Saturday, February 08, 2014

Pale Male and Octavia Sky Dance and The Very Hungry Crow


Pale Male (up left), and Octavia are doing a little sky dancing or more properly, they are performing courtship flights, these days.  And the way one can tell if copulation is happening (no word from the ground on that yet) or soon copulation will be is that they begin to hang their talons down as they fly.  See Octavia's legs?  Not tucked up as they usually are during flight.  It won't be long now!


Earlier today I looked out the window toward the feeders and there was a Crow standing on the privacy fence.  She didn't look good.. Her feathers were more puffed up than the other Crows and she was squatting a little so her feathers covered her feet slightly.  But the biggest thing was that she looked right at me and instead of taking off to a higher perch as is normal for Crows, a suspicious species,  she just stared at me.

I flashed back on a conversation I had yesterday. I'd been talking to one of the local rehabbers and she said this time of year is what she calls "the dying time".  It is particularly the case this winter as the temperatures are single digits or below zero almost constantly, the snow is very deep, so overwintering creatures have depleted their fat reserves and there is yet no end in sight of  deep winter..

She looked BAD.

I looked around for something to grab quickly so I could immediately go and put it out on the goodie stump.  I grabbed my coat,  a stale bisquit, and the tail end of a loaf of raisin bread and headed out the back door.  When I turned the corner she was still there.  I held my hands out so she could see I had food.  Her two companions, remember a Crow foraging party tends to be three birds, had taken off just as I came around the house.  I got half way to her before she finally flew up into the Pondorosa Pine.  I watched her go but she stumbled when she made to land on the branch.  Another bad sign.

I broke up what I had and laid it on the slat on the fence instead of the stump so it would be easier for her to get.

I purposely didn't open the curtains or look out the window to watch as I wanted the weak Crow to be comfortable getting the food as soon as possible.  I got on with other things.

A while later I went to the laundry room and  looked out the curtain covered window to check if the food was gone.
The food was gone and the Crow was back sitting on the fence.

She obviously sees me but doesn't flush off the fence. Unusual.  

Oh no!  

They hadn't had enough in this bitter weather.  

Time to get out the big guns and something more nutritious than bread with raisins in it.

Time to raid the fridge for the good stuff. 

If it were me what would I want.  I rummaged.  Ah ha!  I'd made homemade beef stew some days ago and there was some left.  Actually with fragmented food you aren't really supposed to eat it after three days.  Perfect excuse to share.

Out it came.  I stuck it in the microwave to take the chill off and headed out the back door.

When she saw me instead of flying up into the pine she just flew a few feet over onto the top branch of the Sparrow Pile.  A squirrel had taken refuge there as well and she pecked at him when he tried to get on her skinny branch which likely would have dumped both of them.

 She watches.  Alert.  But she is sticking to the branch and not flying away.  I'm really quite close.  I spoon the stew out onto the slate of snow covered wood that holds up the suet feeder. It  is right below where she had been previously perched.  I turn and head back to the house, then throw my coat off and head for the appropriate windows.  

Drat!  I hadn't opened the curtains even yet.  This will spook her.

I pull the curtains back
By the time I get to the laundry room she is leaning forward looking at the stew.  It will be the chunks of meat that she is craving.  She sees me and sticks.

One foot tucked up in her belly feathers for warmth, she stares at the stew.  

I hope she soon feels comfortable enough to fly over and eat.  I don't detect the other Crows.  Interesting.  They are letting her go first twice.

I turn and walk from the laundry room.  I don't try to spy on her from other windows; I busy myself with other things.

12 minutes later when I peer out the laundry room window, every speck of meat is gone and there had been numerous large chunks.

The potatoes and carrots remain.  Good.  She's had enough and no fear the remainder will go to waste.  Not in this weather. Someone who needs  the calories will eat it.

Well kind readers, I'd meant to put Part 3 of the Eagle search up tonight but as it is 5am.  Part 3 is best left for Saturday.

Just in time to finish that part of the saga so I can go looking for Eagles again on this Sunday too.

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Part 2 of the Sunday Miscellany

When last we met our feathered friends, Rock the Bald Eagle had just fled a mobbing by Crows to parts unknown on the other side of the river.

Then surprisingly the Crows continue to fly into the tree line bordering the Rock River on their side and continue screaming with the Bald Eagle out of sight but they don't follow..  What's going on.

There hadn't been much on the river during this ruckus but what there was, a pair of Geese...

...who then take off  from upriver and follow the Eagle through the trees on the far side. 

Then a single Mallard does the same.  ???

Then  I see her!

A Red Fox is running on the other side down river and the Crows raise their vocal level a few notches and really go crazy.

An Eagle is one thing, they have a tendency to prefer fishing, but a fox doesn't mind a tasty meal of bird one little bit. 

