Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pale Male's Face, Quicksilver Takes a Bath, and a Walk in the Woods Goes Dark...and Paranoid.

Photo courtesy of

Pale Male's face is not only utterly charming and beautiful, it is also very expressive.

So no first observed copulation yet? I've suspected, as all the nests have their own similar timetable from year to year, that the first copulation depends on the formel's clock. But also we have to keep in mind this is the first
observed copulation so some years there may be more observant eyes than others looking so that affects the statistics as well.

Pale Male and Lola for most years of their bond were observed copulating on Valentine's Day or before.

Well as we wait for Pale Male and Pearl/Pale Beauty to get on with it take a look at Silver's bath of today. Hilariously the minute he starts this Pyewackit heads for the basement. Don't worry, it's a nice basement. She has a lot of soft options for napping.

I came into the kitchen and Quicksilver was attempting to take a bath in his water bowl, which is far too small for the purpose. I grabbed the first available receptacle that he might find acceptable, and filled it with warm water. I set it on the table and he leapt from his perch into the middle of it.

He has a biological switch someplace that clicks and tells him he must have a bath. Nothing is allowed to stand in his way and just about any liquid will do...soup...milk. Obviously we try to avoid these.

Is that a rose or a frilly loaf of special bread? Actually it's a great view of Silver's nether region which isn't often exposed. Look at the base of his tail. You can see some small white/grey feathers, we'll get a better view of those later. But look above the white feathers up into the smaller sized darker grey row and you'll see at least one red tinged grey feather. John Blakeman theorizes that in Red-tails with the leucostistic gene, that the older they are the whiter they become. I've often wondered if this tendency toward red in some feathers will increase with age.

Great view of the pale pink feather center. He does his Dracula move though not nearly as good a Dracula as Transformer Owl.

He leaps out. Now the songbirds in the birdbath don't do any of this leaping out onto the edge business. They get in, bathe, and get out. Is this leaping out habit a form of play, something parrots just do, or is it just Silver?

He isn't wallowing. He's doing an alligator imitation.

Then he leaps out at me.

I wonder what that expression means.

His eyes are flashing. The pupil is rapidly expanding and contracting. Ordinarily that means he's very interested in something he's looking at. Perhaps it also occurs periodically in the trance of bathing frenzy. This is the first time I've noticed it so he doesn't do it all the time.

Now he's walking round the bowl, stiff legged.

Back into the contraction or loaf of bread position.

He wallows.

Wallows rising.

Up, up, up...


Good thing parrots don't have saliva as we might be tempted to think he was drooling prodigiously, particularly with that look in his eye. I don't think his brain is really engaged in focusing on what he is seeing with his eyes. I think he's possibly seeing things in his head. Or totally absorbed in how the bath feels.

I feel a wallow frenzy coming on.

Get the wings out of the way.

Dunk the head.

Hop out. Stare.

Back in the crouch.

Get the wings saturated.


Then twist everything. Water spews everywhere.

He comes to himself.

Hi! It's me and I'm COLD.

Poor guy, lost his mind there for awhile and now he's shivering. Off we go to the bathroom, I pull out the hair dryer, and give him a blow dry. It's interesting because he does the same thing to the air of the hair dryer if blown directly on his face, as he does to freshly cooked oatmeal. He opens his beak and works his neck forward and backward, reverting to the motion baby parrots make when they are being fed.

One of the oldest American Eagles killed by power lines--

Hi, Donegal, You might be interested in this news item: Best wishes, Jackie Dover

Term of venery for the day- A group of gerbils is called a horde.

Other news not gotten to yet:
We had an appearance of one of the opossums this evening. I also went looking for possible owl cavities at Storr's Lake Wildlife Area by myself a little too close to dark and almost got myself benighted out there.

While off the path following a snow trail that a single person had previously broken in two to three feet of snow, depending, which suddenly veered in the wrong direction-- I had to backtrack with great vigor, speed, and difficulty. I was reminded of a factoid I'd forgotten. Putting one's feet into previous tracks going the same direction is comparative cake to trying to use them going the other direction. I did get to the main path which really isn't all that
main in this particular area by the end of civil twilight. Then I heard something that sounded like it was going along in the woods parallel to me as I walked down the path. Maybe a disturbed deer, or a raccoon or opossum that wanted the little bag of open Fritos in my parka pocket but what if it wasn't ? Okay the second two might want the Fritos but somehow I can't see a deer going for them.

I had my phone with me, but it came to mind that if there was another cougar around here as there was last year, I might not be able to
use my phone. I decided I'd just have to take Mr. Cougar's picture with my camera and if he got too friendly, I'd just have to thump him in the head with it. (This is what you get for taking a Cougar Workshop.) Besides I wouldn't have heard him if he were a cougar. And yes it would be a "he", as males roam further and so far there is no breeding population in Wisconsin. Suffice it to say, after thinking cougars for the last half mile, by the time I got to the car I had had quite enough aerobic exercise and was puffing like a locomotive.

Golly, I seldom worry about cougars or getting benighted in snow in Central Park. Possibly because most of the paths are surfaced with something, cleared of snow often, and there are, you guessed it, street lamps that light said paths for the most part. And we don't even have deer or coyotes in CP nor rabbits either come to think of it, or even chipmunks..ah the dreaded Chipmunk! Let alone bears and cougars. Of course the bears are sleeping currently, though--- we did have a thaw earlier today....

Donegal Browne

Just Look at That Pale Tail Feather! We've Got A Marker For Progeny

Photo courtesy of

Now there is the ultimate difference between Pearl the Pale Beauty and Pale Male. Just look at that white tail feather! Or to put it scientifically Pearl is likely a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk or one could say she has the gene for leucisticism.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon catch John Blakeman's essay on Marie Winn's blog

Give this gene for leucisticism which Pearl likely has, some thought. Then think about how pale the monarch of Central Park, the redoubtable Pale Male is.

As Pale Male passed his coloring arguably most noticeably to Pale Male Jr. and to the late Tristan, both pale hawks themselves, though as he apparently hasn't got leucisticism, nor do any of the other resident hawks in New York City as far as anyone has observed-- when the eggs hatch this year (fingers crossed, positive thoughts for that outcome) some of those youngsters may carry Pearl's gene for leucisticism themselves.

Though not total proof positive of parentage it's a much closer marker than just very pale coloring, (which eyasses of these too could very likely have), body shape, and behavior which is all we've had so far in attempting to follow Pale Male's genealogical line in Red-tailed Hawks around the city.

And as leucisticism is a peculiar and therefore particularly interesting aberration in Red-tailed Hawks perhaps one of these days we'll get that DNA testing of feathers going for Pale Male's line after all!

I cannot wait for the 2011 hawk season to get into full swing!

Donegal Browne

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pale Male Takes a Bath, Chris and Carol Crow Eat, and the Squirrel Tail as Portable Windbreak

Photo by Francois Portmann

Birder, Hawkwatcher and pro-photographer Francois Portmann caught Pale Male just as he was coming out of his bath in Azalea Pond. (Wouldn't that be a tad COLD?)

Photo by Francois Portmann
What's that?

Photo by Francois Portmann
How about a closer look.

And he's OFF!
For more of Francois' Hawk Mania go to-

11:40:52 am Carol appears to be watching something, likely another bird. Whether friend or foe I don't know as I can't see it.

11:41:16 am Carol hops down off the stump where there is a chicken breast in the snow. Is she attempting to tear a piece off?

Either she couldn't get a bite torn off or she was caching it by covering it with snow. She hops back up on the stump.

She begins to eat stew.

Whatever she was looking at has changed position.

Back to stew.

11:43:44am Now a bite of noodle casserole.

Back to stew.

11:46:05 am She flies to the bath and looks again at likely whatever she was looking at before, it has progressed further north.

11:46:15 am Now back southwest. She takes to her wings and flies west.

2:16:35 pm Later in the afternoon, Carol, right, is back on the stump and Christopher flies in and joins her.

2:17:11 pm Carol sees something. It's her turn to do sentinel duty as Chris has just arrived to eat. She takes off to the west.

Chris continues to eat.

With a bite in his beak he watches to the west.

Back to the stew.

Then he looks at me, pauses, and takes off toward the west.

It's been below zero for most of the last two days. When I first looked, this squirrel was sheltering in the lee of the picnic table and she had her tail crooked over her head. Then she moved down to eat and whenever she went into this upright eating posture she positioned herself so that her tail was covering the part of her body being struck by the wind. The squirrel tail often used for balance, and curled around the body in sleep like a blanket, is also used as a portable wind break.

