Monday, June 13, 2011

Another eyass fledges... and a dramatic rescue

Based on yesterday's timing of the first fledge, we headed down early this morning hoping to see another eyass take wing.  The fledged eyass was still in the tree on the corner of Winter and 21st Streets.  The other two eyasses were in the nest at 5:15 AM.

No-one down there saw the actual fledge, but camera watchers saw a second eyass leave the nest around 5:30 AM.  It turned out that it glided straight down to the flowerbed under #1's tree, and huddled unnoticed in the lily plants there.

Meanwhile, #1 was hop flapping steadily up the tree from branch to branch.  When it almost reached the top, it took off and tried to fly over Winter Street back to the nest.  Kay Meng's image shows how close it came.

It banked left, tried to fly to the same tree it landed in yesterday but didn't have enough height and landed on the grass beside the tree.  It walked around, pecking at interesting morsels...

The formel appeared in a flash, swooping down from the trees along the Parkway, and then up onto the same spotlight as yesterday.  The eyass continued to explore its new environment...

... and then performed a most impressive feat for a novice flyer - landing nonchalantly on a slippery parking meter!

For an encore, it fluttered onto the roof of a parked car, hooking its talons around the roof rack, as captured in Carolyn Sutton's picture below.

After about twenty minutes hopping onto different car roofs, it flew back across Winter Street to the Franklin Institute.

Here's a view I took of the building facade....

... with eyass #1 sitting on the wrought iron balcony of the cafeteria.

Meanwhile, over in the flower bed under the tree on the corner of Winter Street...

... we discovered the second eyass to fledge hunkered down in the weeds.

A passing pedestrian reported that she had seen it walking on the sidewalk of 21st Street, while we had been a block away following eyass #1 with no idea that #2 was on the ground.

It huddled in its lily patch seemingly calm, even a bit dazed.  It made no effort to move around or any attempt to fly up into the nearby tree.

This was in stark contrast to #1 who was having fun over in the cafe, flapping back and forth between the tables and the balcony, and perching on the railing to watch the passing traffic.

As the sun's strength increased, eyass #2 crawled farther into the shade, looking more like a pile of brown and cream feathers than a young hawk.

We kept an eye on both eyasses until the "second shift" of hawk watchers arrived at 10:00 AM.

The remainder of this report is from various people's accounts at the scene, so I may not have all the details quite correct. This next section also includes Linda White's pictures.

Eyass #2 eventually came out from the lily patch and started walking around. 

When it attempted to cross Winter Street, the intrepid hawk fans provided an escort, literally stopping traffic until it reached the Franklin Institute side.  Although it did not seem willing to fly, it did seem to want to head back toward the nest.  It climbed up the handicap access ramp off Winter St. into the doorway of the Institute where it settled.

Eyass #1 continued to zip around, flying strongly.....

... landing and taking off competently...

... but still not able to make it back to the nest which it seemed determined to reach.  All the while, the haggards circled in the sky above, but did not attempt to come close to any of the eyasses.

As the afternoon wore on, it became clear that #2 was grounded and could not fly, and the prospect of it reaching a safe spot off the ground for the night did not seem possible. The Franklin Institute made the wise decision to call in Rick Schubert from the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to make an assessment of the eyass, and possibly rescue it.

Nest watchers from previous years will remember that Rick Schubert rescued "Miss Piggy" in dramatic fashion, documented in the very first post of this blog, June 6, 2009.

When Rick arrived, he checked out the doorway where the eyass slumped looking tired and forlorn.

He placed a soft net gently over the eyass and picked it up, cradling the bird against his chest, firmly holding its talons together so they would not injure him.

The eyass then had a hood placed over its head and eyes. 

Rick commented that sight causes stress for a hawk, and as soon as the hood was in place, it immediately cut that stress, and he could feel the eyass relax.

He made an immediate decision to return the eyass to the nest.  He examined its wings and noted that the flight feathers were still 1/4" in the casings, and it was not ready to fledge.  It could not possibly fly.

He carefully placed the hooded eyass into a cardboard box...

...and took it into the Franklin Institute up to the Board Room.  They opened the window farthest from eyass #3 much to its surprise.

Rick eased the eyass through the window....

 ... placed it gently back on the nest...

... and closed the window...

 ... leaving eyass #2 probably relieved to be back on familiar territory, and regaling eyass #3 with its adventures!

 It did not take long for the formel to fly over and check out the situation.

She removed a half-eaten rabbit, possibly to feed eyass #1 who was still larking around in the trees across the street.

Huge kudos must go to the Franklin Institute staff for their perfect handling of this potentially disastrous situation for an eyass who clearly left the nest too soon, as red-tail youngsters are wont to do.  Thank goodness we have Rick Schubert's expertise and the resources of the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Center ready to help out at a moment's notice.

Let's also acknowledge the legion of dedicated Franklin hawk fans who spent hours out on the street today literally babysitting this helpless young hawk, keeping it from heading into the traffic danger that surrounded it.

And finally, so many thanks to the photographers - Kay Meng, Carolyn Sutton and Linda White for all these extraordinary images.

As the sun moved around the end of the building this evening, eyasses #2 and #3 settled down after a tumultuous day.

Let's hope their fledging - whenever it eventually occurs - goes more smoothly, so they can enjoy the delights of flight already experienced by their sibling.


  1. What a wonderful journal and amazing pictures of this day. Hawk watchers and lovers are fabulous!

  2. Wow! When I got home from work I KNEW 47 messages here meant something was up. Thanks for filling us in!

  3. Thank you SO much for this detailed account. I looked at the Facebook page and had more questions than answers. This account answered them all. I am so grateful that so many hawk-loving humans were on hand to help this eyass. Sometimes, I just love people! With all the bad news in the world, a story like this just makes my day. THANKS TO ALL! (From Stacey F.)

  4. Thanks Della. Fine recap of events, well-narrated.

  5. Fantastic final shot there...would love to get a hi-def full-size copy of that to turn into my computer's desktop background

  6. What a day you and the Hawks had. Holding my breath through it all. Fabulous reporting and the pictures are
    incredible. There is such a contrast between how fierce te
    eyeasses look and what inexperienced youngsters they are.
    Eyeass "2" was apparently so excited by #1's performance,
    he/she had to try too. Just like any little brother/sister even if they aren't quite ready. These birds are so lucky to
    have you all watching and ready to help.

  7. wonderful commentary! and a heartwarming ending to their day.

  8. Loved this story and agree the reporting here was superb. Great photos. Congratulations to all involved, including Franklin Institute, Rick, and all who cared.

  9. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and commentary! I'm so glad to be a part of this special little family!