What a wonderful moment it was on Monday to see the first egg of the 2013 season, and Mom gravely inspecting it, especially after all the earlier doubts as to whether she and T2 would nest at the Franklin Institute.
Scott Kemper hilariously commented, "Mother and Egg resting comfortably," and she was indeed, though perhaps a little more ruffled than usual.
It was not long before T2, the proud father, arrived at the nest...
...but she was not going to allow him a peek at the egg.
When he finally saw his egg, he seemed bemused, leading us to wonder if this is his first egg ever. T2 is indeed a mysterious hawk; we know nothing of his past life prior to his sudden appearance at the nest last spring in the wake of losing Dad.
For a moment, it looked as if he might settle down on the egg, but he did not linger long on the nest.
Yesterday, March 26, it was business as usual for T2 as he got to work collecting more stuff for the nest - dry leaves...
... as well as his favorite spruce from the Barnes Museum.
The black stripe across the end of his tail is so clear as he fans his tail to land on the nest.
He never stays long, always seeming to be a hawk on a mission.
Mom spent some time away from the nest collecting sticks...
... and some leaves.
Collecting nest materials was not the only thing on T2's mind, however, this morning!
Both hawks look in superb condition, and rightfully proud of the new family they are starting for 2013.
For the past four nesting seasons, the eggs have arrived like clockwork with exactly three days between each, so we can expect the next one sometime on March 28.
Some hawk cam watchers have been concerned that this first egg has been left untended and uncovered in the nest. Until the appearance of the third egg, the sitting is merely maintenance, not incubation. The embryo of this first egg is not developed much, if at all. A fertile egg simply just sits there, viable and alive, but with no growth of the organism inside until incubation starts in earnest after the last egg is laid.
As we wait for the next egg to arrive, here's some valuable information from John Blakeman, raptor biologist, about what to look for in the formel's behavior as she gets closer to laying her eggs:
"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), 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.
We have to understand that the structural and molecular synthesis of an egg is a very metabolically intense process [for the formel]. All the calcium, for example, in the egg shells and dissolved in the albumen, which will be used to make the eyass's bones, comes right from the bones of the formel herself.
The same is true for the lipids, the fats of the egg, that will power the eyass before hatching and eating. All of those nutrients come from the formel's body, not directly from her food.
The egg is assembled in a day or so during its descent down the single fallopian tube. It takes a lot out of the formel. That's why it's so important for her to feed well in January and February, to pack in reserves of all that makes the new eggs."
Tonight, as she will continue to do for the next couple of months, she stands guard at the nest...
... and will be gathering her strength to complete her egg-laying and begin the long weeks of incubation.