Monday, August 1, 2011

Evening hawk stalk

As regular readers of this blog know, most of the observations of the Franklin Institute eyasses since they fledged have been done early in the morning, just after sunrise.  We thought it would be interesting to check on the hawks one evening to see what happens at the end of the day.

Carolyn Sutton, Kay Meng and I met last Thursday at 8:00 PM down on Winter Street right under the nest.  The day was heading into twilight with streetlamps lit.  Almost immediately we spotted one of the eyasses sitting on a lamp-pole overhanging the busy six-lane Vine Street expressway that races straight through Center City.

          Kay Meng

The trees in the background are the ones to which the eyasses flew on their fledging flights from the nest.

          Kay Meng


The eyass peered intently into the dense undergrowth down below along the side of the highway looking for the telltale movement of a rodent.

          Kay Meng


Something moved down there, and he was on full alert...

          Kay Meng


... and then launched.

          Kay Meng


The eyass dropped like stone straight down, and was just about buried in the grass.  We couldn't tell if it had caught anything.

          Kay Meng


The evening rush hour traffic was roaring past about three feet to the left of the eyass, and with the light dwindling every minute, we worried how it was going to fly up and out of the traffic canyon about twenty feet below where we stood on the 21st Street overpass.

The eyass looked up and around, gauging its next move..

          Kay Meng


... and then to our horror, it took off and flew UNDER the overpass, about three feet above the speeding cars.  This is the overpass (no hawk in the picture).

          Kay Meng


We could only desperately look for the hawk to emerge on the other side of the bridge. Heart attack moment doesn't begin to describe what it felt like to see the eyass fly with the traffic under the bridge.

I guess we needn't have worried, because it popped up on the far side, landing nonchalantly on a lamp pole.  In the picture below, this fearless, silly hawk is sitting immediately above the white light furthest to the right.  If you double click on the image it should enlarge.

          Kay Meng

After all that, we could see that it had not caught any prey, and it immediately began peering down into the undergrowth below its new pole.  Fortunately, its next pounce was over in the direction of the Parkway and not down into the traffic.

This may be the same eyass that Carolyn saw a couple of weeks ago flying through an underpass near the railroad at the end of the ball field.  Let's hope it doesn't feel a need to continue practicing this particular flying skill....

                         Carolyn Sutton

By this time, it was too dark to follow where it flew.  We walked back towards the Franklin Institute, and as we looked over towards the Free Library and Barnes construction site, we saw a hawk fly into the trees at the corner of 20th and the Parkway.  Almost immediately, it was followed by another hawk.  Were they the haggards or the eyasses? 

We hustled across the Parkway, and there was just enough light for my binoculars to pick out the brown striped tails of the eyasses.  They next flew to the ledges below the roof of the Library, roused their feathers, and looked to be settling in for the night.  Had we discovered where the eyasses spent the night?  Do they stay together during the night?

The next morning, Carolyn Sutton - who deserves a medal of valor for early rising - got to the Parkway before sunrise, and found the two eyasses exactly where we had left them the night before.  This was pretty exciting as it is the first time we have known for sure where they spend the night - at least, one night.

It was also interesting to see how late in the day, well into dusk, that the eyass was still hunting.

Here are a couple of pictures of that eyass before it got too dark.



          Kay Meng


          Kay Meng

8 comments:

  1. Hats off to you guys for sticking it out and discovering new things about our eyasses. Thanks so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My heroines! Fly in fly out hawkstawking- the very coolest kind -to plumb the mysteries of our birds' sleeping behavior. Fascinating to me!
    So they were clearly visible from the street?
    Donna Caesar

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  3. Yes, when they were on the ledge one could see them easily.
    Della

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  4. More stunning reportage on these splendid birds.
    Fabulous and endlessly interesting.
    As always, many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. pklg117 (also a Pip follower)August 2, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    It is so wonderful that such dedicated and talented people continue to let us watch these beautiful animals post-cam! But of course my main question when I visit here--how is Squishy? Thank you all for all you give us!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Did you ever get those promised photos of #3? Any further word on her? She won't have long to learn from her parents at this point -- if they even take her back at this late date.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There are teenagers in every species, attemping dangerous activities.
    Great Pictures and Reporting!
    Again, Thanks for the Memories.
    A Michigan Fan

    ReplyDelete
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