Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Joy of a Pair Of Bonded Red-tailed Hawks

4:23:00 All times PM
Though Eagles are certainly interesting, and in actuality I'm currently going to see if anyone is home, or at least visible at the Albany Bald Eagle nest,  I've been yearning for a Red-tailed Hawk nest to watch on a day to day basis.  One that isn't too far so I can just run over when I have a few minutes.   And look what is flying down the road in front of me and about to curve round the trees to the left.  See her against the snow?
4:23:01  I was attempting to get one more shot of the Red-tail when she curved round the tree to the left but just now when I brought this picture up, shot one second after the previous one, there is a Red-tail on this side of the trees.  That was fast.  

A different Red-tail?

When I get even with  the corner trees she's up on a branch having a snack.
4:23:57  She's off again and seems to have very pale under wings and belly.

4:23:58 Is she looking over her shoulder or just going into a turn?
4:23:58  Then into the thick of it. See her right of center. This bird can fly.
4:24:03  She ditched me. 
4:24:33 Where is she now?  (In some ways hawkwatching amongst buildings is easier.)
4:24:35  Wait!  What's that white dot? 
  I know, with all the snow, which white dot?
Actually there are two white dots of significance.  Look just right of center and about one third up from the bottom.  Two white dots that are actually the fronts of two  Red-tailed Hawks.
There they are.  Sitting in quite close proximity on a branch.  And as they're doing it amiably I would take them as a bonded pair.

(This is one of those moments when I wonder just what those looks at each other mean.)  Would you agree that the hawk on the right is of smaller stature and perhaps the male?  

Part 2 of making a quess at the sex of Red-tails is looking at their heads.  Most hawkwatchers agree there is a difference but exactly how it is enunciated can vary wildly.  Francois Portmann, longtime NYC hawkwatcher and incredible wildlife photographer, said one day while reflecting on the issue, "The females look hawkier." 

And so they do.  Look up at the photograph.  Does the head of the bird on the left look hawkier than the bird's head on the right?  I think it does.

4 25 36  A flying hawk is past center to the left and about half way up the frame.  And at this point I'm not sure which one it is.  
4 25 36   I've cropped off the right section of the above photo.  See the hawk now? 

 4 25 37  The Hawk keeps flying following the curve in the trees.

Crop of the photo directly above.  
 The hawk is to the right but something I didn't see in the field at the time is to the left.  See the blob in the tree at about the same level as the hawk?   Yes it could be a squirrel's dray but I'd be ever so much happier if it were the pair's nest.
 This is where I attempt to convince myself that  there is hope it is a nest.  Squirrel drays are more likely found further out from the trunk of a tree.  This is in a Red-tail traditional nest spot; the space that is created where multiple branches originate.
I'm going to try and find the spot tomorrow.
 4 26 06 As there is nearly a 30 second lapse between the last photo  and this one and I was using a zoom lens,  I suspect I was shooting blind without knowing where either hawk was by his time but in hope I'd find one once I could bring up the photographs and scrutinize them.  I was right. There is a hawk  there.  
The top and bottom of the photograph above have been cropped off.  I didn't want to crop off too much as it would be hard for you to orient and compare with the original.  See the hawk yet?  He is exquisitely tiny in the shot.

This is the top right quadrant of  the cropped picture directly above.  Now you'll be able to see him for sure.  He is in the bottom left quadrant of this picture.  Just slightly right and down from what looks like an old power box on a tree.  Yes, I think this is the male.  Though the hawk in the photo with the enticing blob in the tree may have been the female.  They are  double teaming me like crazy.  Then he's off again and leading me further from the area where we last saw the female and  the possible nest.

4:26:45  Another new perch
A better look and definitely the tiercelThen he takes off and is gone. 
 (Anyone have a theory about what is going on with his tail?) 

Though now I may have time to get to the Albany Bald Eagle nest to see if anyone is at home before it gets too dark.

The Albany Eagle Nest: There is nothing visible above the lip of the nest and though I wait a bit no eagle  appears.  I decide to travel the  perimeter of these woods as much as I can to see if I can spot the Eagles going about their business elsewhere.

This Red-tail, a much darker hawk than the previous two,  was spotted about a mile from the Eagle's nest.  I've looked but haven't found an answer to my question yet.  Does anyone know what  the toleration distance might be between a Bald Eagle nest and one of Red-tailed Hawks?

And the last Red-tail sighting of the name.   I was going over a small overpass  when  a Red-tail flushed from beneath it, quite startling both of us.  When I looked over the embankment, there was a deer carcass.  That Red-tail won't have to be worrying about where his next meal is coming from for awhile.

Happy Hawking!

Just How Did the Decorah Eaglet Manage to End Up Outside the Egg Cup of the Nest?

All is currently routine.  The two Eaglets and the last egg are in the bowl or egg cup of the nest.  Dad is in attendance.  Dad seems to see something and heads towards the eaglets.

 (Yes, the folks I contacted and some other readers as well confirmed what I thought I was seeing, so here we go.)
  And as John Blakeman said, Dad is perhaps pondering whether to remove a bit of left over egg shell or something.  Eaglet stands up higher.
 And as Dad continues to ponder, eaglet leans in closer.
Beak widening...even closer.  
(Note Dad's head is still perpendicular.)

Eaglet grabs one of Dad's face feathers. 

Eaglet pulls.
Dad jerks a little to the right and eaglet falls still holding on, nearly her full weight hanging from that feather on Dad's face.  (That could shoot pain through your head.)
Dad's head instinctively goes further up, as does the Eaglet, even worse.  Full body weight pulls down on Dad's face.

A human analogy just struck me. 
 Guys if you're squeamish or shy, skip the next paragraph and scroll down to the next picture.

The human analogy being when a baby who has just had a first tooth erupt from the gum decides to clamp down with it on the mother's nipple as when teething, pressure makes the discomfort better for the teether. The immediate innate impulse of the mother is to jerk back, which hurts worse which causes her to reflexively want to throw the baby in the opposite direction.  Which might just happen if the baby were hanging there as eaglet is about to be on Dad's feather.  Whereas we hope, the mother being a controlled thinking human who doesn't necessarily only live on quick reflexes as eagles do,  resists this impulse.  
 Dad almost jerks himself off his own feet.  Eaglet hangs in midair.  She is not letting go.  Well, not yet anyway.  Second Eaglet in the bowl is laying low.  Good plan.
Momentum finally dislodges Feather Puller and... flump into the dry grass.
Dad first looks where Feather Puller should be. 
He then looks where she actually is.  As Robin of Illinois pointed out, "Who says birds don't have expressions". And look at his body language.

Dad appears to mull this. 
Eventually Dad looks off the nest and if one is anthropomorphizing, the thought occurs that he might be thinking, "What is the wife going to say when she sees this?"  or  "Where is she when I need her?"  Though he is likely either making eye contact to touch base with mom or just checking the  perimeter for interlopers.

By this point both eaglets have begun to beg loud and hard.
So Dad does what he can.  Even if one Eaglet isn't in the right spot you can still feed them.
He feeds both.   But Feather Puller keeps vocalizing.
Still no Mom.  Well, that egg can't sit uncovered forever.
Dad sits on the egg cup and waits.  Feather Puller remains alert. Does she feel anxiety about not being in the right place? I think so as she does keep vocalizing.  

I didn't get a capture of it, but when Dad was getting back into the nest Puller was grabbing at his tail feathers.  If she'd latched onto one as he went on, she could conceivably have gotten herself back on the nest using Dad's steam  and that trusty grip with her beak.

No way to get an answer but I wonder as Puller isn't under him if Dad has chosen to put his head opposite where she is so there won't be a replay of the earlier activity.  No way of knowing but Dad is no dummy.

Now for Mom's grand save, go to for the arrival of mom and her resolution of the problem!

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Deborah Eagle Cam Video Mystery

One minute Dad is doing what appears to be some kind of house cleaning next to the Eaglets.  Then suddenly Dad's head whips to the right and one of his offspring whips with it, right out of the egg cup. 

First Dad looks where Eaglet was.
Then he looks where Eaglet went.

Finally he looks around for his mate as he appears not to know  what happened nor how to amend the matter or get the eaglet back in the egg cup either.

Both Eaglets are squeaking their brains out so he does what he can.  He feeds each of them and then when they still fret he does what one ordinarily does next, he sits on the nest bowl to keep them warm....except one isn't in the nest bowl.  

This is worrisome and he can't figure out how to mend it.

Back in 2011, I think Dad was a much younger and quite inexperienced Dad than he is now. Mom on the other hand appears older and more on top of things.

I have a thought about how the Eaglet might have  turned into a projectile when Dad whipped his head around.  But I'd like to hear your thoughts as well.

Therefore dear Readers, if you'd like to check out the video of the episode at the link below and come up with what you think might have happened and shoot me an email, I think it would be great fun to compare notes. 

My email address is up right on the main page.

Happy Hawking!

Donegal Browne

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Octavia and Pale Male Clear the Territory, Ohio State Red-tail, and Another Seach for Culprit the Canny Cooper's Hawk


The boundaries of Pale Male and Octavia's territory are hardening.  Just in from Central Park Hawkwatcher Andy Martell--

I had a chance to spend a few hours worth of time in Central Park before work today and  had the pleasure of watching  Octavia and Pale Male chase some unwelcome birds out of  their area.

I first heard a hawk scream, looked up in  time to see Octavia bearing down on an apparently clueless immature Red-tail who was flapping toward the lake as if his life depended on it.  Maybe it did but I doubt it.  Pale Male then flew in from the north and helped him on his way too.

Another too got a send off.   A Turkey Vulture who flew high above the Observatory Waters (The real name for what traditionally the hawk watches have called the model boat pond, D.B.)  didn't get as much hostility from Octavia but more of an ushering out by the pair.

It was totally cool  to be able to share some time with these special Red-tailed Hawks.


Thanks for the update Andy.  From all reports New York City's original Red-tailed hawk Pale Male, the Monarch of Central Park and his latest Consort Octavia are working hard on producing  progeny and creating yet another fascinating  season for us to watch!

Next up it appears that Ohio State students are sharing their wooded campus with at least one Red-tailed Hawk.  Or at least they are noticing the hawk for the first this year.

A red-tailed hawk perches on a tree on the Oval. Credit: Lee Mcclory / Lantern reporter
Photo courtesy of Lee Mcclory

The article  concerning the hawk was in the student publication The Lantern, and had some interesting factoids about Red-tails I 'd not heard before.  

Interesting Factoid:"Red-tailed hawks typically choose trees that are about 65.3 feet tall, according to a University of California Oak Woodland Management study."

About 65.3 feet?  

Which made me wonder if the other choices they make for nest sites  are within that height range?   

Not in New York City, nests have been built on any number of different level floors.  I suspect a much bigger criteria is a spot in which the twigs will stick at whatever height high enough to avoid people and ground predators like dogs.   Nor did the Riverside Park Hawks, who nested in trees,  choose nest sites that high. 

And some information I'm not sure I agree with such as that from Barbara Ray, wildlife education director at the Ohio Wildlife Center.  She was quoted as saying, "They’ve [Red-tailed Hawks] learned that if they are in places that are more populated and well-lit, they get more warning about predators,”

Which predators?

The only big two I know of for Red-tailed Hawks are People and Great Horned Owls.

There are certainly plenty of people on the Ohio State Campus and as Central Park has periodic visits from Great Horned Owls so well might Ohio State's Campus.

I'm thinking like Central Park, Ohio State has a large and deep prey base and there lies the reason Red-tailed Hawks are attracted to the campus. 

 It's the lunch.

And lest we forget, my feeders yet again today were deserted no doubt because of (drum roll) Culprit the Cooper's Hawk.

I'd just come into the driveway in the car, heard Crows cawing, looked up and saw a very large Crow jump over a squirrel who was hunkered down on a branch in mid crown of the Ponderosa Pine.

I don't see that everyday.  

More cawing. Ah!

I remembered I'd gotten a bowl ready of tasty stale tidbits for the Crows earlier but hadn't put it out.  I put up my hand in the signal to the Crows that food was coming and went and got it.

Out  I come with the bowl, and when I look up one of the Crows had re-situated to be able to watch the door of the house.

The Crow looked away cawed, twitched his tail, cawed again and twitched his tail.  What was he seeing?

Just where is Culprit?

 I realized it was time to to go out and do a search for the stealthy little bugger.  When I couldn't find him visually by staring at the trees,  I decided to photograph the trees and scrutinize them inch by inch.  He may well use the good perches more than once.

First off the place is absolutely full of squirrels.

See the curl of tail in the crouch?  He's totally flattened out on the other side of the limb. And there is a certain amount of squirrel "groaning" going on.  Similar but not identical to the sound when a Red-tail which actually will take squirrels as opposed to a Cooper's Hawk which I'm told doesn't.

Feeders are still empty and I still don't see him.
I head up  the block for the long view. I search the branches in quadrants.  Still no cigar.
The North side.  

No Culprit that I can see, let me know if you spy him.  

Though if you look carefully there is a squirrel crossing on a wire.
                      East end.  No soap that I can see.

Then I spy this squirrel eyeing the neighbor's big Spruce.

I can't see Culprit up  there but by the time I go in the house and look out the window, the dickie birds are all back at the feeders.  He was there somewhere and they saw him leave.

Tomorrow IS another day.

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne