Saturday, May 24, 2008

Latest Adventures of Thunder in Tulsa

You're right, that's not Thunder. As most of you no doubt noticed, that's not even a Red-tail, it's a Turkey Vulture having a grand time flying. I took this photo today but I wasn't in Tulsa unfortunately, so it isn't of Thunder. Though it does make me wish I could fly.
Here's R. of Illinois' latest update--
Donna - latest adventures of Thunder:

Last evening about 7:45, Thunder inadvertently stepped off the nest ledge area, backwards, made a great save, and ended up on a small steel mesh catwalk-spiral staircase about ten feet below the nest site, where she spent the night alone in the wind with the nest camera murkily filming her as best possible in the dark.

Russell Mills of the TV station, KJRH in Tulsa, just posted this on the observation forum:

"She's on the nest level. We have no idea how she got back up there, except by "branching" her way up.

If you watch the video clip I encoded this morning, you'll see her branch from the "plank" back up to the grid work where she spent the night. Two more strategic hops and she could have made it back up to the nest level. What's impressive is that she figured out just how to do that :) About that time it did start raining lightly, so perhaps that provided the extra incentive she needed."

I have not yet read the day's observation posts to catch up blow-by-blow, but there will certainly be posts there recounting her parents' arrival, food drops, and her self-rescue back to the nest.

To see the Hawk Cam set-up and tower close-up, go the the KJRH web site, then Hawk Page, then at the top bar, select Photos. In about the second row there is a photo of the set-up taken from the ground by a hawk fan in Tulsa. Also, another local posted a note on the observation forum that there is a grassy area near the TV station where people have been parking their cars and waiting and watching, in anticipation of the fledge. There ARE "watchers after all!!!

There is new video posted on the Hawk page, of the inadvertent fall from the nest last night, and then, after daylight today, one of their cameramen went out and stood below (one station employee estimated that the nest is about 80 feet off the ground), filmed video from the ground as best possible with no tripod and no super-long lens, of activities on the catwalk-spiral stairs where Thunder was fed by both adults, and made some heart stopping branching, including "walking the plank" a number of times.

More later.


I'd been a little concerned that people hadn't come out to watch the fledging in person but now they have and in cars yet. They're developing their own "mobile hawk bench". I'd love to be able to watch the new hawk watchers evolve as a group. It's all going to be wonderfully fun and exciting!
Donegal Browne

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Miracle at the Cathedral--or nearly, Thunder in Tulsa, and a Channel Island Eaglet Update

Photograph by Robert Schmunk,
HOORAY!!! 2008 Eyass at The Cathedral Church at St. John the Divine
I opened my email and what should I find but this short note from Rob Schmunk-
There is a nestling standing up in the cathedral nest and looking back at me.
Sent from my iPhone.

"Halleluia!", I thought, "It's a miracle!" Stunning anyway, that the Divines have pulled it off considering all the strikes Isolde has had to deal with this season. And obviously Norman hasn't been too big a young cluck because they've succeeded.
For the Divines--Vivant!
And a later update from Rob, and check his site--link under the photo. And by the way Dottie is a neighborhood hawk watcher and Captain is her dog who sports a collection of jaunty neckerchiefs.

Addendum: Dottie came by later, with Captain, and said she thought she saw two baby heads pop up "the other morning", which I guess means Tues or Wed.Bruce came up after getting my message, so I hung out with him until about 8:00,but all we saw was an adult (presumably Isolde) on the hospital roof. Bruce [Yolton] was going to stick around a little longer, I think, to see if he could catch Isolde going into the nest for the night.Attached is the first pic that I got of the nestling. Unfortunately, it may also be the best as following shots seem to be slightly out of focus. This was taken at 6:22. At 6:27 the nestling stood and turned around so that it could return to the hidden corner of the nest. I could see almost all of its right side at the point, and there was a bit of dark feather visible emerging along the edge of the wing.
Thunder in Tulsa Update from R. of Illinois
At about 7:44 Thunder deliberately stepped off the nest area, flapped gently and staying close to the tower, flew down about 10 feet, and now is on level about 10 feet lower but directly under the nest site. She is on sort of a steel mesh walkway about 18 inches wide, which may circle the tower.Russell is batting into the station with a photographer but the light is going and she is still about 140 feet up in the air. Seems okay. The only observer at the time of liftoff said it seemed quite deliberate and not at all panicky. Back with more details later. Sheesh.
(Thunder is overdue to fledge according to the "normal" time frame so she may go the whole way at any second. D.B.)
Karen Anne's Update on the Channel Island eaglets, who were stolen from the nest and dropped by an intruder.
The intruder is on the video. Sometimes just his or her head is visible way down in the lower right corner.Must have been a nightmare for the eaglets, like a monster in the closet, because they defended the nest over some time. Good thing they are doing well. According to the discussion board, which is huge and has postings about other birds, so it is a bit hard to wade thru, it was the older(?) female who was the fierce guardian. It says the vets expect the eaglets to be released back into the wild on the island where they were born.
This link has photos of the birds being treated at the vet clinic
I am always amazed at how big raptors are.
There are a lot of bird (and other?) noises throughout the video. I wonder if you or John might know what they signify - parents? just other birds? The discussion board also said the rescuers had but hadn't yet posted video of the rescue. You can hear the rescue on the current video, but that one is always focused on the nest.I wonder if the adult fending off the intruder saved the eaglets from further harm.

Here's a news video including an interview at the vet hospital. Unclear if the eaglets will be going back to the same place or instead to a (nearby?) place.

As the Crow flies? Why is the straightest line between two points--as the Crow flies? Because Crows are heavy birds for their aerodynamics and have to put real effort into flight. Therefore there is no meandering when they have a destination.

In the woods at Thresherman's Park, I found this mysterious burrow in a small glade. It's about 10 inches in diameter. While investigating it, I inadvertently stepped on the cushion of moss to the left of the entrance. My foot stepped into the most amazing sense of softness. Which led to another discovery.

That is-- that in this particular soft green moss, there lives the most startling ruby colored insects. One discovery almost always leads to another if you're open to them. Questions are the same way. Now what is the evolutionary advantage of a sparkling ruby bug that lives in bright green moss?
Donegal Browne



Urban Hawk Update: Fordham Eyasses and Tulsa's Thunder Gives Watchers a Scare

Photograph by Christopher Lyons
One, Two, Three plus Momma Rose

Photograph by Christopher Lyons
Rose has been spending a lot of time just hanging out with her youngsters, when there is no feeding going on. She preens while they watch her, she watches while they preen themselves, and I guess she's probably also making sure they don't do anything stupid, like go over the edge. Unlikely to happen, with the pigeon spikes there. All three look healthy--the one on the extreme left, (See top photo. D.B.)still in the nest, is most likely the youngest.

Photograph by Christopher Lyons
Rose keeps an eye peeled while the eyass looks over the edge.

Photograph by Christopher Lyons
The beginnings of flapping and hopping has begun at the Fordham nest. Rose wisely ducks her head. It's difficult to know who's fledged and who hasn't at Fordham as the fledged eyasses often make their way back to the nest using the near by trees and the surrounding taller buildings.

R. of Illinois's Thunder of Tulsa Update

Thunder, around 1 PM, suddenly leaped high up and out of sight. Camera operator could not find him. Panic on the observation posts. (Where is he where is he where is he someone run outside and check somebody help)Eventually camera operator found him about 4 feet up on the rim of the structure supporting the ball on the top of the tower, right out under the sky. He bobbled there in the wind (Thunder, not the camera operator) for heart stopping moments, then worked his way along a strut to under the ball,inside the nest area, basically in the rafters of the nest area.

Russell Mills posted this: "Well I grabbed the first news photographer I saw and we ran for the roof,then climbed up to the base of the tower. We looked all over the neighborhood -- holding our breath when we checked Peoria Ave. -- but couldn't spot him. By the time we came back inside the MC operator had found Thunder again with the camera. That bird is going to give me a heart attack yet!"

(Currently there are no watchers on the street below the nest. Everyone is at home watching the hawkcam. Perhaps it hasn't sunk in yet, that once Thunder takes off that in order to see all the moment to moment coverage of what is going on with Thunder and her parents that they are used to, they will have to watch in person. Yes, no doubt at times the TV station will get some footage, but it very likely won't be 24 hours a day. Nor have they discovered how much fun it can be to get together with others of your ilk. D. B.)

Male Goldfinch peers through the feeder.

Look who was staring at me through the glass. It must be another male Indigo Bunting besides Mr. I-won't-come-out-from-under-the-picnic-table. Either that or he's just had a big burst of testosterone or curiosity.
Donna Browne

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Urban Hawk Update:Tulsa and St. Johns plus Eaglets Abduction, Turkeys, and an Indigo Bunting

Photograph courtesy of

From R. in Illinois an update on Thunder in Tulsa--
Thunder is currently sleeping in the nest bowl. I went to bed at about 7 AM, leaving three early birds to watch Thunder and post happenings. Got up about a half hour ago and caught up on the postings on the forum. Lots of viewers are posting. Apparently Tulsa radio and TV and print media are all over this story, but apparently everyone is watching from their homes and not going to the tower. Thunder has continued to keep everyone on the edges of their seats all day. Going from zonked in the nest bowl to leaping up over the nest bowl frame out onto the "launch pad" and scaring us to death (and probably himself) with daredevil leans and flaps, then when everyone's hair is standing on end and on fire, he goes back, lies down, and goes back to sleep.

Also from R in Illinois, she’s been a busy woman today, by way of the Tulsa Hawk Discussion Group, the abduction and rescue of the Channel Island Eaglets, also attached after the update is the nifty link so you can watch the whole episode on youtube.

From Forum contributor Redfinch:
"Yesterday afternoon I looked in on the baby eagles on Santa Catalina Island and an intruder came and took both babies. They are about 7 wks. old. One he took right away and the other baby defended as best he could, but it took him too. The parents were finding food. Dad attacked the intruder (an immature eagle )but too late. You think we are bad with our hawk, these posters went bananas! They finally got a hold of one of the biologist and he and three others grabbed their gear and took off for the nest. It usually is an 1-1/2 hr. climb, but the one fellow said he could make it in 30-45 min. They have a microphone and you could hear the rescue. Well, they got there and both eaglets are OK. They were dropped out of the nest. One had a broken beak and the other a possibly broken wing. They were flying them to the mainland today to the vet hospital. If they weren't hurt too bad, they would return them to the nest, but they can't in this case.
The parents are beside themselves.
You can watch the whole thing on youtube.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Nest--Isolde and Norman
The workman at the Cathedral still have not adjusted their activities in relation to the nest and the news looks very bad for any eyasses that may have been in the nest. I truly doubt that St. Francis would approve of the workman's behavior.
See Rob Schmunk's report at--

I'm driving up the road and--Look at this! Finally a turkey hen who isn't 40 acres away. Of course there is a dirty windshield between us but beggars can't be choosers.

I've pulled over onto her side of the road, of course it's my side of the road too. She pauses mid stride then bolts for the grass.

Then she plunges into the wildflowers. But being a Turkey she can't resist popping her head up to check on me. Deciding to chance it as I didn't seem to have a gun, she pops out completely and continues into the woods. Where she just might have a nest.

Photograph by Donna Browne
Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea

What a beauty, who could resist this guy? I love the fact that not only are his feathers blue, but so is the skin on his legs and feet, his beak, and his eyes are a midnight color.

Besides he finally came out from under the picnic table.

Donegal Browne

Monday, May 19, 2008

Urban Hawk Update: Fordham & Tulsa nests Plus Part I of Cranes vs Red-wings

Photograph by Christopher Lyons

Rose, head cocked watching her little ones, and a precocious eyass at the-- I'm-an-alien-from-a-UFO stage, giving Chris the eye. Here is Chris Lyons update on the Fordham nest of Hawkeye and Rose--

All seems to be proceeding as it's supposed to, over at the Fordham nest. I'm still having a hard time getting decent photos of the chicks, but they are gradually becoming more cooperative about sticking their heads up far enough for me to snap them from the ground--I don't have the kind of equipment that yields very good results from the greater distances when photographing them from the roof of Dealy Hall, where it's easier to see what's going on inside the nest.

There seemed to be a rat's tail sticking out of Rose's mouth this evening, as she stood on the nest. As I've mentioned, there's a new construction project on the campus, which is disrupting the lives and homes of many rats, and probably making it easier for Hawkeye and Rose to catch them. Hopefully these rats aren't carrying any significant quantities of man made toxins in their tissues. Hope to get some better shots in the near future.


An update from R. in Illinois on the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Red-tailed Hawk nest on the TV tower--

Here are aerial shots of the TV station tower where the Tulsa RTH is about to fledge. The nest is under the "ball" on top of the tower, behind the satellite dish seen to the left and under the ball. These shots were posted on the Tulsa Hawk forum by one of the forum contributors. Very helpful.

Thunder has not yet fledged, but is doing a lot of practicing and dozing. Hard work, learning to fly.


I do hope Thunder comes down on a roof. There aren't many trees handy. Though beyond the block with the nest, in another view Blogger rejected, there looks to be some green spaces of some kind. I suspect her parents may try to lead her that way with food eventually. I also hope that there are watchers on the ground who will rescue her from traffic if necessary. Though the roof looks very good if she goes off that side.

I had errands in another town and so found myself trundling down country roads, avoiding large farm equipment on it's way to other fields, and watching the male Red-wing Blackbirds on the verges attacking Red-tails, Killdeer, Turkey Vultures, farm cats, and just about anything else that moved.

When what should I see but two very large birds circling above a pond in the middle of an as yet to be plowed for the season cornfield. I pull the car off and grab the camera.

No sooner have I gotten out of the car when an old blue pickup parked in front of me, an older man in his flannel shirt and cap got out and asked if had car trouble. "Sorry, no, I was just looking at the cranes."

He said, "Oh, they're back are they? That's Bette and Bob." And off he went in his truck. Bette and Bob? Bette and Bob it is.

2:39:12PM Well, Bette and Bob are center. The geese who seemed interested when they landed have now gone back to their goose business.

2:43:47PM Bob and Bette wade in. I think Bob is the pale one and Bette the rusty. A Red-wing scrutinizes Bob from his perch on a stalk.
Ah, one goose, head cocked like a theatre patron, is still interested. He likes to watch Sandhill Cranes? They do look pretty strange. Or does he know something we don't?

2:43:23PM Goose did know something we didn't. Look! The Red-wing males have staged on the stalks and are mobbing Bette.
2:43:53PM Bob barges over and the Red-wings retreat. He glares for a moment and then satisfied he's daunted them, he turns toward Bette.
2:44:08pm And the Red-wings were just waiting for him to turn his back. Here they come again. Goose is still mesmerized by the sporting event.
2:44:36PM Bette watches Bob's back and the goose audience increases. My guess is things aren't over yet. Or perhaps the geese have ulterior motives themselves and plan to join the fray as they seem to be getting closer.
(BLOGGER is being temperamental and will only allow a certain number of photos per post the last few days.)
PART II of the Sandhill Cranes vs the Red-wings plus Red-wing Attacks Human is in the next post down.

PART II--Sandhills vs Red-winged Blackbirds and Human Attacked by Red-wing in Car

2:44:52 Bette stands behind Bob and they both give "the look" to the geese.

2:44:58pm Bette goes left away from the geese but a Red-wing has arrived on a near-by stalk.

And here come the rest of them. Bette decides to head for higher ground while Bob guards the right rear flank.

Bob then crosses over and guards the left flank but a Red-wing gets by and nabs Bette in the bottom.

2:47:43pm Lacking stalks the Red-wings now begin to stage on the ground.

2:48:15 pm Bette attempts to go left and out flank the ranked Red-wings.

She then flips round and glares.

The Red-wings retreat.

Reorganize and attack again. The cranes continue their retreat from the water and Red-wing nest territory.

And keep coming.

Bob watches...

I don't know exactly what happened.

But Bob's neck is twisted at an odd angle and a Red-wing may be stunned on the ground.

Or is it flying at his "ankles"?

2:52:00pm Then bizarrely, they seem to be starting their crane mating dance. Either that or Bob is stomping a Red-wing and happy about it.

The continue and stand tail to tail and freeze.

Then the Red-wings have come in again and staged on the ground around them. The little birds attack. Bob flaps. Bette and Bob bounce and bow to each other.

Then Bette seems to find a snack. ???

They both look skyward.
2:53:46pm No Bette and Bob?
2:53:57PM Sandhill in sky, only one? Bette and Bob are circling beyond the trees. Who is this new Sandhill? Why did seeing him make B and B take off? Is he the real "Bob"? And I've been watching Bette and say, Alfred? Or is Alfred the solo attempting to horn in on the pair.
Circling counter clockwise Bette and Bob go right.
2:54:10PM Now they've gotten elevation and hit their, shall we say, stride, and are heading out in a big hurry.
2:54:24pm See the pair high and the single low? Maybe the single is the real Bob and he's waiting for Bette to show up and the pond is his territory and the pair was actually Alfred and Angela attempting to cadge the pond?
Whichever, I have to get going.
2:58:32pm Now I'd just started to put the car back on the road from the right when I see fisticuffs taking place on the left side of the road tween a Red-wing and I think, a Killdeer. I pull off yet again and attempt to get a photo of the Killdeer. It then takes off and when I look right, there is the Red-wing peering at me through the open car window. He's right there. A few feet from the window looking hostile. Great chance for a photo, I take a quickie and then when I go to take one that is more deliberate, he's disappeared from the view finder. I pull the camera away from my eye to look for him and he's flying directly at my face. I duck and he zooms out the left car window. Though I've begun to giggle, (Wow, that was exciting!)I'm glad the engine is already running and off I go. When I look in the rear view mirror there's our guy, Mr. Belligerent, sitting on his fence post ready for all comers. And I really do mean all comers.
Donegal Browne