A Bird's Eye View into Nature's Reality

Posts tagged “nesting hawks

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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!


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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!


Today is Baby #1’s 4th day with us. Baby #2 is celebrating his 3rd day. And our unexpected Baby #3 is 2 days old today!

All is well on the babies' 4th, 3rd and 2nd birthdays!

Mamma Bird stayed busy feeding her brood, shredding bark to tuck them in with, and maintaining the nest walls to keep her babies safely contained. It was a sunny morning and Mamma’s beautiful tail and expansive wings came in handy to create a raptor umbrella, to shade her precious hatchlings from burning their tender skin in the sun and dehydrating in the heat of the day.

Pappa Bird was tireless in providing for his hungry raptor family. Once a delivery is made he is off again in pursuit of the next victim…I mean, meal. He covers a lot of territory keeping food on the “table”. This slideshow is one flight from the nest. He has a diverse ecosystem in which to hunt.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is an education in raptor hygiene. The babies are programmed to tilt their little butts, up and over the edge of the nest, to poop!
Baby #2 not only has rhythm…he has TIMING!

Well, that baby is “pooped” and so am I…until tomorrow. Dreams are sweet in Raptor Reverie!