Friday, March 27, 2009

Charlotte Leaves the Egg/Eggs Uncovered and Some Answers About Kay and Jay of Tulsa

A Tulsa Neighborhood Fox Marks Territory With Urine

In my quandary as to what in the world was going on at the Tulsa nest with Kay calling and calling for food and it seemed that Jay wasn't bringing her enough, I asked some questions of the Tulsa Hawkwatchers.

Cheryl Cavert who has taken some great photographs of the Tulsa hawks, sent me a response which was instrumental for a partial understanding about what has been happening in Tulsa.

Keep reading for some answers from Cheryl who is one of the few members of the Tulsa Forum who is close enough to the nest to actually see the hawks live--

With regard to food sources in the area, I have not noticed any difference in the pigeon population around the nest. The nice neighbor next to the tower has at least 4-6 bird feeders up that are always busy - I always see squirrels and pigeons there as well as an assortment of smaller birds. I will try to pay more attention in the coming weeks to the pigeon populations that I see perched on the nearby business rooftops.

With the kind of weather we have been having (well, that does not excuse Jay totally on the beautiful warm spring days we have had!) - high winds, rains, hail, snow - that may have more to do with what Jay is bringing - or not bringing! - to Kay for dinner.

We have had a number of days with extremely high winds (30-40 mph gusts) that I imagine would make it dangerous for the hawks to fly. Landing on the nesting platform would be like trying to thread a needle outside on a windy day!!

So my uninformed theory is that Jay has been playing it safe. I have not been able to spot him anywhere - I have only seen him perched on the tower 2 times in 2 weeks and not a single spotting in a tree! - so he has been hanging out in a more protected spot. I am certain that is why earlier this week Jay was not seen for almost 2 days - the winds were atrocious - nothing was out flying and if anyone did they ran the risk of being flattened against a building!

I live just a little over a mile south and east from the KJRH nest and there are lots and lots of bunnies out - the earliest by 2 months that I have ever seen little ones already out. A couple of weeks ago I rescued two baby bunnies from my garden and put them in a safer place (away from my cats who were helping me garden and in an area with plenty of cover). The next evening we saw a red fox coming trotting across our yard with a bunny in its mouth!

A couple of evenings later my husband heard a cat fight commotion and looked over and one of our cats was chasing the red fox out of our yard (he was not happy the fox took his play toy a few days earlier!). Needless to say, the cats are not going out much anymore and when they do they stick to my side!!

I will send you a photo of a red fox that I took a couple of blocks away a couple of weeks ago. I do not know if it is the same fox or not. I have seen a fox off and on in the area for several years, but lately my number of sightings has increased.

A couple of blocks to my south is highway construction/ major overhaul of drainage/sewer systems, so it has been torn up for over a mile to the Arkansas River - disrupting lots of wildlife.
Cheryl Cavert


You filled in many of the blanks I've been trying to fill in the last week or so. Excellent information on the prey levels. Including that there are pigeons and squirrels which are worth an RTs time to hunt at the handy feeders. Dinky birds aren't really worth the caloric effort they take to catch. Often a lot of energy has to be expended that may not be recouped from the meal.

I've seen Pale Male sneak up on a juicy Robin but much smaller birds, unless it is a tempting tidbit for Lola specially, he doesn't often bother with. Urban Red-tails have adapted to urban prey but in the country, they don't take many birds, it's 95% bunnies, voles, mice, and other rodents. In Wisconsin I see songbirds sitting on wires with a Red-tail on the nearest pole, and nobody is getting eaten.

I knew that there was bad weather in Tulsa but you gave me the important specifics about that weather. Extremely important as the term "bad weather" can mean many things, some much worse than others. I now can understand why Jay might be hunkering down somewhere instead of hunting. Besides, unless the prey is capable of being out in the "bad weather" it is difficult for Jay to hunt them.

Also important is to know is what the wind was doing and knowing it, gusts of 30 to 40 MPH, I know they were very dangerous to birds. I think you're right, it would have been difficult for Jay to make the trip safely on those days.

Urban birds of all stripes, from pigeons to hawks, are injured by being smashed into buildings. I've set a number of pigeon wings after we've had high winds. I also theorize that the broken beaks of some of the urban Red-tails were gotten by building collisions. Landing on a TV tower nest at that height could be chancy. And we have to remember that Jay, being lighter, and with less strength than Kay, is more easily blown around.

Brett Odom has seen Pale Male Jr. repeatedly miss the entrance to the nest shelf and get smacked into the building while attempting to enter the entrance to the nest.

