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Raptors

(c) Greg Saulmon

(c) Greg Saulmon

UPDATE, Friday morning: Some time between dusk last night and dawn this morning, the wayward hawk found its way back up to the nest.

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Original post:

A check on the Red-tailed Hawk nest this afternoon found some drama: one of the young hawks found its way to the lower level of the nest platform and couldn’t figure out how to get back “upstairs”.

I watched for about two-and-a-half hours, and when I left as it started to get dark the little one was still separated from its siblings. The adult hawks know it’s down there — the mother checked on it several times — but it also missed two feedings during the time I watched.

The stray little hawk seems reachable in terms of the adults delivering food, but the spot it’s in doesn’t allow for the jump-flapping exercise necessary to keep building the strength for fledging.

Of course, if the hawk is already strong enough, fledging may just be the next logical step — and the only step out of this predicament.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

Three chicks have hatched at downtown Holyoke’s Red-tailed Hawk nest.

I got my first look at one of them last Saturday morning, in a view from above the nest. The little chick was huddled close against its parent (above), its siblings hidden from view.

Today, though, was the first day I’ve been able to see the little ones from the ground. One tottered around the nest, craning its neck to see over the edge, with one sibling barely in view and the other hiding out toward the rear of the nest:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

It’s hard to believe these new arrivals will be ready to fly in just over a month, and ready to strike out on their own just a few weeks after that. I stopped seeing the young hawks from last year’s brood around mid-July. This year, that day will again come sooner than I’d like.

Today’s observation had another interesting twist: while watching the chicks on the nest, I heard a commotion on a nearby rooftop and turned to see two raptors taking flight. One of the other parents, of course, but what was the second bird?

It turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon, and the two sparred briefly before the falcon fled:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

I’ve been seeing the falcons very irregularly this year, but it’s good to know they’re still visiting the city.

 

 

 

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

Back in March, I predicted that we’d see chicks hatch at the Red-tailed Hawk nest downtown between April 11 and 18.

As we near the end of that window, I checked on the site this afternoon. The hawk on the nest was alternating between the usual hunkered-down position and the sort of half-squat shown above, often holding its wings partially open.

I didn’t observe any feeding behavior to indicate that newborn chicks were already in the nest, but the hawk on the nest frequently looked down between its feet. Was it rolling the eggs, or watching a tiny hawk chipping away at its shell? We should know soon.

One thing that occurred to me today was both this year and last year the hawks built their nest right up against brick walls that get direct afternoon sunlight. I started to wonder if that’s a deliberate choice, as the nest would receive a few hours of reflected warmth each day, giving the eggs a little boost before temperatures drop off at night.

 

On some days birding in Holyoke feels like catching up with old friends.

The Canada geese are back at the nest they chose last year, and it looks like they have eggs. I believe the eggs were laid this week — I’ve been checking the site regularly, and this morning was the first time I saw one of them actually sitting on the nest:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

A Mallard paddled in the canal nearby, drawing the ire of the male goose when it got a little too close to the nest:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

The Eastern phoebe is still hanging around in Heritage State Park:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

And, it may only be a week or so before we see this year’s brood of Red-tailed Hawks. I caught the adults switching off incubating duties this afternoon:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

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I haven’t seen the falcons downtown in a few months, but tonight just after sunset the pair paid a short visit to a ledge on the tower at City Hall.

As the twilight deepened at least one of the birds flew away. I’m not sure whether the other stayed on the ledge — I’d taken a rare walk without a camera, so I had to run back to my apartment to retrieve it after I first saw them land on the building.

Here’s a short recording of the pair calling to each other:

And, here are a few more shots of the encounter:

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(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

After seeing only a female American Kestrel downtown since January, I finally saw a male this week — and the pair seems to have staked out the same nesting location as last year, in the soffit of an industrial building along Race Street.

Here, the male visits the nest:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

And below, a recording of the pair calling to each other:

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The former Holyoke Catholic High School building will be converted into apartments soon. If you’re a hawk, it’s one of several steeples and other high vantage points downtown to keep an eye out for your next meal. From this perch, the hawk moved on to another popular spot: the tower at City Hall.