirm a hatch.

Part of the "charm" of Pale Male's nest site is the finesse it takes to confirm eyasses on that nest.
 Photo: Donegal Browne
 Another mystery discovered yesterday, was this nest in the clematis with its seemingly none matching eggs.  The last two years the nest in the clematis has belonged to Chipping Sparrows who were predated by Cowbirds.  But when I accidentally flushed the sitter of this nest yesterday, she took off like a flash, without any real identifying characteristics beyond it was smallish, and for whatever instinctual reason, I doubted it was a Chipping Sparrow nest.

I looked in the nest.  Wow, that's weird.  The Cowbirds didn't match up their eggs with the sitters very well this year did they?   Which made me wonder if the White-throated Sparrows had the nest and the Cowbirds who predate that nest yearly only lay Chipping Sparrow-ish looking eggs.

So what do White-throat eggs like like anyway?
      Photo courtesy of Todd Ratermann
Well it turns out they're greenish with lots of brown speckles.  
Some obviously with more brown speckles than others.  But some of the ones in my nest have hardly any speckles at all.  Time for another look around the web.

 Another nest of mixed looking eggs but still more speckled than the ones in the nest of the clematis.

DRAT!!!   Perhaps tomorrow I'll be able to try for another look at whoever is sitting on the clematis nest.
                                          Kea Eating Rental Car

Contributor Robin of Illinois, with always an eye for avian tool using topics sent in a video link for a comparison of a Caledonian Crow and a Kea Parrot in such matters..
Notice that the Kea in the stick test was unable to use her beak to poke the stick horizontally into the hole because of the shape of her beak/mouth. Therefore she got it in the hole with the assistance of her foot and then was able to adjust it to a horizontal position so it would release the food.
 And the text with background of the study:

Which got me interested in New Zealand's Kea Parrots altogether.  Here are the links for a three part Attenborough piece on the extremely smart, ingenious, havoc wreaking, butter loving,  team working, sometimes predatory, (the only known parrot species to be so) endangered Kea Parrot.

 A heads-up from Sally of Kentucky-  The Cornell Lab Red-tails have a hatch!

Sally also forwarded the information on Eradibait, the supposedly non-toxic to everything but rodents rodenticide, to her supervisor at the wildlife rehab facility that she works with and below is the response from the folks who make Eradibait.  (It had occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't available as yet in the U.S.)

Thank you for your enquiry. Ilex Enviro-Sciences distribute Eradibait in the
UK & Eire only, however we are aware that although product approval  is not
currently held in the USA the owners of this unique rodenticide, Zea
Sciences Limited,  are working on registration issues with the EPA
[regulatory authority] and hope to offer the product very soon.
Best Regards
Therefore, if we believe in the 7 degrees of 
separation theory, does anybody know anybody who 
might know someone who knows someone who
could talk the EPA into putting Eradibait 
onto the fast track for testing?  
No I don't mean skipping
relevant necessary testing but rather perhaps 
putting Eradibait a little closer to the head 
of the line for testing in the first place. 

By the way, check out the comments on the previous post.  Long time blog contributor Betty Jo of California, has a heads up concerning another nursery sold invasive plant that like Garlic Mustard is wreaking ecosystem havoc.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Earth Day Surprises With Garlic Mustard-a Red-tailed Hawk, Fruit Blossoms and a Very Big Mushroom

                      Second year Garlic Mustard smothering woodland violets.
 See the tall plant with the white multi-floret blossom?  That is the ubiquitous, early seeding, one hundred seeds plus per plant per year, horrendously fast growing, shade loving, overwhelmingly invasive biennial garlic mustard plant, Alliaria petiolata. 

It is native to Europe and is often said to have been brought to North America by early settlers for salad greens, but may have been introduced later.  Whoever it was must have been desperate for salad greens as hardly anyone touches it as food now-except a few desperate birds.  Though it doesn't do them much good as the seeds often run through the system undamaged and the bird is only the vessel for dissemination of this vegetative plague.

In fact if you see it, by all means pull it out while still in blossom or before if possible, put in plastic trash bags, secure the bag, and run, do not walk, to your local landfill.  Dispose of it.  Do not put into compost.  Don't leave the bags on your property, seeds are perfectly happy to germinate five years from now when a container gets damaged. 
  Ignore the plants with the blossoms center and the Wild Geranium at the top.  Look at all the other vegetation.  See all those "cute" teeny heavily toothed ovate and heart shaped leaves?  Those are ALL first year garlic mustard.  Next year they will be a foot tall if not four feet tall and the native plants will be history.

 It utterly destroys woodlands.  Initially it aces all the wildflowers and woodland ground vegetation.  Then infested woods after ten years, will likely no longer be able to support sapling trees or understory plants such as dogwood, as they will be smothered out in infancy.  And as a woodland that can not reproduce itself is doomed, as the older trees will eventually age and die--Poof!  No woodlands only acre after acre of Garlic Mustard.

Desperate enough to use herbicides?  Well, it is remarkably resistant to them and Glyphosate is one of the few chemicals that zaps it.  It also zaps everything else.  Which means all the native plants you're trying to save have to be transplanted in and out or killed and seeded back in.
                                       Garlic Mustard woodland infestation

In Wisconsin on Earth Day, 97,000 pounds of Garlic Mustard was pulled out by the roots by volunteers.  That seems like a lot and it is a lot.  But there is still plenty to go round.  These volunteers prolonged the lives of the native plants in those woodlands and therefore their genetic populations.  They will be precious later and sorely needed to  reestablish native populations to smothered wood lands if things continue the way they are going.

And I pulled my share but there are ever so many special moments and gifts while you're out there beyond tugging these non-indigenous plants out by their roots...

 There was the semi-friendly Red-tailed Hawk. 

 I had worked myself into an area with a vista and when  I looked up from my pulling, there was a Red-tailed Hawk far off in the distance on a power line.  That was a nice surprise for most of the day I'd be under trees where hawks, unless they are in a nest above you, tend to go unobserved when you have your head down tugging.   But Red-tails do seem to feel eyes.  For almost as soon as I saw her she turned and looked at me askance.
    Then she gave me a look that wasn't any longer that askance one.  WOW!  Isn't that nice for a change.

     Then she turned round and looked out over the field for awhile looking for prey.
 Not that she'd forgotten me of course.  Though somewhat amenable she's still a rural hawk after all.
                                         She takes another long look at the field.

    Then she was up and heading for a circling pair of Turkey Vultures.  Ah ha!  It is the season for hard territorial boundaries now isn't it?

  Though I'd have liked for her to stay a bit longer, I also have to admit that at this time of year all Red-tails have family business to deal with and off she went to attend to it.

 And then there was the very old gnarled fruit tree in sprightly blossom on the edges of an oak grove by an old farmstead.   Was it an Apple?  Could it have possibly been planted by Johnny Appleseed? A daughter or grandson of one of his?

And last but not least was the moment when I looked down for another handful of garlic mustard and there was a lovely morel amongst it.

There are many gifts in the world if you pay attention, now aren't there?

 In from Robin of Illinois, the Franklin Red-tail's have eyasses!

                            Today's mystery plant is...?

As to yesterday's wildflower....
Linda Maslin is the reader who wrote in with the right answer.  This is Wild Geranium-- the lavender model.  It also comes in pink and white.

Field marks are?   The leaves and stems are hairy.  Plants with five lobed leaves and five petals are reasonably common but look at the center of the blossom.  That green structure is singular and commonly called its "crane bill". 

Donegal Browne

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hatch at the Cathedral! Pale Male, a Leucistic Grackle and a Saturday Miscellany

 Photo by Rob Schmunk  


"It looks like a definite hatch at the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. On Tuesday we saw the "concerned staring at the bottom of the nest" which often suggests a hatch in progress, and today it seems confirmed by Isolde spending 12-13 minutes leaning into the nest in fairly obvious feeding behavior."

For more on the beautiful Isolde (right) and the energetic Stormin' Norman (left), click on Rob's blog link below

 Photo courtesy of

Pale Male still a Dad-in-waiting, takes off on the hunt.
 Photo Donegal Browne
The  leucistic Grackle finally obliged to have her photograph taken albeit in the rain.  Note just below the white on her neck she has a bit of the standard Grackle  iridescence .

                  Do you notice anything unusual about this bush?
If you look very very closely in person you can see Doorstep, the Mourning Dove, keeping an eye peeled through the evergreen twigs.  At least I think it is Doorstep, as she didn't flush out when she was spied and returned my head bob.
 And for you wildflower buffs, can you name this flower?
And how about this one?   It's sepals close late in the day.

A grumpy Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia, paid a visit.

 A White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis, stared.
Then scrutinized.
Then finally, with his beady eyes glued to mine, decided it was okay to get down to eating.

In the meantime his cohort a tan striped form of the White-throated Sparrow refused to even look my way.  According to the research the females of this species prefer his looks to the white striped version.
And last but not least, who built this nest?  It is approximately three feet from the ground.  Thus far I haven't seen anyone in it.

Donegal Browne