Though we do have episodes of Jay making it to the nest but not bringing prey. Remember the evergreen bough Kay was so dissatisfied with? Was all the prey hiding from the weather and therefore Jay had nothing to hunt?

You're right again, it doesn't excuse Jay on the days when the weather is fine and Kay calls for food that doesn't come. That behavior on Jay's part is still a worrisome mystery.

I'm fascinated that the fox stole the cat's toy. Which kind of cat toy was nipped? Great idea to keep the kitties in the house. I never let mine out these days at all. Though previously I'd "walk" them on a 6 foot lead, short enough to keep them from predating the birds and making them near enough to me that they weren't predated by somebody else.

Most fox and their predator counterparts aren't going to walk up within 6 feet of me and grab my cat.

Though I knew a gentleman in California who was standing next to his pool with his Malamute on the other, when a Mountain Lion, leapt his waist high pool fence, grabbed his dog by the neck, a Malamute, killed it deftly , pulled it over the fence, and went back into the woods with his dead dog. He said he missed his dog very much but if you're going to live in the woods, you can't fault the Mountain Lion from doing what Mountain Lions do. I concur.

And there have been a number of episodes in which a raptor has grabbed a pet parrot off an owner's shoulder.

Care must be taken mustn't it?

A GREAT QUESTION FROM BRETT ODOM, chief hawkwatcher of urban Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte's New York City "shelf" nest.

"In your experience, is it necessary for the eggs to be incubated at all times? Twice today Charlotte left the nest unsupervised for over 10 minutes and with the temperatures at a high of 54F this has me a little concerned."
Brett Odom

It depends on how much over ten minutes the lag was. I expect that it wasn’t that much over ten, yes? That is likely fine; particularly as this nest has unusual protection due to the glass which keeps cold wind down to some extent.

Also a thought, we’ve seen Charlotte go into the nest area late in the hot summer (Last year? The year before?) and raise her wings as if to cool off in front of an air flow from the vents. High summer=AC. Spring at 54F? The exhaust air would likely be warm from the heat running inside the building. This would keep the nest area warmer than the usual outside temperature. Plus there is the possibility of heat from the sun as it comes through the glass, warming the nest as well.

That said if the parents leave the eggs uncovered too often for too long and they cool, the eggs die.

There are two top causes for high egg mortality in Red-tailed Hawks.

1. Pervasive cold drenching rain, where the formel gets drenched clean through to her skin and can't keep the eggs warm enough and/or the cold water puddles so the formel and eggs are sitting in it. Puddling usually is not a problem in trees but it was a very possible problem (along with high wind) at the Trump Parc nest. That nest failed every year until the one year in which Jr. and Charlotte double clutched (the old eggs had blown out of the nest) very late in the season and we had a drought. Not much in the way of rain or high wind either and they finally succeeded. The next year, they failed again, and then they moved to 888.

2. The second big cause of failure is the formel leaving the eggs uncovered in the nest as she nor the male are getting enough to eat so they both have to hunt, leaving the eggs unattended. The Red-tail literature says that if the lag becomes 20-30 minutes and then there are repeats of this behavior, that that is surely trouble for egg viability.

I suspect that perhaps Charlotte hasn’t finished the clutch so partial incubation is currently on the menu? Your thought?

In the photo of the egg you sent previously, Charlotte is on the left carrying a twig towards the nest. Where did the stick come from? Had she gone out to get it? Had Jr. delivered it?
Donegal Browne

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tulsa Red-tails--Kay Attacks Food, The Nest on M

Capture by Tulsa Hawkwatcher BobDMac &
(This is the photo you'll get with Bob's first link just after Tulsa Sally's report below. Her report relates to Bob's screen captures.)

Tulsa Hawkwatcher Sally reports--

Jay brought food-looks like a rodent-to the nest at 7:30 last night. Kay must have been famished-she mantled and stood up before he arrived and pounced on it as he landed then took off with it. Bobdmac got a nice video and captures of it. She was screaming nearly all day yesterday, even after she had a 40+ minute break and came back looking fuller. This is the first time that I recall Jay coming to the nest so late.
Forum thread link

When the tiercels can't come up with pigeons or other prey during the bulk of the day and sometimes just because they are bountiful, the breadwinner goes for rats. And rats come out most often in the evening so the tiercel will come late to the nest.

Wasn't there far more pigeon coming to the nest during the day last season? Has something happened to the pigeon population?



