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More Nest Observations (Red-shouldered Hawk)

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  • Kate Marianchild
    Well, it seems there s only one hawklet, not two. Probably the adult clean-up behavior that I thought indicated a second hatching was continuing clean-up
    Message 1 of 6 , May 4, 2005
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      Well, it seems there's only one hawklet, not two. Probably the adult
      "clean-up" behavior that I thought indicated a second hatching was
      continuing clean-up after the first hatching.

      After the hatching day (Wednesday, April 27) I had to leave home for
      four days. I came home late Sunday. On Monday morning (May 2) I raced
      out to see what was happening. My vantage point is about 50 feet from
      the nest, on the ground, looking slightly up. One adult was sitting
      pretty high in the nest, looking down into the nest every once in a
      while. Then it began tearing at some food and obviously feeding it to
      young I couldn't see.

      I ran to my ladder and climbed onto the roof of my yurt, which is flat,
      from which I have a level view of the nest. The roof-top is twice as
      far away as the ground-based viewing point, but it affords a better
      view into the nest. There I saw one hawklet eagerly devouring raw red
      meat as fast as the parent could supply it. Its head was a very fuzzy
      off-white. The adult was indefatigable in supplying food, delicately
      tipping her head to the side with each offering, which apparently made
      it easier for the hawklet to take the meat from her. The feeding
      continued at an unrelenting pace for perhaps 8 minutes, at which point
      the baby lost interest.

      The adult swallowed a few morsels herself, and then tried to interest
      the baby in more. She would hold a piece in her mouth, tip her head to
      the side and proffer it to the hawklet. When it was ignored she would
      tip her head the other way, nudge the young one with it, and finally
      swallow the meat herself. After looking around a bit she'd tear off
      another piece, and again offer it the uninterested youngling. This
      process lasted for several minutes, with the hawklet occasionally
      accepting a piece, but mostly ignoring it's parent. Finally the parent
      gave up.

      Later that day I was able to see just a little of the baby's head from
      the lower viewing point, and watched as an adult flew in carrying a
      rodent. Both adults stood on the edge of the nest while one ate. So far
      these birds mainly seem to be catching mouse-sized rodents. I don't
      know my rodents well enough to be sure exactly what they are bringing
      in, but yesterday I might have seen a small gopher. The tail was short.
      Once I saw an adult flying about 40 feet from the nest with a bird
      clutched in its talons but the bird must have gotten away, because
      shortly afterward both adults were at the nest with no bird. [It says
      in the Birder's Handbook that Red-shouldered Hawks eat small mammals,
      birds, and snakes, but I suspect they actually don't take many birds
      (anyone?). I learned from Alida Morzenti (raptor expert par excellence)
      that there is a correlation between sexual dimorphism and mobility of
      prey: the more mobile the prey, the greater the sexual dimorphism.
      Birds are the most mobile prey, of course, and because the RSHA female
      doesn't appear to be significantly larger than the male, that would
      indicate that these birds don't prey on birds very much. I can't find
      my notes, but I think Alida taught us that sharp-shinned hawks have the
      greatest size difference. The male is so little he can't incubate the
      eggs because he can't cover them. There's more to this theory - e.g.
      why that correlation - but that's too much to go into here).

      On Monday I also saw an adult pick up a sprig of oak leaves and drag it
      to the edge of the nest.

      Yesterday (Tuesday) the baby was so much bigger (or perhaps stronger)
      that its entire head was popping up over the edge of the nest and was
      visible from the spot on the ground. My friend Larry and I held our
      business meeting at the viewing spot so we wouldn't miss anything. We
      again observed diligent provision of prey and feeding of baby. At one
      point after the baby was finished feeding the adult walked over to the
      right side of the nest and dragged a sprig of half dead oak leaves into
      the nest. It pushed and tucked until it was in just the right spot, and
      then flew away, leaving the hawklet alone in the nest. We speculated
      that perhaps the sprig was intended to hide the baby, and/or act as a
      physical barrier to predation. But it was put on the other side of the
      nest from where the baby was, so wouldn't have been very effective.

      The adults frequently leave the baby alone fairly frequently, but for
      very short periods - less than a minute, I'd say. They do this perhaps
      as often as every hour. I'm not sure why - perhaps to relieve
      themselves away from the nest. That bear investigation.

      I've gotten no response about a webcam. Would it need to be sheltered
      from rain? If so, I could provide a shelter quite easily.

      Kate

      Kate Marianchild
      Publicity Chair
      Peregrine Audubon Society
      katem@...
      707-463-0839




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    • Kate Marianchild
      On Saturday, after the Peregrine field trip, I asked Roger to show me the Blue Gray Gnatcatcher nest he had found in Low Gap Park. We went up there, and when
      Message 2 of 6 , May 8, 2005
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        On Saturday, after the Peregrine field trip, I asked Roger to show me
        the Blue Gray Gnatcatcher nest he had found in Low Gap Park. We went up
        there, and when he found it he was shocked to find it in a shambles.
        But as we tried to figure out what had happened, a gnatcatcher flew to
        it, then left rapidly. That happened again. We speculated that the bird
        was removing nest material.

        So Roger kept watching the disheveled nest while I ventured forth to
        find out where the birds were taking the nest material. While watching
        the gnatcatchers zipping around I got distracted by a couple of Anna's
        Hummingbirds. As I watched one of them landed, and close inspection
        revealed that she had landed on a nest (the first one I've found!).

        Shortly after that Roger and I simultaneously found the new gnatcatcher
        nest nestled in the crotch formed by two or three branches about 12
        feet up in a small blue? oak (the abandoned one was in a similar spot).
        I think there are no eggs yet.. The male and female were taking turns
        flying in and doing "settling-in shivers" - wriggling and rapidly
        shaking their bodies as if to try the nest out for size and see if they
        were comfortable or if they needed to make improvements.

        Roger set up his digiscope equipment and took both still and moving
        pictures.

        We walked further up and found other gnatcatchers zipping around and
        speculated that there must be another nest in the vicinity. There were
        also house wrens clearly nesting somewhere near.

        The red-shouldered hawklet is growing by flights and bounds. Now I can
        see to the middle of its breast from the lower vantage point, and it is
        spreading its wings occasionally. Today some friends and I watched for
        about an hour while it was raining (we were safely under a large picnic
        umbrella) and never saw an adult bring food, nor did we see the baby.
        That was the longest interval with no feeding and no sight of the baby
        yet. I speculate that it's harder to catch rodents when it's raining,
        and that the adult wasn't getting up and changing position because she
        was trying to keep the baby dry and warm.

        We left, and when I came back 30 minutes later the adult was almost
        finished with a feeding. When s/he finished s/he flew off and came back
        within a couple of minutes. I have now seen intervals of 2 minutes with
        no adult at the nest.

        Kate


        Kate Marianchild
        Publicity Chair
        Peregrine Audubon Society
        katem@...
        707-463-0839
      • Kate Marianchild
        I will be holding an Open Nest on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m to noon. Anyone interested in nest-watching should email me, and I will email back directions.
        Message 3 of 6 , May 11, 2005
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          I will be holding an Open Nest on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m to noon.
          Anyone interested in nest-watching should email me, and I will email
          back directions. Scopes welcome. Digiscopes particularly welcome!

          Who can tell me if raptor babies are fed whole, unregurgitated meat
          from the moment of birth. I missed the first few days of this young
          'uns life.

          Diary

          5/8,9 Rain. During the rain the feeding intervals may have been less
          frequent (harder to hunt?). I think the baby was left alone less,
          perhaps to prevent hypothermia. The adult on the nest seemed very
          conscientious about keeping the baby warm and as dry as possible. I
          worried that the baby might not survive, as I saw a red shouldered hawk
          nest fail two years ago, when we had eight inches of rain in April. But
          maybe that was an incubation failure. I couldn't see that nest well
          enough to know what was going on.

          5/10 (a.m.) Sunny day. Saw a parent bring a lizard to the nest. I now
          hear peeping when a parent arrives, even without food. Baby appears
          vigorous and has a good appetite. It's funny to see a sharply aquiline
          profile on such a fuzzy head and body. The bird overall appears to be
          about the size and shape of a small crookneck squash.

