Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Today, we have some pictures taken over the past week, and a hawk video! So, let's get started...

It's official: one of the mockingbirds has definitely learned the juvenile hawk cry (kreeeeet-kreet-kreet). We managed to spot one while it was doing it. I guess that explains that incident a week or so ago, when a "hawk" was in a tree near Mem Church and I just could not see it. Yesterday, though, I received proof that while the mockingbird's is a good imitation, it's not quite as loud or resonant as the real thing. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

It's been hot and humid this week, which has made it less appealing to go on hour-long circuits through campus, looking for the hawks at lunchtime. I kept doing it, although I'm sure that the birds were intelligently hunkered somewhere in the shade where I couldn't spot them. On Monday, I did hear a single cry, and managed to spot one of the hawks far above, circling on thermals; and then followed him until he landed on the top of one of the Memorial Hall weathervanes:




There was quite a bit of grooming behavior up there, but the air quality was terrible and none of the pictures came out well.

Then, I had a dry spell until Wednesday evening, when I decided to do a circuit of campus on the way to the T, and heard one of the juveniles crying from the direction of the First Church weathervane:





So I set myself up in the graveyard beside the church, and used one of the tombstones as a tripod-assist, to rest my arms on, and started taking video. In the past, the hawks I've observed perched up on heights like this have tended to stay there between 5 and 15 minutes, so I figured, what the heck, I'll video this and get him flying off.

... 40 MINUTES LATER... Yeah. That bird sat there and cried at 15-30 second intervals for 40 minutes, while I recorded, before it flew off. At one point, its cries started being answered, and a second hawk came swooping by -- unfortunately, I couldn't get it on camera, and it didn't land anywhere that I could see. (That was halfway through. I really was hoping it would cause this one to fly off, but it didn't.)

Here, then, is the edited 3 "interesting" minutes -- mostly getting to see/hear the hawk crying; some grooming; hopping over to the opposite bar about midway through; and finally, at the end, taking off:

That made me feel pretty good, although the fact of the juvenile's persistent cries also made me kind of worried about whether they were successfully hunting and eating. But, it fit in with my theory that the juveniles are becoming more independent, ranging farther afield, perching higher rather than coming close as they had in the beginning. I felt a bit sad that they didn't seem to be coming to visit the Barker Courtyard and our trees any more...

So of course you know what happened Thursday afternoon.

From inside the office, I heard a juvenile's cries, a bit louder and sharper than the mockingbird's imitations, and went running out with my camera. Soon, Margo and I were able to spot a hawk way up in the big locust tree, and I got some pictures. I was trying to find another angle (besides right below, which results in a lot of pictures of bird butt) when the hawk flew off, pursued by a smaller bird. It disappeared behind the trees in front of Lamont, at a low enough angle that I wondered if I would find it perching on a building or tree over there, so I dashed over. Indeed, I found it (I presume, anyway) on the corner of the roof of Widener Library:



(The second picture is the bird standing with its beak open because of the heat, not because I've caught it in mid-cry. It wasn't making any noise at this point.)

Then Margo caught up with me and told me that there was still another hawk in the locust tree. So I went back over there, found the hawk again, and took more pictures.




This is one of the adults, who remained silent the entire time. What I found when I got home and was able to look at the pictures on my computer was that the FIRST hawk I'd spotted in the tree was this same adult. Although the juvenile was making all the noise, and is the one that flew off, I'd never actually spotted it in the tree. Clearly it was there with the adult, but less willing to weather the pestering of the smaller birds.

The last sighting of the day was right before a big thunderstorm hit us -- in fact, I'd gone outside because of a giant clap of thunder, and I wanted to see the storm approaching. Once outside, I heard a juvenile crying, and finally spotted it on the weathervane of Memorial Church:


So, clearly, the juveniles haven't completely left the area, although I suspect they are right on the edge of doing so.

Thanks to a tip from Margo, I found that the Harvard Recycling Newsletter has a "Campus Wildlife" section, and they've been reporting on the hawks each month. That tipped me off that the folks in the MCZ's Ornithology dept. have been informally monitoring the nest (which is across the street from them). I was able to call them up, and get a rough idea of when the hawks hatched (~ May 8), and when they started flying (~ June 20).

Some more digging around on the web turned up the rough estimates that after they start flying, fledglings will spend 6-7 weeks still being fed by the parents before they're really catching food on their own. Around 10 weeks, they should be independent of the parents. This means that, if they began to fly around June 20, then I first started seeing them around the 4-week mark. The 10-week mark would roughly be the end of next week.

It's nice to know that the parents would have kept feeding them through this period (not left them to sink or swim in the learning-to-hunt dept., as I originally feared). And at least I know that in the next couple of weeks, I shouldn't be surprised if sightings of them drop off completely. (The quiet adults are going to be much harder to spot. For example, I'd NEVER have seen the one in the tree above, if the juvenile hadn't been with it and drawing attention.)


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 21st, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
I love your hawk photos and posts. *hugs*

Watching all those avian dramas is addictive, eh?
Aug. 21st, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
It totally is. :) You are probably one of those most able to understand how physically hard it is to call it quits when the bird is still RIGHT there, in the tree; to walk away and know you're leaving the bird there, rather than sticking it out until the bird removes itself from your ability to follow. That is incredibly hard. Especially when they're making noise.
Aug. 21st, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
I totally do get it. It's physically painful to turn away. I saw a cardinal when I was outside just now which makes me very happy.

Now, er....referring to email I just sent you, logging off and sending big hugs. :)
Aug. 21st, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
I adore the 4th shot down. Looks like he's got his collar turned up like the badass he is...

Also love the closeup in the tree where he's looking right at you - rather harried, he seems.
Aug. 21st, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
I think the badassery is somewhat undermined by the constant cries of "MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! BRING ME FOOD! MOM!" ;-)

Since that pic in the tree is one of the adults who was just being so-cried-at, I can understand the harried vibe.
Aug. 21st, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Aug. 21st, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
Wow, you are way more patient than I would ever be. 40 minutes? Damn.
Aug. 22nd, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, wonderful! Hawk in flight - finally! I love the weather vanes as much as the hawks! You really ought to share your pictures and footage with the Ornithalogists and the Recycling News Letter!
This is like having our own personal National Geographic wild life reporter at out finger tips! Small wonder you took such issue with photographer invisibility in the nature shows!
Will keep watching as long as they keep flying and you keep tracking!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )