Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wild NYC Symposium 11/18, Chris Crow Rehydrates Supper, Isolde and Norman Return, Janesville Bald Eagles, and Sally Does TV

Chris the male Crow grabs some pineapple covered in rather dry rice off the goodie stump.

He then flies over to the bird bath and places it in the water to rehydrate. (I love it when Crows "cook"!)

That is the beginning of a long sequence of action, but there is lots of news so instead of waiting another day to put up the news in order to get the whole sequence of photos up tonight, above is the intro to the beginning so you can get the gist. Then we'll do news and you can continue on down for the end. Think of it as a Neil Gaiman novel because most of the beginning will be posted in another blog.

Sometimes stuff happens, the best laid plans...


First up, a Symposium--WILD NYC, 11/ 18, that's this coming Thursday, for those within reach of the City, from 3:30 to 6:00pm, in the Gallatin's main event space on the first floor of 1 Washington Place, corner of B'way and Washington Place between Waverly and 4th.

Participants who will speak and take part in a panel discussion plus a Q& A with the audience include Linda Couturier, author of The Hopes of Snakes, Meredith Comi who is the director of the NY/NJ Baykeeper's Oyster Restoration Program, yours truly talking about our love affair with Red-tailed hawks, and Chris Nadereski, (who works with Peregrine Falcons and other raptors), will be bringing his birds with him.

NEXT--Word in from Nara M., who's living room abutts a favorite roost fire escape of Isolde and Norman of Morningside Park and the St. John the Divine Nest--

Hi Donna,
Tonight they're back, with a slightly different sleeping arrangement: one is on the railing, like last night, and the other is perched on top of the a.c. unit in the next window over! (it's mounted on the top of the window, so we can just see some tail feathers hanging down). I just went to check what was going on as there's a clacking sound coming from the a.c.--not sure if it's the bird's claws or if the a.c. unit is settling under the weight.


And in from Robin of Illinois, a link to watch long time contributor to the blog, Sally of Kentucky, who does work with Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky on a KNET TV news magazine. Sally is in the last news segment of the program.

And from Janesville Eagle Watcher, Beakerless-- just saw the pair of bald eagles at the Racine Street bridge in Janesville. Both were fully mature and one was significantly larger than the other. They were again flying low over the river looking for fish. I haven't seen them through the summer months and was overjoyed to see them back again.

Now to the beginning of the end of Chris Crow, his mate, Carol and their yearling, Junior, who rather hilariously is the spitting image of Chris only he isn't yet full grown.

At 4:28:28, (all times PM) Carol and Junior show up at the bird bath while Chris is over on the goodie stump selecting more pineapple segments. And here we have an excellent photo to go over some of the ways to tell a female crow from a male crow. Junior is on the left and Carol on the right. Compare their beaks.

Even though Junior is still smaller than Carol, for the moment at least, his beak is definitely longer and chunkier than hers.

Also compare the tarsi. Junior appears far more long legged (just like Chris) than does Carol. And it isn't just because Carol appears to be pleasantly plump. (Hey, that Chris really knows how to rehydrate some tasty meals. )

Males also have longer tails though this isn't a good photo for that comparison.

Speaking of Carol and food, she leans down and selects a tidbit that Chris put in the bath earlier.
Chris is over on the stump selecting out more pineapple while Carol and Junior pause for a drink of water.
Crows, who like most birds, are not capable of the sucking action of pigeons and doves, fill their beaks with water and then lean their heads back so it runs down their throats.

Chris continues to go about his business even though he knows I'm there, though in the house a good distance away and behind glass, but Junior and Carol, having heard the camera, are now giving me the crow eyeball.

They don't relent.
Finally Junior takes off and Carol isn't far behind.
Chris carefully watches where they are going.

Still watching.
He makes sure I haven't crossed any boundaries while he was otherwise occupied.

He caws four times, with a little something in his mouth.


Eyeballs me.
And goes back to picking.

Yup I'm still there.

For whatever reason he seems to stare at the bits for several seconds before picking any of them up.

Gulp, and it's nearly gone.

He stares at the pile of food.

Stares some more.
Still staring.

Then picks up a pineapple segment.


A little hard to get down perhaps?

4:30:02 Choosing.

