Tuesday, June 26, 2012

History of Red-Tailed Hawk Family -- Part 3

Red-Tailed Hawk parent soaring over our house -- May 2, 2012
          Some of my readers will remember my posts from last summer on our resident Red-Tailed Hawk family.  If you have not read these posts, then you have not yet been introduced to the history of this family.  Problem solved -- you can learn more about the family or re-aquaint yourselves with their history by visiting the following posts: History of a Red-Tailed Hawk Family -- Part 1 and Part 2.  This post, Part 3, continues their story with this Spring's new chick, as promised.

          Fully expecting more nesting activity, I began to check, somewhat irregularly in late March and early April, the old nest site in front of the middle school around the corner from my house .  On March 31, I found one of the adults on the nest brooding.   Later in April, on one of my irregular checks, I did not observe the parent on the nest.  But I also knew that in a deep nest high up off of the ground I was not going to see any chicks until they were bigger.  Finally, as I was approaching the nest on April 20, I saw a parent fly from a branch on the nest tree to a favorite perch tree in the back of the school yard.  And peeking over the side of the nest, I saw this one small, fuzzy, whitish head.  The next day, I returned and took his photo and looked again to see if perhaps there was more than one head.  No, this year there would be no siblings!

First view of Red-Tailed Hawk chick  -- April 21, 2012
 I spotted one of the parents again keeping diligent watch from the perch tree behind the school.

Red-Tailed Hawk Parent watching nest -- April 21, 2012

          During this fuzzy-head time, I checked the nest a couple more times without taking photos.   On the evening of May 2, after a visit to the school-yard nest, I photographed one of the parents doing a flyby over our deck before landing in a favorite perch tree in the school yard.

Red-Tailed Hawk parent in a flyby over our deck -- May 2, 2012

           Then, on the evening of May 4, I heard a loud commotion of Mockingbirds and Blue Jays screaming insults.  Such a ruckus usually indicates that one of our neighborhood raptors is close-by and has made a kill.  Sure enough, following the sound of the indignant birds and watching the their dive-bombing, I was able to locate one of the adult Red-Tailed Hawks in an oak across the creek with a squirrel tail dangling from under its tail.  Carl was happy to hear that the family was feasting on squirrel that night as we do seem to have a never-ending supply!

Red-Tailed Hawk parent with squirrel kill -- May 4, 2012

            On May 12, I visited the nest again to see that the baby now seems fairly well-feathered.  What a quiet bird though!  We had not yet heard him making his loud shrilly calls from our yard.  I imagined he may be ready to fledge in a week or two and knew that I needed to begin listening for the tell-tale shrill screeches!

Beginning to look like a hawk with real feathers!  -- May 12, 2012

Contemplating life beyond the nest?-- May 12, 2012

          Finally, late in May, we began to hear him (her?) call.  We assumed that he had not yet fledged because the calls were coming from the same location.  But young birds begin to "branch"  -- that is they begin hopping about and flapping to other branches in the nest tree around the nest before they actually fledge.  When I had chance (I was end-of-the-school-year busy) to check on him, I found him in a pine tree about 40 feet from his own.  In fact, I found him there a couple of days in a row.  This is one slow-moving bird.  Later in the week, he had finally migrated to a tree about 100 feet from his nest tree.  This is one cautious bird!  I also noticed at this time how fat he seemed -- particularly in comparison to his rather thin father.  Meanwhile, the parents, when not hunting, kept diligent watch from the TV satellite dish high above the school, screaming their encouragements in true Red-Tailed fashion.

Father Red-Tailed Hawk (left) and Mother Red-Tailed Hawk left keeping watch -- June 23, 2012
          By the time Carl and I departed on vacation June 16, he (she?) was still limiting his circle to the school yard.  I hoped that by the time we returned, he might finally have ventured into the graveyard or maybe perhaps into our yard.  He certainly seems to lack the adventurous spirit of the previous chicks. 

         Thus, indeed, we arrived home this past Saturday (June 23), and when Carl checked the mailbox, he heard our young hawk's shrill call.  We determined that he must be in the graveyard behind the house!  First we had to greet our furry children, unload the car and unpack.  But finally, once most of that was accomplished,  I heard the tell-tale screams of the Mockingbirds and the Blue Jays -- also in the graveyard.  And then I heard the young hawk's response.  It was indeed time to check out the action.  Spying through the tree branches, I could make out his form hovered over what appeared to be a squirrel's nest.  So I walked over with camera in hand to check it out.  The other birds had quieted down since the hawk was indeed in a squirrel's nest feasting on squirrel!   It seems to me that the birds protest raucously longer when the kill is one of their own. 

Red-Tailed Hawk Fledgling feasting in a squirrel's nest -- June 23, 2012
           Oh my!  That is one big baby!  Now I believe that this chick could be a female.   She does look bigger than her scrawny dad!  She began crying out loudly when she spied me and her parents responded from their satellite dish perch.  But she also continued her feast.

Red-Tailed Hawk Fledgling -- in a squirrel's nest -- See the squirrel's feet? -- June 23, 2012

Red-Tailed Hawk in squirrel's nest -- hmm comfy accommodations with food!  -- June 23, 2012

       She is a cautious young lady.  I look forward to the day when she expands her territory into my yard -- just a few more feet!  Perhaps she will come this week!  I hear that girl screeching now -- but she is in the school yard.   I may just need to go visit her, with the camera, of course!

       Stay tuned!  My neighborhood hawks are not the only family of Red-Taileds that I have been following.  I am also posting right now a companion piece on "Another Red-Tailed Hawk Family Followed in Far-Away Cornell Land."   This one is mighty impressive -- not my camera work -- Cornell University's video cam work!  Click on the link and enjoy!

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