Donna Browne

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

John Blakeman Rethinks Pearl's/ Pale Beauty's Age (Consort of Pale Male) and a Red-tailed Hawk vs an American Crow

Photo courtesy of

Long time contributor and Red-tailed Hawk Specialist John Blakeman gets a clearer look at Pearl's eyes and revises her age.


The photograph of Pale Beauty on your website more clearly shows the distinct coloration of her irises. They are a bit darker than I first thought, from some earlier photographs of reduced detail.

Clearly, this bird is in her third, not her second year. She doesn't yet have the ultimately dark, saturated brown irises that Red-tails have in the fourth and subsequent years.

And this may account for her displacement of Ginger, who clearly, with yellowish irises, was in only her second year. Pale Male, it would seem, has preferred a more mature new mate, not a youngster in her first year of sexual maturity. At his age, the selection of a very young mate might have been a bit presumptuous. Pale Beauty, clearly, is still a young adult, but a year older (And wiser?) than Ginger was.

For a while, some of us might have entertained the name "Lolita" for that first bird, given the respective ages of the now-dissolved and unconsummated pairing. PM's reputation is once again restored with this older new consort.

--John Blakeman

3:46:05 pm
Temperature: 8 F.

Earlier today, I looked out the door and far over into the park a large bird was flapping toward the north. Ordinarily these large birds turn out to be crows but there was something about the wing beats. the curve and undulation of the wings that looked like-Yes! A Red-tailed Hawk.

Though the park with it's sports lights for perching and open ground for hunting would seem to be a prime Red-tailed Hawk haunt, particularly as it is rampant with romping rabbits, rodents, and abundant squirrels going from one wooded area to the other, I very rarely see Red-tails over there. I've seen them more often but still very infrequently perched unobtrusively in the trees adjacent to the houses.

I've wondered about this phenomena before and even taking into account the fact that at times the fields are in human use and at others, like now, covered in deep snow, there are still times, it would seem, when even a hawk who isn't human habituated could still happily hunt. But evidently not because I don't see them doing it.


Well, today's Red-tail, a juvenile, evidently doesn't know why or doesn't care as she's doing it anyway. She scans the northeast, where across the road the local high school has a grassland where the tops of some of the seeded plants still poke their heads through the snow cover. Perhaps there will be small mammals availing themselves of the seeds.

Now to the north, where more sports fields abut a tree line.

To the west- sport fields, a treeline, and a harvested corn field.

Now back to the north, and that appears to be just what Chris Crow has been waiting for.

3:48:26 pm

The young hawk's head is turned and Christopher comes in from above and behind, then dives for her head pulling out just in time. He does a second pass and starts a third but before he gets close she takes to her wings and heads determinedly away.


This area is in the territory of the C Crows- Christopher, Carol, and Chris Jr. I watched the hawk fly in and light, then took the top photograph at 3:46:05pm. My last photograph was taken at 3:48:26pm.

It takes me ten seconds when digiscoping to reset the timer, allow it to run, and get the next photo. By the time the next photo could be taken the hawk had left the perch and was out of frame.

Therefore this Red-tail was in my view from the house, for under three minutes before she and Chris were out of view.

Could part of the reason I rarely see Red-tails in the park be that before I've had a chance to see them the crows have already shooed them away?

I'm thinking that might well be part of the answer.

And why do I see hawks in the trees slightly more often than on the very visible perches of the sports lights?

Whereas a hawk perched in trees near a house with a feeder for instance, might not be seen immediately by the crows, nor even less often by me, due to cover they might perch there more often due to a possibly higher prey base because of the feeder.

Eventually the crows do find the hawk and will harass her until she leaves. But in doing so near the house, I hear the crows mobbing the hawk, and am lured to look, and I'll see the crow's behavior and possibly see the hawk, which I wouldn't have without the cue. Also chasing a hawk out of tree is best done by several crows making the event noisier and more visible.


From Robin of Illinois, pertaining to the cross fostering of Cheetahs. Did you know that if a Cheetah mom only has one kitten that she won't produce enough milk for it and it will die? Therefore in order to have young nurtured by their mother you must have TWO--

And while I was at the NPR site, I discovered that there has finally been a study that proves that yes, dogs can smell cancer. Back in the 18th century, it has been reported that the nun who ran the Hospital of Angels in Paris had a number of dogs across her lifetime who could point out hidden infections, cancer, and a variety of other ills.

Donna Browne