Saturday, September 13, 2008


Photo and bio of "Stumpy" John Silver courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Museum

When I was 10 I visited the Air Force Museum in Ohio, and I stood and looked at John Silver here for a very, very long time. While the famous Bon Ami was a UK registered Black Checked Cock, here was American as apple pie, John Silver. A regular everyday Red Pigeon, like any urban pigeon we see on the street, who had flown just as fast and as bravely, and perhaps even more cleverly, than had his famous counterpart.
How could it be that so many people had such an aversion to these brave gentle birds with their soft cooing voices when others, not noted for their compassion, after many decades still memorialized he and his brother pigeons for their valor and interspecies help every year without fail?

This homing pigeon was hatched in January of 1918 in a dugout just behind the lines in France. He received his early training in action and was carrying military messages before he was many months old. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, he was one of the most active pigeons in the Army, and his barrage dodging skill was apparent during many exciting flights from the front lines to the divisional pigeon lofts.

On 21 October 1918, at 2:35 P.M. he was released from a front line dugout at Grandpre, during the Meuse-Argonne drive, with an important message for headquarters at Rampont, a distance of 25 miles. The enemy had laid down a furious bombardment prior to an attack. Through this fire the pigeon circled, gained his bearings, and flew on a direct course for Rampont.

Men in the trenches saw a shell explode near the pigeon. The concussion tossed him upward and then plunged him downward. Struggling, he regained his altitude and continued on his course. Arriving at Rampont 25 minutes later, the bird was a terrible site. A machine gun bullet had pierced his breast, bits of shrapnel ripped his body, and his right leg was missing. The message tube, intact, was hanging by the ligaments of the torn leg.

Weeks of nursing restored his health but could not give back the leg lost on the battlefield. The pigeon became a war hero and earned the name "John Silver", after the one-legged pirate in the book Treasure Island.

He was retired from active service and in 1921 was assigned to the 11th Signal Company, U.S. Signal Corps, Schofield Barracks, Honolulu. John Silver died 6 December 1935 at the age of 17 years and 11 months.

Hereafter on each Organization Day of the 11th Signal Company, the name "John Silver" is added to the roll call. When his name is called, the senior NCO present responds: "Died of wounds received in battle in the service of his country."

Innumerable pigeons have been killed in the line of duty. "John Silver" symbolizes their long and honorable service to mankind.

And here today on my terrace, wisely and mildly ignoring the affront of the anti-pigeon coils the building management insists on, are two beauties of the same stock as John Silver, G.I. Joe, and Bon Ami. A species that is so reviled that many seek their elimination from the Earth no matter what service they have done for mankind or what joy they bring to others.

AND NOW A VERY BRAVE RABBIT, from long time blog contributor Diane D'Arcy...
Please ignore the vulgarity of the title, and perhaps the narration as I didn't listen to it. I screened the film while others slept in the room, but don't ignore the film itself. It's an amazing piece of footage of one very determined bunny.

Pigeon Eradication and Kat's Mini Pale Male and Lola Update

Photograph courtesy of People for Pigeons
People for Pigeons is concerned with the protection and preservation of mankind's oldest domestic bird, the gentle and loyal pigeon.

Anna Dove of the New York Bird Club thought we might be interested in the latest chapter of the continuing saga of New York City and its resident flocks of pigeons.

But first my two cents worth, to ill treat any bird makes it easier to ill treat them all and without question the feral domestic pigeon has an important place in the urban ecosystem.

Not only are they the only bird that many urban children ever see, giving them their first taste of wild nature in this friendly gentle creature, but also keep in mind that in many parts of the city, the percentage of pigeons in the larger urban raptor's diet is over 80%.

Fewer pigeons-fewer Red-tail eyasses will survive, particularly if rats take their place.

No pigeons? How many Red-tails will grace our skies? Take a look at today's post from the People for Pigeons blog--

"Safe Feeding Zones" for Pigeons
According to a recent article in the Columbia Spectator, the Humane Society of the US is negotiating with New York City lawyers to put into place pigeon "safe feeding zones" or restricted feeding areas.

Can this be nothing more than pigeon discrimination, or will safe feeding zones for other wildlife follow in the future. I hope this plan is not an attempt to reduce the numbers of pigeons in Manhattan as pigeon populations have been declining steadily over the past several years and there is no need for pigeon control.

"As for those who enjoy playing with the pigeons, I think it is my duty to suggest that we follow the Humane Society’s plan for the city, called “safe feeding zones.” In negotiations with Councilman Simcha Felder (44th District, Brooklyn), the HS is working with city lawyers to draw up a plan that will allow the feeding of pigeons in parks, on the grass, away from the heavily trafficked areas.

We can do the same thing at Columbia. We can feed the pigeons only on the grassy areas and abstain from inviting them to dine on the steps or any concrete places where people may sit. At least on the grass, their poop can actually function as fertilizer, and those of us who relax on the grass generally do so in our casual clothes, not our Sunday finest.

The Humane Society also advises that we feed only as much as the birds will consume in five to ten minutes, rather than feed with the clockwork regularity that conditions the birds to appear at the same place, same time, every day—and attract more and more of their compatriots over time."

Here are some examples of how other areas have dealt with pigeons in their cities.
(Source: PETA)

✔Basel, Switzerland: From 1988 to 1992, Basel halved its street pigeon population through an integrated management program. The city had previously tried trapping, shooting, and oral contraceptives, all of which failed to effectively reduce pigeon numbers. Identifying the limitation of food sources as the only solution, the world’s leading scientist in the field, Professor Daniel Haag Wackernagel of the University of Basel, recommended that the city mount a public education campaign emphasizing that public feeding was the root of the problem and explaining the ultimate harm to the pigeons. Basel built lofts in city buildings and established areas where feeding was permitted near the lofts. Eggs were removed from the lofts, and during the four-year period of Haag-Wackernagel’s oversight, the pigeon population was reduced by 50 percent.

✔Augsburg, Germany: Augsburg currently has seven pigeon lofts in the city and is close to completing an eighth. The number of lofts is expected to grow to 15 by the end of 2006. In 2002 alone, 12,000 eggs were removed from the new lofts. Augsburg has seen a marked reduction in damage to buildings because the pigeon droppings are collected largely in the lofts.

✔Aachen, Germany: After acknowledging that trapping and killing pigeons was not making “any noticeable change” to the pigeon numbers, Aachen has now installed seven pigeon lofts that are maintained by volunteer staff and activists. A spokesperson for the city said that the city wants to continue with the integrated program because the lofts are producing the desired results.

✔Paris, France: The city had tried conventional control methods but did not obtain satisfactory results, so in 2003, Paris put up its first pigeon loft. Paris has chosen to addle (shake) the eggs to prevent them from hatching. The program has the support of the French Society for the Protection of City Birds. A spokesperson for the city said that the new plan works to “improve relations between Parisians and these birds” and reduces the damage caused by droppings.

✔Nottingham City Hospital, U.K.: A good example of the effectiveness of the PiCAS method in a commercial setting, the 60-acre hospital started killing some of its 1,200-strong resident pigeon population in 1999 but stopped immediately because of a public outcry. The hospital then brought in PiCAS to devise a humane control program and reduced its pigeon population by 50 percent within a year. The population in 200 was further reduced to 360 birds, and a recent survey has counted only 62 resident birds on site.

This massive reduction was achieved exclusively by using nonlethal methods of control. The hospital won the 2003Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (UK)

Best Practice Award for its humane and effective program in association with PiCAS.The PiCAS Method in Action: Proven and Ongoing Successes Some examples of places where this method has worked and is working to reduce and manage pigeon populations in Europe include the following:As an example of construction and maintenance costs, the German city of Augsburg found it more expensive, according to the city’s finance officer, to employ lethal controls and constantly clean buildings than to introduce an integrated program.

Currently, the city spends about $2,000 on construction materials for each dovecote or $15,000 if it contracts to have the dovecote constructed. The dovecotes are cleaned and maintained two to three times a week, which takes approximately three hours for each visit. Augsburg also uses community volunteers to keep costs low, and PETA can work with communities to locate and organize volunteers to aid in running the PiCAS program.

If the more intricate and picturesque dovecotes such as those found in Augsburg are not desired, simpler features such as wall-mounted nesting boxes that can cost as little as $40 to $60 each or pigeon “lofts” that cost $400 to $600 can be constructed. All these options are effective and can simply be tailored to suit the available budget and the aesthetics of the designated site.

