Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring is springing and the hawks are.... getting it on!

Unusually warm temperatures recently in Philadelphia produced this lovely early spring surprise on my lawn this weekend.

Several bushes have started to flower as well.

This warm weather and the ever-lengthening days mean lots of nest activity from the hawks.  The tiercel (dad) is the most frequent visitor, and he spends the early morning hours flying back and forth to the nest bringing twigs and sticks, and carefully arranging them in the ever-deepening nest.

There's lots of paper and plastic already in the bowl, and depending on the wind and how well they are anchored, some bits stay longer than others.

Last week, some really large sticks appeared at the front of the nest - almost like a baby gate!

And the linings of the bowl change daily.

The tiercel often stands near the edge and looks out over the city and the always busy intersection of Winter and 21st Streets right below the nest.

 He has started to bring in sprigs of pine greenery which he and the formel (on her rare visits to the nest) weave in amongst the sticks.

 Something has caught his attention inside the Board Room behind the nest.

Here he is getting ready to launch off and away.

On Sunday, Kay Meng, Carolyn Sutton and I met down at the nest and were treated to an extraordinary morning of hawk activity of every variety...and some x-rated!  Kay took all of the amazing images that follow.

Here is the formel (mom) making a rare trip in to the nest.  She is definitely letting her mate do most of the heavy lifting at the moment in terms of nest renovation.

As she takes off, you can see what a powerful bird she is.  You can also appreciate what a powerful camera lens Kay is using, given that she is way down on the street below!

The tiercel always looks gentler, but don't be fooled - he is a ruthless killer.


He takes a pragmatic rather than romantic approach to his mate....

 Yes, this was definitely one of those wham, bam, thank you ma'am encounters!

 And afterwards, they sat companionably for a while.  It's so easy to tell them apart here, with dad's paler chest and smaller size, and mom's distinct speckles on her chest and larger, rounder shape.

But soon, he is off to gather more pine greens for the nest.

He pauses on top of a lamp pole...

... before taking off for the nest

... clutching the pine greens firmly in his talons.

Then it was back to the tree and the formel for more copulating, to use the correct term.  This remarkable series of images from Kay captures the entire event.

His talons are now gripping the back of her head.

At this point he started to screech.... an unearthly sound.

 More screeching....

And then they were done...

And off he went to work again on collecting more nesting materials.  This time, the straw covering the landscaped area over at the Barnes Museum caught his eye, and he grabbed a beakful...

... and then a bigger beakful.  Keep your eye on that long piece of yellow security tape behind him.

Then one of the most extraordinary sights which Kay barely managed to catch, it all happened so quickly.  He reached over to his right and grabbed that yellow tape with his right talon and took off, looking like a plane towing a sky sign.

You can just see the tip of his right wing at the top left of this image.  The momentum of his take-off scattered the straw.

Unfortunately, the construction fence around the Barnes was so close that he could not get enough height and his yellow streamer caught in the top and snagged off.  He flew undeterred with what remained in his talons, and took it to the nest.

And then for the THIRD time in an hour, he jumped (there's really no other word for it!) his mate again in the tree where she was resting/recovering from the previous two encounters.

There's no question that these two are a committed pair, and the wait cannot be too long now for the eggs to appear.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nest activity and Sunday hawks

The hawks are busy bringing in sticks to the nest and arranging them to their liking.   Now that the Ustream camera is up and running at the Franklin Institute http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-franklin-institute-haw-cam  we can watch the hawks at work.... but the glimpses are brief.... and mostly in the mornings at this point.

Here's the tiercel poking a stick into place.  The grid that seems to line the nest is a reflection of the ledge on the inside of the window.

He then settled down into the nest bowl for a couple of minutes.

He looked as if he were about to leave, when who should appear....

...but the formel - mom!

She pushed to the back of the nest to fix an errant stick...

... and dad took off to find more sticks.  You can see his legs hanging down as he exits top left!

The formel continued to tweak the sticks...

... and then she too settled in the nest bowl for a few minutes.

The plastic bags have started arriving....

... as well as newspaper.

And then both were rearranged into an origami-like shape.

John Blakeman commented recently that "The haggards have very nicely refurbished the nest, as I expected they would. The sticks are thick and carefully placed, the signs of an experienced pair.  I fully expect another trio of eyasses. This pair has its act together, and they are now performing for us."

*                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *        

On a cold, gray Sunday morning (February 5), we found the hawks in one of their usual perching trees near the Central Library building.
                           Carolyn Sutton

They then flew down to what has been their favorite morning hangout this winter - the roof ridge on the far end of the Family Court building - accompanied by their attendant flock of pigeons.

           Scott Kemper

Each faced the opposite direction - the tiercel with his paler chest is on the left.

           Scott Kemper

And from the opposite direction, you can see the formel's darker chest and face.

           Scott Kemper

Although Scott shot this from almost two blocks away, you can see how much bigger the formel is than the tiercel, and how she is much broader and rounder in contrast to the tiercel's more rectangular shape.

           Scott Kemper

Because the hawks had been sitting on the end of this building for about an hour, and we had nothing much to watch except the endless wheeling of the pigeons, we missed seeing dad leave.

           Scott Kemper

But he was not gone for long, and when he returned he seemed ready for romance!

           Scott Kemper

And with no further ado...

           Scott Kemper

... the deed was done!

           Scott Kemper

Dad then flew down the front of the building and settled onto the ledge.  Did the pigeons know that he wasn't about to move anywhere anytime soon?

           Scott Kemper