Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why the September Sticks Are Important

Wasn't it exciting to read Gene Mancini's post about the haggards' activity on the nest along with Carolyn's recent sightings of them flying in with new sticks? John Blakeman is equally excited by this, and explains why this is significant, and a good omen for our future nest watching:

"The reports of the haggards tending the nest with new sticks here in September should be regarded as very encouraging. Here’s what this means, as I see it.

Many raptors, especially larger, resident ones, particularly bald eagles, will tend nests in the autumn. Bald eagles actually often construct their nests at this time of the year. I've never encountered a new red-tail nest constructed in the fall, although that certainly may happen.

But haggard red-tails that spend time and effort in bringing twigs to last spring’s nest are in just superb status. All is well. This pair has ample food and prey and can therefore respond to the very slight nesting tugs brought on by the now rapidly-declining day lengths.

Normally, in mid-winter, the birds respond to increasing day lengths, with frequent copulation and nest building activities. Then, it’s all very serious, with focused intent. It’s the real breeding season. In autumn, there is no biological imperative to be getting a nest ready for eggs and eyasses. That’s still a half-year away. Still, the tugs of changing day lengths are having their effects, and in this case the haggards can respond to them, at least in a cursory manner. I doubt that either haggard will actually sit down in the nest and start arranging sticks or lining in any useful manner. Most likely, it will just be the carrying around and casual dropping of sticks on the nest. All pretty cursory stuff, but it indicates that all is well. These are happy, contented hawks.

No doubt, barring any accidents or pathogens, they will be back again in winter with serious intent. Life is good for them. We should have every expectation of another wonderful season watching this pair raise and fledge eyasses again.

And in 2010, they will be experienced parents, having already sent three eyasses successfully into the Philadelphia skies. And because of the cooperation of The Franklin Institute, we should get to watch all of this once again. What a delight. Great things are aligning once again.

–John Blakeman


  1. This post actually brought tears to my eyes! How wonderful to have next year's nest to look forward to. Thank you to all involved.

  2. This news is so exciting! I'm already looking forward to watching the new eggs hatch. Who would have ever thought we would be this lucky to have this miracle of nature happen not just 1 year, but yet another! Maybe we can officially name our 2 haggards?

  3. even better would be tagging them, as John has suggested numerous times!

  4. Great news for all of us- thanks John and Della and Carolyn. BTW, I think we should name them Frank and Lynn-the FI deserves a plug for all they have done! But weren't they named Scarlett and Rhett (or Rhedd) a long time ago?


  5. Interesting to read this as I've been following a nest for the last 5 years or so except that it is WAY up high in a chimney so one can't see into the nest at all. But I noticed for the last week that there was nest building activity after a summer of raising a pair of young.