Thursday, December 05, 2013


Just in from long time Hawkwatcher Stella Hamilton,

Stella reports- The scaffolding and netting have all been taken down. I went to Hawkbench  to see it for myself. I have also been notified by another hawk watcher that Octavia has been on the nest . 

 More this weekend. 



It appears that all is well. There is free nest access on 927 Fifth Avenue once again.

  Let the Hawk Season begin!

Happy Hawking!

The Oscar Mayer Red-tail

 Photograph by Paul Anderson

For whatever reason, Paul Anderson of  Wisconsin has a tendency to run across all sorts of avian wildlife while at work. In the past he's  stumbled across Bank Swallows nesting in a construction site,  Sandhill Cranes traipsing between parked semis, and his latest, a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the windowsill of the Oscar Mayer Plant in Madison, Wisconsin.  He said originally the hawk had been looking in the window but by the time he got his phone camera out she refused to turn around.  

Typical isn't it?

Happy Hawking!

Donegal Browne

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Thanksgiving Fiasco, the Hosts and Guest from HELL or ( Photos of Cooper's Hawk and Avian Prey Not For the Sensitive.), the Collision of Diametrically Opposed Universes Shatters Worlds

Let me make it clear, this is not what I saw when I very mistakenly called out to the family in which I had been invited as a guest for Thanksgiving, "There's a hawk in the tree! ", but rather-
What I saw was more similar to this though at first the prey was hidden beyond the twigs and under the hawks talons.  I stood still so as not to flush the hawk with any quick movement.  Whereas the others being beyond the view of  the window could rapidly get my camera out of the bag etc,  while I stood stock still and slowly reached my arm out  to be handed my camera.  

Now perhaps if I'd known that the hawk had nabbed a woodpecker, possibly out of the feeder directly in front of the window.  A feeder in which no cover whatsoever was provided for the feeding quests or even allowed in this circumspectly shaved and trimmed yard typical of Wisconsin even though this was like putting up a sign, PLEASE EAT THESE BIRDS, to any predators including the farm cats that live in the barn behind the house.... 

A caveat: As I put up feeders, a rather unnatural arrangement, which offers little or no natural cover for the feeding birds,  I go to great lengths to try and make the feeding area as safe as I can  for the birds at the feeder as hey, yes I'm feeding them but I'm feeding them so I can watch them at my convenience therefore I owe them. 

But as usual I was so focused about seeing a hawk and so programmed to share,  likely nothing would have made a bit of difference to my commentary.

When a raptor makes an appearance, I go automatically into Hawk Bench Mode and I share the information with the world. 

 It's a New York City mode,  the folks on the Bench want to know.  Plus the more eyes focused on our collective interest of the moment, the bigger chance of tracking the current focus of our attention as time goes on, right?   And as everyone is looking at SOMETHING the passers-by,  utter strangers, most often want to know what is going on too. And let me add, they are utterly delighted to have  a hawk pointed out for them in the middle of New York City.

This has been my universe.

I had completely utterly forgotten I was in a completely other universe.

If only I'd kept my mouth shut.
I say, " Oh, I think she got a Woodpecker."  This isn't something I'm dying to see, you understand,  but I don't want the Accipiter to go hungry and they eat  birds. According to the research, the majority of birds taken are injured or ill or elderly. It supposedly helps keep the flock healthy. But I'd ever so much rather she'd have taken a Starling or other exotic of which there are horrid hordes... but nature is nature.

Then the hawk begins to wiggle the prey, and a Thanksgiving family son in his 50's who obviously is not familiar with the urges of young hawks, in that they can tend toward, it was so great killing it the first time, I'll kill it a second time, behavior.  Which our Accipiter then goes through the motions of  doing.
The hawk leaps on the prey again.

The son once again says, "It's moving!!"  

His eighty-five year old mother, cries out angrily, "It's killing MY woodpecker!!!!"

I try to say calmly, "No, the woodpecker is dead. It is too late to try and save it.  The hawk is moving it."

I do not say, That isn't your woodpecker, she was a free bird, with her own life, and  her own choices.  She made the decision to come to your feeder.  No one owned her.  She was free!

