Saturday, April 30, 2011

how do they know?

Wow, what good fortune - that you were there to speak with him - thank you, Bonnie! - and that he was a (more than) sympathetic person.

At 11:15 I swung by, no crane... Ruby hanging at nest. Saw 2 chick heads, and one of the chicks turned around to poop so the latter landed outside of the nest (how do they know to do this? ) -Dena

good sign

I was at the nest for about an hour and a half in the early afternoon watching with a few others. Buzz and Ruby as well as the chicks all seemed unaffected by any earlier roof repair. There seems to be enough food up there since I saw both Buzz and Ruby bring in rodents without hearing any cries of hunger. Good sign! -Hildy

Saturday noon

Ruby Preparing Lunch
Ruby Arriving With Twig
Buzz in Front of 185

I was at the nest for around two hours around noon/early afternoon on Saturday. Here's some of my shots. I then saw a great blue heron at Mount Auburn. I may post some of those later on if people are interested. -Patrick S

crane operator

Don't know if others got to see the action this morning on the roof of 185. Ernie was leaving as I arrived around 7:40 AM. As I watched Ruby in the nest, a large crane suddenly appeared over the roof of 185. Driving around to the back of the building I met Rob, the crane operator, sitting in the cab of the crane supervising some workers on the roof. They were removing and replacing some equipment from the back of the roof, about 30 feet from the rear of the building.

I asked if they knew about the hawks (they did not) and he thanked for the warning since they have had some experience being "buzzed" by someone like Buzz in the past. Rob couldn't have been sweeter as he took out his own binoculars, gave me a place to park legally near his crane, and walked around the front of the building to check out the nest and Ruby's antics for a few minutes. He clearly appreciates the hawks he meets in his line of business!

I called Paul Roberts, who was on a Plum Island watch this morning, and alerted him to this activity, hoping that nature and humans would figure this one out together. I left for my day, and when I drove by again around 1:45PM I saw no sign of the workers or the crane. Hopefully there were no dramas to report.

Chicks are looking bigger and more active every day! -Bonnie


Looks like Buzz is making a dent in the snake population. Around 10:10 AM or so, Ruby was on the nest and flew over to the top of T J Maxx. Buzz arrived with a snake and landed on a nearby lamppost in the parking lot. Ruby wasted no time in joining him, and then Buzz took off leaving the snake with Ruby. I think she might have had a bite or two, but after a few minutes, she carried the snake back into the nest and fed the chicks. George and John got some good photos, and Amy was there as well.

We all eventually headed out - and I, of course, made my requisite stop at Trader Joe's. As I was about to drive away (at 10:56 AM by my car clock), in flies Buzz with another snake! He dropped it off and left right away, and Ruby fed the chicks again. All three look pretty good and seemed to get their share.

I'm sitting in the parking lot writing this, and I just looked up (11:14 AM) to find Buzz back in the nest for a minute- I think with another food delivery (but I'm not sure since I didn't see him come in, but Ruby started to feed the chicks again)! What a guy!


view photo thought you might like to check out the photo "'buzz brings 'georgie' a snake' g.mclean" on

You can view and comment on the photo here. also included this personal message:

"i sent this on for the people that have trouble with the 'yahoo' mail! geo."

Best Regards

Friday, April 29, 2011

an incredible day

This was an incredible day with the Alewife clan. I went to spend 60-90 minutes with the hawks, expecting to focus on the three chicks. I arrived shortly after Kate left Westminster Abbey, and finally left Fresh Pond Mall on or about her first wedding anniversary... about four hours later. It’s impossible to accurately describe what I saw and shared with the hawks today. Words are just inadequate. I’ve been trying to document it for my own notes, but it was so new, so intimate, so revealing, and so unexpected. I took over 600 photos, including some of my personal best of them or any hawks. Several are attached.

I’ll just say I was privileged to be alone with Ruby for about 90 minutes while she hunted, usually at or below eye level. I watched her plummet off a post, miss her target momentarily, but within two steps capture her prey, a young gray squirrel. She carried it into a newly leafed tree where she ate it in privacy, and possibly stored some for later. She did not carry any back to the nest for her young. In the attached photo look at how her eyes, her head, are focused on the prey while her body has yet to adjust to the prey’s behavior.

Buzz, in fact, apparently took food to the nest while I was with Ruby; at least he was feeding the chicks when I returned to the nest after this incredible time with Ruby. But Ruby was not the only one to reveal herself “up close and personal.” On either side of my visit, I was privileged to be very close by as Buzz hunted, both times unsuccessfully after prey I could not see but he had. The first time he plummeted from a light pole into heavy brush, landing feet first on a spot warmed merely a split second earlier by some small mammal. (No bird flew but Buzz.) As he struck, he swept both wings back above his head and way above his long, extended legs as he rapidly came to earth. Both wings, however, became entangled in the brush. His left wing was left hanging on a tall bush as though it was no longer part of his body. Fortunately, he was not injured. He pull in one wing and then the other, roused himself, and then flew back to perhaps ten feet above where I was standing.

Later in the day, he went hunting in the same general area, again plummeting to earth on a low hillside covered by short grass and intermittent bushes the size of backpacking tents. Again the foray was in vain, but this time without the dramatics.

In between these hunting sallies, I watched the nest. Strangely, on this glorious day I saw only two other 185ers watching the nest.

Ruby was gone from the nest half the time I was there. Only one chick appears to be a toddler now. Any parent knows that when your youngster begins to crawl, your life changes dramatically. A whole new world of risk and danger is opened to the kid, and to anxious parents. When your progeny begins to walk, the dangers ratchet up several orders of magnitude. I think Ruby knows she has only a day or two before at least two of her chicks will be able to stand up and helicopter, and soon to hop-fly across the nest... and maybe farther. Continual parental oversight will be required. Ruby enjoyed her protracted time outside the nest, without the kids. I don’t know how long the kids were left unattended, but when I returned after 90 minutes, Buzz was feeding the young, finishing very quickly, after which the chicks rested.

Another thing that was new today were the temperatures. By mid-morning, with direct sunlight beating down on 185, the chicks were standing with open beaks, each with a sharp, brilliant red, serpent’s tongue fully exposed as each panted to cool itself. One chick, apparently the oldest, crawled/hobbled up to the glass window on the north side of the nest, either hoping to get into the shade or appreciating the coolness of the insulated glass. Ruby was hot, too. She had beak wide open, her sharp, narrow, pimento-colored tongue stretching as she panted. Shortly thereafter, she half extended both wings, providing shade to all three chicks. Shades of last year, when temp’s hit the nineties in May, and bereft of any breeze, the large chicks sweltered without any liquid to drink. In an act that I will never forget, Ruby arched her extended wings over her large chicks to keep them out of the direct sun.

Change is accelerating. Within the next several days, the chicks will be able to sit up on their haunches, dramatically increasing their visibility. As their wings, legs, and
bodies grow, so do their demands for food. This year it seems to be a little more difficult to find food. Food does not seem to be as abundant as last year. It may be more of a challenge to feed three huge, hungry gapes. We shall see.



paul the dog

paul the dog 4.29-11@185 f.p._8368 copy

i was sittlng on my folding camp seat (bad back) by the red light at 185 fresh pond when some one yelled 'hey you wit da camera". i looked around and all i saw was a smiling bull dog looking back at me out a car window?
he said to me "my name is paul and i love boids, whada dey doin up on the building"? i answered "they live there paul , thats ruby, buzz, and baby georgie, honeyhawk and yahoo are sleeping". he said back ' i am on my way for an interview in the new'men in black' movie, how do i look? i answered " you are one handsome dude paul. come back and visit for lunch when the babys are bigger" . he took a puff on his cigar, the light changed and all i heard was "i will see ya later, keep driving johnny" !
i hope you injoyed my visit from 'paul the dog'. he and my beagle 'emily rose ' share the same 'marty feldmen' eyes. "aint dey pretty"? ( i have to stay away from the cooking sherry) -georgemclean

