Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weekend hawk frolic

On a gorgeous early Sunday morning, there's no better place to be than down on the Ben Franklin Parkway, watching the young hawks zip around enjoying their flying freedom, and the challenge of learning to hunt.

I was not only person to think this!  Lots of hawkaholics were out and about at this early hour (6 AM)

... all looking for the first glimpse of our young stars. One soon appeared on the fence at the Barnes construction site. (Any unattributed pictures were taken by me.)

Carolyn Sutton

The group got bigger... 

... and bigger!

And there was a LOT to photograph. Over the course of the morning, we saw the two haggards and both eyasses.  The parents are doing a superb job of providing food drops, and both young hawks eating well.

The tiercel (Dad) delivered a small bird to the top of the Civil War monument, and immediately an eyass flew in to grab it, and hopped down to a lower ledge, bird dangling, to devour it.  They are getting quite expert at defeathering their food.
      George Lloyd

The other eyass sat for a while in a tree along the Parkway, eyeing squirrels and small birds...

... when it suddenly swooped down into the traffic lanes...

      Scott Kemper

... and pounced on some road kill - a small bird - that sadly had been squashed quite flat, and did not really look like a bird until the eyass grabbed at it.  This is the first time in three years of hawk watching that I have ever seen one take some road kill.

       Scott Kemper
      Scott Kemper

The road kill bird was in one of the lanes of the Ben Franklin Parkway - not a good spot to take one's time contemplating whether or not to eat it! 

As soon as I took this picture, I stepped into the roadway behind the hawk to divert traffic if need be.

A couple of moments later, the hawk took off safely and up to a nearby security light's flat top...

Joe Debold

...to rip into its road kill prize.

And Chris Bee, visiting for the day from NYC, Joe Debold and Scott Tremper caught every gruesome moment!

After it had finished eating, it relaxed on top of the lamp, and gradually lowered its wings in the warmth of the morning sun.

The Barnes construction site has lots of fun activities for curious young hawks. Joe captured this sequence of an eyass playing, jumping at, and ripping off some packing materials from crate top.

The previous day, the eyasses were hanging out together in the trees...

      Joe Debold

      Joe Debold

... and in the grassy areas beneath...

         Joe Debold

where Joe Debold caught them practicing sneak attack skills, jumping at each other and at sticks deep in the grass.

Then in a moment of stillness, this eyass looks as if it were sitting for John Audubon.

          Joe Debold

The tops of the Civil War monuments are currently the favorite spots for food drops.  These monuments flank the Ben Franklin Parkway that leads up the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The Parkway is lined by flags from many nations.  The flagpoles are popular perching choices for the hawks, as well as the trees alongside.

Here is the formel (Mom) setting the table on top of one of the monuments.

          Joe Debold

The eyasses were both on the nest at that moment, watching her with... hawk eyes!

          Joe Debold
 She flew the food over to the nest...
       Joe Debold

... and when the eyasses had finished eating, one of them started playing with a stick.

        Joe Debold

        Joe Debold

Dad is always an enthusiastic stick deliverer, and he is clearly planning on nest improvements over the summer and fall.

       Joe Debold

Sunday morning's hawkwatch ended with one of those "money shots" yearned for by photographers.  At the base of the Civil War monuments is elaborate carving that includes a small eagle.

 Joe timed his picture to perfection when one of the eyasses landed on this tiny target!

      Joe Debold

This gives a sense of the scale, and of how small a perch the carved eagle was as a landing area.

The eyasses proved to us this weekend that they are making superb progress in their flying and hunting skills.  And the amazing hawkaholic photographers are creating some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen of the Franklin Institute hawks.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

News from Rick Schubert on #3

Rick Schubert from the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic sent this news and some pictures of #3, who is recovering from a fractured leg bone sustained when she left the nest too early last week.

"She is recovering well in our care, eating well and maintaining good energy. We're keeping her in as low stress an environment as possible (stress kills wildlife). Dr. Dazen and Dr. Boutette have a cast on the leg.  She needs to stay in a relatively small cage until the fracture heals, so that she does not injure herself further. 

In a few weeks, she will go outside for some physical therapy and some flight time. In the meantime, it is vitally important that we keep the tail feathers and the flight feathers (called remiges) in perfect condition. 

All flighted birds, and birds of prey especially, live or die by the condition of their feathers. Like a Formula One race car, they are ultra-high performance engines that need to be flawlessly maintained. That's why they can be frequently seen preening and conditioning each individual feather. Their feathers are essential survival tools, and poorly conditioned ones mean decreased likelihood of successful hunting. But in a cage setting, it's easy for a bird to inadvertently break or fray those feathers to the point where they are no longer useful. The tail on these birds is part of the steering and the brakes, as well as assisting with lift. 