I think these screen caps from this afternoonillustrate just how ferocious the red tails can be.First, she spots Jay with food and stands up, her beak wide open:

She spreads her wings slightly as Jay nears the nest

She prepares to leap

The prey arrives

She lunges the instant that the prey hits the nest

Before Jay can bring his wings in, she's on the prey

She takes it in her beak

And leaps off

Jay follows her flight before settling on the eggs


Wow, Bob, we're talking a hungry formel who isn't taking any prisoners. It doesn't look like she is getting enough food often enough. Does anyone know if there is a problem with the prey depth this year? I do wish I knew what going on? Was last season similar?

Have you folks ever had the chance to see food delivery by a parent to a fledgling off the nest? Very similar. Sometimes the adult will just drop the food from the air if the fledge is in a safe location and where they are is big enough to "catch" the prey. But if the food is being brought to say a limb with a new fledge, the adult brings it in, and then must leap away into flight in order not to be leapt upon by their progeny.

When the formel is being fed, say twice a day and isn't ravenous with hunger, the tiercel will bring in food, lay it on the nest, and when she comes off the nest, the male keeps his head down (there is some thought that the spot of the backs of RTs heads is a cue that the bird shouldn't be attacked), the female comes over and picks up the prey and slowly takes it to another part of the nest to eat it. On the Fifth Avenue nest, Pale Male will most often l just watch Lola eat as opposed to taking the bowl if she's chosen to eat on the nest. If she takes the food and leaves, then he will incubate the eggs.

Is that the way it works in the Tulsa nest?

When I first got her in my sights the M, N1 formel was sitting at a right angle to her current position.
5:36PM Because of the anchoring branches she is very curved into the bowl of the nest as opposed to her usual end to end position, where at times she completely disappears except for an eye.
5:50:06 PM See how her tail is laying on the branch behind her.
5:50:19 PM
5:58PM I'd been watching from a distant thicket but the hawks had spotted me so there were no switches, no preening on the nest, none of the usual behavior that would go on without an observer or with hawks habituated to humans. Eventually I get back into the car and drive away and I'm sure the Ms give a deep sigh of relief.
From Robin of Illinois and the Blackwater Eagle Blog
Yes folks, way up there is the Blackwater Eagle Nest.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pale Male Jr., Charlotte, Doorstep, Friend, and the Turkey Eating Spruce Trees

Photo by Brett Odom--Charlotte advances on the nest with a twig.
Hey Donna,

I got a photo of the egg today. It is hard to tell how many are actually there as the bowl of the nest is blocked, but I circled the one egg that you can see in the first photo.
Brett Odom

Photo by Brett Odom

Excellent! And there could already be more as the bowl is partially obscured by the window divider. Interesting. It looks like the hawks haven't put much of a twig-side on this side of the bowl as the glass makes a ready made barrier. Though of course you are at a slightly higher elevation so it's hard to tell though we can see that egg!

Thanks Brett, please keep us updated.

This is Doorstep and Friend, the Mourning Doves who are now doing their 4th season in the yard in Wisconsin. Friend has been trailing Doorstep, following amorously close on her tail through all her daily activities, the full day. He's ready for copulation but she doesn't seem to be. In fact he is driving her a little nuts. Just previous to this photo he had sidled over to her on the branch and was being a bit pushy. She pecked him in the head, not that hard, but enough to get his attention. He's being more patient now.
I was driving along in the car on my way to see the Red-tails on County M the other day and what should I see but a flock of turkeys foraging on this corn field. I stopped the car.

This started the turkeys. Out of the corn field they came onto the mowed area around the farm buildings and started heading right. Not running you understand, nor the turkey trot, but one might call it walking with some speed.

Notice how they're on turf so walking is faster, but they still maintain the distance from me so they are screened by the last row of corn stalks.

The head of the line has now made it nearly into the farmyard. In this group there seem to be three Toms who are controlling the activities. Or one Tom and his two lesser buddies who do traffic control, it isn't clear to me yet exactly how Turkey hierarchy works.

The rest of the line is still coming. I believe that there are 13 of them.

Now this is interesting. Once at the Spruce trees some Turkeys go left and some go right.

Note the bird who has made it to the sidewalk and is using his wings to hurry. And what is happening to the turkeys on the right by the Spruce trees?
The lead turkeys are far left watching the proceedings and watching me.
Still more are coming out of the corn. What is happening to all the turkeys that have gone right?

One turkey watches me while the other two....

