A Bird's Eye View into Nature's Reality

Posts tagged “Hawk

We’re Back!!

Many apologies for dropping off the face of the earth after dangling the carrot of a continued story.  Last year’s Hawk Nest watching experience became quite brutal for me.  As a result of abundant Spring rains the grass grew thickly, thus providing perfect hiding for smaller rodents.  Baby number 3 perished from starvation on the morning of day 16.  I am an empath and I am very emotionally involved with these birds. The parents have been returning to the nest for 8 years.  I photograph them every day that they are in the valley. The evening of Baby #3’s passing Mama B glided low in circles over me.  I talked to her, pouring out my heart telling her how sorry I was for her loss.  She crooned down to me in tones I had never heard her utter. It was a moment I will never forget.  I am still moved by it.

Baby #1 was ruthlessly aggressive to his siblings.  Baby #3 looked like a battered child the day he died.  Baby #2 slept next to, then later on top of his dead brother.   That afternoon Baby #1 began to irreverently  play with the lifeless body.  I swear Baby #2 cringed, looking over his shoulder, moving away from the macabre scene, unsettled by this behavior.

This was shot immediately after Mama B discovered that Baby #3 did not survive. Baby #2 is on the far right and Baby #3 is to the left of him.  The babies look furious because they thought Mama B was bringing them food.  Three days later Mama B fed the remains to the starving siblings.  She picked up her dead baby, looked over her shoulder at me, then stepped behind the cover of the one branch that affords them privacy.  I sobbed as I shot the scene.  None of the photos were in focus for the tears.  I to this day have not had the heart to watch the video I shot of this event.  I know it will be too up-close and too personal.

Last year I was outside shooting photos from dawn til dusk. I came inside only long enough to download film cards. I was shooting stills and digiscoping video at the same time. Baby #2 was hungry and crying for food almost every minute he was awake.  The sheer volume of material I had to wade through once I got behind and the emotionally challenging content rendered me unable to blog.

But that was then, this is now.  We’re Back!! I may do the blog a little differently this year, sharing more of my experience with these birds instead of telling a story about each day.  We’ll see.  Maybe there will be a little of both!

Last fall I found a dead hawk on the side of the road near my house.  I was convinced it was Papa B.  Gratefully I was proven wrong when he turned up alive and well with Mama B this Spring.  Though on St Paddy’s day I had reason again to be concerned for his welfare.  There was a brawl, which is only right given that particular holiday, but this was a hawk affair.  Either another male was trying to move in on his turf or one of their babies was getting a tough love lesson that they were no longer welcome in the valley.

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While this was going on Mama B began flying around, soaring over me, imploring me to do something.  I had no clue this battle was underway.  Mama B had given me the cold shoulder since last July when I got too close to her baby shooting pictures from my deck when the baby was only about 10 feet away on the ground. (Who knew hawks held grudges?) I thought she was letting me know she was done punishing me and was celebrating with me that they were back in the nest! So much for being psychic. Regardless, it broke the ice between us.  Much to my relief, Papa B did not fight to the finish and successfully chased the intruder off!  (photos are par because my 300mm lens was at Nikon for repairs- for over 3 weeks.  I was embroiled in a battle of my own trying to get my equipment returned before 2012’s babies took flight!)

I have to say it is quite a disadvantage being human with such weak eyesight when trying to have a relationship with these birds.  There is much room for misinterpretation.  For example when Mama B went to the nest to check on Baby #3 and discovered him dead, she looked at me before leaving the nest.  Here I thought she had brought food to the babies, and I was cheering.  Very bad faux pas.  So when Mama B is screaming that her mate is in a life or death battle and appealing to me for help and I’m spreading my arms and “soaring with her” in joy because “my girl has welcomed me back into their world”, I imagine she must have just shook her head at the poor afflicted being that I am and resignedly decided to take me back under her wing.

So, enough frivolousness. Down to business!  We have FOUR eggs!

Gratefully we have had a dry Spring here which I am praying bodes well for abundant hunting!  They built the nest much deeper this year than ever before.  For the first time I have been unable to record the exact dates eggs were laid.  Searching every photo I shot in the suspected time frame I believe the first egg was laid as early as March 30th:

It looks like there is an egg behind the pine cone that is parallel to the hawks tail.  That would put today at day 35 for Egg #1 which is the outer limit for hatching.  Tho last year all eggs hatched at day 38 so we will see when we see.  March 30th is all fine and dandy except I am pretty sure this is footage of Mama B laying an egg on April 12! Please disregard the background sound (a guided meditation by Christie Marie Sheldon).  My Canon Powershot Sd950 is on its last leg and will no longer “mute”.

I know for a fact that they were mating like crazy on April 8th.

I am a little concerned with the time span between Egg #1 and Egg #2 because by day 12 Baby #1 is going to see Baby #4 as a tasty little morsel.  I’m hoping that the late egg laying has to do with Egg #1 being a “blank” (It’s my blog,  I’m writing my own story here!).  Anyway, those of you who care, please send me Love and Light to carry me through any upcoming baby barbarism and hold a high vision that it will all work out just peachy!

So today, with dates fresh in my mind I was convinced an egg was going to hatch today.  I saw this photo and thought I had my proof!

Note the top left egg, on the far right side looks like it has a small puncture mark. I kept an intent vigil on the birds today. (I had kind of been “checked out” prior and didn’t quite understand it.  Then last night I realized I was all freaked out about being dragged emotionally over razor blades again.  So thanks to Christie Marie Sheldon’s clearing work I am ready to face this season with beginner’s mind!)  In a blitz I also blasted off to the grocery store a half and hour away to stock up on food because once they hatch I will not leave the house for the 1st week or so (except to hike the doggie!).  Upon my return, nothing.  No activity, just sedate nest sitting.   According to the Hawk Cam in NY city pipping (the process of a chick pecking through the shell to hatch) takes @8 hours.  The 1st NY eyas (hawk baby) emerged 9 hours after the first peck hole was sighted.  Wanting to know what was going on here, I examined the photo more thoroughly….

and realized the pip hole was an offshoot of a stick that was in front of the egg!  So today was a false alarm but tomorrow is a new day!  Stay tuned because Raptor Reverie is back in action!!


Crisis in the Valley

Given raptor behavior, it can only be expected there is going to be crisis and drama in the valley, for somebody, most of the time. This time it was Little Miss Entitlement, last year’s baby, (“Little MissE”, for short). As mentioned in 5/13’s post “Raptor Reality: A Lesson in Healthy Limits & Boundaries”, An adult raptor’s primary goal, beyond survival, is to raise the current year’s hatchlings to adulthood. This instinct is so strong they will even kill a prior year’s baby for endangering the brood. Well, Little MissE has been pushing her luck for months. Today she drew the short straw.

Little MissE flew into the valley in her blazing glory.

Little MissE

Mamma B screamed a warning to her.

Mamma B telling Little MissE to leave the nesting territory

Despite her Mother’s warnings she nonchalantly held her ground and continued to flaunt her presence. Little MissE appears to be furious with her mother.  Afterall, Little MissE is all about entitlement. She has been the center of her parents’ universe and is willfully attempting to keep it this way. So when Mamma B decides to escort her out of the valley, Little MissE vented her rage with a vengeance.

Little MissE attacking Mamma B

Mamma B caught off guard by the assault

Mamma B is a fierce bird, not to be contended with. Raptors mate for life. Mamma B and Pappa B have been together for 12 years. Pappa B’s role is to provide for and protect this year’s family would give his life protecting them. Pappa B showed up on the scene to deal with Little MissE. This did not bode well.

These birds move FAST. In a hostile situation they practically move at the speed of light. From behind the camera, I lost track of what was happening. All I know is, a high-speed chase ensued, and there were dive bomb maneuvers. Next I saw both parents hovering over an area and Little MissE was nowhere to be seen…

Mamma and Pappa B hovering

(Slideshow of them hovering follows…sorry but all photos from this post display on this)

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This went on for over 10 minutes. It was a sad moment in Raptor Reverie history. The babies scurried up the nest wall to have a look.

Baby #1 reported back to Baby#2 what was going on with their big sister Little MissE

Mamma B returned to the nest.

Time moved slowly as we all attempted to come to terms with what happened. A terrible void was felt. Could it be that Little MissE was no more?

