Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mantling.....or share not, want not!

In my last post, I described the eyass eating the left-over squirrel and covering it with her wings to guard against her sibling sitting on a nearby pole. I called it "cloaking," but our ever-helpful John Blakeman sent me the correct term for this behavior - "mantling."

He then explained this more fully:

"The decided wing-covering of food is a well-known hawk behavior. It's called "mantling," to spread the wings out over the food, bend over, and conceal the food from the direct vision of other hawks (and humans).

I saw no mantling on the Franklin Institute nest, which meant that the eyasses there were well fed and comfortable. But as the summer progresses and each eyass becomes ever more independent, mantling may be more often observed. There is going to be a bit less "sharing," a bit less accommodation of siblings. The birds must learn to be entirely self-supporting and independent. That means they must learn to capture their own food, and also protect and use it for themselves.

So don't be surprised to see more mantling in August, as the eyasses learn to make their way in the world on their own, protecting what they've captured---all in the process of become fully independent and self-sufficient adults in the coming year.
(This image is not of one of the Franklin hawks)

The eyasses are growing up---and you are getting to watch all of this first hand, right in Philadelphia. You will continue to see less social behavior, with birds becoming more solitary and isolated. 'Tis the nature of the species. They are learning this as they mature.

The raspy, high-pitched vocalizations are typical summer-time sounds. They will begin to disappear in August, and should be gone altogether in September.

(Note from Della - I added this link to give you an idea of what the hawks sound like when we refer to that seagull-like calling:

The calls are left-over vocalization responses to hunger. There has been very little of that, but the little tykes just like to cry out for food. The sounds are intended for the haggards, to prompt them to bring over an easy meal to the eyasses, but the haggards are pretty much done with all of that.

The thing to watch is how things will change when the birds, both the eyasses and haggards, detect that the days are starting to shorten, with the sun going down earlier and rising later. Just as the lengthening days in January tend to prompt reproductive behaviors in the haggards, the shortening day lengths ---which will soon be apparent to the hawks--- will cause them to start preparing for migration and winter.

eyasses will soon be much more quiet and concentrate on hunting, not making a verbal racket. The parents will become less visible, preferring to stay in the distant background, forcing the eyasses to learn to live without any hope of parental rescue or interaction.

The eyasses may also begin to drift. Don't be surprised if you start seeing only two of them, then perhaps a single loner. Sooner or later, the migratory urge will be impressed upon them, and they will start to move the edges of their territories ever further outward. One of the eyasses might perch herself on a pediment of the Art Museum up the Parkway. Or, an eyass could start moving from tree to tree up or down the river. In the evening, it could then go to night perch there and not be seen anywhere near the Franklin Institute.

By September, all three eyasses may have disappeared. That would be very normal and typical and acceptable. None of these birds may ever been seen again in their now so familiar summer haunts.

Or, in a few cases, eyasses tend to be homebodies and they try to winter over in their natal territories. That would be so nice for the hawk watchers in Philadelphia, but it's not in the best interest of the birds themselves. They will need to learn to move on and become adults elsewhere.

Of course, that's why it would be so helpful to have had these birds color-banded, so we could tell who's who and who's where in coming seasons.

--John Blakeman

Monday, July 27, 2009

Homecoming at the Nest - July 24!

Just when I thought the hawk watching couldn't get much better, I had an amazing 45 minutes starting at 7:20 AM last Friday. Carolyn and I had had a barren time - no hawks- from 6:15 onwards and she had to leave at 7:00. The one thing of interest that we saw was a very dead squirrel lying on top of the construction trailer just inside the fence of the Barnes Museum construction site aka The Meadow. We wondered if a haggard had left it there for one of the eyasses, or whether an eyass had caught it, but was frightened away before it could finish eating.

I wandered up and down 20th Street looking into the tree alley, up at the Library roof, over at the Franklin Institute roof and at the nest - but still no hawks. Then I suddenly heard a hawk call right behind me, and there up on an electric pole was an eyass. I never saw it fly in so have no idea where it came from. It made just that one call - almost as if to put me out of my hawkless misery at being such a poor observer!! This happens all the time - no hawks then suddenly hawks all around you.

Then another one of those unmistakeable seagull-like calls, and there on the corner of the Library roof was another eyass. So now I has two in sight. Where was the third?

I looked across the Parkway to the Franklin Institute and there was the third - on the nest! This was the first time I had seen a live nest visit since they fledged, so it was very thrilling to witness. And even more thrilling to have seen all three eyasses at once!

This eyass was fascinated by the new piece of greenery that had appeared in the nest the day before. S/he kept pecking at it and trying to drag it around.

Then just for old times' sake, there was a visit out onto the ledge! I did notice that the windows and ledge looked MUCH cleaner! There's definitely been some housekeeping attention during the eyasses' absence.

For some reason, I glanced to my left, and who should I see perching quietly on the carved facade of the Franklin Institute - Dad! Or more properly, the tiercel. His tail is much less red than the formel, and seems to have fewer feathers. He also has more brown about his face and neck. So now I had four of the five - yay!

He was definitely observing the eyass down below him on the nest. He flew down and made a pass across the front of the nest and I was so hoping he would land, but he didn't and flew up onto the roof. Then suddenly, all hell broke loose!

One of the other eyasses flew over and tried to land on the nest, had second thoughts, and chose a tree immediately opposite. The third eyass also zoomed in, landed briefly on the nest, then took off for the trees alongside the Vine Street expressway underpass. The eyass on the nest took off, and another one landed.

All the time they were calling out, and I completely lost track of who was who. Everywhere I looked, I could see a hawk! Quite extraordinary, especially after the previous hour with nothing. They started flying back and forth across the Parkway, landing and taking off from trees, buildings and monuments. I was fumbling with binoculars, camera and trying not to get run over as I tried to zip across multiple lanes of traffic on the Parkway.

Though I didn't get many pictures of this exciting activity, I did notice once again how well the eyasses are now flying. They are confident, strong flyers, landing skillfully in trees, on narrow ledges, carved stonework, and electric wires. They have made this downtown city area their own.

Then just as suddenly as it had started, the hawk activity ceased, and they were gone. I headed back towards 20th Street, and what should I see up on the electric pole but an eerily identical scene of how my hawkwatch had begin - an eyass up on the pole.

But there was a difference: at the other end of the wire on the opposite pole sat a second eyass. I abandoned all thoughts of heading to my car, and stood under the leafy canopy of the tree alley to watch what would happen next.

Remember that dead squirrel on the trailer roof that I mentioned? Well, the eyass on the pole right beside it suddenly dropped down and grabbed the carcass with its talons.

It cloaked its wings over it and was clearly guarding it from the sibling on top of the other pole.

This went on for a few minutes until the sibling took off for one of the alley trees.

As soon as the competition left, the eyass started to tear at the squirrel and eat it. I never imagined they would eat not-so-fresh food. Through my binocs I could clearly see the flies buzzing up off the carcass and around the hawk. Maybe s/he was hungry enough to eat this.

The roof of the trailer was slippery and I could see she was having a hard time getting a grip (literally!). She grabbed the squirrel with both feet and flew down into the meadow to continue her meal. I took this picture through the wire of the construction fence that surrounds the meadow. As I walked up 20th Street alongside the fence, I watched this magnificent young hawk 20 yards away devour its meal, seemingly quite unconcerned by my proximity. I hope they are not getting lulled by the safety of this fenced-in meadow into which no-one except birds and small rodents can enter.

So ended another excellent morning of hawk watching!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday, July 22 - Amazing Hawk Watch!

The intrepid Carolyn Sutton (Carditoo) who appears to need no sleep whatsoever, and faithfully goes down early to the Parkway most every day, sends this report of Wednesday's amazing morning of Franklin hawk watching:

"I overslept this morning – rarity of rarities for this earliest of early birds. Maybe yesterday’s washout had me questioning my resolve to track our hawk family faithfully, come H… or high water, because I seriously contemplated skipping my shift this morning on the Parkway. But I got a grip, and by 6:00 am I was en route, passing all our familiar landmarks, listening for some evidence of the hawk family.

All was quiet, but as I circled the Swann Fountain area of Logan Circle, hoping to see Mom, I spotted my first eyass on the roof of Family Court (the Central Library’s “twin building” east of 19th Street). The eyass flew over to the Library as I parked right below, and then took off for the Franklin Institute. As it leveled out to land, eyass #2 flew up out of “nowhere” (the nest, I think).

By this time I was running across the Parkway, but #1 flew off to the southwest as #2 briefly landed on Portico’s pediment before making a beeline for the pigeons at the back of the construction site near Whole Foods! For those of you who have visited the area, you know how far that is – two, maybe three, city blocks! I raced back across the Parkway as fast as possible, just in time to see our eyass blend invisibly into one of the trees by the construction trailer near 20th Street.

I was distracted by another hawk (or perhaps two) flying in the tree alley, and I quickly lost track (and count) of whom I was watching and where they went. They were calling; mockingbirds were chattering. My recall gets fuzzy now, because I was catching glimpses of hawk movement here and there.

One eyass jumped down from the trees; one popped up onto some low fencing. The same one? Who knows - I gave up counting to concentrate on watching. The eyass on the fence was SO close. As I tried to focus, she flew (“tried” to fly is more like it), carrying a really big critter. Knowing that she could not go far, I searched the perimeter of the construction site, looking for her in the grass.

Turns out she got no farther than the construction trailer, because that’s where she decided to have breakfast, achieving just enough lift to make the roof.

I watched for maybe a half hour as she ate without being disturbed

Then, up to do her high-wire act (another half hour of balancing and preening) before heading for the tree alley again, this time in response to calls from one or another of her family.

The tree alley was a-buzz (a-squawk?) all morning. I saw two fly in right above my head, but could only find one to photograph before everyone took off for the Franklin Institute.

Two at a time they circled in the sky above the Parkway. Not once, but twice, perhaps three times. The hawks appeared to come from different directions, but it was difficult to follow their flight patterns. One pair featured an eyass with prey being chased by one of its nest mates.

A pair spotted later circled over the fountain and back to the front of the Franklin Institute. At one point one went to the nest and another into the trees lining the parking lot on Winter Street.

Another sat on the northeast corner of the Franklin Institute roof. Then, POOF, all gone. Total elapsed time……maybe 15 minutes!!!!!!

I was pooped and running low on battery so elected to head for home. BUT, as I pulled away I noticed an eyass on the Civil War monument, and I just couldn’t resist taking another drive around the block. One last look toward the nest and OMG, baby on board!

Back I go! I take more pictures and hear, then see, another eyass on the 2100 Parkway antenna. Now I REALLY have to leave, and as I wend my way contentedly homeward, windows down as I reach Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum, I hear that call..........with attendant mockingbird alarm. I glance skyward…….was this hawk following me, or what?

My apologies for the lousy photos. I miss Kay!"

Editorial note from Della: the pictures are GREAT!

Later on Wednesday, Carolyn sent me this really interesting picture of the new greenery and sticks that are appearing on the nest....looking good for next year's nesting activity!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Sticks on the Nest!!

On July 6, the Director of Operations at the Franklin Institute observed one of the haggards bringing sticks to the nest. From ground level looking up, we have also noticed new sticks on the nest. Gene Mancini relayed this information to John Blakeman who sent this enlightening reply:

"This is just a bit of left over breeding behavior. Rather common, and may be seen even in August. The parents still are in the breeding mode. Most of their efforts right now go into feeding the eyasses, although that is just now starting to taper off. The adults just like to be doing something related to the raising of their young. Tending the nest, ever so incidentally and infrequently, is expressed with stick carrying, usually to the nest itself.

And don't be alarmed if someone sees some sticks being carried to a tree or to another ledge on another building. That will not mean that the Franklin Institute nest is being abandoned. Pale Male carries sticks all around Central Park in NYC at this time of year, and places them in some very likely new nest sites, but he always returns in winter to his old nest site.

Some might think that this summer stick behavior indicates that a second clutch might be considered. Perhaps it is, but it's biologically impossible for a second clutch of eggs to be laid at this late date. Red-tails are large birds, and big hawks such as these simply do not have the time or energy resources to lay second clutches. Smaller birds - even peregrines - can, but not red-tails, at least not in temperate latitudes such as Philadelphia and my northern Ohio.

But this does indicate that the Philadelphia haggards are still attached to the nest. That's good. It virtually assures that barring any injury or disease that they will be back next winter.

-- John Blakeman

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hawk action in Philly this week

Lots to report about the Franklin hawk family this week. Carolyn Sutton has been checking on them every morning, and others of us have been down at various times. We're pretty certain that over the week we've seen all three eyasses, and definitely one haggard - just not sure which parent it is.

The eyasses are expanding their territory up the Parkway to the Art Museum. This gives them access to the tree lined Kelly Drive which abuts Fairmount Park -- full of juicy rodents!
The Art Museum sits up high above the city so it also gives them a wonderful lookout along the Parkway and Schuylkill river. The eyasses are doing a pretty good job of hunting, though they still sit on various roofs and yell out for a food delivery from the parents who seem to increasingly ignore them. The Franklin Institute and the Library are at the far end of the Parkway to the right and left respectively.
Here you can see the Museum's proximity to Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill and the woodlands of Fairmount Park. The steps of the Art Museum are immortalized in

Here are Carolyn's accounts of her hawk watches for the past few days starting with this morning and going back to July 15:

Monday, July 20
This morning's action was similar to yesterday's. I only stayed until 6:30 am, but saw the Library eyass squawking. Then a parent arrived with a mouse which the eyass quickly snatched. The parent took off to the trees, and then over to the nest! I followed and discovered her there with ANOTHER hawk, but it was too dark to see who it was.

She took off toward the east with one hawk remaining on the nest. I returned to the Library where eyass was still squawking over its breakfast. Very shortly after, I saw the parent return to the nest, and I followed as she took off for the Swann Fountain area of Logan Circle, down a block from the Library and the Institute.

The nest was empty so I decided to check out the light poles at the fountain where we spotted the parent yesterday. Sure enough, there she was. She was still there when I left, as was the eyass on the Library ledge. I think those six poles with double lights surrounding the Swann Fountain are that parent's special turf.

The Swann Fountain at Logan Circle is one of the most beautiful spots in Philadelphia. The trees you see here were cut down a couple of years ago because of disease, and today looks like this.

That's the Library back left of the fountain. There are now double light poles around this area, and at least one of the parent hawks likes to perch there.

Sunday, July 18 – 5:15 to 9:15 am.

Hearing no evidence of hawks as I circled through the Art Museum parking lot and a network of streets in the Fairmount section of the city, I arrived at my favorite parking spot by the Library at 5:15 a.m. I hadn’t yet turned off my engine when an eyass arrived squawking from the west. While watching and waiting for enough light to take pictures, I caught sight of another hawk gliding silently toward the Franklin Institute. S/he perched for awhile then headed over to the Library, so I was able now to confirm two eyasses.

Both birds headed out to hunt at 5:45 am and I headed back to the Art Museum. Beautiful blue sky, brilliantly illuminated terra cotta on the Museum roof and breathtaking views of the city, but no hawks, so back I went to the Parkway, and at 6:15 am Della arrived.

Thank heaven there were two of us
as there was so much going on this morning that it was difficult to keep track of everyone! I think we may have seen both parents and a minimum of two eyasses although, in the absence of Kay, I have only the grainiest of photos as evidence.

We saw two eyasses on the Library roof, and possibly a third over on a ledge of the Franklin Institute. Unless you actually have all three in sight at once it is always difficult to know whether you are seeing the same couple of hawks or a different one added in. The local mockingbirds constantly harass the hawks who most, of the time, simply ignore the tormentors.

The red tail feathers always indicate a parent, and we think this is the formel on her new favorite spot of the double spotlights above the fountain in Logan Circle.

One concern is that she appears to have injured a talon on her right foot as there was considerable swelling at the base of one claw, and she couldn't curl it around the perch. You can just about make out the red swelling in this grainy close-up.

As Della and I were leaving at 9:15, I looked back at the Granary, where we had last seen one of the eyasses, and spotted a hawk soaring high above -- circling, circling, floating, circling higher, too high to photograph – for several minutes before leveling out and heading south across the parkway. I wonder who s/he was and where s/he was going?

Saturday, July 18
Maria DiFlorio and I spent an excellent morning hawk-stalking from the Parkway to the Art Museum and back, for three hours during which I think we saw four of our family. Two eyasses squawked for food on the monuments between 5 am and 6 am, then one flew off to the northwest, and the other went to the Library ledge for breakfast.

Maria arrived just as s/he flew over to the Franklin Institute pediment. At about 7 am, another hawk flew in from the east, and visited the nest for a bit; we think it was a parent.

Our trip to the Art Museum revealed another eyass who provided us with lots of photo ops (oh, Kay, we missed you so!) At 8 am, we decided to return to the Franklin Institute for another look and lo, eyass #1 was still perched on the pediment. So, I think we saw three eyasses and Dad.

Thursday, July 17
Oh boy, after sitting by the Library from 6 am to 7 am, with nary an eyass anywhere, I was returning home when I picked up a hawk squawk from the top of one of the apartment buildings along the south side of the Parkway. Sure enough, there was an eyass on the antenna!

I decided to spin through the Art Museum parking lot and heard the same eyass calling. Then another hawk called from closer in and, miracle of miracles I spotted one of our clan atop a decorative spire on the museum roof. AMAZING how s/he blended in, and what a view there is from that perch to home turf down by the Franklin Institute.

Wednesday, July 16

My 5 am to 6 am morning Parkway ritual revealed at least two eyasses. I heard the first at 5:30 am as s/he flew onto the roof of the Library from the west. Action intensified as s/he targeted a sibling flying in from the same direction to alight on the Civil War monument. Both flew into the trees before heading skyward.
I decided to investigate the Art Museum again (my third visit this week) and was rewarded at last. An eyass, which I had not spotted on the museum's ornate roof ledge, zoomed through the trees to the Lloyd Hall park facility near Boathouse Row, and a cloud of pigeons launched themselves skyward.

The eyass then flew low across the river above the falls to Martin Luther King Drive, then circled back, climbing higher, to alight in the trees right below me.

This is a fabulous place to hawk watch, because you can actually watch them fly from above! Had an excellent view of the eyass' back feather patterns and tail as it flew below me from the trees to the pavilion. That's not our hawk on top!

Tuesday, July 15
Was down on the Parkway between 5:30-6:15 am today. Those seagull-like calls alerted me as I passed 22nd Street. Jim the jogger pointed me in the right direction and I located our eyass atop one of the Civil War monuments, busy tearing into breakfast. He/she flew over to the trees for a while, then onto the Library roof, before taking off to the east. I had to leave early, but will stay longer tomorrow to see if the rest of the family is still around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

John Blakeman on the Hawk Capers of July 9th

John Blakeman sent me these fascinating comments on the eyass activities from last week captured by Carolyn Sutton in her terrific pictures:

"First, Carolyn's photos of the eyasses cavorting in the grass are really fine. They capture the social activities of these young birds---such as they are.

Readers and hawk watchers need to understand that these birds are in some minor mental conflict. The eyasses grew up together in the nest, fully accommodating each other, with virtually no social conflicts. Much of this good behavior on the nest was a result of the copious amounts of food the parents brought to their eyasses. At nests and territories with less ample food, the eyasses can get rather contentious about food brought to them when they are hungry.

That was one of the significant things I noted about the Franklin Institute nest, in contrast with the wild, rural nests I study in northern Ohio. Out here, in an utterly flat landscape dominated by hundreds of square miles of corn and soybean row-crops -- biological deserts void of any hawk prey -- our birds have to find the gerbil-like voles they prefer in roadside ditches and grassy or brushy field borders. Here in Ohio, it’s much tougher to bring food to eyasses on the nests. After a day of bad weather, our eyasses often go a day or more without food. When food is then brought to the nest, the eyasses lose self control and instantly grab out for the offered vole. Although the scene is not pleasant, the eyasses do restrain themselves sufficiently so as not to cause any injury to each other.

In fact, falconry has an ancient term to indicate that a pair of hawks have physically grabbed each other. They are said to have “crabbed.” Fortunately, there was no crabbing with Franklin Institute trio on the nest, and Carolyn’s photos show that even when the photographed pair found a mouse out in the grass, they did not physically contact each other. Both hawks were after the poor mouse, and one was able to snatch it up with its talons. The other bird, being a typical young red-tail entering its effective adolescence, could hardly restrain itself, almost—almost—crabbing with its sibling.

But like just like all human kids in Philadelphia (it would be hoped), these red-tails were well-raised and self-controlled. Contrast that, however, with golden eagles. These majestic raptors typically lay two eggs and two eaglets hatch. But only one ever fledges. Golden eagles are remarkable killers, with an innate instinct and desire to kill anything that moves, even on the nest. Raptor biologists call this the Cain and Able Effect. At some point before fledging, one of the eaglets reaches out and kills its sibling, even when parents have brought sufficient food to the nest. Fortunately, our red-tails are a bit more civil, and we didn’t have endure watching this sibling mortality, either in the nest itself, or when the birds were out in their first hunting exploits, as Carolyn’s photos reveal.

Then, you mentioned the mystical disappearance of the birds. Welcome to red-tail watching. This happens all the time. The birds are first seen prominently flying and perching in full view, often for much of the day. Then, they just disappear, evaporating into the cosmic ether. You can search every nook or cranny (well, every tree and phone pole), and the birds have just vanished. Where did they go? Hard to tell, but actually they just took an obscure, unrevealed perch somewhere. They probably spent the time preening, or just sat there looking out over the landscape from their hidden perch, taking in everything.

And again, how fine it would be to have a tiny radio transmitter on each of these eyasses, to learn exactly where they retreat to in these daily times of disappearance. There are still many red-tail mysteries to be solved. No one still knows exhaustively how these hawks spend their days.

You also raised the question about how far from the nest both the haggards and the eyasses might stray this summer. All of them will stay at home this summer. Home, of course, is not the nest. Right now, it’s just a useless pile of sticks. Home is the birds’ territory, the area in which they fly, hunt, perch, and sleep in.

Here in Ohio, a typical red-tail territory is about 2 square miles. I doubt that the Franklin Institute red-tail territory is that large, but the only way to know is to mark on a map every spot a hawk is seen flying or perched. That’s something that someone should be compiling, right now. After a summer’s work, a map with a bunch of colored dots will clearly show where the birds consider “home.” Then, the researcher can begin to connect perches and flight lines with what’s on the ground. This is not a random, stochastic phenomenon. These birds are pretty smart, spending their time only in what they consider productive and useful places and activities. No one should think that any of this is just the random, undirected, stupid behavior of a thoughtless animal. No, the brain processes of hawks are not mammalian or human in any way. But these are interesting and complex and successful in their own peculiar manner.

That’s part of the scientific romance in the study of this great species. I’m pleased that so many in Philadelphia have been smitten with this interest, while so many others can vicariously participate by way of the postings on this board.

My best to all. Keep the questions and observations coming."

-- John Blakeman

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rick Schubert's presentation at the Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute is hosting Earth Fair 2009 | One Planet Is All We Get! - this weekend. As part of its exploration of how to live more sustainably on our planet, they invited our very own Rick Schubert - Rescuer Extraordinaire of Miss Piggy - and just as importantly, the chief wildlife rehabilitator at the Schuylkill Wildlife Center.

Rick brought several animals to demonstrate the work of wildlife rehabilitation. Here he is holding Freya, a female red-tailed hawk, who was shot through her left wing and can no longer fly safely enough to be released back into the wild.

The bullet passed through her wing and remains in her body lodged too close to her spine to be removed. You can see how her left wing droops a little.

Kay Meng took all these great pictures

Rick commented that Freya was on the small side for a female red-tail, and she did seem slighter in build than the Franklin eyasses and formel. Freya is used as a surrogate hawk when baby hawks are rescued and need to imprint on a red-tail.

Miss Piggy did not meet Freya during her two day stay at the Center because she was old enough to be on her own. Miss P was kept in a special enclosure that was "blacked-out" so she could not see humans, and Rick told us that because she was a bit underweight, she did nothing but eat while there, completely living up to her name!

Here is Sneakers, a possum who lives permanently at the Wildlife Center. Rick told us that Sneakers was originally kept as a pet and fed only on chicken and cantaloupe - a terrible diet for a possum as it contains no calcium. As a result, Sneakers developed metabolic bone disease (rickets). When Sneakers' owner realized something was seriously wrong, he brought him to the Wildlife Center where he will remain as he is too disabled by the effects of the disease to be returned to the wild.

We learned that possums are the only marsupials to live in the USA, and because they raise their young in the mother's pouch, don't need to build nests, and are therefore nomadic in their lifestyle. Possums are completely non-aggressive and when threatened, literally pass out from stress, originating the term, "playing possum."

Another animal that Rick brought was Smashy, the box turtle. He was run over by a car which crushed his shell, hence his name. His shell is almost completely healed now, with just one small crack remaining to heal over. Conventional wisdom is that turtles eat lettuce and fruit, but in fact they are far more carnivorous than most people realize. Smashy enjoys worms, dog food and mice!

Rick told us that most of the red-tailed hawks that are rescued and come to him for rehabilitation are young eyasses who have not yet fully learned of the dangers of highways, cars, power lines, and other elements of human interference in their natural habitat. He believes that as they mature, they become more savvy to the dangers around them and adapt accordingly.

Red-tailed hawks are at the top of the food chain, and one of the factors that keeps them there is their incredible telescopic eyesight. Its power is such that if a newspaper were pinned to a football goal post, a hawk could read it from the other end of the field! Another interesting fact we learned is that crows predate on hawk eggs and nestlings, and so it is theorized that female hawks are larger than males as they spend more time on the nest and potentially need to defend it and its helpless inhabitants.

So, if you live near Philadelphia and wish you could have heard Rick speak today, you have a second chance tomorrow (Sunday) as he is giving his presentation again at 1:00 pm in the Musser Theater on the 3rd floor.