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Much to share: flowers, hawks, owls...

So, I have a LOT of pics to share, spanning the last month or so. Pretty spring flowers! News on the Harvard hawks! Baaaaaby owls!

A tease:

IMG_0286 IMG_0404 IMG_0420

So first (chronologically), I got out this year to take some pictures of an early spring flower called Glory of the Snow. (It took a LOT of hunting around last year to figure out what this flower was.) I assume its name derives from it being one of the first things to pop up, right around the same time as crocuses. (It hails from the eastern Mediterranean, originally; the most vivid varieties apparently come from Turkey.) It creates these extremely vivid, distinctive blue carpets, and seems to favor shady areas. It's a perennial bulb, but it must spread or something.





I took the above on a rather grey April 12th, but in a way I think the subdued light made them seem more vivid. Man, if I had a lawn, I would plant these suckers allll over it.

These all hail from Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge MA, which is a very old, Victorian cemetery (founded in the mid-1800s) that is also famous as a garden and arboretum, and is very popular with bird-watchers.

Yay, spring!

Meanwhile, in Harvard hawk news... we had quite a bit of discouraging Hawk Drama this spring, which has been part of the reason for the lack of updates.

So first, in late March, the Harvard pair built a NEW nest on a building not far from the white pine tree they had been using. (I'm not sure if the old nest was too destroyed in the winter weather, or they didn't like something else about what had happened to the tree, which lost a few limbs over the winter, or what.) The new nest was actually in a nicely visible spot, with a few nicely accessible places to take pictures from. And people in the building set up a web-cam right over the nest! We were going to have live streaming web video and everything!

So, the female laid her eggs not long before the April 1st snowstorm, and whether it was that, or the general cold during the nights, I don't know... but the eggs died. She abandoned them. Everyone was very sad.

But not as sad as when 6 days later, the female was hit by a car on Prescott St (i.e. a block from my office). She wasn't killed, but her scapula was broken. A raptor rehab place came and took her away (they were sure it was the female because she still had a visible brood patch from the first clutch of eggs). I actually took a few pictures of the male hawk a couple of hours after that incident (as I discovered later), and saw him around over the next few days. But the obvious question was, what was going to happen next.

I need to try to contact the raptor rehab place and see if they have an update on the female. It's possible she'll survive but never fly again. It's possible she'll heal up and be able to be released. But not in time for this breeding season, I don't think. While redtailed hawks are monogamous while mated, they will re-mate if they lose a mate. So it was possible for the Harvard male to find a new mate.

Fast forward to April 22nd.




The top picture shows an adult hawk with a tree-branch in its beak, perched on the corner of a library across the street from my office. I happened to see it while walking in to work, and quickly dug out my camera. The hawk flew with the branch to a nearby white pine tree, then flew away again, then (as I was running around for a better angle at which to photograph the developing nest) flew back with some more nest-building material. Then flew away again, followed by the second adult hawk who had been on the nest (blurry in the second photo). Later in the day, both of them posed nicely on the nearby weathervane of Memorial Hall.

(Can I just point out that if you look closely at the weathervane photo, I think you can see that there's an area all along the top edge, where they are sitting, that looks darker and dirty, and then you can see places where it looks like the gold is chipped away to show grey metal beneath. It amuses me to think that's the result of the hawks using it as a favorite perching place. It does seem to be right where their talons hit it.)

Is this the old male with a new mate? Is this a new pair who drove off the old male? Don't know. Certainly, this pair has picked a nesting site fairly distant from the old sites -- at least a quarter mile, I'd say, maybe half a mile to the south.

Since that time, I've been fairly stymied in getting any shots of the hawks on the nest. It's very difficult to find a good angle. I've found that the reading room of Widener Library offers an edge-on view, which may be as good as I can get. And I haven't managed to confirm that they're really using the nest, although the nest as it is right now is more developed and solid than it was that first day I was taking pictures. So they did build it nicely. (Orange arrow below indicates visible lump that is nest.)



More on this as it develops, and as we see if they have been successful in laying a clutch or hatching young.


Excited word has been spreading through the local birding world the past week, as it's been confirmed that a great horned owl pair built a nest and hatched two owlets in Mt. Auburn Cemetery this spring! We've known for a few years that the cemetery has a resident redtailed hawk pair. (Word is that they are still there, although I'm curious about the apparent ability of the GH owls to tolerate them so relatively close, as I've heard that GH owls are supposed to be extremely territorial.) I'm not sure that anyone has confirmed GH owls nesting there before.

Conveniently, they nested in a fairly accessible spot with places where people can get a good view of the nest. elishavah and I stopped in yesterday, Sunday the 8th, and I got the following pictures.



(In a nearby pine tree of some sort, one of the parents perches. There were just no good angles to get a good photo from.)






SO FLUFFY! SO CUTE! Don't be fooled, though. They already have all their pointy bits, and I believe they are already adult size.

I'd love to know what originally built this nest. GH owls tend to take over others' nests, rather than build their own. But what strikes me about this one is that it's actually only 1/3rd or midway up the tree, not near the top (where I usually think of redtails or blue herons as nesting; and this spot is not a likely blue heron nest spot anyway). All the thorns you can see in the photos suggest to me that this is a honey locust tree. So... I don't know. It's an interesting question.

I plan to try to get back there a good bit over the next few weeks and keep tabs on the owlets' progress. So expect to see more!



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)

So very fluffy and cute, with a dash of "we'll be deadly when we're older". And lovely pics of the hawks and flowers, too-- yay spring!
May. 9th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
Amazing photos :o) I really look forward to your updates!

Those blue flowers look so much like bluebells, and obviously they have a similar habit. Here in the UK the first to come out locally are the snowdrops, then the tulips, daffodils and then the bluebells later in spring (depending on where you are, we're pretty far north in England). They spread over the woodland floor and make a beautiful carpet. Where I grew up in the East Midlands, we had a local forest we called Bluebell Wood. It was gorgeous in the spring :)
May. 9th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
Oh em gee!

There's a fellow I see on my commute in the mornings who is a bit of a birder (feeds the Canada geese, IDK), who mentioned the other day that a big heron has been flying up and down the banks of the river. I saw him myself on Sunday morning, neck folded as he flew upriver. Don't know if there are two nesting, or if it's just somebody wandering through.
May. 9th, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
The baby owls look kind of freaky, yo. Like... Siamese owls? But cute. In an "I will kill you and eat you" kind of way.

The new hawks are go-jous - they can HAVE that weathervane as far as I'm concerned (of course, it's not my weathervane!)

What a fine profile portrait that one fellow has (the one after the orange-arrowed lump). He should be on a coin.
May. 9th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Oooh, lookit the little deadly fluffballs!
May. 9th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
OH. MY. GODS. Awesome shots, OWLS!!!!! And so sad about the female hawk, I'm glad they were able to rescue her and that there is still hawk nesting thereabouts despite it all. Gods, sometimes the universe is kind and not kind and very strange. Gorgeous flowers by the way.

PS. Perhaps a raven nest due it's location? It's possible.....but I don't think it's a heron's either.

PPS. The second to last owl shot is incredible, go you! *Hugs*

Oh, by the way, the flickers were still at their nest so yay that they didn't get driven away by too much traffic.
May. 9th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
May. 10th, 2011 12:15 am (UTC)
May. 10th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
I love the hawk photos and news! And baby owls! So fluffy and cute and bad-ass! *g*
May. 10th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry to hear the female hawk got hit by a car. That's terrible. I hope she's okay.

The baby owls are awesome! They are fluffy and cute but I sure wouldn't want to stick my hand in their nest!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )