Sunday, May 18, 2008

Three Fourths

So much to post, so little time.
*The correct answer to Friday Feathers was a Great horned owl. Laura got it right first!*

Saturday was a jam-packed day. First, I went to RAPTOR to put new jesses on our screech owl, and to also begin my own training with No-No the Barn Owl. The Barn Owl has been jessed up and a few of our members have been training him on the glove. This is a fairly hyper bird, and his wound (amputation at the wrist on one wing) requires that we be gentle and take it slow.
I have been so looking forward to handling him, and at the same time nervous about it.
Cindy, our wonderful Bird Care Director, filled me in, thankfully. No-No will lunge at your face while you try to grab his jesses.

Man, that bird can jump high. And it's not the beak you have to worry about...it's the talons. Barn Owls are all leg and he was able to jump about two feet up, trying to kick at my shins.
I remained calm and confident and after about 5 minutes, was able to grab his jesses. Then the screaming began. Oh. My. God. Barn Owls are very, very good at doing an impression of a woman screaming...or a tea kettle hissing.
No No and Me
We walked around the property for about 20 minutes. When he began to show signs of tiring, I put him back. He was much better than I though he would be. He is not an official education bird yet...he has to be put on our education permit, he needs more training, etc. But the process has begun finally.
After RAPTOR, I met Kathi at Armleder Park. It was officially closed, but we decided to flaunt the rules and go in anyway. (Well, to be honest, Kathi made me. It was her idea.)
We had heard about black terns and bobolinks, so we were panting to get in there and see them.
The first bird we found was not what we expected....
*WARNING: GROSS OUT ALERT. DON'T LOOK IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH*


We came across a wing and a leg.

Leg and wing
Surgical-precision cutting...the blood was fresh and still wet. It was some kind of buteo. Could we find the tail, to ascertain what kind?

Yep. About 30 feet away, the tail...and the other leg.

Leg and tail

Kathi was good enough to pull aside the tail feathers to show the one, rufus-colored feather.
A second-year red-tailed hawk.
One red feather
Again, clean-cut but twisted limbs.

About 20 feet further, we found the head and the other wing:
Head and other wing
Eyes were still open, showing their sunny yellow color.
The body was twisted but the principal pieces were intact and looked as if they had be cut from the body.

The Chimp would be proud...Kathi immediately realized that this hawk had been hit by a low-flying plane over Armleder Park (which sits just next door to Lunken Airport, a small airport that brings in many planes with propellers.

Now. What do you think the raptor-phile in the group, with a permit to take such beautiful pieces, would do then?
Yep. I took 'em and put them in Kathi's car and take them after our birding walk. I have lots of different pieces of many different species in my education box...but I don't have any RTHA wings. So the pieces were gently, respectfully and quietly put in Kathi's cooler, along with some dead HOSP, starlings and a window-strike cardinal. Her car was the Bird Hearse.

And so the bird walk continued:

We found the Bobolinks immediately.
Male Bobolink
Not the best picture, but it was windy. Lifer!

And calling on the powers of the Chimp to ID these tracks:
Mystery tracks and Kathi s key

We found indigo bunting males giving chase to each other, tree swallows, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, killdeer, etc...etc...
As we were starting to head back, Kathi spotted a small flock (6-8 birds) over head. She yelled out, "BLACK SKIMMERS!!!!!" I thought she had gone off her nut, but she corrected herself and yelled, "BLACK TERNS!" Lifer!
Dickcissels were singing in the grass, and we were able to see a few as they popped up.
Dickcissel
It's a dickcissel, I swear.
So two lifers, a bunch of neat local nesters and three fourths of a hawk.

12 comments:

Lynne said...

Too bad for the hawk, but cool that you found the pieces and will make them part of your package in educating the public about raptors!

The perfect head was a little creepy...

KatDoc said...

I made you break the rules and enter the park illegally? That's not exactly how I remember it. Besides, we had already parked illegally, and I figured the rangers would go after all the people who were using the soccer fields as their alternate dog park before they came after us.

You didn't explain that the reason I was carrying around dead birds was to give you for RAPTOR food. I don't want people to think I usually travel in a bird hearse.

And, the reason I said "Black Skimmers" was because we had just been talking about Cape May, not because I thought they actually were skimmers.

What part of the hawk were we missing? I thought we had three thirds of it.

It was a pretty good day, wasn't it?

~Kathi, who got a Lifer herself with those terns

Susan Gets Native said...

Lynne:
Yeah, it WAS cool. Sad, but neat that the pieces were in such good shape.

Kathi:
Okay, okay...I forgot to mention that you are feeding our raptors with your HOSP-sicles.

But you brought up breaking the rules first. You did.

Susan Gets Native said...

And by the way....I counted it as three fourths because we didn't have the whole body. We left a piece there. Math isn't my strongest subject.

Amy - "Twelve Acres" said...

What a shame for that hawk to get killed that way. Such a waste! Stupid airplanes! Well, at least you have it for educational purposes now, so it's not a complete loss.

Trixie said...

Holy Sheep! That is amazing. It must have been muy fresh.

What an interesting day. And no more math, please. My head will hurt.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Susan Gets Native: Half Nature Adventurer. Half Mom. Half Not Good With Fractions.

Holy toledo, I am flabbergasted by the sight of a hawk freshly cut into pieces. And wondering heavily what became of the plane's prop, not to mention the pilot. Much smaller birds have brought down much larger craft than must use that airport. Good LORD! Hitting a redtail is a MAJOR event for a pilot. Have you thought of contacting the airport and asking if anyone had an in-flight bird collision that day? Because if it did damage the plane or God forbid cause injury, it sure would be good for investigators to know what bird was involved. Like, they'd love your photos. My late, fascinating friend Roxie Laybourne at the Smithsonian spent her life identifying scraps of birds involved in plane collisions, and I'd bet she rarely got such unequivocal evidence as this. She was one of my Science Chimp mentors.

On the tracks: would be nice to have more habitat information--on a shore? In a parking lot? Because there is a hind toe, ruling out woodcock or kildeer, I'm leaning toward one of the yellowlegs or solitary sandpiper if they were on a shore. Then again with the staggery pattern and close interval they could very well be mourning dove or robin tracks, too. Location, location!

Way to go on the sleuthing, and the dickcissel!! WOW! In 16 years we've had exactly two dickcissels on our farm, but one was in the Spa!

NCmountainwoman said...

Isn't it amazing how sometimes when you break the rules the best things happen? Great pictures and post.

Mary said...

The sound of a Barn Owl gave me the shivers. You find the most odd stuff, Susan. Eeeeks.

Mary said...

Oh, and thanks so much for the "panty" alert ;-)

dguzman said...

Holy moly! I would NEVER have guessed plane collision; I (with my CSI mind) was thinking "raptor serial killer!" Wow. Great pics.

And holy lifebird, Batman! Dickcissels and bobolinks! *getting green with envy*

RuthieJ said...

Hey, I love that t-shirt....where'd you get it?