Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Flickers, frogs and hawks. So much for alliteration

Sunday April 5, 2009 Part II

Where was I? Oh yes, Edward Crim and I were just east of Deer Lake and I saw a Northern Flicker. Just as I began to take a photo or two, a second Northern Flicker landed to the right of the first. In a flash, the newly arrived flicker hopped on to the back of the other and they mated! To say that the mating was brief is to define an understatement. This made the brief mating of Charles and Sarah (which I have been extremely privleged to have seen well over twenty times) seem lengthy in comparison. What turned out to be the male flew off and the female remained on the branch. The mating was so fast that neither Edward or I got a photo of it. Here is a photo of the pair just before mating.
Over the past few months I have seen several animals mate, Great Horned Owls and Cooper's Hawks in Forest Park and Northern Watersnakes at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum in Chicago and now Northern Flickers. Perhaps I should refrain from carry the boombox blasting out Barry White around with me.

We continued on heading towards Steinberg Skating Rink. Near the rink, the park's waterway terminates in a small pond. Even with the day's cold temperatures and blustery winds, I thought it was worth taking a peek at this pond. We were pleasantly suprised to find three frogs, either Bullfrogs or Green Frogs, hanging out despite the bracing air. This pond is one of the best places in the park to see frogs but even now I am impressed that we saw them on this cold day. Check these hearty frogs out here:

Not to keep going on about the day's weather but as much as I hate to admit it, I was unprepared for the weather. I often say, "I was never a boy scout but I'm usually prepared." On this day, I could not make this claim. For whatever reason, I did not bring the proper clothes for the climate. As we continued our exploration of the park, the weather became more and more of a factor for me. Edward was properly attired, smart man that he is.

We moved next to the under-renovation golf course of the Triple A Golf and Tennis Club. I pass this golf course every morning on my commute and the progress on the course's renovation was and continues to be intermittent. On the plus side, the unfinished state of the course gave us the opportunity to tread where we often would not do so. As we crossed the golf course, a spitting rain began. This rain was just sufficient enough for me to put my still camera and binoculars away but not bad enough for me to prevent me from shooting some video and stills with my video camera.
One destination in this area was foremost on our minds and we headed directly for it; the nest of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. I first saw this nest three years ago but it was not until last year that I saw it in use. My friend Chris Gerli was the first to tell me that the nest was active last year and this year. Both years, we were able to positively identify the hawks as Red-tailed Hawks. The subtle differences in hawks of the genus Bueto, makes discerning the species accurately a substantial challenge. Here's a shot of this classic stick nest of a Red-tailed Hawk:

We saw one of the adults pop its head momentarily out of the nest and we were thrilled by this glimpse. It is worth noting the many intersections between Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls. The two are the most wide-spread, commonly found birds of prey in North America; one diurnal and the other nocturnal and also crepuscular. They both eat a wide variety of prey and display great adaptability and range in nesting sites.

That said, the Great Horned Owl is the more powerful of the two and subsequently impacts unfavorably on Red-tailed Hawks. Great Horned Owls often take over Red-tailed Hawks nests and are known to eat both chicks and adults of the species. That said, Red-tailed Hawks and other hawks of the genus Bueto are a threat to Great Horned owlets. Among the amazing things I saw with last year's owlets, one of the most amazing involved a Bueto hawk.
I arrived at The Wooded Area after work and soon found some of the owlets and Sarah. Sarah flew off a short distance. Moments later, a Bueto hawk landed in the same tree as one of the owlets, a mere twenty-thirty feet away from the vulnerable owlet. Milliseconds later, Sarah came blazing towards this tree. The hawk blasted off, flying away as fast it could. This encounter vigorously underlined the protective nature of female Great Horned Owls and the intersections of these owls and Bueto hawks. It is worth noting that this hawk nest on the golf course is around a half mile from Charles and Sarah's territory.
As dusk came closer, Edward and I headed back to The Wooded Area to look for the owls. We found the owlet Art in a mostly bare deciduous tree not far from the glade of conifers containing Charles' Favorite Conifer. This deciduous tree was one of the first places I saw all three of last year's owlets, in The Wooded Area and it heartened me to see an owlet in this tree again. Here's Art in this tree:

We went for a closer look but as we did so sharp-eyed Edward saw Sarah barely visible in a nearby tree. We kept our distance not wanting to risk the wrath of Sarah. The weather continued to deteriorate so we headed back to the nest. We took a look for Mo in the nest from several different vantage points. In spite of our best efforts, we could not see Mo. Edward and I said our goodbyes and headed for home. I was glad to see three of the owls but I was anxious to know what Mo was doing.

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