Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July weekend hawk sightings and Fireworks

I was away from Philadelphia on Sunday, July 3, but several hawkstalkers sent in their accounts and pics.

Carolyn Sutton was literally up at the crack of dawn, and found one of the eyasses in the darkness.  They are not in the least bothered by flash photography. Carolyn took several pictures of this bird, and was close enough to reach out and touch it.  [She didn't!]

Carolyn's report: "Pre-dawn hawkstalk was short this morning.  There was no sign of the haggards, but I managed to follow Frick and Frack from the Franklin Institute ledges to the Barnes construction site, then back and forth on Callowhill for several blocks, down Wood St. to 18th, then returned in front of the Family Court building to the Logan Circle pigeon preserves... all between 5 and 6:15 AM; what a workout!  They perched together on every telephone pole on Callowhill between 20th and 18th St."

Sandy and John Sorlien were also out on the Parkway, starting at 6 AM, and sent these observations and pictures:

"For almost two hours between about 6 and 8 AM, we watched the two eyasses messing around the Barnes construction site while the formel kept guard from a high tree.
 When we first found the siblings, one jumped behind a low concrete 
wall and came back with a dead bird. It looked like it had been 
around for awhile, not very juicy. We got a good look through 
binoculars of the eyass choking on and regurgitating some of what it 
ate. Promptly it resumed gnawing at the carcass.  Its sibling sat 
nearby looking longingly at the food, but was not given any. 
 It tried to eat various other things around the site - some rope, 
some chain grease (it wiped its black greasy beak against some 
machinery to clean it off), and here, a possible tiny remnant left 
behind by the other eyass.
 It peered into the dumpster but didn't see anything worth pursuing.
 The two mostly stuck close together, using the many wonderful perches 
at the site and peering in various directions. There was not too much crying
 for food.
 Here one eyass seems to be trying out a pigeon pose to attract some pigeons. 
 They also spent about 15 minutes on the ground, poking into the hole 
of a tree and attacking sticks as described by John Blakeman in 
Friday's post. They look incredibly goofy walking and running. 
 We were more involved in their activities than usual, even though we kept our distance. Twice, an eyass flew low just a foot or two from our heads, so close we felt like targets. Its flight was absolutely silent. The second time, we felt the wind from the hawk's wings, yet never heard nor saw it coming. This had never happened before, this year or last. Could it be that the hungry eyass was attracted by the blood-red P of my Phillies cap turned to the back? 
 John B, is that something that would make them fly near? Once I had 
that thought, erroneous or not, I took the hat off and stuffed it in 
my pocket for the rest of the outing!

All this time the formel kept watch, until one eyass decided to join 
her. It took off flying...
... and landed right next to her, whereupon she flew off to the Free 
Library roof, leaving the eyass in her place. 
 We never saw the tiercel; presumably he was out hunting.

When both eyasses were perched on the chain-link fence surrounding 
the Barnes, a fellow in a van stopped on the Parkway, opened his 
window and called out, "What are those?" He'd thought maybe they were 
eagles. He asked, "Are they dangerous?" I said, "Not to us," though 
after today's close calls perhaps I should rethink that. No more red 
hats, anyway.
Today, on the 4th of July, Carilyn Sutton sent this account:
"Got to the Parkway late this morning, but still saw the whole Franklin hawk 
family celebrating Wawa Welcome America.  Dad staked out the viewing area, 
while Mom brought the picnic breakfast.  I watched one of the eyasses knock
the prey from Mom's grasp, then pick it up from the dirt pile below and fly to 
some construction equipment to chow down.  The other, pictured below, 
watched from its perch on the fence.
Many thanks to Carolyn and Sandy for these great pictures.
As befitting the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed, Philadelphia's Fourth of July festivities are spectacular, and end with a massive fireworks display over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

 You can see the Civil War monuments - favorite breakfast spot for food drops - at the bottom of the Parkway, then the trees in which the eyasses spend much of their time lining the roadway up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

During the first season with the Franklin Institute eyasses, John Blakeman sent us these reassuring words about fireworks and hawks which are equally timely for this year:

"Fireworks? For anyone concerned about this, just remember the worst, scariest thunderstorm you encountered as a little kid. I used to curl up scared under my blankets, even on hot summer nights, trying not to see the lightning directly. But the thunder was undiminished. Very scary.
But red-tails have been enduring powerful thunderstorms for millennia. And they can't crawl under a blanket, rock, or anything else. They are locked with their feet secured around a branch high up in a tree, pretty close to an actual lightning strike.

And don't doubt that the eyasses

Fireworks are not significant threats to red-tails. Real lightning storms can be, as they decidedly were for a bald eagle's aerie a few years ago here in Ohio. A family of about-to-fledge eaglets were spending another night on a big bald eagle's nest high in a tree. But a thunderstorm approached and a bolt of lightning struck the nest tree. The mass of nest sticks was instantly incinerated, killing the eaglets. The nest burned for a time up in the tree, until it collapsed to the ground in a both wet and fiery cascade.

As the actual site of American Independence, Philadelphians should take special pleasure in the local Fourth of July celebrations.

Our red-tails, will, too. I think the eyasses will take special delight in watching the fireworks. The colors and movements, even the sounds, should intrigue them, just as the colors, movements, and sounds of their potential prey do. Right now, they are learning about these environmental factors, with an instinctive interest.

If two of the eyasses are perched together, one might be saying to the other, "Did you see that one? Just as I was imagining I could grab it, it faded away. Let's see some more of this! This sure is better than those dead pigeons Mom and Pop brought us before we could fly."

--John Blakeman

For those of you less familiar with our hawks' territory in Philadelphia, both of these images show the Benjamin Franklin Parkway stretching up to the Philadelphia Art Museum. The two white vertical columns at the bottom are the Civil War monuments on which the hawks regularly perch. They also hunt and perch in the avenues of trees on either side of the Parkway. In the image above, you can see the Free Library with its pillars on the right. The Family Court is just out of the picture on the right.
The Franklin Institute is the large building across the Parkway on the left. Front and center is the beautiful Swann Fountain in the middle of Logan Circle.


1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for this new report, especially abotthe Hawks and fireworks. I was concerned about them as I watched
    the "high up" fireworks from my window in center city.

    Hope the injured Hawk is continuing to heal well.