          The baby was left alone in nest for almost 3 minutes. That's the
          longest yet. During that time the baby was quite active, spreading its
          wings, looking around. It gazed straight at me for a while. The upper
          mandible is starting to turn yellowish - a light yellowish-green.
          Overall the baby is still grey-white, but I might be seeing a little
          bit of reddish fuzz appearing.

          (p.m.) Watched with Kayla. An adult brought in a large
          rodent, and transferred it to the sitting bird. Sitting bird became
          standing bird and fed her/himself, and the baby. Saw long-worm-like
          bits of meat. Intestines? Kayla and I both thought we saw something
          white fly out of the nest. Projectile pooping? Or was it a moth flying
          by? Baby left alone in nest for a couple of minutes. Was it trying to
          tear food on its own? Don't think so, but maybe. I suppose the adults
          will soon cut back on the tearing and proffering of food so the baby
          will have to learn to feed itself.
          This baby has to grow so much and learn so much in a mere 39-45 days.
          When fledging time comes I hope I can watch around the clock.

          5/11 (a.m.) Sunny day. Definitely saw something white ejected from
          inside the nest, vicinity of baby. Must have been projectile pooping.
          Quite a talent. Big rodent brought in. These parents are so competent!
          Why have I never seen a red-shouldered hawk catch anything? I've never
          even been aware that one was hunting. Mostly I see them sitting on
          branches or flying around and calling. I'll have to watch longer.

          To be continued..


          Kate Marianchild
          Publicity Chair
          Peregrine Audubon Society
          katem@...
          707-463-0839




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        • Kate Marianchild
          These pictures (below) were taken by Jon Klein yesterday. He climbed an oak to get closer to the nest, and has set up a blind with green sheets and camo
          Message 4 of 6 , May 12, 2005
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            These pictures (below) were taken by Jon Klein yesterday. He climbed an
            oak to get closer to the nest, and has set up a blind with green sheets
            and camo netting way out on a mossy horizontal limb. Pretty ingenious.
            I have pictures of him climbing the tree, and pictures of the blind,
            but on 35 mm. He came back today for more pictures, and is up in the
            tree right now. The light is more diffuse today, so the shadows won't
            be such a problem. He's hoping for some feeding pictures. I'm working
            on my laptop at the landlubbers' viewing point, so I get to watch it
            all.

            The absent adult is crying in the distance right now, so maybe it won't
            be long. (Jon is a young professional wildlife photographer, so please
            don't do anything commercial with these pictures and credit him if you
            send them on or use them in any way. And if you'd like to see more of
            his work, and/or buy something from him, please contact him at
            jon3klein@... or 937-0067.

            The hawklet is too big to fit under the mother today, so it is sitting
            and clambering around beside her. Sometimes quite close to the edge.
            Chastity, a Round Mountain denizen, I both started wondering about the
            likelihood of it falling out today. I can't imagine how a second baby
            would have fit in the nest. The baby is definitely chirping. I think
            it's hungry right now. It appears to be about a third again larger than
            it was yesterday!

            Oh, here we go! A rodent was just dropped off. The adult is ignoring
            it. Baby is cheeping away. Parent looks around as if wondering what all
            the commotion's about. My guess is that she's hoping the baby will
            start feeding itself....more waiting. Finally the parent gives in and
            starts delicately proffering food. It's sunny again, so the light might
            not be ideal for the pictures, but the birds are shifting positions
            quite a bit during this feeding, so I bet Jon's getting some good
            angles.

            Now both adults are on the nest, with the baby between them, oriented
            toward Jon. I hope he's getting some "proud parent" pictures. I laugh
            out loud because they look so beautiful through my binoculars, and the
            second adult flies off. Darn! Generally they seem pretty oblivious to
            noise, but I'm pretty sure I startled him. Sorry Jon!

            Jon came down and told me the male has the grayer head, is a little
            smaller, and is definitely the one hunting. Or at least that was the
            case today. It's good to have that question answered.