Mom then asks, "Are they protected?"

I'm getting a very bad feeling about this,.  I say quietly, "They're protected."

My friend, a wife of one of the brothers, says nothing.

Mom says loudly, "I don't care if they are protected or not, GET THE GUN!"

I think,   I can't really be hearing this.  GET THE GUN?

My brain has frozen...This is a federally protected bird...  Protected since 1918 by the International Migratory Bird Treaty... You just can't go around shooting them!  Well evidentally they can...

This is going to be BAD.  VERY BAD.

I've got to get the hawk to fly without making the situation any socially worse.   Could this Thanksgiving possibly be any more excruciating?

I'm their guest from hell.

On the other hand they are my ultimate hosts from hell, and if this hawk gets shot, I'll never forgive myself.  Do I threaten to turn them into the Feds?  Obviously reason isn't going to be working here.

Sharpie has acquired immediate varmint status, and nobody is going to be asking anybody for a permit, which they likely wouldn't get anyway, it's a BIRD FEEDER issue, not the slaughter of the all the farms chickens....  Which they don't raise anyway.  In fact they rent  their land to commercial enterprises to crop,  there is no livestock whatsoever on this farm.

All this amazing crap whirls through my head in about 2 seconds.  There has been enough ruckus for the Sharpie's attention to be drawn to the house.

But she still isn't moving.  Finally she takes off towards the east.  I run for the back door.

Sure enough Dad is in the mud room loading  the gun.

Oh God.  What do I do?

 I don't pause I just run past Dad and head out into Wisconsin winter in my shirtsleeves and don't even notice.

Where is she, where is she?

If they shoot her I'll never forgive myself.  I'll have to report them or they'll just keep doing it. They can't afford it. 

Ugly, All utterly ugly.  What do I do to stop this?


I'm so hoping she is gone so there doesn't have to be a confrontation.  Talk about bad manners.

But no, there she sits right there in a tree in the back yard.  NO!

The brother who said the woodpecker was moving, appears with the gun.  He starts to take aim.

I am between the hawk and the gun but she is far above my head and can easily be shot over my head.

There is nothing to be done.  I turn square towards him,  plant all of 5 feet and 100 pounds of me and say in my best potent Shakespeare voice, DO NOT SHOOT THE BIRD.

He is completely full of adrenalin and isn't into be interrupted at all.

He responds loudly and confused, "WHAT?"

I hold my ground and say again, "DO NOT SHOOT THE BIRD."

He sputters and bounces the gun, says things but I'm too far gone to make sense of any of it or even remember it.

For whatever reason, I say, "Well if you're going to be angry, I can just go home."

I have no idea why.

He sputters, turns around, and goes into the house.  

I totter towards the hawk without even taking a picture of her in her current perch.  I know I have to get her out of here but I'm feeling really shaky legged.  I keep coming and  she finally takes off.  

The woodpecker is heavy for her.

She flies with the typical flap, flap, soar,  of  the Accipiter.

Keep flying.  Keep flying. 

 Then she turns to the NE.  I will her not to land on the power poles.  Keep flying out of sight.  Keep flying.

I  turn around, walk  towards the barn, and hide. 

What happened?  What?  I'm the company and I implied he wasn't being nice to the company?

Just as  I had had no idea anyone would shoot a hawk right in front of me, as matter of factly as buttering a roll.

 They had no idea I would mind if they did.

Different universes.

And as I hadn't driven myself and therefore had no car to escape in, eventually I went back in the house and took pictures of everyone gathered at the Thanksgiving table.

Then we played Turkey Track Dominoes, which I 'd never played before.  In fact I'd never played any games that used dominoes.  In a blur, I won by hundreds of points.  It embarrassed me.

Then time for the obligatory offer of leftovers.  And during  that shuffle, the Mom looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, "Wouldn't you be very sad if your Woodpecker died?"

I said, "I was very sad that the Woodpecker died.  But I'd also be very sad if I knew the hawk was starving."

Other voices swept over us.  Then I had my coat on, my cake carrier in hand, and was gone.

Different universes.

Donegal Browne