Memories of her flooded my mind: Her daily flyby’s as a newly flying baby last year, buzzing within 10 feet of my door, screaming at me to come out and play with her (I would photograph her as she entertained me with her newly mastered airborne antics). The essence of her incredibly funny personality, always putting on a show for the camera, preening elaborately, striking funny poses, seeing if she could sneak up on me. Her sense of entitlement and her adamantly willful nature…a wilfullness that came at a high price.

Nature is a harsh teacher. All lessons, at their foundation really are about evolution and survival of the fittest. Contained within that is a natural order; social mores, behavior that is appropriate and inappropriate. Behavior that is enforced or annihilated, for the sake of increasing their rate of survival. Little MissE was allowed to skirt the valley. She was just not allowed to come within a certain range of the nest. Raptors eat. That is their most driving instinct. Raptors kill live meat to eat. Baby birds in an unattended nest are easy prey…even if it is your own siblings. Mamma B will even scream at Pappa B to leave the nest when he is bringing in food. Maybe the kill instinct is too fresh.

From what I have witnessed, Red-tailed hawk parents still interact with prior year’s offspring.  They fly together and interact. (Just the other day I saw Pappa B flying with 2 other hawks and Mamma B was still on the nest.  That means it’s the baby from 2009 and Little MissE!)   The parents continue to model hunting techniques. (I have since by told by the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program that they do not maintain family affiliations.  Once a fledgling can hunt for itself, the parents then view it as competition and visa versa)  From what I’ve observed, adult babies are not allowed back in the nest about 3 weeks after their first flight. The family pretty much leaves the valley as the fledglings gain independence and establish new territories. That is the order of things. Little MissE, not by trying to create her own order, but by trying to create her own order that risked the lives of her siblings, resulted in some pretty serious consequences. Death though?…Really?…

Before the reality of that could sink in Mamma B began her “Baby in the Valley!” scream. Could it be? I ran outside to see a very bedraggled but willfully obstinate LITTLE MISS-E!

Little MissE more than a little-worse-for-wear

She’s ALIVE
 
So all is well again in Raptor Reverie.  The babies are doing great and growing fast.  The babies did not get much press today so I will make up for it tomorrow. 
Until then, soar on the updrafts!

Bliss

Ya gotta love it when you start your day with Mamma and Pappa B soaring the skies together in what I can only describe as “Joy Flights”. I first noticed this activity on Baby #3’s hatch day. Mamma B hastily took leave of her precious brood to join her life long mate Pappa B in a celebratory “flight of fancy”, and were they FANCY!

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Bunny fur for breakfast for the babies! Despite the blustery rain, sleet, hail and gale force winds, it was a polite meal in raptor land. Baby #3 is proving to hold his own and baby #1 is moderating his aggressive behavior a bit. Baby #2 seems a bit neglected in this clip but he has eaten enough to give us a review of raptor nest hygeine! (Sorry for the shutter noise, but weather deemed I shoot from inside.)

Mamma is keeping up with the demanding bunch and Pappa is keeping the coffers full. He got his just reward tonight. After his last delivery to the nest I saw him fly off into the sunset with a huge rabbit dangling from his talons. Lighting unfortunately did not allow me to capture it “on film” to share. After a long day of tending to 3 voracious offspring, Mamma B settled in to enjoy the sunset.

Mamma B enjoying the sunset

The wind had died down and the sun graced us with its glowing rays as it sank below the horizion. Mamma B turned to see if I was watching too. It was such a peaceful way to end a hectic but blissful day.

Sharing the sunset with me!


Life is Good in Raptor Reverie!


And then there were THREE!

Welcome to our world Baby #3!!

We now have THREE babies! It’s hard to believe that three days ago, because the alotted hatching time had almost elapsed, I was convinced there would be no hatchlings. Today marks a pretty major event. Since all three eggs hatched, we have exact-day-counts for how long they were in the egg. Every baby was overdue. During the brooding time we had really nasty weather and the parents were buried in snow on the nest a number of times.  It was smart of the three eyeas (nestling hawks) to wait!

Red-Tailed Hawks take 28-35 days to hatch. In 2009 2 eggs were laid. By day 37, for the 2nd egg, the parents abandoned the nest.
2011 Baby #1 was laid Tuesday April 19th and it hatched Thursday May 26 on day 38
2011 Baby #2 was laid Wednesday April 20th and it hatched Friday May 27 on day 38
2011 Baby #3 was laid Friday April 22nd (Earth Day!) and it hatched Saturday May 28th on day 36.

There is a nest at NY University, NY, NY that on day 35 experts announced there would be no hatchlings. On day 37 a baby hawk hatched. It made big news being a Miracle! Pretty cool day 38 bore life here! (Hardy stock in the Rocky Mountains!) Here is the link to the NY University Hawk Cam http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/category/hawk-cam-live-from-the-nest/

Our Baby #3 took forever to get out of the egg. He started pecking yesterday. I first saw his little head at about 9:15 AM. Watch the following video closely. Just to the right of the Mamma’s leg you will see that his bottom half is still in the egg.

Our poor little guy has had a rough go of it.  No wonder he was stalling coming out into the real world…it seems to be an absolute battle zone.  Never before have I witnessed hawk babies behaving so violently toward each other in the nest.  He finally shed his shell around 11 AM.  Mamma Bird made quick work of moving it out of the nursery and nibbled on it for extra calcium.

Picking up after her newest addition

The upswing is, Baby #2 is holding his own with Baby #1 (the bully).  I think it’s only a matter of time before serious paybacks ensue.  I have not seen blood drawn yet.  That’s another plus! I would encourage you to hold an open heart toward “the bully”, as afterall, he is just being a raptor!

Pappa Bird was very busy today keeping a full supply of food in the nest.  A medium size rabbit was front and center on the nest for all the world to see. ( A little unsettling for me because at some point the face was turned toward the camera and its little red eye and nose were pointed toward the camera.) Later a large squirrel was the main attraction.  Raptor reality can get quite gruesome:

Rabbit for Lunch

Names…I never name the babies.  The parents are Mamma Bird and Pappa Bird… (not very original but it works!) I can barely tell the parents apart, let alone little puff balls that later morph into vulturey looking things before they turn into beautiful young adults!  But if you would like to suggest a name, please share! I will do my best to apply them properly! 

Larry, Mo, and Curly...or is it Curly, Mo and Larry?

 

We have TWO Babies!

I kind of dropped the joy bomb then left you all hanging yesterday. Wednesday I had given up hope that any of the three eggs were going to hatch. Wallowing a bit, I neglected to clear all my filmcards and back up my computer in preparation for the grand arrival of Hawk Baby #1. This baby’s last hatch date (day 35) came and went on Monday. Egg 2’s was Tuesday and Egg 3’s was today.

Mamma with her 3 eggs May 16 2011

I am proud to announce Baby #1’s arrival at 6:50 something AM Rocky Mountain Standard Time!

Baby #1 and Mamma Bird with two egg siblings day 1

While observing Baby #1, I noted one of the eggs appeared to have holes in it. I was wildly excited that not only were we going to have one but #2 was on the way! By the end of the day, nothing had happened and after watching some video footage of the Mamma kicking the “hatching” egg as she hastily exited the nest, I decided the egg was just damaged instead.

Baby #1 with "damaged" egg #2 and intact egg #3

So this morning’s surprise was TWO hungry mouths to feed!

Baby #1 day 2 and Baby #2 day 1

The snake was brought to the nest yesterday afternoon. Pappa Bird delivered another snake mid morning. They also feasted on a rodent and a medium size bird.

A little perspective of the nest in the tree

Mamma Bird stands far from the babies as she feeds them...its tough being a Raptor Mommy!

Welcome to their world!

One belly full while the other gets filled. This Mamma never lets a baby go hungry!

Late in the day the Bald Eagle created some excitement as he glided through the valley just a little too interested in the new hatchlings…

 

Tthe Bald Eagle scoping the nest.

Coming in for a closer look

The Mamma Bird gathers both babies and hatching egg, tucking them under her just like they were all still eggs!

The hatching Egg #3 gets tucked under with the rest of them!

This was shot at nearly 4PM. Today was a day of surprises….

Another “damaged” Egg!! Hopefully we will be seeing THREE babies in the morning!
We DO want a baby brother! We do! WE do! WE DO!
Stay Tuned!