Sunday, January 07, 2007

Northwest Bucks and Midwest Red-tails

Big Buck and Little Buck coming near the house to glean for apples under the fruit trees in a night photo by Upton.
Remember Mark Upton, who identified the mystery plants for me? His backdoor opens onto a wildlife area in Washington State with an incredible menagerie of "critters", as he calls them. Many of which he and his family know personally as the animals come near to feed. The photo above is of two Black-tail deer that they've known since they were fawns. The critters out the back door include everything from bear to flying squirrels to Raccoons and Opossum. And, as he says, his mother feels that "No animal should be left behind" he lugs a good many 50 pound sacks of kibble for his mother so she can feed them. (Samantha just walked by and said, "Hmmm. His mother reminds me of someone.") The full report from him in a day or two.

And yes, I've been back in Wisconsin once again, sorry for the lag in the blog, and I finally saw some behavior that we see in Central Park but I'd not seen in country hawks before though I'd been keeping a close eye peeled. Remember how now and again we see Pale Male and Lola flying in big gentle circles accompanied by one or two other Red-tails? No one seems in the least perturbed. No one is running anyone else out of the territory. It all looks quite friendly and well, almost, familial. For lengthy periods of time they all just do gentle circles together in the sky. No herding, no diving, no calls, no nothing. During these interludes the question often arises as to whether the third and sometimes fourth hawk might just be young from previous years.

To visit my father in the VA Hospital, I drive two and half hours north of the rolling gentle hills of the part of Wisconsin where my parent's live, to where an area called The Dells begins. The Dells are one of those strange geographic phenomena, a sudden change of topography and therefore differences in flora and fauna abound. One notices that Birch trees have appeared first off. Then a tall giant outcropping of tower shaped rock suddenly appears in a field. Soon these striking formations become more prevalent until one reaches the river and that is all the topography consists of, outcroppings of stone. They're almost like groupings of small mesas atop an eruption of rock. Though there are trees available for hawk use these outcroppings in fields being much higher than the trees, look to have the possibility of some nifty Red-tail nesting sites. And the population of Red-tails seems even higher than the well populated farmland further south.

Near one of these initial isolated outcroppings seen from the freeway on my journey, I saw the now familiar sight of three Red-tails making lazy circles high above the earth. I pulled over and watched. There was no herding, no calls, no diving, or hostility of any kind. Just three beautiful Red-tail hawks riding the air on a warm winter's day, back lit by blue sky, cruising the currents, making lazy circles with each other. And there they continued in the same area, in what I'd dearly like to think of as a family dance, for the 20 minutes that I dared to stay.

And for those who need a little more brightness in order to see the Black-tail Deer from Washington state more clearly, here's a slightly brightened version of the Upton photo.