Saturday, February 20, 2010

So what's with all the trash in the nest?

If you've been watching the live camera stream from the Franklin Institute today, you've probably been wondering why the hawks (mostly the male) brought a brown paper bag early this morning, and then later some black plastic, and then some white paper.

It turns out that this is a significant stage in their nest building, and John Blakeman, our hawk expert from Ohio, sent me the following information:
"Well, to us, it's street trash. Not to the hawks. It's all soft and easily carried to the nest, where it will be re-worked and tucked into the bottom of the nest to help seal the bowl.
Actually, here in Ohio in the more normal rural nests we seldom see these. Out here, the birds are picking up corn leaves and some tree leaves from the ground, serving the same function. These larger, more bulking lining materials are brought to the nest in January and February. In March (generally) more fine-grained lining materials will be brought in. Linings vary from pair to pair and geographically. The birds use whatever is available and works. Strays sheets of The Inquirer, paper bags, and even some wafting plastic bags are likely to turn up at The Institute nest in these months. It will be interesting to see what will be used as the more final, softer lining materials in March. Fist-fulls of grass are often brought in.
Don't be surprised if some of these larger lining materials just disappear. The birds will carry them off or dump them over the edge if they don't seem to work well into the nest bottom.
Now, the birds are getting near the end of big-sticks stage. They have a profound urge to bring things to the nest. Not all that they bring in really works, so a few things are hauled off or allowed to tumble away.
And here's another topic that analysis of The Institute nest could yield: the nest materials used by this pair, and the times they were put into place, should be recorded, to help answer the question of how urban nests differ from rural ones.
Quantitative and structural analysis of red-tail nests throughout their range has never been done. It could start in Philadelphia. How, for example, does this ledge nest differ from those on the rock cliffs in the West?"
--John Blakeman

Last week I asked John how the nest was looking, and about the pine greenery the hawks started bringing to the nest last week:

"The nest, and all of the activities there, are just perfect. The pair will use the nest once again. The evergreen sprigs are commonly brought to red-tail nests, for unknown reasons. But when they appear, it's a sign of profound commitment. We're on for a good year of hawk-watching. Nothing like it in all the world."
--John Blakeman


  1. Hi Della, I don't like to "tweet" on the U-stream site but I am watching along with all of you with great anticipation! I saw your question regarding capturing the screen image- I have an iMac and can capture an image by holding down the command and shift keys at the same time and pressing 4, which turns the curser into a crosshair and then I can select just the nest area and it takes a picture. Alternatively, I can use the Grab application to do the same thing. Both are probably Apple only apps, but if you go to your help menu on your computer and type in capture screen image you will probably be able to find out how to do it with your computer.

    Keep the good stuff coming- can't wait til spring!!!


  2. Hi Della,
    About John's post on the trash. His information is invaluable. We
    could speculate forever about the comings and goings of the stuff.
    Now we know what they are up to. Since everything is archived on
    FI's Ustream, John's suggestion that Phildelphia document the flotsam
    and jetson is pretty much done mius the editing. What do you think?
    As if we can think now that we are guests of these beauties once again.

  3. MMGolfer - thanks so much for that info about grabbing an image from the Ustream site. I did figure it all out from the good Mac help site. Yay Macs!

  4. hi, I especially like the part where John says evergreen sprigs are a sign of profound commitment. This could be the start of something...

  5. Your welcome Della- Macs rock! This is about my tenth mac! I really don't know why everyone doesn't use them. In any case, the "Grab" application works great when you are Skyping someone too!

    Thanks for all your great postings- hope I'll get to meet you this season down at the FI- met Peg last year but missed you and Kay.

    Looking forward to another great year of fun and hawk-watching. BTW, anyone have any idea where Portico and Miss Piggy are???


  6. hi mm

    Kids whereabouts unknown. Hopefully flying around your golf course
    and following you!
    Tried your thingy on my iBookG4. Nothing happened. If it did work,
    where would it show up?
    Hope to see you after the snow melts underneath FI

  7. Hi Peg,

    Sorry I didn't see your post sooner or I would have responded. Which thingy did you try, the Grab app or the shortcut using command/shift/4? They both work the same way.

    To use the Grab app, type "grab" in SPOTLIGHT to find it, or go to your applications folder in the FInder and look in the Utilities folder for the utility called "Grab" and drag it to your dock- it shows up as a scissors icon. Then launch it and go to "capture" on the menu bar and click on "selection" then hold down your mouse button and drag the crosshairs over the portion of the screen you want to capture and you will hear a click and the "picture" that you took will show up on your desktop- then you can name it and save it.

    Hope this helps-