Friday, March 04, 2016


                                  IT'S A RED-TAIL!!!!!!!!!
 And indeed it was once I was able to ditch the car, scramble out, and get her in focus.
 This is the full photograph of the hawk to give you a "feel" for what she might be up to.
And here we are back to the cropped photo to try and get some characteristics in order to possibly ID her later.  She appears to have a medium dark defined belly band, streaks not blotches and  a medium dark head with a slightly lighter least in this light. No missing or broken feathers visible. 

And one more thing,  though I have been calling this hawk by feminine  pronouns as is traditional,  I don't actually know which sex she is.  She could well be male for all I know.

 Okay, I'll admit it.  

I have an automatic bias that I constantly have to keep in mind.  Pale Male of New York's Central Park, being particularly pale, has always been much lighter than any of his numerous mates.   This was also the case with the original Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Red-tailed Hawks.  The male, Tristan, though not as pale as Pale Male was far lighter colored than Isolde who was a particularly large, beautifully dark feathered hawk with big dark almond shaped eyes.  And down at the southern end of the park were sweet Pale Male Jr., and his dark buxom bride, Charlotte.  So the three pairs that I watched for many years all fit  the pale male and dark female color scheme.

Therefore I have to be careful not to be immediately mentally biased that the paler hawk of any pair is the male.   Once you see a pair perched together where you can compare size or are aware who does the lion's share of nest sitting you can be reasonably certain of their gender.  

And of course, if you're lucky enough to see them copulating, that's a quick clincher.

Now back to our hawk..... 
 She appears to be soaring, not much in the way of wing flapping, just gliding on the air currents.
Now she's heading away.  Be aware of her wing span and size just in case her mate appears so we can tell them apart.  It is that time of year and sky dancing could be imminent.

 And she comes back around.  Here's a reasonable look at her posterior view.  Also note the dark band near the free edge of her tail feathers.  From this view it appears that the band is on all her tail feathers.  Occasionally a hawk will be missing some of that dark band which can also help in recognizing a particular bird.  This can be due to genetics or occasionally to wear.

Do you notice anything unusual?  I'm afraid I didn't in the moment and only saw it when I brought up the photograph.  Look at the top left corner.  What IS that?  Possibly her mate flying far higher than she is?  Maybe.  Though the far bird looks rather "pointy" for a Red-tail.  It could be just an optical illusion during a down flap or perhaps...
Is it an Accipiter?  The other Red-tail's mate? 
Extremely hard to say.

She's actually quite high now.  She banks and gives me the eye.
                      Is she going to turn back?  Maybe. 

                                  Or is she heading out?

I cropped this photo down as I want you to see her wing span.  It appears quite wide.      This could be a female.

 She banks ever so slightly and catches the wind.  She's going to be out of here.  I can't follow on foot as she's passing over a huge muddy corn field.  Not only would I be up to my ankles in muck, I'd be trespassing besides.  

I run for the  car, get it get it off the verge, turned round, head down the long edge of the field, turn right,  do the short end of the field...

Suddenly I find myself  staring at a McMansion and I see the hawk disappear into the oaks behind it.


Where is she?

While I'm looking, possibly I should explain what a McMansion is.  As you will likely know this is not a typical clapboard or brick farm house.  Its  all too big in the wrong way, its the wrong era and besides it is surrounded not be silos, barns, machinery  and out buildings but  rather with things like canoes.....and a cute house for a dog.  Farm dogs do not have cute houses.  They'd be embarrassed.  They work for a living....


Thursday, March 03, 2016

Sunday With the Birds.. Teneyke Eagles and the Brodhead Sandhill Cranes

                                The Teneyke Eagle Nest 9:38 AM 

             There's the female and she is looking right at me.

 Then she looks away.  Finally she may have gotten used to me being across the field and has realized I'm not going  to  go any closer.

She's going  to be here for awhile so I head to check the Red-tailed Hawk nest down the way.

 No hawks on the nest yet of course but I do think there has been a little work done on it since I last saw it.

Next the conservation area...

More Canada Geese have arrived and there is a pair of  Sandhill  Cranes.  The same pair as before who came in with a young crane? 

 No way to tell.

They give me a look.
Then it is back to business.  The female preens and  the male forages.
The Sandhills preen and the geese remain  vigilant.  Currently Sandhill Cranes are not hunted in Wisconsin but geese are.  Perhaps that has something to do with the difference in behavior.  Perhaps not.  I don't know.

 The Cranes continue preening.  They aren't paying the least bit of attention partially because, I assume, I've stayed in the car.

Then the lead geese begin to go forward slowly.
And the rest, both geese and cranes, follow, foraging as they go.
Honking ensues and a pair of  flying geese appear out of the trees.
 They fly over and some of the strolling geese begin going to the other side of the water with more purpose.
The Cranes preen....and keep preening.

How's that for neck action?  She rubs the feathers on the back of her neck on her side. I'm always fascinated by the physical adaptations of birds.   She can't reach  the back of her upper neck with her beak.  Nor would using her feet be particularly handy.  And as her neck is capable of bending happily at a 45 degree angle she rubs it on her back. 
 Then some feather fixing on her right shoulder...

  ...and back to her head lying on her back.

Then when the female goes back to foraging the male begins to preen.

Then a Sandhill rattle call comes from the north.  Loud!  The cranes turn to look.  The calls continue.  I can't see anything through the trees and as a Sandhill rattle call can be heard from as far as 2 miles away who knows when something might actually appear.  
 The male Sandhill has left the water and  walks a small way  toward the sound and then stops.  He watches.

The female comes out of the water as well.
We wait and watch the eastern sky.  The rattle calls continue.
Eventually a third Sandhill appears above the trees on the edge of the Race.
 And the original pair takes to their wings going north and land in a corn field adjacent to the conservation area.

The third crane keeps coming.

The third crane lands not far from the original pair.

 Originally some days before I'd seen a threesome fly in as a group without issues.    I  had thought the third, might possibly be a colt from  the previous year.  Everything appeared quite familial. Which still could be the case,  but looking at the positions of the two females things look a little hostile and perhaps the pair would like junior to buzz off and get a life.  Or is this just an intruding female?
The pair takes off at speed and the third follows.

The pair has disappeared from my sight but the third is doggedly heading out after them.
 And off the third goes after the pair.

Something just occurred to me.  I haven't had extensive experience with cranes but previously if a crane called from a distance the ones in my view called back.  It's a racket to wake the dead.  The pair did not call back when the third called.  Fascinating.

  And the geese are left to their own devices.  

Time to go and check out the Albany Bald Eagle Nest. 
 On the way a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds flew right in front of the car.   
 See.  Red-wings.

 Though some like the bird on the right, with their  wings folded, looked a bit like feathered fish swimming through the air.

11:23 AM   The Albany Bald Eagle nest.
11:23:07 And here is who I take to be Mom with her head decidedly turned away. I periodically take a picture just in case she turns.
11:25:26  There we go!  She's looking well.  She then turns her head and keeps it turned.  I decide to try and make my way to the other side of the nest.
11:46:46  Not only did it take a bit to get to the other side of  the nest, she's back lit and further away.

Oh well.  Time to go look for Red-tailed Hawks!!!

More to Come!

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne