Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow Nest and Battle of the Bag!

Here's how the nest is looking on this Friday afternoon after yet another major snowstorm here in Philadelphia. The hawks have checked in a couple of times, bringing some sticks and rearranging them, but don't seem inclined to linger in this snowy nest. The plastic bag, so beloved of the formel (female/mom), is still front and center. She definitely seems intent on keeping it as part of the decor!

The tiercel (male/dad) arrived and started messing with the bag so it was loosened and appeared to be on point of blowing away.

Then, a few minutes later, the formel flew in and began to push the bag back amongst the sticks.

Is there some dissension between our hawks about how to line the nest? Stay tuned!

It is always an interesting question where the hawks go during snowstorms, and yesterday we caught a glimpse of the tiercel (male/dad) perching on the former School Board building right next to the Franklin Institute, out of the worst of the blizzard-like conditions we had yesterday.

I asked John Blakeman about where the hawks might go at night or in bad weather. His response:

"I too, for many years, wondered where wild red-tails spent the night. I saw them fly into a many a woodlot for the night. But exactly where they perched in there was unknown. I originally thought that they probably roosted on a branch close to the trunk on its leeward (downwind) side.

But Lincoln Karim ( has shown conclusively from his zillions of shots of the Central Park red-tails that they perch on branches out away from the trunk, with no apparent regard to the night's winds. They just grab on and tuck their heads into their back feathers and snooze the night through.

I have noticed too that they will also roost for the night out on open utility poles, but only when the weather is calm.

Your readers should understand that the hawks don't often (if ever) spend a night on the nest, except when incubating or getting ready to do so. The nest, regardless of that name, is not a "home" or shelter for the haggards.

As much as it would be romantic to regard the nest as a cottage or shelter of retreat for the hawks, it's not that at all. If anything, it's only an obstetric space and later a nursery in function. The hawks' "home" is the entire 2-square mile territory, the entire neighborhood, which surely stretches up to the Art Museum, out over the river, and who knows how far in other directions."

- John Blakeman

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

KYW radio podcast - Dennis Wint, President of the Franklin Institute, speaking about the hawks

Dennis Wint, President and CEO of the Franklin Institute, spoke at length yesterday with KYW Newsradio about the Franklin hawks and the camera that is providing the 24/7 live feed. Below is the link for this podcast.

Sounds like Dennis is definitely becoming a hawkaholic! It's really great that he and the Franklin Institute are providing such excellent support for the hawks and their nest.

KYW Newsradio 1060 Philadelphia - Franklin Institute Fires Up Its High-Tech Eye On Red-Tailed Hawk Family

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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

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New link for the hawkwatch camera at the Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute IT folks have been busy getting the Ustream camera set up, and there is now a different link from what was originally posted.

This is now the link for the live camera:

The nest seems to have made it through the incredible snowstorms of the last five days here in Philadelphia. Already this winter we've had more snow than the last four winters combined, and it is now officially the most snow in a single winter since they began keeping records - and it's only February 11th!

I took this picture last night looking out of my back door as the storm was finally winding down. So much snow.....

Friday, February 5, 2010

Let the viewing begin....yay!

The announcement that we've all been waiting for:

"U-Stream is a go. I repeat U-Stream is a go... Look for our hawks between 6 and 7 AM tomorrow [Saturday, February 6] a great chance to see them at the nest during the driving snow!" from Gene Mancini this evening on the Franklin Hawkaholics' Facebook page.

Here's the link:

I guess it's not hard to predict what we're going to be doing in between show shoveling sessions these next few days!

For those of you who have not yet connected with the Franklin Hawkaholics' Facebook page, you might want to consider doing that as it is the place where you can get up to the minute news about what's happening at the nest.

Happy hawk watching!!!