Saturday, November 14, 2009

An eyass sighting - one of ours?

Yesterday, a large hawk landed in a tree right outside the front of my school (Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia) and gorily devoured the unlucky squirrel it had just caught.

Over the course of the next hour, students and faculty gazed up in excitement or horror, disgust or amazement, as the hawk systematically tore into and gobbled down its prey.

In many households on Friday evening, this event must surely enlivened the dinner table conversations of "What happened in school today?"

I sent pictures of the GFS hawk to John Blakeman for his reaction. Here's what he thought:

"Your bird is definitely a red-tail, almost surely a female, from the size. This is an eyass, hatched last spring.

There is a small chance that it is one of the Franklin Institute eyasses. The fact that it sat there and ate the squirrel with all the kids below suggests that it's used to people and the urban environment. But most likely it's merely a bird "in passage," what falconers call a "passager," an immature in its first migration."

As Germantown Friends is only five miles (as the hawk flies) from the Franklin Institute and Art Museum area, it is possible that this was one of "our" eyasses! It certainly was completely unfazed by the commotion of hordes of children racing around underneath squealing in excitement, taking pictures of it with their cellphones, and then - as squirrel body parts and bits of fur began dropping to the ground - dodging out of the way and screeching!

John Blakeman also gave an update on his new red-tail falconry hawk - Zephyr II - as she undergoes her training.

"In early October I was able to trap a nice big female passager, named Zephyr II. She's sitting nicely in my mews now and learning the role of a falconry hawk. She's particularly calm and is learning all of her lessons well. She is doing daily vertical flights to my fist, and will soon be doing horizontal flights on a creance (long tethering cord) in my backyard. In two or three weeks she should be ready to take into the field, in pursuit of cottontail rabbits.

Unlike last year, we had a very fine hatch this year, with good numbers of passagers in the landscape. Zephyr was trapped at 1250 grams, and is now flying at about 1175 g. As she continues in the daily flights, she will approach her trap weight as she builds strong flight muscles. No more fat, just strength---and all with good personality. She never tries to "foot" (grab) me, or bite.

It's a pleasure to have a hawk once again. And Zephyr needn't be concerned anymore where tomorrow's meals will come from. She doesn't even have to worry about getting drenched or cooled in a midnight rainstorm in winter. She's living better now than her wild consorts."