Saturday, March 08, 2014

Pale Male Has Lunch, and Oh, For a Summer's Day!

Photo courtesy of     
                                                        Pale Male

Hannah Albrecht, who works not far from Central Park, had a chance encounter with Pale Male on her lunch hour...and as chance would have it, he was having lunch as well.

 I had picked up some lunch yesterday, and even with the weather like it is, I decided to walk over to the statue of Hans Christian Anderson. (Near the Model Boat Pond. D.B.)   I walked into the park, and down the stairs not a great distance from Pale Male's nest building.

I'd just walked past the path that leads to the Trefoil Bridge when I saw gray feathers sifting down out of a London Plane.  I looked up and there HE WAS!!  I was so excited I about dropped my coffee.

He was sitting on a thick branch getting his lunch ready to eat.  I could not pass this up.  I found a place to sit and eat my lunch where I could sit and watch Pale Male have his lunch.  We sat and had lunch together.  

There are times when New York City is the most captivating place in the world

 There is no question that New York City can truly be grand. And part of that at least for some of us, is that there is absolutely no other city in the world where you can have lunch with Pale Male.

Thanks for the sighting, Hannah!

I was gleaning through my photograph folders looking for something earlier today, and ran across the photo below. 

I glimpsed this photograph and it all came back.

It was an absolutely gorgeous summer day.  One of those days that just couldn't be better.  A day in which the sun shown just right.  A day not too hot, with a breeze that ruffled the hair from your forehead, and a blue sky decorated with white clouds that drifted...just a little.

I'd closed my eyes for a just a minute and when I opened them, these two pelicans flew through my line of sight and  above Sheepskin Pond. 

 One doesn't always know when things are suddenly going to mesh together as if nothing had ever in your life been out of place.  That day was just right and so were the pelicans.  

Oh, for a summer's day now, this minute...

Happy Hawking!
   D. B.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

What Does a Red-tailed Hawk Nest Look Like? Take Your Pick! And a Paper Documenting a Red-tailed Hawk Nest Tended By Three Adults

Most of us are familiar with Pale Male's nest, but this 2008 photograph with Pale Male's late mate Lola on the nest, shows the proportion of humans juxtaposed with the familiar image of the Fifth Avenue nest.  You must admit that this nest is one of the more spectacular urban Red-tailed Hawk Nests.

For why those men are up there see the link below.

And a classic rural Red-tail nest in a tall oak tree with plenty of visibility for occupants.  This nest was active on County Highway M, a few miles outside of Milton, Wisconsin, in 2009.

The M nest was occupied by a very experienced and downright clever pair of Red-tailed Hawks.  They were nicknamed Mr. and Mrs. M.  This is Mr. M sitting on the nest.  When he became aware that I was watching him for the first  time, he began to pull leafy twigs over his head.  I have watched many many nests yet I have never seen another Red-tail do this.  As I say the M's were extremely clever.  They are also the pair I watched hunt in tandem.  One hawk flushed a bird, and chased it rather leisurely into the talons of the waiting mate.

For a further look at their nest, and their fledglings-

 The urban but tree nest of the Riverside Park Hawks, Intrepid and Builder, in 2008, precariously perched on the end of a limb over a busy urban highway.

The formel, Intrepid, sits the nest.  This was the first nest of two first year parents.  The pair got better at nest positioning as time went on.

  Today I went out looking at nests that I knew about and ran across this Red-tail sitting in a thorn tree, surveying the field in front of a treeline where last off-season I had thought I'd seen a nest.  
Note the nest down and left of the hawk in flight.  By far the greatest pecentage of Wisconsin's rural Red-tail nests are in oak trees similar to the M's nest above.  This nest is not in an oak and it isn't in the crown of the tallest tree either, though it does overlook an open area.  There are no strong crouches for a nest in the crowns of these trees as well as the tree not being the preferred species.
Here is a closer view.  These trees run along a railroad track and the railroads periodically clear out the growth along the tracks. The nest is a bit skimpy besides.  It is possible that this is a secondary choice nest.  Though in other ways the territory is quite good.  Just a very very short way to the south is a dairy farm.  Cows eat grain in the winter and grain means rodents so this could very well be a high prey area so perhaps they've made the sacrifice of a less than prime nest tree for prey availability.  As far as I can see with what would be the bounds of a territory there are no prime trees.  There are other Red-tails surrounding this area.  We'll see what happens as the  season progresses. 
Screen Capture by Jackie Dover of Tulsa
Another urban nest, that of Kay and Jay (Jay featured above) situated on the TV tower of KJRH TV Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Also from today's excursion, a very large nest situated in an oak tree some miles from the previous rural nest. .  In fact this nest is large enough to possibly be that of an eagle though I don't see any of the super large twigs visible that are often found in an Eagle nest.  Also there is a house not far across the road from this nest.  Red-tails are cheeky enough to nest this close to humans but so far I've not seen an eagle's nest this close to a house.

