Saturday, November 01, 2008

Another Dollar General Red-tail? And Finally, the Tobacco Field RT!

I said I'd keep watching for the Red-tail that was sitting in the favorite tree behind Dollar General earlier in the week. And I found one today, but I'm not at all sure that it is the same one.

But before we get to that, the tree in question is on photo left. What are the favorite spots for Red-tailed to hunt? Basically, woods bordering on grass lands or savannah. And this spot has the added attraction of a dumpster. We've found in NYC that dumpsters are a gold mine for raptors. WHY? Because they are goldmines for rodents.

Notice this hawk without question has a red tail. She is past two years old. But she (Just the tribute pronoun, I'm not sure of this bird's sex.) has somewhat light eyes. Or at least it looks that way when her brows aren't shading them. And I'm leaning in the direction of lighter than a Red-tail who has turned five or six years old.

Also though this bird has a very light belly band I think it is more distinct than the previous hawk who I photographed in this tree.
They both seemed to have a darker pigmentation below belly band lever than above it.
Note the "necklace" of pigment around the neck, that can also differ.
She looks up at something flying over.
Another difference, the other hawk was being mobbed by small birds. This hawk isn't. Somehow the smaller birds that tend to mob are much more likely to go for younger Red-tails early and often, but usually leave older Red-tails alone unless they are involved in some behavior that actively looks bird threatening.
Look carefully and you will see how light her eye seems in this photograph as well.
Preening is always in order.
A rousing of feathers, while looking at me...? Is she getting ready to bug out? Though this hawk is far more habituated to humans than most I run across in the area. Though not nearly as habituated at the most skittish urban hawk.
This is a beautiful bird. But I'm getting an overt stare. I then make the mistake of taking my eye off her to change a camera setting and when I look again she's gone.
Back on the hunt to see what other Red-tails I can find.
Hurrah! For three years I've been attempting to get a photograph of one or the other of the Tobacco Field pair. (Unless of course this is a passer-by who's stopped in during the current days of more fluid territorial borders.)
And it's the only one I got before the hawk was up, and flying off into the distance. Look carefully above the evergreens to the left of the slanted roof of the shed, and closest to the shed. You will see a very pale pair of Red-tail wings.
I do envy them their mode of transportation.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Crow Sentinel Eating Part 1, More Spaghetti "Cooking"

I see her, but does she see me? She doesn't leave.

Look carefully in the bowl, you can see the spaghetti. Mrs. Crow is tending it. See the portion of pasta that is floating directly below her beak?

A squirrel scampers across the back and Mrs. Crow watches. The crows and squirrels have a very adversarial relationship here.

More tending.

She watches.

She looks up, possibly at the sentinel crow who is the lower branches of the tree in that direction.

Cawing is heard. She pauses.

Now she looks at the far side of the bowl.

Look to sentinel crow.

Suddenly she flattens out and flies to a lower branch of a nearby maple.

She looks down and SW.

She looks at sentinel.
Then back at whatever she was looking at before.
Quickly turns , still vigilant.
More scrutiny, and then she takes off towards the sentinel. As I didn't see what she was doing the first few moments upon landing, I don't know if she brought pasta up with her and stashed it behind that big branch. Though I didn't see her pick any up. But one never knows if birds are carrying things in their beaks and halfway down their throats.
Donegal Browne
P.S. I looked high and low for Red-tails, or hawks of any kind, today and didn't see one. I looked in their usual haunts and drove the countryside. Nothing.
Some days you can't get away from them and other days? It's as if they've all gone to the movies.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crow Sentinel Eating Part 2, More Spaghetti "Cooking", and Two New Creatures

While the first Crow has been again "cooking" spaghetti, this second Crow has been the sentinel. Spaghetti Crow leaves her tree, stops at this Crow's tree, there is vocalizing, and then she flies off to the NE.

Suddenly he turns and stares straight at me. Did she tell him to watch out for me?

He looks east.

Then quickly to the west.

And now north, with some vocalization. Then he begins to climb the tree which is unusual. He hops from branch to branch going ever higher. This is unusual so I don't distract myself with photography but rather just watch.

He gets to a multi-crotch of twigs and lifts out either a green tomato or a green apple. He then, picks it up, walks a few steps, changing its position, and puts it behind a wider branch. It's a green tomato.

He seems to be eating it though his head and the food, common in Crows, is kept hidden from any known viewers--and me in particular.

Look carefully for the pale greenish-yellow item, three quarters of the way down the photo, and slightly left of center. That's the green tomato he's been eating.

Does he see something or did he drop his tomato?

He turns.

And once again he stares at me.

And then he flies off.
I go out to check the bath and indeed there is once again spaghetti in it. But only this one strand, which is far less than the crow originally had in the bowl. Who took it out and when? Did the sentinel do it while I was watching her in the Maple? I don't think so. He was dealing with the green tomato. Did she do it under my nose while I was watching the sentinel and his vegetable? Unlikely. A quick snatch later while I wasn't looking? It wouldn't be the first time.
I decide to get some more left-over spaghetti from the refrigerator and place it on the goodie stump in order to let it dry overnight. Then perhaps I can actually get a good photo of a Crow placing the dry spaghetti into the bath.
Mr. Downy Woodpecker makes another visit to the suet. It's getting dark, and the next time I walk past the glass, I see something black out of the corner of my eye on top of the goodie stump. Drat! Are the Crows getting the pasta before it dries? I turn for a better look.
No, the Crows aren't getting it early. The stray cat that I first saw the day before yesterday is checking it out.
And eating it, as it turns out.
It's hard doing experiments outside the lab. You just never know what new variable is going to show up.
Kitty finishes the pasta except a few bits that fall into the cracks. Okay, I'm going to have to lure kitty into the house. It will take a few weeks, but I've done it before.
He is extremely hungry, obviously. It's going to start getting very cold so life will be miserable for him. And besides all that-- a hungry stray cat is murder on the songbird population.
And lets not forget it's the time of year in Wisconsin when mice try to come into the house to overwinter. Kitty could help me out with that.
I won't use poison or traps. Nature's way is the best--and the easiest. It works while one sleeps. And any self respecting mouse will smell a cat in the house and be much less likely to come in. If mouse comes in then it's his own look-out.
I go into the garage and dig up the box of cat chow that I saw in there. I get a bowl, put some in, sit it just beyond the back step, then scatter it around the feeding area. I shake the box-rattle, rattle. Kitty looks up. Kitty seems to know the sound of cat chow. He hasn't always been a stray then. Excellent. He'll eventually come round once he's in the house, most likely.
But the best laid plans, and all that...

During the night, I flip on the outside light. It's an opossum eating the chow meant for the cat. (What did I say about variables? Geez. I've always lured cats in cities where there aren't any possums to steal the chow.)
This definitely isn't Fluffy. This possum is only a half to a third the size of Fluffy, much younger looking, and far more sleek.
I'm betting my buddy Sleek here is going to eat every last bite of cat chow. My thought of taking a new tack and possibly using a live trap to catch kitty as it would be much faster is out. No doubt I'd just end up catching the possum.
Looks like I'll have to use the box and stick method so I know what I'm catching even though it's far more time consuming.
The moral? Sometimes the right way isn't the easiest way.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mystery Hawk, B.C. Chickadee Smashes into Glass, and Can Finnegan Survive Release?

One again the big tree behind Dollar General has a hawk in it. And a hawk that is being mobbed by a contingent of small birds.

She's big and from a distance I think she might be an immature Red-tail. But once I get some magnification I can see that she doesn't have an RT belly band plus there are also lateral striations of color on her breast. But then again from the underside her tail looks yellow. I can't get behind her as the land on that side is private.

Oh boy, it's another confusing immature hawk!

I only have one possible position camera position ,which I'm hoping will be palatable to her and she won't fly off right away. I figure if I stay in the Dollar General parking lot, a place where many humans go back and forth and never notice her, that I should be able to get a few photos and a reasonable look, before the big blow-off country hawks always give me.

But the view is horribly obscured. I decide to cheat over a little and see if she'll stay.

One photo and she takes to the sky. Hawk is a young bird and doesn't have the flight technique of an adult. She is also a very big girl.
What kind is she? Well, I don't see any rufous on her shoulders but I also don't see a Red-tail hawk type belly band. She could be an immature of Whistle's line. And Whistle is a Krider's Red-tail which could mean this immare just doesn't have diddley for a belly-band but is still a Red-tailed hawk. She does have the dark lower face/neck patch common to both young Red-tails and immature Red-shouldered Hawks. I'm thinking she's one or the other. If pressed I might say Red-tail but hmmm. I don't know--those striations? I'm open to correction. By the way, her eyes look to be a dark caramel color.
Anybody out there able to nail her species?
Black-capped Chickadee has just smashed into the patio door. This is the first observed case in three years. I believe she is one of the local pair and I've no idea what caused her to change her usual safe escape route.
She hit the door and instead of falling to the ground, thank goodness, she was able to rebound and land on the wire. But she is open mouthed and seemingly stunned as she would never stay in this position with me in her view otherwise.
Chickadee continues to hold on and stare.

Oh, no, this looks bad! Beyond instantaneous death from a broken neck, birds who fly into windows, sometimes rupture an internal air sac. With each breath air escapes through the rupture. It is then trapped within the body, under the skin, where the swelling continues to grow larger with each breath until the pressure kills the bird or the rupture manages to seal itself.. Though it is difficult for the body to repair the sac when the bird is so highly stressed from the injury and or incapacitated.
I watch for swelling. On two occasions in the past I've come across a pigeon who was suffering from this injury. Due to swelling from a ruptured sac, the front of their neck/upper breast had swollen so intensely that their heads were being pushed over backwards to rest on their backs.
At that time I had no one who would treat a pigeon with a serious problem. It was up to me and as it was an emergency, I got a sterile needle and put antiseptic on the swollen area. I then pressed the needle carefully under the skin and pulled up ever so slightly to stretch the hole open. Air came out a little like what happens when you get a hole in a tire. The air escaped under pressure. Both birds felt a lot better and helped themselves to a snack and water. In one case, one treatment was sufficient to give the rupture a chance to heal itself. In the other case, the treatment had to be performed twice. Both birds recovered and were released.

But what about Chickadee?

Well, her eyes are open now, anyway. And her beak is closed. Both seem like good signs but so far she doesn't look like she has focused on what is in her field of view.
Here we go. This looks better.
She's faded slightly in her alertness.
Fading further.
Suddenly alert again, she sees something above the house or on the roof. Was there or is there a predator on the roof that caused her to fly towards the house and hence smack into the glass?
She no longer seems interested in my presence.

She pauses with her back towards me. This is very unusual.

Ah, ha! Shes made it up to the perch. Excellent!

She's still keeping an eye on the roof. While I was changing camera batteries she managed to get to the top of the wire and then flew off smartly. So far, so good.

Later in the day, two Chickadees were at the feeder like usual. So I assume after being stunned she's now just fine. Look. Notice that she too is using Nuthatch's technique of grabbing the feeder on the fly.

But she doesn't even bother to then go to the perch. Better to look for the largest sunflower seeds in that position.

The feeder swings and she goes about her business as if nothing has happened.

NYC Riverside Park Squirrel returns for another nut.
Note the dirty paws, soiled from burying previous nuts. He's one of the little charmers who does very well in the park.
Remember Finnegan of yesterday's post? The orphaned squirrel who started out by being fed by a human until the dog of the family decided to feed him?
Sally of Kentucky left this question in the Comments section--
Poor squirrel can't be released, can it? Wouldn't it be way too likely to be killed by a dog,
not having a healthy fear of them? It probably isn't afraid of humans, either?
Blog contributor, and intrepid squirrel rehabber Carol Vinzant tells me that squirrels let you know when they are ready to be released. One day, they'll be nursing from the bottle, snuggling into your lap, and the next suddenly change. When ready to go, they don't want to have anything to do with the human who has been caring for them. They seem heavily wired to "go" and they do. It doesn't look like squirrels imprint incorrectly nearly as easily as many birds species do.
I've not had any experience with squirrels raised with dogs dogs so I don't know the issues involved, but a relative once took in a very young orphaned raccoon. She also had two St. Bernards at the time. The raccoon wouldn't leave the huge dogs alone. She wanted to sleep with them. The St. Bernards were very gentle with her and would walk around the house with the young raccoon in their mouths. They didn't bite her and she didn't bite them.
When the dogs asked to go outside, it was a line of three, first dog, second dog, and third--little raccoon.
Eventually, the raccoon decided to spend the night in the garage. Then she began to leave for a few days, come back in the middle of the night, open the back door herself, help herself to some dog chow, and leave again. This went on for some years with longer and longer absences on her part. For whatever reason, she must have known "her humans" and "her dogs" and was wary enough of the others to survive in the wild.
The second link that Catbird included in her contribution talks of the successful release of Finnegan--

SEATTLE — Finnegan, the orphaned squirrel, has found a new family. But he didn't go in a hurry.
In early September, when he was a newborn, animal lover Debby Cantlon started caring for him, even before his eyes opened. He soon got famous after television cameras captured images of Cantlon's dog letting him nurse alongside her pups.
When Finnegan was 8 weeks old, Cantlon decided it was time for him to return to the outdoors and started letting him outside.He'd run around but stay close in her yard in Seattle. And every night he'd scratch at a window or door to be let back in.
Then one day he didn't come back – except for an occasional visit, his last on Thanksgiving day.
"He just wanted me to know he was OK. He's wild and free and happy and doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing,” Cantlon said.
Cantlon, who has cancer, says caring for animals is a therapeutic activity.