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Hawks update...

Gah, very behind here! These are pictures from last Saturday, when jenlev and I were very generously given access to the 7th floor of the building overlooking the hawks' nest, and by dint of some ingenuity and 2 hours' worth of persistence, we got ourselves set up to take a metric ton of pictures, that then got whittled down to what you'll see here.

Folks who have Jenlev on their flist as well will have seen these already. :) All of these except one are pictures that she took and is kindly allowing me to reproduce. Technical notes: Canon 7D, lens is the EF 28-300 (410 optical zoom), 1000 iso, no lens hood, using a UV filter, shot through window glass. I got a number of the same pics, but in all cases, hers were better quality than mine.

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When we arrived (great weather, good light, a bit breezy) and got set up, we could see the chicks in the nest, and took pics of them for a while, wishing that one of the parents would come back for a feeding. It might have been as much as a half-hour before I noticed that one of the adult hawks was sitting on a ledge on the gable (inside joke) of Pierce Hall nearby. Mostly, she was doing a lot of preening. And then, suddenly, she did what you see in the picture above: she spread her wings and tail and made herself as flat as she possibly could to... soak up the sun?

Honestly, I can't think of anything else that she could be doing. I've seen pictures of burrowing owls sunning themselves like this, but I had no idea that hawks did it! She stayed this way for at least 5 minutes, perhaps a little longer. It's certainly worth noting, too, that given the width of that ledge, there is no way that anyone below would ever be able to see this. You might have been able to see her while she was sitting up, but not this. Huh.

(As usual -- I am using the female pronoun arbitrarily. There was no way to tell the gender of this particular adult.)

And then there was more preening. A lot of preening. We honestly started wondering if this hawk was ever going to go over to the nest. But eventually, she made her way to the edge of the ledge and prepared for take-off:

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First, she made a stop in the tree next to the nest: here, landing, with Oxford St. in the background.

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And there she sat for a short while, on a branch far too small for her...

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... being buffeted around crazily by the wind:

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And we kind of laughed at her, I admit, because seriously, why are you trying to sit in that tree on a branch that's too small in wind like this? Shortly, she took off and flew in a brief arc that ended with a landing at the actual nest:

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More preening. But then!

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If you click through, there is a slightly larger version of the above picture available, in which you can just about see that she has what must be either a mockingbird or a catbird in her beak! (My guess is a mockingbird, because we have lots of those in this area. Plus, when we first noticed her on the ledge earlier, there was a harassing mockingbird around.)

The inescapable conclusion is that in the sequence above, she had spotted the bird in that tree and had struck and killed it. Because she certainly did not have it on the ledge with her. (Either that, or... well, do hawks stash prey in the nest for later feedings? That thought occurred to me later, too.)

So then, we had feeding of the chicks. The chick at far left, to be frank, didn't seem to get fed at all, at least in this session. It made us wonder whether that chick is already starting to fail... or whether it had simply been fed in an earlier feeding.

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May I just say, wow, look at the feet on those babies?

The chicks looked significantly more developed that week than they had just 1 week before, which I guess is to be expected. They had a lot more feathers on their wings, and were a lot more active in moving around the nest.

Below, I offer a comparison between a shot taken with MY camera (a Canon PowerShot SX110 IS, which has a maximum 40x digital zoom), and Jen's camera below it, thanks to the coincidence of our getting and both keeping pretty much the same exact shot:

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Finally done with the feeding and the preening, the adult took off again, and flew away into the Law School quad.

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While back in the nest, the chicks shifted around and stretched their wings as if in imitation of Mom:

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And not long after then, we decided that we had really gotten a very good range of pics, and we should call it a day. We were both tremendously grateful to the folks in FAS Facilities and Security who made it possible for us to get up there and observe the hawks for an uninterrupted 2 hours. It couldn't have been better.

Now I really have to get back up there early next week, to see how the chicks' development is progressing...

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
gmh
May. 21st, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
Some birds do sun themselves; stimulates oil production as far as I'm aware, which keeps the feathers in good condition.

(However, if it was on the ground and by an ants' nest, I'd say that it was anting.)
lyosha
May. 21st, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, she's defintely sunning. Awesome photos!
xandra_lj
May. 21st, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
Very cool! Thanks for posting-- those little fuzzies are decidedly cute, big feet and all...
jenlev
May. 21st, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
Aw, you're a sweetie! ::::massive hugs:::: I can't say enough how appreciative I am for this opportunity. And oh, I hope that third one makes it, we need more hawks in the world.
okojosan
May. 21st, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Flat hawk! I can't see in the photos of the hawk balancing on the thin branch if s/he caught the mockingbird there. You'd think a mockingbird would find it easy to avoid a hawk.
trickofthedark
May. 21st, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
Very cool!
raqs
May. 22nd, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Wow! And you're so intense with the bird stalking and the photography!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )