Saturday, June 5, 2010

So close to fledging

Another wonderful visit to the Boardroom yesterday was somewhat poignant as Kay and I realized that this might be the last time we would see the eyasses on the nest prior to fledging.

They have matured so much since our last visit only a week ago, and there is no white baby fluff to be seen, except for the tiniest dandelion-like wisp on the top of their heads.

Their plumage is now almost complete, and we all hope they wait till those wing feathers are totally out of the casings before their first flights.

Strange forces were at work yesterday, it seemed, when Kay discovered that the battery pack was missing on one of her cameras. Her second camera worked fine - for a while - until it suddenly signalled that the battery was no longer powering. In all the hours I have spent with Kay, she has NEVER had a camera malfunction, let alone two; her preparation is meticulous.

I thought I would save the day as, for the first time, I had brought my teeny point-and-press digital camera. I always leave the photography to Kay, but just this once, I had decided I would take a couple of keep-sake pictures of the eyasses. When I turned on the camera, the screen stayed dark while a nasty little message announced, "Memory card error - no images," and showed a zero where there should have been the number of shots still left on the card. The camera was inoperable, despite it having worked perfectly a couple of hours previously, and no prior incidence of this problem. I removed and replaced the battery and memory card several times - nothing.

So, despite capturing some wonderful images of the eyasses and both haggards on the nest during the first hour, we were camera-less when the eyasses started bouncing, flapping and flying from nest to ledge and back again. It was as if the Fates had decreed that we should focus completely on watching the eyasses on the nest - perhaps for the last time - without the distraction of photography.

It was another baking hot afternoon, and though the nest is in shade at that time of the day, the eyasses were clearly feeling the heat and panting.

We had a great view of their tongues - not much different from other animals' tongues except a little narrower.

And how many people ever have the chance to see a red-tail hawk's tongue? The intimacy of one's connection to these wild hawks only a couple of feet away, inquisitive and completely unafraid of us is a miracle.... a gift of a lifetime.

The combination of curiosity and panting provided some hilarious expressions from the eyasses.

This one was yawning at us, not screaming!

And they continue to be fascinated by the strange creatures behind the glass.

They spend a lot of time preening themselves, and one of them managed to get a small feather stuck on the end of its beak.

It tried to scratch it off with a talon, then rubbed its beak on the nest twigs, but simply could not get rid of that pesky feather! Finally, as it sat there at a loss of what to try next, one of the siblings suddenly leaned forward and pecked off the feather!

The tiercel made several food deliveries of young robins which the eyasses gobbled immediately. This was the only time he stayed long enough for Kay to photograph before the camera gremlins struck.

He usually lands, drops the prey, and is off again, but this time he took a moment to catch his breath. He definitely is the major food provider, and hunts much more than the formel.

The formel did appear - she thundered in, landed on the ledge, and glared at us.

She is magnificent, so powerful......

.... a bird who is definitely at the top of the food chain.

Her talons are a fearsome sight ....

.... and in stark contrast to the bright, spanky new, unused talons of the eyasses.

We also got a great view of that signature red tail.

Speaking of talons, one of the eyasses relaxed by tilting to its left side, and used its clenched talon as a support. Look how beautifully constructed the talon is, allowing the claws to fold around the foot with no damage.

The formel then flew from the ledge right into the middle of the eyasses who immediately stopped eating and stepped meekly aside. She stayed there for a few minutes, and never took her eyes off us.

Then she was gone, soaring strongly across the Parkway to settle in her favorite tree.

For the rest of our visit, we watched the eyasses stretching their wings, flapping, jumping, catching air, and getting a little more airborne each time they traveled between the nest and the ledge. It can only be a day or two more before that first flight..... let's hope we don't have a repeat of last year's Rescue of Miss Piggy Incident (see June 6, 2009)

So when I arrived home yesterday evening from the visit to the Boardroom, I told the story of the weird camera malfunctions, and turned on my inoperable camera to demonstrate the unusual error message. It immediately lit up brightly with its usual cheerful chirp, and the screen indicated that the memory card had 200+ shots still to take. Go figure.......


  1. Wonderful pictures again & the text really helps understand these wonderful gifts of nature. It has been a pleasure to watch them grow from inside the nest. That is something I cannot do of my resident pair. Thanks again
    J. Woods aka colibri57

  2. Truly amazing photos and comments once again! Thank you both so much for giving us this wonderful gift.

  3. Thank you ! We are so fortunate see them in such detail. Thanks Hawk family for picking the right ledge!

  4. Thank you Micah for these wonderful pix. The camera malfunctions were meant to be. Your post made me cry.

  5. Della:

    Maybe the Franklin Institute has ghosts, and they were in the board room watching the hawks with you.

    Thank you and Kay for the fantastic photos and narrative during this 2010 hawk journey.

    M Crystal

  6. The camera gremlins wanted you just to be able to enjoy watching them. It must have been an incredible experience - and allowed you to take "mental" pictures that you'll have forever!


  7. Thank you very much. Awesome birds.