 Fox slows down to a brisk walk, sniffs the air, and the Crows go utterly mad.
She stops and looks upriver.
Then she looks over to my side of the river and appears to see me.
Off she goes in haste.
She heads towards the pier.  Keep in mind as my side of the river is a lumber yard, on the other side just up the hill are private residences.  She sticks to the only cover available close to the river's edge, the pier.
For whatever reason she then jumps up onto the pier and the first Crow crosses the river above her, cawing.  Ah there are a pair of Mallards very nearly under the pier.
She looks at the Mallard pair.  I look up to check the crows.
I take only a quick look up. But it is enough. I look across the river again and I'm flummoxed.  She's gone, the sneaky little vixen.

But wait.  Look carefully.
See the three uprights in the center of the frame.  A tall one with two shorter ones left of it?  Now look in the space below the pier between the tall upright and the next shorter one to the left.   Ah ha!  There is a fox appendage running diagonally between the two.  Leg?  Tail?

 And she is off like a shot through the snow.
My last look at her is when her head pops out from behind a tree and she slips into the woods and utterly disappears. Note  the Crows in the trees above her head.

Did the Fox cross some line of demarcation upon entering the woods because the Crows now come flying back across the river, still cawing madly of course.
It is then that I notice there is a hole in the ice with hundreds of tracks around it.  Ice fishing hole?  Seems unlikely.  Too close to shore.  Just a minute where is the shore, and am I standing on ice that thin?  I retreat.

I later ask some Wisconsin natives just what that hole is....well...?  No, not an ice fishing hole.  Not a spring bubbling up either as they tend to make a perfectly round hole in ice.  The concensus was that some larger animal cracked through the ice and everyone else from little birds to whoever didn't feel all that comfy going to the edge of the ice of the river to drink, and weren't really capable of making the hole themselves, drank from the hole conveniently created by the other species.

 Really lovely how nature fits together isn't it?

 Having mulled that for a moment,  I realize that the murder of Crows is heading off in mass above the trees downriver and past the bend towards an area which from all I can tell, appears to be sporting stadium lights.

What can I do?  I jump into the car and attempt to find a road that will take me by a somewhat longer route to the place  that the birds...well... are going "as the Crow flies".

 And just what have my very noisy Crow buddies found for me this time.  Alright!  It's a Red-tail.  See what look like backpack straps on his back? 

 This is really a rather dark Red-tail.  He just keeps staring...and staring...and staring.  I don't want to bug him so I get back in the car even though I am quite far away.  He continues to stare.

I start the car.
Upon the sound of the engine, he turns back to his business and I realize that the Crows have all flown away back to the river.

I decide to go back to the river myself as Red-tail will likely like some peace to focus on his hunt.

And yes there is more!  Part 3 of the saga continues next post!

Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Sunday Miscellany, Eagles, Crows, name it!

On my second trip to Indian Ford on the Rock River on Sunday, the morning trip had proved fruitless, a Bald Eagle cruised in for a little afternoon fishing across the river and landed on a favorite branch.  As to the favorite branch part, that was information from Patty, a waitress at the Edgewater Diner, across the road from the dam, who divides her time between waiting on patrons and running outside now and again to check out what is happening on the river.

Earlier while I was having breakfast at the Edgewater, I ran out myself  to check out the ducks who all seemed to be attempting to crowd into the small spot of open water above the dam.  Part of there crowding may have had something to do with the fact that that particular spot is a favorite duck feeding area.

At first the spot had plenty of room.  Then for whatever waterfowl reason the place got extremely popular.



Note the three ducks coming down center; a collision waiting to happen.

There is a definite scrum but no one seems to mind all that much.

There is a certain amount of submersion involved but no one seems to mind that all that much either.

Then things settle down...well as much as mallards tend to anyway.  

Not having any Eagle luck so far  I decide to go into Janesville where there are public areas with views along the river not made inaccessable by private property.  Besides remember Rock and Jane the Bald Eagles that hung out along the Rock River near the boat launch next to the lumber yard?  They might be around.

When I turned onto the lumberyard road  instead of seeing Eagles...
I saw a treeline full of Crows.
Everyone of them cawing their brains out.  
And they appeared to be staging their way towards the river.  The area in which Rock and Jane often fished.
Sure enough they were making their way toward the lumber yards boat launch.  See the roof left.
Sure enough there was Rock in the pairs favorite tree decidedly looking away from the crows.
Though he did turn and give me a look.  Evidentally deciding I was reasonably harmless as usual...
Then I got the profile...
And as the crows moved closer a determined turning of his back.

Then Rock took off but the Crows redoubled their efforts.  What's going on.  I looked down at the river.

OKAY, I just looked up at the previous section and most of the photographs have disappeared from the draft.  I'll publish this section and the story will continue tomorrow.  In hopes the pix will stay where I put them....