Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When will the first egg arrive?

Now that we have the close camera angle again, we can see more clearly what is happening in the ever-deepening nest. If the hawks hold true to their schedule of the past couple of years, the first egg should appear in the next few days.

In 2009, the first egg came on March 9.  Last year, it was March 13, delayed perhaps by the extraordinarily harsh winter.

I asked John Blakeman what he thought about this year:

"Right now, I think it's a bit early, particularly with severity of the passing winter. She may still be building up nutrient reserves from which to draw upon when the first egg forms in the fallopian tube. That could still be a week or two away. If I'm standing there with a scope, I can tell when the formel becomes a bit lethargic as eggs begin to form. But I don't get to watch her out on the Parkway. Others may be able to see these pre-egg behavioral nuances, especially women who have been pregnant and have a personal understanding of the matter. We men can be a bit clueless." 

Last year, John expanded on this topic for us, and I will reprise it here:

"Here's one thing that viewers can watch for. The formel, when the big egg really starts to form and descend down her one fallopian tube (mammals have two of these; birds have one, so that they don't have to fly around with unused extra weight), the hawk will take on a somewhat stiff and concerned "look." She will not be as active and will just sit there for long periods, looking a bit dazed.

And if I had a fallopian tube with a descending mass commensurately as big as the hawk's egg, I'd be dazed, too.

Then she'll sit down in the nest and get ready. The laying of the egg can't been seen. It just comes out, without much effort. But she'll get up a bit later, turn around, look at it, and then sit back down. That's probably when we'll see that the first egg has been laid.

But serious incubation won't start yet. That happens when the formel knows she's laid the last one. Then, it's serious incubation time. Keep those eggs warm and rotated. She will then sink lower into the nest, and jostle herself back forth, getting the new eggs tucked right up to her naked brood patch, a bare area under the chest feathers. That will keep them warm.

The fun then begins for all of us. Here's awatchin'."

–John Blakeman

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