Now we've covered the criteria of a Midwestern Red-tail nest, a few more of the creative Red-tailed Hawk nests in urban areas.

Photo by Peter Richter of
The substantial nest of Atlas and Andromeda on the Triborough Bridge in New York City.

 Photo courtesy of UW-Madison
A window sill nest on the campus of UW-Madison in 2012 which sported its own nest cam. 

And while I was looking into this nest I incidentally came across a very interesting paper which documents a Red-tail nest tended by three adults...the second case on record.
  For more on triple parental care, click the link below.

 Photo courtesy of
 The Trump Parc nest of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.

Photo courtesy of Brett Odom
Charlotte and Junior's next choice of nest sites after the Trump Parc site proved too exposed to reliably foster the hatching of eggs.

Isolde stands behind St. Andrews head at the nest of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Harlem, NYC,  just before feeding her eyasses.

As you can see, Red-tailed Hawks are brilliantly adaptive when it comes  to finding a site to build their nests.  Keep an eye peeled and you may find one in the least expected place.

Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne
Unattributed photos are taken by me.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

More Nest Building on the Edgerton Eagle Nest, Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot and Squirrel Watch the Birds, and an Albany Eagle Eats...Something?

 First off lets talk about the lurid and inconstant colors in the photographs.

It is minus 12 with a steady wind and as the nest is at least a quarter mile from where I can currently stand to watch it I have to digiscope in order to photograph the behavior.  Digiscoping consists of taking photographs through the cameras own lens plus the lens of a birding scope.

At minus 12 the camera I use for digiscoping looses it's ability to keep track of time and the chromatic aberration, the lurid purple on the edges of things and the distortion of overall hue, a product of the variable light having to go through so many lenses to actually record the objects,  becomes a major issue.  

Add the variable winter light, the moving trees....

Therefore once again we are talking documentation of these particular eagles and not beauty shots by any stretch of the imagination.

Got it?


When I appeared on the scene Mom and Dad appeared to be standing on the nest and looking at each other intermittently.
I began to think they were somehow conferring.

Then one might look away scanning the area.

Then the other and then they appeared to be looking at each other again.

Mom turns in my direction.

They do something in tandem.  ? And interesting attribute of Bald Eagles, which I have not seen in Red-tailed Hawks, is that they are capable of working together on a single task at the same time.  If for instance, a stick is too unwieldy
to be put in place by only one eagle, they both use their beaks at the same time to lift and position it.

Dad looks West.

He looks North.

He jumps onto his viewing stick, pans, and flies North.

Mom arranges twigs.  In fact at this point Dad's errand may well be a new twig or stick.

Mom pauses.   She looks.

She disappears into the nest.

See the white of her head and tail through the twigs?

He watches the placement.

He stands on his viewing stick, head outstretched looking focused and not a little pugnacious.

The Saga of Twigs will continue....

While back at the ranch, Quicksilver and Squirrel the little Tom cat are sitting companionably watching the feeder birds.

 I turn the light off so perhaps they'll be able to see out better  but Silver says, "BAD",  so I turn it back on.

Then I get this look from him.  Not at all sure what this one means.

But I do know what this look means.  Squirrel is in the throes of kitty birdwatching excitement and he has begun to twitch his tail.   Silver is about to go for it.  This would be bad, very bad.  So Silver and I go to the kitchen to find some apples and peanut butter.  Squirrel does not miss us.

In the meantime....
Photo M. Albright
Occasional blog contributer Mike Albright a former farm boy, sees a large bird tearing at something way out in a field.  He stops and waits until he can make out the white head and tail of a Bald Eagle. He attempts to take a photo of the event, above, with his phone that just happens not only to be near dead but plugged into the dash besides.  Can you see the eagle?

Look at the far horizon, the dense tree row which gets shorter as your eyes travel left.  Almost to the end where it disappears if you come back a bit there is a rounded orangey brown lump with a flatter something before it.  That's the eagle and the flatter dark spot is whatever she is eating. Mike's quess was that perhaps a calf  had died birthing and the farmer had brought it's corpse out into the field with the spreader.    

Photo M. Albright

A better photo by Mike after the eagle had finished the meal.