            __________________________________________________

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          • Kate Marianchild
            Hi All. This hawk diary business has become very time consuming! Between watching and writing and orienting friends to the nest, and entertaining friends who
            Message 5 of 6 , May 24, 2005
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              Hi All. This hawk diary business has become very time consuming!
              Between watching and writing and orienting friends to the nest, and
              entertaining friends who come to watch I'm finding it hard to get
              anything else done! Eeek! But it's a labor of love and this opportunity
              may never come again. Now my diaries are being printed in the Ukiah
              Daily Journal, with Jon's incredible pictures, so I am working more on
              the quality of the writing than I did on the installments I sent out
              before. (You'll notice a little early repetition in this installment,
              which is what I just sent to the Journal).

              Unfortunately the Journal all of a sudden printed the first unedited
              draft I had sent to them as a teaser at a point when I thought we were
              still in the negotiation phase. So I've learned never to send anything
              that I don't consider print-ready. But Richard, at the Journal, and I,
              are developing a good working relationship.

              Jon Klein has driven here from the coast three times now, and has spent
              4.5 - 5.5 hours in the blind at a time. Again, please don't send his
              photos on, or use them in any way without giving him credit. BTW, the
              Journal is going to do a full story on him, with pix. Richard
              interviewed him yesterday.

              For those of you on Mendobirds, for some reasons the pictures don't
              come through, but George Chaniot is posting them on the Peregrine
              Audubon website.


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              HAWK DIARIES (2ND INSTALLMENT FOR THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL)

              Special to the Journal by Kate Marianchild

              (This is the second installment of my diary about a red-shouldered hawk
              family that lives near my home. I live in oak woodland northwest of
              Ukiah. The nest is high in an oak tree, and is about 60 feet from my
              viewpoint. The sex of the hawk baby is not known, but I have decided to
              refer to her as a female in order to make the writing easier).

              Sunday, May 8
              Rain. The red-shouldered hawklet is growing by flights and bounds. She
              spreads her grey-white wings and the breath catches in my throat. She�s
              so young, and so new to her wings. One of the parents is keeping her
              warm. I�ve learned that only half of bird babies survive until it�s
              time to fledge, but I hope the numbers are a little higher among
              raptors. I hope this baby will fly.

              May 10
              She survived the rain. She is 13 days old today.

              Morning � A parent brought a lizard to the nest. I now hear peeping
              when a parent arrives, even without food. The baby (my goddaughter!)
              appears vigorous and has a good appetite. It's funny to see a sharply
              aquiline profile on such a fuzzy head and body. Overall she appears to
              be about the size and shape of a small crookneck squash.

              The hawklet was left alone in nest for almost 3 minutes. She gazed
              straight at me. The fleshy part at the top of her upper bill, the cere,
              is starting to turn a light yellowish-green. Overall she is still
              grey-white. She has about 30 more days to grow into her full size and
              plumage before she fledges.

              Late afternoon: Watched with Kayla. Kayla and I both thought we saw
              something white fly out from the center of the nest. Projectile
              pooping?

              May 11
              Sunny. Definitely saw something white ejected from inside the nest,
              vicinity of baby. Projectile poop. What a talent. Big rodent arrived.
              These parents are so competent! Jon Klein came and took pictures today.
              He climbed an oak to get closer to the nest, and set up a blind of
              green sheets and camo netting. Inside the blind is a structure of
              lashed 2x4�s that he sits and leans on. It�s way out on a mossy
              horizontal limb 25 feet off the ground. Ingenious. He figured out that
              the adult who spends the most time at the nest and feeds the baby is
              definitely the female. The male is smaller and has a greyer head.

              May 12
              Jon came back today for more pictures, and is up in the tree right now.
              He's hoping for feeding pictures. I'm working on my laptop at the
              landlubbers' viewing point.

              The hawklet is too big to fit under her mother today, so she is sitting
              and clambering around beside her. She appears to be about a third again
              larger than she was yesterday! What if she falls out?

              I hope something interesting happens so Jon can get good pictures.

              Oh, here we go! Dad arrives, huge wings spread for landing, carrying a
              baby rabbit. Rabbit transferred to Mom, who puts it down. Dad leaves
              the nest immediately. Baby chirp-chirps. Mom looks around as if
              pretending she doesn�t know the rabbit is there. Is she hoping the baby
              will start feeding herself? More waiting. Finally Mom gives in and
              tears off a chunk. She tips her head and delicately offers a morsel to
              her baby. The next bite is way too big for baby so she gulps it down
              herself. Mom has an absent-minded moment and drops a chunk of flesh on
              her baby�s head.


              May 12, 2005
              I heard a commotion and came out of my house. High overhead a
              red-shouldered hawk was screaming at a circling red-tailed hawk. He
              screamed and screamed until the red tail nonchalantly drifted out of
              �our� territory. I ran over to the nest. The baby was alone but OK. Had
              Mom participated in the defense of the baby?

              The little hawk was not very active today. I am worried that she is
              sick. I couldn�t help but think how helpless the parents would be if
              faced with a sick youngster. At around 6:30 p.m. the mother kept
              tucking and pushing a big sprig of oak leaves around in the nest. Maybe
              she�s trying to raise the floor, which must be pretty gunky by now.
              Baby has started scratching and preening. The tips of her wing feathers
              are turning black. They look like black fringe. The intervals when no
              adult is at the nest are getting longer - maybe 8-10 minutes.

              I have a burning question: where does the dad spend the night?

              May 14, 2005
              The mom is working at arranging lichen (old man�s beard). Does it help
              control mites and vermin? The baby falls over a couple of times while
              trying to move around in the nest. I wonder if she has a bad leg. Both
              parents are away for 50 minutes � the longest absence yet. I hope they
              haven�t abandoned the baby because she�s gimpy. I�ve become a very
              anxious godmother!

              Mother comes back carrying a branch with trailing lichen. Puts it on
              the floor of the nest. Oh, I get it! When the baby falls over it�s
              probably because she�s tripping on branches and twigs and lichen.

              It�s after noon and the baby hasn�t eaten since 9:30. Mama�s clearly
              wondering when Dad is going to come with food. She finds a dried up old
              carcass lying around in the nest and tugs hard to get a few ratty
              strands off of it. Baby chirps. Receives a skimpy morsel. Mom flies off
              with the old carcass clutched in one talon. She calls from nearby, but
              gets no response from Dad. She flies back and lands on a branch near
              the nest, still carrying the carcass. She keeps looking around and
              calling for her mate. I wonder if something has happened to him. She
              flies back to the nest, still clutching carcass. More than an hour
              later, at 1:21, Dad finally arrives with a rodent. A foodless interval
              of almost 4 hours.

              May 19
              Baby much bigger. Her wingspan might be 24 inches! She survived the
              latest unseasonable torrential downpours. She�s preening a lot, and
              walking more confidently on edge of nest. But she looks like hell -
              like a wad of cotton that got rolled around in dirty sand. It�s because
              her dark colors are coming in. Mama appears to be eating lichen.

              May 21
              Jon in tree. It looks like Mama is eating mites off the baby. How? Does
              she spear them with the hook on her bill? Dark banding is showing on
              baby�s tail. No sign of baby feeding herself yet.

              Jon comes down. He says my goddaughter is spoiled! Years ago he watched
              another red-shouldered hawklet, and by this age both parents were away
              from the nest most of the time. They would just drop off food and leave
              the baby to feed itself. Once he saw them drop off a live snake. The
              baby tried to swallow it live. The baby would get the snake halfway
              down and then it would wriggle back out! Gross. Jim Armstrong is
              watching a red-shouldered hawk nest right now, and �his� baby is alone
              most of the day. My goddaughter has her mom with her most of the time,
              and is still being fed.

              May 22
              I�ve been pondering the� spoiled baby� question. I have four theories:
              1) the baby is delicate in some way and needs extra care; 2) she is a
              slow learner; 3) there isn�t a lot of canopy above this nest, and one
              parent has to be there most of the time for protection; 4) the dad is
              such a good provider and the hunting is so good that this family can
              afford to have a Stay-at-Home Mom. I lean toward the latter theory.




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