As long as the facility has been constructed with the needs and behaviors of the pigeons in mind and has been erected on an appropriate site, pigeons will begin to take up residence and can be managed from the site. Perhaps the biggest benefit for cities in adopting a PiCASprogram is the savings that PiCAS can arrange for commercial property owners in the city. As noted above, one of the key features of the PiCAS method is working with property owners to ensure that their buildings are adequately and properly pigeon-proofed in order to make that area as unattractive to pigeons as possible.

Pigeon-proofing can be achieved through a range of deterrents such as anti-roosting spikes, and PiCAS has extensive experience working with property owners to determine how best to address their individual concerns. PiCAS can offer the client sources for a wide range of control options and deterrents that will not only be completely effective in the long term but also can be obtained at a fraction of the cost that a commercial PCO would charge. For example, PiCAS has a noncommercial relationship with a U.K. producer of antiroosting devices that, having established a presence in Florida, can supply top-quality stainless-steel anti-roosting spikes to U.S. clients for less than even the wholesale price.

U.S. clients who confirm that they will solely use nonlethal controls to address pigeon issues can enjoy a further 15 percent discount on these products, making the humane pigeon control option even more cost-effective.It is also worthwhile to consider the possibility of offering a franchise to sell high-quality pigeon feed adjacent to the designated feeding area. This would ensure that the right food was offered to pigeons (rather than large quantities of processed food that not only would be damaging to their health, but might also attract rodents and seagulls), and it would create revenue for the city to offset the costs involved in cleaning and servicing the site.

From my counts, the pigeon population has already plummeted in most neighborhoods in the city during the last two years and the Red-tail parents are already feeding their young a higher percentage of rats which we know from the loss of the Riverside Park eyasses, and the fact that rat poison is a way of life for many residents of NYC is a very bad thing. In the last two seasons, a higher percentage of rat was fed at the Cathedral nest as well. It's only a matter of time.


PROJECT PIGEON WATCH from the Cornell Lab Of Ornithology

For centuries domestic pigeons were revered, until the 1960's and 70's when there was a concerted effort and false campaign employed by the pest control industry so that they could be exterminated, thereby creating a billion dollar industry.

"People worry that pigeons carry disease, but the danger is an exaggeration created by pest control companies looking for business."- Guy Hodge Naturalist for the Humane Society of the United States.

Science now tells us that the pigeon has been found to be able to remember hundreds of faces and are equal to higher order animals, such as dolphins and porpoises in their cognitive abilities.

YouTube: Pigeon Genius

Pale Male sits on his railing atop Stovepipe

And here's a Central Park/Pale Male and Lola mini-update from long time blog contributor Katherine Herzog--

I've been taking walks to the Ramble to see some beautiful Warblers...yesterday at Azalea Pond I saw male & female Redstarts, a female Common Yellowthroat, and a Black-Throated Blue Warbler. Nice. And of course, Pale Male and Lola are seen along 5th Ave and on the West Side, too.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blame It on Pale Male and Lola, plus Wildlife Rehabilitator Carol Vinzant's Report on her Baby Squirrel Crew

Rehabilitator Carol Vinzant seems always to have orphaned squirrels during the season for them and she gives them wonderful care. Here's her report on the current crew--

Mary Todd is opening her eyes today for the first time. She’s now a good eater and instead of just resting after she eats, she likes to explore the kitchen table.

She has a temporary little brother. Since he came after a squirrel someone brought to me who they had named Abraham Lincoln, I’m calling him Andrew Johnson. You can see how small he is compared to the other two.

Big sister Martina continues to be a grunter. She’s starting to eat hazelnuts in the cage.
(Now isn't this a sweet tableau? Count the tails. The only guaranteed way to figure out exactly how many babies are in a squirrel pile.
And be sure to check out Carol's tips on spots to find wildlife in the city, at her site, links below. D.B.)

That's what the expert is saying anyway...
Green Leader Elizabeth May owes a tip of the hat to a pair of red-tailed hawks from NYC for the success of the online outrage that boosted her into the upcoming TV debates, according to political scientist Chanchal Bhattacharya.
(Now isn't that fascinating? But let's not forget that it wasn't just the example of online outrage that tipped the point, it was the larger example, the little guys CAN win against the big guys--the example of banding together in a good cause whether online or on the street by the little guys actually can get the big guys to change their behavior. Remember the biggies don't win if the good guys hang together and keep speaking out for what's right until the other side is just too embarrassed by what they are doing to do it anymore. )
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling

Karen, who lives near the water is attempting to protect the verge area from human modification by documenting the wildlife. She sent this photo in for a positive identification. Now I've not dealt with shore birds in decades, raptors having filled my life for the most part, but I ID this bird as an immature Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodius. Any nays from out there?

Photograph by Donna Browne

Dear Donna,

I am not a great birder but I do love them and every year I have several feeders outside on my deck, and I enjoy watching the activity there. I was thrilled to see a pair of orioles early this summer and went out and bought a feeder and stocked it up but never saw them again. I have seen a pair of scarlet tanagers (a first) and two male indigo buntings in the early summer, and one stayed around but I never saw mate or babies.

The usual suspects were here this summer: a pair of chickadees, a pair of titmice, 2 pair of cardinals, a bunch of house sparrows, 6-8 gold finches, a pair of hummers(and now I have a bunch of hummers that have air wars above my feeders); at least one pair of house finches; a new guy, a very lonely chipping sparrow who hung out with a pair of white throats who have come and gone all summer, and a Carolina wren who never seemed to have mate this year; I don't know what happened to her, they have nested every year and fed young in a box on a little tree outside the house, but I have never seen the babies fledge to my feeders or anywhere else. They stay very close to the spruce tree so perhaps I just never have seen them, and they do nest out of my regular view. Mr Wren-I love his song- stays around all year and occasionally comes near the feeder, more often he sits in the flower pot or chair back nearby and sings, but the female is not seen except in the spring of previous years.

The cardinals have had at least one clutch, a late one by the looks of the scraggly offspring that are still begging. The house finches had 2 babies with them at the feeder, but I have never seen baby chickadees or titmice although I have seen them making trips back and forth to the spots I think they are nesting in as if feeding young.

There are also a bunch of house sparrows and they had some young, too, I don't even try to keep track of them. My downy woodpeckers have not been around since winter, I miss them. I have a white breasted nuthatch and a brown creeper on occasion also.

This year and last year the birds had very late clutches, I assume 2nd clutches as I have no nests to observe but the begging scruffy fledglings are hard to miss in August-September. I thought that was really late for babies last year but I have them again this year, too. We had a very dry early summer last year; this year it was quite wet at that time but we have had a 3 week dry spell and are just now getting rain.

The Robins had 3 clutches last year but I have seen no activity this year; perhaps they moved their nest. I have a mature red shouldered hawk that feeds rarely at my ornamental pond (overgrown this year and has only frogs and lilies) which the deer also enjoy.

There has been a juvenile Cooper's on occasion out in the edge of the woods. It got something gray with flashes of white earlier this spring, and I hoped it was NOT one of my chickadees!. I see a juvenile every year but never the adult coop, so I do not know if they are nesting nearby or not. Mama deer showed up with two brand new tiny spotted fawns about 3 weeks ago, also late I think, but I have seen other moms, all with two babies with spots, along the highway in the past few weeks so it isn't just at my house! I have not seen any baby squirrels this year.

Don't know if that is of interest or not. I haven't noticed much change except the wren and the robins. The late clutches are what I find odd the past two years. I just am not used to seeing begging babies in September for goodness sake!

Sally Seyal, Prospect, KY (wooded suburb outside of Louisville)


I often see the juvenile Cooper's Hawks that predate the feeders but the adults are a different story. They have learned far more stealth and I rarely see an adult unless I come round a corner and they and I surprise one another over the wood pile for instance or the Crows and squirrels spot the hawk and their mobbing brings it to my attention.

I too see Orioles, both Orchards and Baltimores for a few days in early summer, and then they disappear. They prefer a more woodsy environment, than mine, though I have numerous mature trees, as do the neighbors, but evidently not enough. Or we don't present enough privacy for them, one never knows their individual criteria. I assume they are on their way through to woodlots and luscious local orchards. That may also be the case with yours, or perhaps they move into your near-by woods and stay there to protect the location of their nest. In that case you may yet coax them out in a hard year.

Young Black-capped Chickadees? They are so tiny and are supposed to stay hidden being fed by their parents while they learn to fly from the ground up. Though I always have one or two pairs that breed nearby, the young tend to go unseen.

In 2007, I heard from a neighbor that one Chickadee fledgling had taken refuge in her garage, cared for by her parents, and stayed until it looked like one of the adults. Therefore who would know that she had just been recently fledged.

In 2008, I found the Chickadee chick pictured above and featured in the blog, begging his brains out from the rhubarb patch. His parents were desperately attempting to lure her to a small sheltering evergreen across the park path. After numerous adventures, they eventually succeeded and I presume he survived as there are currently more Black-caps visiting the sunflower seed feeder now, than when the season started. They are tough to keep track of as they tend to be virtually identical, not to mention teeny. D.B.

I too have been seeing evidence of fewer and later young this season. For instance, last week a mixed flock of migrating birds blew in following the trailing edge of a storm.

Within the flock was a male Robin with juveniles, one of which he was still feeding. Obviously the youngster was not fully weaned yet (up right in photo) but also obviously as of the sighting he was keeping up with the other migrants, at least so far. Fascinating.
In 2006 the local Robin's nest had a perfect season: 3 clutches with 4 young each who fledged. In 2007, their success was also respectable. In 2008, there was Garage Boy, (see Wednesday, June 11, 2008 but by late July as things became very dry, there wasn't a Robin to be seen in the area. They had moved on.
The Cardinals produced one male fledgling in the territory that I saw. Though in 2007, as a first year pair, they produced none successfully.
Doorstep Dove and Friend, the Mourning Dove pair who have been featured on the blog since they first bonded in 2006, raised 3 chicks to maturity that year. In 2007, by the end of the season, they and 5 well grown young could be observed. The family group could be seen gathered together every evening at sunset, sometimes for as long as an hour--grouped round the edge of the birdbath, taking in the last rays of the sun.
In June 2008, Doorstep and Friend had an unusual rare brood of three young though they weren't nearly as apparent as their young had been in previous seasons. Now Friend and Doorstep briefly appear at the bath come evening for a drink and then briskly depart. Though two or three other Doves visit the feeder with them during the day. The change of behavior may well be due to the lurking Cooper's Hawk that arrives in late afternoon. I don't have a true count of their success this season as they, like most of the breeding birds in the area have become far more wary of foraging in the open due to the hawk. I tentatively put their count at 3 surviving young.
Unfortunately there is a hunting season on Mourning Doves in Wisconsin which makes me quite heartsick. The report from the Wisconsin DEC for hunters, reports the Mourning Dove population is far lower coming into hunting season than it has been for the five previous seasons. I do so hope Friend and Doorstep will still be there when I return to Wisconsin.
The Chipping Sparrows who ordinarily produce a brood before being heavily predated by Cowbirds for the rest of the breeding season, missed their first clutch. One Cowbird chick was fostered and then they produced five chicks of their own in late August when the Cowbirds had already moved on.
(Interesting how nature deals with this sort of thing isn't it?)
The Wisconsin Turkey observers report that many first clutches were unsuccessful and some hens have second clutched, with the poults being currently only the size of Grouse as opposed to the almost mature sized young that would be usual for September.
As in Kentucky, the deer were still on the move in late Spring and young arrived much later than usual with a high incidence of twins.

The White-breasted Nuthatch has returned from breeding and is busy hatching sunflower seeds into the bark of the Maple trees in the backyard.

One of the winter WI birds, a Dark-eyed Junco, came by for one day, fed up and then continued on his way.

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
And the mammals?
Fluffy the Opossum, hasn't been caught under the feeder in the middle of the night all summer. I fully expect her/him to return to the feeder come cold weather.
Though "someone" is yet again eating the ripening tomatoes before I can. The still growing 8 inch watermelon that was on the vine disappeared a week and a half ago.
It occurred to me that I may have been unfairly blaming Fluffy for all these garden predations. Last week before by return to NYC, I flipped the back light on in the middle of the night looking for him and what should I see? A very fat raccoon bottom complete with lush tail heading rapidly out of the circle of light. A first! I turned off the light, whipped out the door, and heard raccoon claws scrambling on tree bark. I then took photographs, blindly in the dark of course, of all the trees in the direction of the sound. Bringing them up later with the adaptive lighting mode of the photo editor, brought no joy. That chubby bottomed mammal had eluded me.
Squirrels? The breeding female in the territory produced two broods this season. Of the initial litter on first appearance, the three young had very very sparse fur. Their skin was completely visible through their coats. It was unclear as to whether the issue was some kind of parasite that had infested the nest, a dietary deficiency or what? The afflicted squirrels would appear and lay flat on the picnic table in the sun for long periods. Unable to pin down the problem, beyond the usual fare from the feeding area, I began offering more nuts, and fruit. Eventually, for whatever reason, their fur slowly began to thicken and now their coats look normal, though their tails are still on the skimpy side.
The second litter of four appeared with normal fur and proceeded in maturation.
New this season is the appearance of the resident Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, Pancake. And now and again, a new phenomena, one of the shrews periodically goes for something on the ground of the feeding area.
Chewy the Chipmunk is still in residence and another smaller Chipmunk has also appeared sporadically to feed. I did not see a sudden influx of a Chipmunk litter under the feeders but that doesn't mean there wasn't one. Litters have occurred before and the only reason I realized they had occurred was that two young did themselves in by youthful indiscretions. Chipmunks tend toward the solitary and are seldom seen together, at least in my feeding area. Though I did see a group coming out of the hedgerow to feed at Thresherman's Park.
Nature tends to take care of herself if allowed what has unfortunately become the luxury of being allowed to do so.
Donna Browne

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tarmac Ground Nesters, One Answer for Yesterday, and a Skunk Report

All Photographs Donegal Browne

Thursday 10:01am Billy Mitchell Field, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having taken my 20 minute flight from Madison to Milwaukee in a downpour, survived security one more time, (Try going through, with a computer, several cameras of varying sizes, a birding scope often taken for something a sniper night use, several dozen batteries, and all the cables in the world, and see what happens to you.), and plopped down in a seat near the window with a bag that refused to stand up on it's own, and--What are those? The windows are very wet. It's hard to see and I need some magnification.

I start digging in my bag, pull out the camera with the most zoom, boot it up, and ding, ding, ding, bells go off in my head as I realize that the powers that be really, really, really, don't want people taking photographs out the windows of airports.

DRAT! I want to know what those birds are and I want photos. I walk over to the window, thinking fast about what I'll say if someone gets after me about it. I just have to be careful to stick to the birds and not include, planes, buildings, or whatever they might consider a security risk. I remember the time the Monarch Butterflies and the sky were considered a security risk near the Port Authority. There is just no telling.

I'll be calm and sensible-- show them that all I have are bird photos, right? It should be just fine.

What if photographing birds is a security risk? Seems very unlikely but these people can be very tense at times. So I keep the camera in front of me and sit on the floor hoping I look like I'm mooning over the torrential rainstorm that's sweeping across the airfield.

Zoom in and ta da! He's stepping out. It's a pair of Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus. Being Plovers, the kind that are wading birds and hunt by sight, all the water isn't bothering them one bit.

Yes, Killdeer are water birds who often don't nest or even feed near water for great swathes of time.

They like to lay their eggs in gravel. And here is an interesting factoid, they lay eggs that match the gravel in which the eggs are laid. It isn't clear if they are able to vary how their eggs look in some mysterious way to match the substrate they've chosen or whether they pick a substrate that is going to match what their eggs always look like.

Speaking of nesting, and eggs, what is the bi-color lump behind the Killdeer? Is that a hunkered down chick? It would have to be tiny and it's quite late for tiny chicks. Remember the Killdeer in the alfalfa field at Thresherman's Park were full grown and the same size as everyone else in the family.

There's another lump up right. Could that be one? You can tell that I'd love to see some chicks. They are precoccial and beyond cute. Little identical models of their parents though they tend toward only a single neck ring at first.

The other parent, (Identical males and females) looks steadily at yet another lump. Is it a possible eatable or is it a chick. It really does have a bi-color look to it.

I realize I'm probably beginning to give off an excited presence and try go limp to look like just another bored, tired, and put out airline passenger.

Then Dad goes past a lump and Whoopee!! That is undoubtedly a chick!

See! Absolutely a baby Killdeer. And very late they are. Many ground nesting birds lost clutches to the very wet spring and flooding that occurred in Wisconsin. After that, there has been drought so some birds have only finally been successful very late in the year. If the snow holds off as it has for the last few Falls things should be fine.

Little guy is still there, though it wouldn't hurt for him to seek some slightly higher ground I'm thinking and there seem to be a number of lumps up right. Though some of that could be vegetation.

Suddenly a plane is coming towards them. This is the area in which passengers do get onto planes after all. My heart goes into my mouth.

Mom checks the plane, checks the area, and takes off very rapidly at an angle.

In fact both parents do. Though the rain is so heavy and chicks so tiny I've no idea what has become of them.

I console myself with the fact that planes park here many times a day therefore these birds must have it down or they'd have no chicks. Also neither bird is going into the broken wing ruse used for predators. But perhaps planes don't cue that response.

On the other hand they aren't going into the Killdeer defensive posture used for big lumbering herbivores either. As Killdeer often use pastures for their breeding activities, sometimes cows, horses, sheep, goats, or other grass chewing pasture inhabitants progressively graze too close to the nest. In these cases the Killdeer, puff up all their feathers, spread their tail over their heads and rush the offending beast startling it and causing it to veer away from the nest.

One assumes this does not work for diddley with planes and they know it. Therefore having watched the planes patterns of movement they have planned accordingly.

He's looking at something across the way. Is it food or progeny?

Now watching the oncoming plane.

And what is that lump back there?

A chick sheltering in a crack behind a sprig of vegetation.

Aha! A snack. Come to think of it planes probably smack many an insect which then fall to the tarmac.

Then it's my plane that comes rolling through. No problem, the parents know their stuff. I start grabbing my things and I have to admit my layover between planes absolutely flew by.
If only all airports had ground nesting birds handily raising their families on the tarmac in full view of observant passengers.

NEXT UP--Many thanks to R. of Illinois for sending in the link with the begging vocalization of a Raven and a young Crow to help sort out one of yesterday's mysteries.
Without a doubt, what I saw yesterday in the parking lot of the train station was a juvenile Crow begging from atop the light pole. Yet another youngster that's a bit late in the season from his age.

Check it out--- YouTube - Agitated Raven.url (71b) For the Raven vocalization then continue through until you come to The Crow and I (or Mom's...) for the young Crow vocalization.
Two to three years ago a family of skunks lived a couple of houses down my street near the water. They were often in my yard at night. They seemed to disappear after one was reportedly caught by a large bird. And my neighbor tells me, it was dispatched in a rather hair-raising fashion. But this year skunks are back. I saw a beautiful one hightailing it across my yard just before dusk one night, and my neighbor tells me his wife has seen them a couple of times eating under my deck. I am guessing that the birdseed or peanuts that fall thru the deck from my open feeders are attracting them.I wonder if the bird who got the skunk was some type of hawk, which my neighbor, where the skunks lived, told me hung out in his trees.
I have only seen the hawk once, that year. My indoor-only cat was very upset one day, and finally I happened to look outside and saw this enormous bird perched on my deck railing.

Karen Anne Kolling

p.s. I forgot to mention that some (all?) of my raccoon visitors smell awful, like they have been zapped by skunks. I never noticed that before when I lived in another state. This has been the case for at least a mont
It sounds like the Skunks and Raccoons in your area are having territorial issues. And as Skunks can spray up to fifteen feet, unless the Raccoons don't mind that form of perfume, the Skunks may be getting first dibs on the peanuts under your deck at night.
As to the hawks taking Skunks, absolutely they do, but only the largest hawks are able to take a full grown skunk. For instance a large female Red-tail is much more likely to be able to take a full grown chubby rabbit than her consort would. The same applies for Skunks. Hawks are opportunistic and if it looks possible they will give it a shot.
I wonder if hawks and owls ever get sprayed by skunks? So far I haven't found the answer to that one yet.
Donegal Browne

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Biological Mysteries: What's the Bite? What's the Beastie? What's that Bird? Plus Rose of Tulsa with her Local Hawks

All photographs by Donegal Browne
What insect, Arachnid, or whatever causes hematological phenomenon of this kind? Take into account that the photograph was shot some days after the bites were received.

Some spider bites can cause blood reactions but so far I've not found a photograph or a person that can ID this particular reaction.

Here's what happened. Near dark, a woman was mowing her lawn. Her thigh began to itch intensely under her jeans and there was a bit of a stinging feeling now and again. She finished mowing, went inside, and the next day in the shower discovered that not only had she been bitten by something three times in a row but the bites, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter each, had produced at their periphery, "bruises". Originally these looked like the kind of thing caused by intensely broken capillaries created in the skin by sucking on it, ie. hickies.

And ideas?

This little beastie, found near a brook in the Peekskills of New York State is ? I'm throwing out a vague guess due to the length and shape of the tail, that it's a young snapping turtle of some description. But which one?

And here is the little guy's environment.

And what about this bird, photographed from the platform of the Peekskill Train Station very near the Hudson River? He was at quite a distance but I noticed him because he was making a repetitive call. It made me rather think of a duck with a cold. And it was similar in intensity and cadence to a fledgling beg. Therefore as it rather looked like a Crow, I thought perhaps it was a fledgling Crow.
Yes, late in the season but things haven't gone all that well for avian babies this year in some parts of the country so there has been a good bit of repeat clutching after disasters this season for many species. But, you know what, the call had no similarity to a Caw, whatsoever. Then again Crows make many vocalizations besides Cawing.

Besides look at the ridge/fringe of feathers in the neck area.

Also the tail length in ratio to the wingtips seems more like a juvenile than an mature bird.

See the small black area at the tip top of the steel lighting fixture near the apex of the pole? That's our bird.

Then he just sat there for a few moments.

Looked up with focus and began his vocalizations with a vengeance once again.

Then he repeated his call toward the river.

Next he called to the sky over the river.
With the train pulling in, I could still see him going for it and interestingly that fringe of feathers round his neck looked very much like that on a Common Raven.
What do you think?
KJRH Forum Hawkwatcher Rose Culbreth could hardly drive down the road, or go to the store for seeing Red-tailed Hawks in Tulsa. Here is her report of her first close look at a mature Red-tailed Hawk:

I've hit the motherload. Two, Yep that is Two, Hawk sightings in one day!! I was driving between Sheridan and Memorial on 110th and from the side of the road on the ground a huge redtail flapped up and above my car. It flew to the top of a light pole and perched there. As I was trying to get to Conrad's before the Purple Hull Peas ran out, I did not stop and study it. It was an adult though, beautiful red tail.

So this evening, I am heading up to Whole Foods, by the longest route possible from my apartment, which is via Skelly Drive just north of I-44 and 51st at Harvard. Over to the right, on the Bridge that both Catgirl and KCActionphoto have taken pics of, there sits, another Huge Red Tail. I believe this one to be Gwen, the adult female, mom to Sebastian and Viola. Neither of which I have seen in several weeks. I am buzzing down Skelly towards Periora, gaze off to my right just in case I see a Hawk and there she is, perched up on that bridge, pretty as you please.

I pulled into the parking lot about 1/2 block west of the bridge and slowly edged my car around until I was parked parallel to the curb at the end of the bridge. It was maybe, what 15 feet, perhaps 20 to Ms Gwen. She sat and looked at me while I just starred at her. She is molting most definitely, or else she has a bad case of feather rot. She looked for a few minutes, then flapped, hopped to the closer rail to look at me some more. At one point, I got a really good look at her as she turned around so I could see the rest. She definitely has a lighter patch of feathers on the back of her head. And a brilliantly deep red tail.
I have not seen a hawk that close before. At least not an adult that is. She is huge.
As I needed things from the store for dinner, I only stayed about 15 minutes, and when I started my car up to drive off, even that near to her, she never moved, but rather just watched carefully as I drove away.

Rose Culbreth
Have you noticed that once you really start keeping your eyes open and being in the moment, that you just cannot avoid biological mysteries and discoveries in your daily life? I mean sometimes they just jump out and, well, bite you. D.B.