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

Sunday, September 20, 2009

As The Nest Turns.......

The last ten days or so have yielded increasingly fewer hawk sightings, and no sign of the eyasses. Carolyn has done her best to stay upbeat with her reports, but when she had not seen a single hawk in three days, I was starting to resign myself to the reality that The Summer of The Red-Tail Hawks was just about over.

So it was a glorious surprise to read the following post on the Franklin Hawkaholic's Facebook page from Gene Mancini of the Franklin Institute who, from the beginning of the nest building, had advocated for the hawks by creating the wooden structure to hold their nest secure, facilitating the UStream camera feed, and securing Rick Schubert's support from the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Center once the eyasses were close to their first flights in late May.

From Gene Mancini on September 16:
"Carolyn, I believe you have not seen Mom and Dad because they are back at the Institute. I have reports from the executive staff that they have been actively rebuilding the nest for the past four days. When I went out to take a look around 11:00 AM, one of the haggards was perched on the NE corner of our building looking towards the soon to be closed Free Library..."
[The Library crisis was averted by a whisker last Thursday when state funding to keep Philadelphia's city services functioning during the state budget crisis was approved in Harrisburg, PA.]

It is exciting to know that the haggards still seem extremely interested in maintaining their nest site on the window ledge at the Franklin Institute, so this morning I decided to meet up with Kay and Carolyn and check out the nest-building activities. What I did not factor in was the Philadelphia Distance Run early this morning with thousands upon thousands of runners converging on the start line in front of the Art Museum. Streets were closed all over the city, and it was difficult to wend my way to the Franklin Institute area because of the huge crowds.

Maybe all the unusual noise and excitement and sheer hordes of people everywhere scared the hawks away as we did not see a single one. The nest definitely looks to be remodeled and renovated with lots of new twigs and sticks, and clearly there is activity there.

This was the first time I have ever been "shut out" on a hawk watch, and it was ironic that the last time there had been this level of crowds and excitement on the streets surrounding the nest was for the Philadelphia Bike Race back in early June, when Miss Piggy had to be rescued from the street by Rick Schubert - the event which led me to start this blog.

Here are Carolyn's reports in chronological order, with her pictures and captions:

Tuesday, September 15
Again, no hawks! I guess I'll have to go investigate the Museum's new sculpture garden.

Wednesday, September 16
Three days in a row with no hawks to greet me. I think Mom and Dad stuck around just long enough to make sure their brood has "moved on" successfully and now are thinking about their own plans for winter. Of course, they simply may have figured out how to avoid my routine checks.

Thursday, September 17
Just got back from watching the haggards rebuilding their nest. Thanks to Gene Mancini's tip. I decided to make my loop a little later than usual. There was a hawk waiting for me at the Art Museum, but s/he took off in the direction of the Franklin Institute before I could make an ID.

When I arrived at the Franklin Institute at around 7:15 AM, there were TWO birds on the nest. I managed to get several pictures of each bird (mom and dad) as they flew back and forth to the nest with twigs from the trees on 21st Street and a good picture of dad, back at home on top the Civil War Monument where the eyasses used to hang out. Mom seemed to stay in the nest longer, with dad flying in and out more frequently. I left when mom, then dad, took off in the direction of Whole Foods at about 7:45 AM.

Here's a haggard flying in with some twigs.

Saturday, September 19
Saw no hawks on Friday morning, but dad must have known that Saturday means football at the 24th Street recreation center. He was waiting for the game in his favorite dead tree when I arrived at 7 AM. I didn't see mom; she was probably hard at work on the nest.

Dad watching PECO's new LED-lit message board from his perch on 24th Street. I guess the Franklin Institutes's advertising worked!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September Haggard Happenings

It's amazing how fast the days speed by now that I'm back at school, and I realize that it's been well over a week since I've posted news about the hawks. Carolyn has been faithfully checking out the hawks each morning and posting her accounts of the Franklin Hawkaholics Facebook page, along with some terrific pictures.

It looks as if the eyasses have really left for their new territories or have migrated south. There have been no eyass sightings since August 29. Good luck, kids.... fly strongly, hunt well, and stay safe.

Here is the compilation of Carolyn's reports - thanks, Carolyn, for keeping up so well updated, and for the terrific pictures.

Friday, September 4
No hawks again this morning but I haven't been able to stay more than about 15-30 minutes for several days now. Will have more time tomorrow to explore a bit.

Saturday, September 5
Ahhhhhh......what a beautiful morning after last evening's full moon. Mom was waiting for me on a streetlamp near the Art Museum when I arrived at 6:45 a.m. to spend some quality hawk time. I managed to do my walking loop of the area (exercise is good) and, though neither dad nor the squawky eyass showed, Mom was just taking off for the Museum's rustic pavilion when I returned to my car.

Here she is atop the pavilion that overlooks the waterworks and Schuylkill River. This is a beautiful place to sit in the morning.

Mom takes off for breakfast. She had flown into these trees from the pavilion to get a better look at something on the rocks below.

Sunday, September 6
What a show, though no eyasses! I started my adventure early (6:20 a.m.), and drove the Art Museum-Franklin Institute loop without seeing any of the family. I was on my way home when, rounding Eakins Oval, I spotted one of the hawks (turned out to be dad) on a pole near the Museum. I decided to make another loop and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, I spotted another hawk (mom) right across the road from dad - they looked like bookends.

Here is mom is on the closest pole. Dad on the "double" armature further away. The roadway is right between, so the birds create a gateway to the parkway. SO COOL!

Techno-Dad takes off! Glad someone is using the City's free wireless apparatus. Mom had been on this pole earlier and then he followed her to the same dead tree.

It was still pretty dark, but I hung around long enough to get quite a show. Mom actually swallowed a snake right in front of me! I got closer to both birds than I have ever been, taking pictures from about six feet away as they each sat in exactly the same tree! You can really see the differences between the two haggards

Here is dad in the tree which is on the west side of the Art Museum.

Here's mom in same tree.

Monday, September 7
No hawks this morning on my VERY quick check, but I will have more free time tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8
Saw mom on one of her "usual" poles early Labor Day, but no one else showed. Mom was busy hunting and, as I had other places to be, I left early.

Wednesday, September 9
Mom and dad were waiting again today - playing gateway raptors - but only briefly. I was hoping to be able to watch for a while longer today, but mom, then dad, suddenly took off over the trees, and headed for the far end of the Roman Catholic HS football field, which is just across the railroad tracks from the river.
I think the eyasses, happily, have found territories of their own to explore before heading south with the rest of the young red-tails. We were worried about the squawky eyass who until recently seemed WAY too interested in mom and sad's whereabouts, but I have not seen or heard her in over a week. She seems to have disappeared along with her two siblings, and the haggards have relaxed into their empty-nest routine. Hopefully, our three eyasses are out there perfecting their hunting skills, and readying themselves for new adventures. Let's hope they thrive and find great places like the Franklin Institute to raise families of their own.

Thursday, September 10
Rainy Thursday hawks.....sob!

Friday, September 11
Torrential rain this Friday birds!

Saturday, September 12
Mom and dad were back this gray morning, mostly hanging near the recreation area off the 24th Street on-ramp to the Vine St. Expressway. Maria DiFlorio and I had a really fun time watching the Roxborough Steelers and their opponents from South Philly gawk at our hawks. Mom sat in the hawks' favorite dead tree and dad was nearby on a "cobra head" lamp. I found them when I first arrived at 6:45 a.m., stationed at their "gateway" posts. I guess mom decided to watch football instead of go hunting, and Dad followed her to the field. They were still sitting there after more than two hours.

Friday, September 4, 2009

End of Summer

Summer for me has officially ended with the start of school. This week has been teachers' meetings and the students arrive on Tuesday. My hawk watching has been severely curtailed recently - it's been two weeks since I've seen a haggard or an eyass - withdrawal is tough!

Carolyn has continued to provide excellent, regular reports on the Franklin Hawkaholics Facebook page, and I am posting them below so you can keep up with the recent sightings. Both haggards are very much in evidence around the Art Museum, and they are joined every so often by an eyass.

Carolyn's reports:

Thursday, August 27
No hawks about on Wednesday morning, but this morning (Thursday) I saw Dad hunting near the Art Museum, and our squawky eyass chasing Mom from pole to pole along the 24th St. on-ramp to Vine Street.

Friday, August 28
Squawky Eyass greeted me this morning from atop a streetlight at the 24th St. on-ramp to Vine Street. She saw me, mini-squawked and took off for the trees. No parents in sight, and as it was raining, I decided not to hang around.

Saturday, August 29
This rainy morning Dad was hanging out on his usual streetlight, watching the bikers prepare for an outing on the Schuylkill river drives. Our eyass was a couple of poles away and just like yesterday took one look at me, squawked and took off. Another short day of hawk watching for me, but will check again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 30
Both Mom and Dad were on street lamps near the museum this morning at 7 AM. It is hard to get pictures because it is still pretty dark. The one that I think is Mom took a quick flight to catch breakfast, returned quickly and swallowed something with a long tail (Yech!) The one I think is Dad also went hunting down by the riverbank. Both returned to lamp poles in between flights. I did not spot our eyass this morning, but will try again tomorrow when I have more time.

Monday, August 31
Cool and clear this morning with a gorgeous pink and orange sky...but NO hawks! Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, September 1
Another beautiful day in Philly, but no hawks spotted on my quicky AM check. I also drove by this afternoon; again, no hawks. Maybe tomorrow........

Wednesday, September 2
6:30 AM - Dad was waiting for me in the dead tree overlooking the recreational area at 24th St. and the Parkway. Mom was about a football-field length away on one of her favorite on-ramp poles. I guess they are fans of Roman Catholic HS, because that's the field where the boys in purple and gold have been practicing lately. Dad flew over to Mom's territory for a while, but both were gone by 7 AM. I saw them take off in the direction of the river. Again no eyass, but maybe she has decided to stake a claim for herself outside Mom and Dad's range of influence. Hope so. I'll check again tomorrow.

Thursday, September 3
Nobody around when I did my quickie loop of hawkville this morning. Will check on the family again tomorrow.