For birds that recuperate in cages, we apply a special wet paper tape that dries to form a stiff protector, but when re-wet can be easily removed. I learned this technique and much more while working for the amazing Diane Nickerson, director of the Mercer County Wildlife Center, and one of the smartest rehabbers I've ever met. She taught me to be hyper-aware of the condition of a bird's feathers. That's just one small component of the complex art and science of wildlife rehab that hopefully I've given you a glimpse into."

Many thanks to Rick for sending us this news of #3 who is one of close to twenty injured raptors that he and his staff are currently caring for at the clinic.  

This rehab facility relies on the generosity of people donating to help support their work.  No monetary amount is too small.  http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/donate   In-kind donations for animal handling, food and medical supplies are also greatly appreciated.  http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/donate/wishlist.php  

Here is their wish list:

 Gift cards 
ift cards from any major supermarket (particularly Shoprite, Superfresh, and Acme) as well as from Petsmart and PETCO

Animal care and handling
 Unscented liquid laundry detergent
 Chlorine bleach
 Dawn dish detergent -
right now we have a LOT of Dawn dish detergent after a major donation of it
  Food storage bags (gallon size)
 Heating pads
 Rubber gloves (S, M, L, and XL)
 White, unscented paper products (i.e. toilet paper, paper towels)
- our greatest need, believe it or not, is paper towels and trash bags! Regular, kitchen, and superjumbo size (55 gallon)
  Bath towels  
 Bed sheets

 Animal Food
 Canned dog food, any flavor (no lite or special diet)
 Puppy chow  

 Jarred baby food (fruit, vegetables or meat)
  Unsweetened applesauce
 Any dry dog food with chicken, beef, or lamb as first ingredient

Medical Supplies
 French catheters 3.5, 5, & 8
 Telfa pads
 Latex exam gloves (M & L)
 Vet wrap (1’x 2’ & 4’)
 Bandage scissors
 Tegaderm 1620
 Pedialyte oral electrolyte solution, unflavored
 Rolled gauze or gauze pads 

To donate in-kind supplies or pro bono services, contact Emily Simmons, Director of Resource Development, at 215-482-7300, x117 or email emily@schuylkillcenter.org

In-kind contributions can also be brought to the Schuylkill Center’s main education building during regular business hours (Mon-Sat, 8-5) or mailed to the following address:
8480 Hagy’s Mill Road
Philadelphia, PA  19128


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pictures of X-ray and hawk in recovery

Rick Schubert sent this image of the x-ray of our hawk's fracture of its proximal tarsometatarsus bone.

If you double-click on the image it should enlarge.

And here is our hero in recovery with a pink cast.  No definitive word on its sex, but because it is so heavy for this stage of its development, it is probably a formel.

She is back at the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, receiving antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain medication.

Many of you have asked how to donate to the Center in appreciation of Rick's time and expertise in helping the Franklin Institute hawks, and all the other wildlife in need of assistance.

Like most not for profit organizations, the Clinic struggles during these financially hard times, so any donation, no matter how small, is really appreciated.  Here is the link if you would like to know more about donating:   http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/donate

In addition to critical dollars to support programs, the Clinic also needs in-kind contributions of basic medical supplies, cleaning supplies, food, toys, and other equipment for animals undergoing treatment or care prior to release.  Here is the link for in-kind donations to the Clinic:  http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/donate/wishlist.php

I cannot think of a better way to honor Rick Schubert and the Clinic, and to show our support of the Franklin hawks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rick Schubert's news on the injured hawk

Rick Schubert sent this update tonight on the diagnosis and treatment for the injured eyass that was rescued on Friday from the nest:

"As you may know, last Friday, at the request of the Franklin Institute, we climbed out on the ledge and removed the injured bird and brought it back to our clinic for an evaluation, first aid care, and fluid therapy.  We determined the animal had a fractured leg (actually, what people colloquially refer to as a bird's "leg" is really its foot, and what people call the foot is really just the toes).  I carefully straightened it out and put a splint on it, which is a temporary immobilization device, a first-aid measure, until it could be properly X-rayed and set.  This keeps the fracture from becoming unfixably worse or tearing tissue.

Michele Wellard, assistant director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, took the animal to the wonderful Animal and Bird Healthcare Center and Hospital in Cherry Hill, NJ.  There, the amazing Dr. Boutette and Dr. Dazen treated the animal pro bono for us.  The radiograph showed that the bird has a fracture of the proximal tarsometatarsus bone.  Then the good doctors set the bone and put it on a regimen of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain meds.

Dr. Boutette remarked that he is 100% certain that this fracture happened from the animal landing on concrete...in fact, he has never seen a fracture on a bird present itself with this specific signature that was not the result of landing hard on concrete.  We were very sad to hear this, but validated that our deduction was correct.  It explains everything that the Hawkwatchers observed with this bird.  If left alone, it would have died.

The bird is back in our care at the wildlife clinic and will remain so until the time of its release.  We still have a lot of work to do, but cross your fingers that everything works out OK.  This was a real team effort, with Gene from the Franklin Institute (who held onto my leg so that I did not fall off the ledge and go 'splat' on Winter Street), Della, Caroline and Michele all playing critical roles.  I especially cannot thank Drs. Dazen and Boutette enough for their generosity and skill, both for this bird and for all the "non-celebrity" birds that they treat free of charge for our little nonprofit clinic.

We are all very well aware that so many fledgling hawks do not survive their first year.  That's the way of nature.  But what happened was not this bird's fault...it is not genetically weak or inferior, and we are not tampering with the gene pool.  We are all giving back to this bird the chance at life that nature intended...just a chance, not a guarantee.  To the wonderful Hawkwatchers I would like to say, it's always OK to care.  Caring is a good thing.  Could use a bit more of it in the world."

Off we go, into the wide blue yonder....

This weekend, several early morning hawk watchers saw phenomenal progress in flying skills from the eyasses.  Both of them are now flying back and forth across the Parkway...

      Scott Kemper

      Joe Debold

      Scott Kemper

... and landing competently in trees, and on fences, lamp posts and window ledges.

                     Scott Kemper

                 Scott Kemper

                 Joe Debold

           Scott Kemper

                             Scott Kemper

The rounded surfaces of the lamp posts are still a challenge, but these two get A's for effort!

             Scott Kemper

 This morning, Carolyn Sutton and I watched as the eyasses flew from their “sleeping” trees in front of the Barnes site to the roof of the Philadelphia Free Library across 20th St.  They were immediately joined by the tiercel who led them on an unsuccessful three-pronged hawk assault on the Logan Circle pigeon population at 19th and Vine. 

 The pigeons seemed recklessly unafraid of the hawks when they immediately lined up on the parapet roof of the Family Court Building right over the hungry predators perched just one ledge below.

The haggards are dropping food for them in many different spots, but the eyasses are now starting to hunt.  They haven't actually caught anything yet, but several squirrels had close calls today.  At one point, an eyass and both haggards zoomed in on the same squirrel who somehow avoided capture.  The young hawks swoop down like stealth bombers, gliding along the ground with talons at the ready.

This eyass was watching a sparrow above it, and you can see its right talon just itching to make a grab.

                              Scott Kemper

Both haggards and at least one of the eyasses visited the nest this morning.  The formel almost always arrives with sticks or fresh greenery - a sign of deep attachment and commitment to the nest.  The haggards frequently hung out together today as they tended to their offsprings' flight training and feeding. When the eyasses had finally been fed to bursting, the haggards cleaned up some squirrel remains from the top of the Civil War monument, and then shared a small bird together. 


Compared to the previous two sets of Franklin eyasses, the eyasses this year seem really advanced in their flying and hunting skills considering that they have only been fledged for one week.  I asked John Blakeman why this might be, and he responded:

"The initial hunting behaviors of the Franklin Institute fledglings relate, I'm certain, to several cogent matters. First, and probably most important, they have been raised by an experienced pair of haggards. The formel and the tiercel have done this all before. No surprises for them. They were always several steps ahead of the developing eyasses, knowing exactly how they behaved and what they needed.

Secondly, and also very important, was the provision of ample food to both the sitting formel during ovulation and incubation, and also to all three eyasses on the nest. The weight of the injured eyass (#3), 1200 grams or so, indicates ample food. Many eyasses at this stage are only 1000 to 1100 grams. 1200 grams indicates very strong growth, resulting from ample food, with few or no periods of hunger or fasting.

Lastly, ample jump-flapping on the ledge before fledging also contributed to the flying prowess and eventual hunting successes of the two free-flying eyasses.

Everything for those two birds is in order, allowing them to start serious flying and hunting right away."

--John Blakeman
This eyass is totally at ease in its ever-expanding urban environment that includes the iconic One Liberty Place in the background.

                             Scott Kemper