Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Red-shouldered Hawk Nest!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Red-shouldered hawk (this image was taken in Mississippi).

All of us at Bird Watcher's Digest are just as giddy as expectant parents. That's because we ARE expecting. A pair of red-shouldered hawks has set up house in a giant sycamore tree in the wooded ravine adjacent to our office here in Marietta, Ohio. We're watching the nest all day long during the weekday work days, noting changes, jumping on the office intercom to announce the latest observations.
The sycamore with the red-shouldered hawks' nest is in the upper left of this image, above the silver mini-van.

Red-shouldered hawks are year-round residents here in southeastern Ohio. We see and hear them regularly—they are one of the most vocal raptors, especially in spring. And that's how we discovered this nest, by hearing the repeated calling between the mates. My mom, Elsa, and brother Andy noticed one of the hawks carrying a branch up to an elbow of this giant sycamore, grabbed some binocs and discovered the foundation of a nest being built on that spot. After that we'd hear the birds and note their occasional comings and goings, but they never stayed near the nest for very long. We actually started wondering if this was just a dummy nest—the real nest being somewhere else—perhaps somewhere more concealed.

Zoom shot of the nest. The female's back is visible (if you use your imagination)

We worried a bit about the nest. It's plainly visible two-thirds of the way up the sycamore on one of only two large branches that jut out from the tree's right side. We have lots of squirrels around (notorious egg eaters), plus plenty of raccoons, American crows, and both barred and great horned owls nearby. Any one of these creatures could consumer the eggs or young while the parents were away. Worry. It's what parents do.
In this image, taken with my iPhone, you can barely see the male red-shouldered rounded head and pale sere above the middle of the nest, against the white sycamore bark.

I've been out of the office for most of the past two months trying to finish the writing on a book project. I come in on Tuesdays for staff meeting and to catch up on office work. Yesterday was one of my in-office Tuesdays and I was very happy to see that the red-shouldereds were actively attending the nest. In fact I'm certain there's an egg or two in it now. I've watched the adults take turns on the nest. Yesterday afternoon the male (he seemed smaller than the female, as male raptors often are) swooped low over the BWD parking lot and up to the nest to deliver a mouse to his mate. She clambered up from her position on the nest brooding the eggs (we hope—we can't see into the nest—it's a bit too high), took the food offering and swooped away. He then very gingerly adjusted something in the bottom of the nest and settled down onto it facing in the opposite direction his mate had been facing. She stayed away for more than an hour before we heard her cries keeyah, keeyah, keeyah! And back she came to resume her incubation duties.

Now it's Wednesday morning and the female is standing near the nest. The male is circling overhead, calling to her. She looks up, perhaps noting that he's got no food this time, and settles back onto the nest.

This is just such a thrill and a privilege to be witnesses to the home life of these wonderful birds! Tomorrow I'm bringing my scope for some digiscoping images!


On April 18, 2012 at 10:27 AM Lori Scheutzow said...

We had a red-shouldered around our woods this spring, at one point 2, but have yet to see a nest. I think we're just on the hunting grounds. Funny how everything goes silent just before his/her if there's a call that goes out "RAPTOR" amongst the songbirds, and even squirrels when this big guy/girl shows up. It landed on the split rail post with a lovely rodent, and proceeded to give us a great show for at least 15 min, tearing it up and having him for lunch. We got to see the front, the back, the beak, everything but a great picture of course, in order to ID him. One day he swooped down about 6 feet off the ground from Bella, who at 20 lbs is a little large for a meal, although as a puppy at 5 lbs would have been just perfect. A good reason why we accompanied her outdoors for all potty breaks, in all weather. The vet warned us about that. Anyway, congrats to the BWD staff on your upcoming "offspring". I think it's time for a nestcam - maybe a big tower on top of the roof?

On April 18, 2012 at 1:23 PM Anonymous said...

Love it! I have been watching red-shouldered hawk nests for fifteen years now on my country road. I assist a group of scientists from Raptor, Inc. out of Cincinnati in finding nests and getting permission to climb trees on private land to band the chicks. It is an awesome experience! There are 48 confirmed nests found in Hocking County this year by Raptor, Inc. observers. One is right across the road from my home for the fourth year in a row. yeah!

On April 18, 2012 at 3:41 PM cyberthrush said...

It is fascinating how well Red-shouldereds have adapted to human environs -- I've seen them nest in people's backyards and next to office buildings. Where I live, 30 yrs. ago they were a somewhat rare treat requiring a trip to the countryside; now they are likely the most common hawk I see anywhere.