4:30:05 Big bite.

One of the other crows does a fly-by.

4:30:19 And Chris heads for the bird bath with his big bite and puts it in the water.

4:30:22 Tending.

4:30:24 Watching the progress.

4:30:26 He pulls it out and tests it.

Might just be alright.

Is he looking for Carol and Junior?

4:30:41 Back in it goes.
4:30:42 He stares for some seconds.




4:30:51 And he's off.


5:05 And a snack for later.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Isolde and Norman Do the Fire Escape, The Uncommonly Beautiful Common Milkweed and a Night Migration-Flying Before the Storm

Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

Before we get to the Milkweed and all the rest, here's a last minute flash from Nara Milanich, whose fire escape hosts Isolde and Norman of Morningside Park and the St. John the Divine Cathedral Nest when the weather gets nippy and the wind blows just right.

They're baa-aaak

Isolde and Norman--our two feathered poltergeists--are back. One of them came by this weekend but we didn't notice till the morning and so it's unclear if s/he roosted for the night.

Tonight they are back roosting, just as the temperature has dipped. Both of them are perched on a railing of the fire escape, one right next to the other, literally two feet from the window (the rail extends out perpendicularly from the building facade, in between our two living room windows, so they are not directly in front of the window but to the side a bit). One is facing the window with an eye to what's going on inside, while the other sleeps soundly facing the other direction.

Last year they generally perched on separate fire escapes, especially to sleep, so this seems new. They both also seem to have more light belly feathers than I remember. Is this the hawk equivalent of parental gray hair?


How terrific that your cold weather visitors are back! Thank you for letting me know.

They did perch further apart last year didn't they? Perhaps it has something to do with the wind direction or conceivably they've just gotten more comfortable as time has passed and the humans haven't done anything untoward.

Isolde and Norman sound like they are currently in a position taken by Pale Male and Lola during the day, most often in breeding season, when they sometimes companionably sit next to each other on the railing of the building we call Linda. That way they can watch each others back. We often used to joke that Lola was watching televison inside the apartment. But likely she was keeping an eye on the inhabitants as well as using the reflection of the window for a back view as well.

Pale Male and Lola most often seem to roost for the night in separate trees though in sight of each other. Every once and a while we'll discover them in the same tree. And to tell the truth they too may roost on fire escapes but we've just never caught them at it.

As to the lighter belly feathers, they've gone through a molt since you last saw them and for whatever reason a hawks coloration does shift somewhat with each molt. According to John Blakeman an older hawk will have lost most of the color in her belly band, but I doubt either Isolde and certainly not Norman is old enough for that to be happening yet. Pale Male might be but he never had much of a belly band in the first place as he's so light colored.

Thanks again for the update!


The Milkweed follicles are bursting. (Look back up at the top photo as we've been talking about our favorite topic, hawks, for a reminder of what the Milkweed looks like currently.) What a strange and beautiful plant. Obviously the seeds are spread by the wind and as the seeds are substantial so are the wind catching fibers. They have a gorgeous sparkle in the sun, add that to large spherical umbels covered in dozens of flowers, I've never been able to understand the prejudice against them. Perhaps it has to do with their being a native plant and not an exotic. Besides, we'd not have Monarch Butterflies without them.

Here is a follicle that has only very recently burst. The long white flossy hairs and seeds are a packing marvel. The pod bursts due to the growth and ensuing pressure of the contents.

Then the contents dry in the sun and the breeze teases out the fibers until they take flight.

A number of follicles in various stages of the process.

Even the dried pods are beautiful.

Work on the nest has come to rather a standstill for the moment as the sparrows have moved into my pile of materials (left) for the winter. There must be fifty or so of them that roost there every night.

It was nearly 70 degrees today but as the evening began to come on water fowl took to the air from every direction with obvious intent.
Wisconsin is littered with bodies of water-lakes, ponds, rivers. And whatever the weather was today, the water birds know it's time to get out of town. Likely in another 24 hours we're going to have a plunge in temperature.

It is thought that one of the reasons that they migrate at night is to preserve their body moisture.
I went outside after full dark and could hear them calling to each other as the flew over heading for warmer climes by the light of a sliver of moon.
Donegal Browne