snake to play with

buzz snake +fam. 4-29-11_8384

after downloading 750 pictures i found this one ! every child needs a toy so buzz brought little georgie a nice long snake to play with. instead he ate it ? being his 'god father' i am proud of him (hes named after me). if he keeps eating his toys he could end up at 'harvard' !
i am amassing a large folder of hawk images from 'mount auburn" and '185 fresh pond' while trying to keep up with the 'warblers' so we have exciting times ahead and i will try to be' brief in my messages'.
i wish we had the 185 fresh pond' photo stream back? no one knows what happened to it?i would love to find out, who , what and why it no longer exists?
have a great day , see you at the nest , -george mclean

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

active and strong chicks

Buzz was perched on the light fixture at the right rear corner of 185 as I arrived by car at 8:20 AM. Ruby was looking down as if at the kids, but chicks were not visible at all. She gave me a wonderful Preening Show though, so I got to see her thoroughly clean under her right wing by folding it at the 'elbow' and spending several minutes with her head tucked under her wing doing I-don't-know-what but doing it with gusto. Her tail was remarkably red from this position and I got to see her beautiful feathers in some detail. Then came a very noisy pair of Canada Geese flying very, very low through the Whole Foods parking lot and honking non-stop for several minutes. They then flew together up to the back of 185 and a few minutes later came back still honking loudly and persistently.

At 8:35 Ruby seemed to rouse the chicks. Then she swooped out of the nest and I saw two white heads peek above the top of the nest. Then, necks, and then flapping wings! I only saw two of the three chicks this morning. I was nervous about them being left alone and hoped that Buzz was still perched on the roof of the building somewhere looking out for 'bad guys'. At 9:00 AM I noticed a hawk on the third lamppost from 185 and put up my binoculars to see who it was. Of course, then when I scanned back to the nest, Ruby was back with the chicks. I was late for my yoga class, and had to run but as I drove away I got a good look at the lamppost bird and it was Buzz, looking regal, surveying his territory.

I hope Ernie makes it over today to get some video of the chicks. I was surprised at how active and strong these two appeared to be. Happy hawking everyone! Isn't the season off to a great start? -Bonnie

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

looks like Ruby

I agree with Susan; it looks like Ruby to me. I’ve seen her leave the nest for up to 5 – 7 minutes with chicks alone in the nest, and seen her leave briefly. It appears that when she leaves, it is to void or to cough up a casting away from the nest. Or, in one case, honor Buzz and/or visibly support him in defending the nest from an Osprey.

The bird in this photo is an adult, as told from the extensive barring on the flanks , the bright white body feathers, and the vibrant colors. The light, yellow eyes suggest a young adult. The three kids of last year, if they are alive, still look like juveniles. Yellow eyes, no red tail, heavy dark vertical streaks on the belly band, and little or no fine barring, all of which marks them as dumb kids, not a real threat to mate or nest. Their plumage is essentially washed out, duller brown than ever before because it has been bleached by sun and rain for 10 months. They are in “grunge” plumage, designed not to attract a mate, establish territory, whatever. Over the course of the next ten months or so, they will gradually molt most of their feathers (at least body; not necessarily all flight feathers) and acquire their “red badge of courage,” visibly signaling that they are at least theoretically ready to take or seek a mate. Many may not mate that first year of adulthood, though not necessarily from lack of trying. (Ahh, those college days....)

Ruby, however, is not going to look much better than she does now. (Buzz would never suggest that, however.) She is at peak breeding plumage, or at least was several weeks ago. This plumage will fade with continuing exposure to sun and rain, abrasion from all those kids seeking shelter, etc., and handling juicy squirrel carcasses in a crowded nest. She should begin replacing primaries while she is spending all her time on the nest, incubating and then brooding young. That is, she is not placing much stress on her feathers through extensive flying or requiring heavy insulation. Males typically begin molting primaries while their mate is incubating when relatively little is required of the male compared to now, with 4 or 5 beaks to fill. If demands are heavy, the molt can be delayed for several months (Not consciously, but by lack of hormone to stimulate the molt).

I am not aware of any reports that a nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks would tolerate a third adult in the nest, with two documented exceptions where two females shared a nest and a mate. There have also been documented incidents where a single male maintained two mates and young on separate nests. (More to come on E!) The closely related Common Buzzard in Europe is also known to be polygynous on a regular but uncommon basis.

Two other notes on plumage. Look at how richly barred Ruby is on her flanks and legs. Finely and delicately barred, not coarsely streaked like a kid. This really serves her well as she incubates and broods because it provides effective camouflage as she spends 98% of her days sitting exposed on a nest fully exposed to everything that happens by, including people going into “Whole Paycheck” to buy poultry. The camouflage is important in a tree nest where the leaves have not yet emerged (which they generally do as the young are larger and more obvious), but particularly important on a cliff or commercial building nest where everything is out in public view all the time. (Talk about 24-hour news cycles on cable...) Buzz, however, is much whiter than his mate. That is great when he is defending his territory during the offseason, or seeking to attract a mate early in the year. Now, however, it is a liability that can only attract attention to his exposed, vulnerable mate and young. Rest assured, he is usually in the area with his mate in view or calling distance, but he is not a flag signaling predators where to find their next meal. As the chicks grow older, noisier, and more visible, and their wash in the nest and the remnants of their feeding frenzies accumulate, Buzz spends much more time visibly associated with the nest, such as sitting on the apex of the Atrium in full view of 30,000 commuters. At that point, the benefits of his visibility outweigh the risks. He is signaling every potential predator that they wont get to those young, tender squawkers without going through him.



Monday, April 25, 2011

Nice photo, George. I'm pretty sure it's Ruby. Looks like you can even see a bit of her brood patch. B & R have a habit of sneaking in and out when you turn away - even for a second! -Susan

Ruby's eyes and Buzz's coloring

The hawk seems to have Ruby's yellow eyes and Buzz's dark head and further away it looked whiter. It wasn't huge like Lucy was last year. Anyone know why last years sib(assuming) would be in the nest while there are new chicks in there. Visiting home to raid the refrig? Required to do babysitting? Don't mind me, I'm just silly. Any ideas? George's photo of the family today looks like a twisted chistmas card. Almost divine and angelic. Maybe he will remember that around the holidays. -Hildy


Could that be Lucy// Could you look back in your old pictures of last year and see if those were her markings?? It looks like a mature hawk to me and not a yearling. Neat shot though and definitely a mystery. We may never know. -Vicki

mystery hawk

hawk mys. 4-25-11_8232 copy

well what do you think? are the hawks playing tricks on us? for a few minutes we had hawks coming and going at the same time? i have all sorts of pictures from the past two weeks and have found a better picture of the baby , but i like the one with the two parents in it(more feeling)ruby came in witha large evergreen branch . loks like she is building up the sides of the nest .i wonder what goesthrough thier minds? george

Sunday, April 24, 2011

about naming

Clearly, what we have here is a “failure to communicate.” Ernie’s email of Saturday indicates he still does not understand my objection to the names assigned. I fully appreciate the “benefits” of giving names to the chicks. I had no qualms with naming Buzz and Ruby (although Buzz has much more color and eyes like rubies than does his mate). The names of the chicks were determined fairly late in the process last year, and Ernie and John lucked out. “Lucy” clearly was a female, Larry likely a male, and Lucky was non-gender based and appropriate. He (or she) was lucky to survive.

The names selected this year were selected without any reference to the gender or nature of the birds, for purely personal motives. The birds were disregarded. Many wildlife-observation reporting organizations do not name young of the year for a variety of good reasons. Some do. Both side often have a “religious fervor” in their desire to name/not name wild animals. I don’t object to providing appropriate names. I “gave” my daughter a whale named “Salt” about thirty years ago. Salt turned out to be a female (not known when she was named) and to bear a number of calves and return to Massachusetts Bay for decades. We donated to whale research and followed Salt by newsletter and real-life trips hoping to see her. She didn’t answer to the name of Salt. It had no meaning for her. Only for people following her. She could have been named Pepper, or Puck. If she had been named Ernie, it would be a bit more difficult to explain or even tolerate. (Ernie gave birth to a 200 lb calf this spring...Ernie was nursing her calf....)

Some weeks ago I wrote Hildy and Ernie suggesting a naming protocol, hoping to avoid exactly what has occurred, which benefits no one. I didn’t suggest any names. Let the group do that. I Just recommended that the naming be done to a protocol.

First, if chicks exist and are going to be named, the names should not be gender specific, because you do not know the gender for some time. Ernie & John lucked out last year in that the gender appeared to be correctly correlated with the names they arbitrarily established (though you could not be absolutely sure about Larry), and Lucky was gender-neutral. But to give them gender-specific names before the gender is established does not seem particularly wise. E.g., what if “George” turns out to be a honking big female like Lucy. “Did you see George? She flew to Whole Foods with no trouble?”

Second, anyone arbitrarily naming chicks after people in the group can cause some resentment, and justifiably in my opinion. Also, who has the right or authority to grant an “honorific” name. Giving a chick a gender neutral name without any any connection to living persons in the group is more respectful of everyone in the group.

Third, it can cause considerable confusion. “I saw Hildy yesterday. She flew over to Neville Manor and ate a squirrel.”

And finally, what if the chick does not survive? “Ernie flew off the ledge this morning and was killed on Fresh Pond Parkway.” Not only will there be confusion, but there will be substantial negative “hangover,” for everyone, including the person “honored” by the naming. For example, if “Ernie” dies, choking on a squirrel bone in the nest, every mention of Ernie, whether of Ernie or the late hawk, will conjure up sad thoughts of the dead chick. Who would want that to happen?

There is one other issue. Don’t use diminutives. Don’t make them into toys, into house pets. Don’t name them like toy poodles or tea cup dogs. Everyone can name their own pet whatever name they want. These hawks are not your pets.

There is no no desire to call these birds C1, C2, etc., for as long as I follow them. I do that only because at first I want to track who is first hatched, second, etc., and without using the names the group has assigned. I You can ascribe non-gender specific names at any time. (Doesn’t that sound reasonable?) It seems to me gender-specific names should be assigned only when you know the gender. (Doesn’t that sound reasonable?) You know that for certain only by taking a blood sample, or by waiting until they are two years old or older and and seen copulating. Neither of those are very practical. (Gender is guessed according to size when banding chicks, if no blood/tissue samples are taken.) I won’t use G1, H1, and Y1 EXACTLY because that is using the names I object to. I don’t want to offer other personal names for the hawks in any post I would do because that would only cause confusion and perhaps ill-feelings.

I like and respect Ernie, Hildy and everyone in the group to much do that. I don’t want to cause any ill feeling. Therefore, my not posting is the simplest and quickest solution. I want everyone to appreciate something that is very beautiful and, though common, not commonly seen. It reveals something special in our world. It has me driving to Fresh Pond Mall every day after not going there much at all for 20 years. It opens up new worlds to people. Look at the people who have been going bird watching at Fresh Pond for the first time, or now discovered the joys of birding Mt. Auburn through John. Forty years ago my wife and I were hiking in the Middlesex Fells for exercise. We heard this bird call. To be sure we didn’t miss him, the bird repeated the call, note for note, every time. But we couldn’t see the XC$%#@&%. We bought a pair of binoculars, and a Golden Guide to birds. We finally saw the culprit, a Brown Thrasher, and our lives changed forever. Buzz, Ruby and the kids are doing that for more people than that Brown Thrasher could ever comprehend.

I have nothing to add to the naming discussion. Hopefully, now everyone will understand my objection to the names, even if they don’t agree with me. Anyone is free to respond to my statements online or offline. I am fine for you to have the last word. Preferably offline, to me directly, if at all, so the list can go back to reporting on and analyzing the adventures of a new family of hawks. A new generation is growing up before our eyes.