...get closer to the Spruce boughs

And then they are gone. Those big tall turkeys have done a disappearing act. It is as if the Spruce tree has just swallowed them.
Note the three lead turkeys are still left

Okay now one of the leads is over beyond the barrier on guard. This big guy center is also watching me, another guard. Can you see the turkey head peeking up over the Spruce bough watching as well?

And here they come! The three guards continue to do so and the others start sneaking out of the Spruce and heading out to the brush across the way.

Tuesday Miscellany

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez, as is the following email.


Amazing adventure today at the Botanical Garden. First up, not one but TWO large red tail hawks on the same branch. I wasn't able to get close enough to see if one of them was my pal who I've been photographing the last couple of month. I've been meaning to look at all the photos for any distinctive field marks. Anyhow, one flew off landing on a tree in the Bronx Zoo which is across the way, the other flew under the canopy of some pine trees..... WITH A BRANCH IN ITS BEAK. Should I break out the rattle and cigars in anticipation of a visit from the stork? : )

Well Pat, it's quite possible that you can anticipate natal festivities, though we have had cases in Manhattan, Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. last season are a case in point, where they brought twigs and bark to their previous nest site but never laid any eggs. They took the year off for some reason.

(By the way, big news about Charlotte and Pale Male Jr., the second post down after this one!)

Photo:Pat Gonzalez
Later, I saw my pal red-tail in the native forest. All of a sudden a HUGE raptor flew towards him with talons extended ready to pounce. At the last second, Red-tail turned his head and saw what was coming, jumping off about a second before the bird landed on the exact same branch occupied by Red-tail.

Photo:Pat Gonzalez
It was my pal great horned owl. Yikes! I guess it was safe to assume he was defending his area as he was just a few yards away from the branch where I usually see him perched.

As the photographs had been modified they no longer had the original time they were taken so I've emailed Pat asking what time of day the Great Horned Owl was out and about chasing Red-tails. Shouldn't she have been asleep?


We are now well over 48 straight hours of cold drenching rain.
The various local rivers are at or near flood and still the rain falls, incessantly, heavily. I went out to check on the Red-tail nests and the vernal ponds I've been keeping an eye on.
The second nest on County M, N2, has lost a side, and a pair of Red-tails was seen circling in the sky above the area.
N2 was not built nearly as sturdily as N1 (above) and I suspected that perhaps it was a first nest. Better to have fallen now than later. Perhaps they will build a replacement nest, learning from their first attempt, and try again.

Buffleheads in a vernal pond near Clear Lake off Hwy 59

There are a variety of water fowl: Mallards, Canvasbacks, Ring-necks, and Canada Geese. They glide, paddle, dip, and dabble around the pond's surface. They being ducks don't find the rain the least problematical.

Nor did this Sandhill Crane making her way to the marsh over the hill.

Meanwhile in the front yard on Rainbow Drive, a flock of over 200 Cedar Waxwings took turns sitting in the Willow on watch and eating the Mountain Ash berries in the adjacent tree.

The Robin and his mate sat in the lower branches of the Mountain Ash for some time watching the large flock of Cedar Waxwings. There was an intention on the Robins part but exactly what it was I'm not sure. Eventually some decision seemed to have been made and the Robins went to ground to forage.
And the rain, cold and constant, continued.
And from New York Times gleaner of significant articles of interest Bill Walters, information which was suspected and has now been quantified-
The survey found that over the last four decades, grassland birds had declined by 40 percent and birds in arid lands by 30 percent.
P.S. If you haven't seen them yet there are news updates following this post on the Riverside Park Red-tails plus Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, posted Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Photograph by Francois Portmann
Intrepid/Caroline the formel of the 81st Street Riverside Park Hawks.

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photographer Francois Portmann who has been sending in the gorgeous pictures of the Riverside Hawks and Valkyrie of Tompkins Square has news!
That's it!
It is sitting time at Riverside Park, since yesterday (or maybe Sunday). Hope this season goes smoother than last year!
The nest location is cold, wind from the in summer.


After taking a nesting sabbatical last season, Southern Central Park Red-tails, Charlotte and Junior, are back!

Brett Odom, the man with the ringside seat in his office across the street from the nest reports--

Hey Donna,

Unfortunately I do not have photographic proof, but I can confirm that Charlotte is sitting on at least one egg. I saw her rolling it just now.

Brett B. Odom

Hurrah! I told Brett that we want to hear about any of PMJ and C's activities he observes even without photographic proof.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Prairie Burn Surprise, Red-tailed Hawks--Valkyrie of Tompkins Square, Kay andJay of Tulsa,plus the Blackwater Bald Eagles and Central Park Sparrows

I'd been hot on the trail of water fowl, who were hot to be somewhere else besides where I was. Driving off I was feeling rather shunned, but then what should I see but someone doing a PRAIRIE BURN!!!

Our Ohio hawk expert John Blakeman is also a prairie master. He's been telling me about going about his burns and I have been so envious that I hadn't been able to be there to photograph one but you just never know what will happen after the ducks shun you. Being open is the key. And Ron and Marti Martin of Midwest Prairies made my day!

More on the burn coming soon, but today we've a good deal to catch up on in the raptor department.




The whites of her eyes...


I'm glad she isn't looking at me like that.
Seriously though look at the length of her beak, the angle of the sides of her head, those proportions seem innately female in Red-tailed Hawks to me.

One of my favorite shots of Valkyrie as she is a downtown kind of hawk plus habituated to humans and there she goes zipping past the humans and the Sushi Lounge!



Valkyrie as a drink of water from rain collected on top of containers being used in construction at the park.

Francois and I have often wished that Tompkins Square Park had a water source so that perhaps the green space could be used for a nesting area. Now, a children's playground is being constructed and wouldn't it be nice if the equipment included a sprinkler for kids (and hawks).

From Robin of Illinois--Three week old eaglets are sitting up. Also, per the Blackwater blog, the older is starting to bully the younger,who is keeping her head down in submission.

Screen Capture courtesy of Sally of the Tulsa Forum and KJRH TV Tulsa

Somehow this photograph jumped out of place. The commentary, an email from Sally and my answer are two topics down. ??? So refer back when you get there--just like yesterday.

From Robin of Illinois reporting that the Ospreys are back at Blackwater
Photo from that Blackwater blog link: Bald Eagle Chasing Osprey with a Fish
This could be the start of a new drama. Remember the Great Horned Owl hunting from atop the Osprey box?

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

House Sparrows are always looking for cavities to nest in. And for many years in New York City's Central Park they've been nesting inside the glass enclosures of the path lights. Not only safe from inclement weather but they've a heating element when the bulb is burning from dusk to dawn. Therefore they can begin nesting earlier in the Spring and later into the Fall than the usual weather would allow.

Tour Guide Pat Gonzalez, who has been keeping us abreast of the wildlife in the NYC Botanical Gardens has branched out with a look around Central Park.

Photograph by Pam Gonzalez

Here’s footage I shot yesterday in Central park of some sparrows building a nest inside a street lamp, plus some photographs.
These birds are quite resourceful.

Pat Gonzalez

No question. They certainly are resourceful. And adaptable, particularly to human adjusted environments.


An email from Sally of the Tulsa Forum-

Dear Donna,

We are trying to decide if Kay had eaten when she returned to the nest yesterday. I just cannot tell, though I think she is looking full in front there isn't the obvious disfiguring bulge often seen after a big meal. What do you think? She was gone quite a while, I think over 30 minutes. I would really appreciate your input.



Hi Sally,

I can't imagine that Kay would leave for thirty minutes and not eat. Even if Jay hadn't left her anything stashed she is perfectly capable of nabbing her own dinner as she does everyday when not on the nest.

You're right in that she doesn't have a huge bulging crop but it is slightly rounded. And certainly her crop isn't sunken in either which can happen when a bird hasn’t eaten in a long time.

I received an email from Tulsa saying that Jay had brought food to Kay on the nest Saturday at which point, she had grabbed it, took off, undoubtedly ate it, and then came back to relieve Jay not too long later.

Kay will take matters into her own hands. If she has to feed herself, she will. She will not starve.
Norman who is now the mate of Isolde, after Tristan was no longer with her, was just two when he and Isolde bonded. He was totally clueless. She's sit for hours on the nest without a sighting of him. He'd eventually show up with his crop bulging while bringing nothing for her. Then he’d stand around guarding the nest. She’d fly out, glare to make sure he was on the nest, and then she'd hunt for herself when necessary. eventually got him trained.

As Red-tails do learn from experience and as far as we know this “issue” didn’t seem to come up last season. What is going on? I'm concerned.
Keep in mind that my posited hypothesis that Kay is hungry is just that. A hypothesis. We could come across other observations that might prove the hypothesis completely incorrect and we’d have to add that new observation to the mix and come up with a new hypothesis or you could say, another possible solution to the mystery.
There is no question that Jay is not acting like himself. Is something wrong we don't know about?