Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Clark's Grebe and chick-Lake Henry,CO

These pics are of one of the Clark's Grebe parents with an older chick. The chick swims towards the parents then in the bottom pic it is getting back up on the parent's back. SeEtta .

Clark's Grebe & chick-Lake Henry, CO

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The little hawk that didn't know it could fly

I was privileged a few days ago to observe a young Red-tailed Hawk recently fledged from it's nest near Canon City. I first spotted it as it crashed landed on top of a mesa, very near to the steep cliff edge. Thinking it had flown some distance before it's awkward descent (not a correct assumption), I was surprised that subsequent flight attempts were for only a few feet. Then it flew off a cliff and made another very awkward landing on a large (like 75 foot high) boulder that was only 30 or so feet below the ledge from whence it took off.

Then began an extended period during which the fledgling hawk would look over the edge of the boulder, preen, walk around a bit, flap it's wings as though preparing to take off, then just look forlorn (yes, I admit that is an anthropomorphic comment and maybe just a projection by me of what I would feel like up there as I am fearful of heights). The parent birds flew nearby and called back to this little hawk, likely to encourage it to take off, but to no avail. By then it had occurred to me that this little hawk had not flown very far when I first observed it's crash landing. This continued on for over 2 hours, time I spent alternating between watching the hawk, trying to experiment with digiscoping (I don't have an adaptor and I just got a new/used camera I am learning also) and looking for more items of clothing to put on (it was only in the 60's and had begun, in June of all things, to drizzle!)

After I left twice to get something to eat and then check some other birds, I returned to find the hawk still on the same boulder. Even the parent birds had gone to do other things. I was about to give up when it got up the courage to fly off the boulder onto some smaller boulders maybe 50 feet below. Then it began hopping and walking around--yes, a hawk walking all over instead of flying and it was walking quite adeptly. It would use it's wings to "fly" a few feet up onto a rock, but mostly just hopped and walked, covering about 100 feet this way. One of the parents had returned and I swear I could hear it moan.

After looking away to watch some other birds, I couldn't refind the fledgling Red-tailed Hawk. I hoped it had actually took wing to fly. I looked around with my binoculars to see if it had landed in the vicinity of where I had last seen it. I gasped when I saw the back and tail of Red-tailed Hawk in juvenal plumage (the type of plumage that this fledgling had) with it's head wedged into a crevice in the rocks. It wasn't moving. I said to myself, "move, try to wiggle your way out, don't give up." But there was no movement and I realized this hawk appeared dead. So I looked around some more and gave a big sigh when I found the little hawk that was still hopping up the rocks. Obviously the dead hawk was another young Red-tailed Hawk (likely it's sibling) that had recently succumbed possibly to the very real risks of learning to fly (it looked like it may have just flown down head-first into the crevice where it might have broken it's neck or fatally lodged its head between the rocks).

[Though I had a hard time finding much info on fledgling hawks learning to fly, I did find several references to the reality that there is a high mortality for these young birds and that many die from flight accidents. A few internet sites mentioned that it takes a lot of practice for hawks to learn to fly]

It was now getting late. The little hawk had hopped up onto a tall ledge and had made two short flights of maybe 15-20 feet from it. Now it was back on top of this ledge. To my delight, it took off and flew over the edge of the cliff for several hundred yards, made a nice turn back and returned to the top of the mesa where some trees shielded it from my continued viewing. I left with a satisfied feeling (albeit guarded for future success) that this little hawk has learned to fly. SeEtta