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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Some Recent Updates

I went out of town for a short break, so never had the opportunity to see the Red-tailed Hawks in Prospect Park fledge. Somewhat disappointing, but I can't be everywhere.

My wife and I were on our way down to Annapolis when I received a call from Steve Nanz. He had been contacted by a woman who lives in my neighborhood near Prospect Park. Apparently, she spotted a fledgling kestrel sitting on her neighbor's front step. I gave Steve the phone number of wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath and hoped that the young falcon wasn't injured.

We took a few side trips while in Annapolis, one of which was to Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Mason Neck has the distinction of being the country's first national wildlife refuge specifically established to protect the Bald Eagle. It's about an hour from where we stay in Maryland and about 18 miles south of Washington, DC. The refuge was beautiful, but we never saw any eagles. I did have an amusing encounter, though, along one of the refuge's trails.

We spent one morning hiking along the Great Marsh Trail. It's a rich habitat and I was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of breeding birds. Refuge highlights included Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Northern Parula, Prothonotary Warbler, Summer Tanager, Indigo Bunting and Orchard Oriole. While walking back to the trailhead I heard a familiar call echoing through the forest.

Shortly after their young fledge, Red-tailed Hawk adults will gradually decrease meal deliveries to the youngsters. Eventually hunger will motivate the juvenile red-tails to begin hunting for themselves. However, there is a brief period of time when the young "beg" for food by making a desperate, whining cry. The noise is so grating that sometimes I feel like yelling, "Alright, already. Quit your bellyachin'!" I've learned how to make a pretty convincing imitation of their whistle, which, more often than not, calls the bellyacher into view.

I was standing on the Great Marsh Trail listening to a Summer Tanager, when the mellow, singsong melody was interrupted by the squealing cries of a young Red-tailed Hawk in the distance. My wife was a short way up the trail, so I waved her back. "Watch this", I said. I cupped my hands around my mouth and imitated the young hawk. He immediately flew out of the woods and perched on a dead snag directly above us. During those few moments, I was oblivious to an older couple approaching us from the direction of the trailhead. They nonchalantly walked by, glanced up at the hawk I had called in, looked at me, looked back at the hawk, then kept on walking. I can't even guess what they were thinking.

When I returned to Brooklyn, I emailed Bobby Horvath to find out if he knew anything about the Park Slope kestrel. I received his response the next morning:

Hi Rob, Yes Steve did call Cathy here on Thursday night. He told her some woman found a kestrel and wanted advice. She told Steve to tell the woman to call us but we never heard back from either one. Cathy left him a message. I'm getting 2 more today from AMC but don't know where they came from so its possible that 1 might be the bird we talking about.

It occurred to me that, perhaps, the neighbor with the American Kestrel visitor was the same woman as last year. I sent her the following note:

Linda - I'm curious, were you the neighbor who had the young kestrel visitor for a second year? If so, would you be able to fill me in on the details. I'd been meaning to go over to your block and check on the presumed kestrel nest, but just hadn't had the time.

It made my day when I read Linda's response:

Subject: Re: Kestrels...again

I wanted to contact you when I found the little guy in the front yard but our computer crashed and I could not find your contact information. We did not touch the bird. He did not seem hurt, just frightened. After a while all of the humans grew tired of watching him and went home. When I went back outside to check on him, he was gone. The next day I saw him in the tree in front of our house. He was practicing his new skill by jumping from limb to limb and flapping his wings from time to time. The next time I looked he was gone for good. I think he made it. Thanks for asking. For now though it seems that all babies have fledged.



While I was away, I kept wondering about the fate of the young kestrel. Was it injured? Was Bobby able to save it? As you could imagine, I was extremely pleased to come back to a story with a positive ending.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"


Marie said...

Wonderful pictue of the Halloween Pennants. What are they doing :-)?

And I've never seen this penstemon where it "belongs", before.

I don't suppose you went crabbin' to Cantlers?

Rob Jett said...


When describing dragonfly mating and the "Wheel Position" to the uninitiated, it must sound like I'm reading about aliens from a science fiction novel.

No crabbin' this time, but lots of crab cakes and beer. ;-)

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