Tag Archives: bird nests

Summer’s Secret Stories

As I mentioned last time, it’s been a hard season for forest babies: no eaglet, no owlet, no bushtit-lets. After realizing this wouldn’t be the year for any of them, it took a while to recalibrate my attention toward the less conspicuous developments of spring nesting, those subtle clues to smaller dramas. On closer inspection, the Black-capped Chickadee hopping through the hawthornes turned out to be gleaning nutritious protein for its children, hidden somewhere in nearby shrubbery but peeping insistently for their forthcoming meal.

Black-capped Chickadee with grub

Black-capped Chickadee with grub

Continue reading

The Fragile Season

Midspring was a time of astonishing busyness in the forest, with May Day full of singing and sprouting, building nests and tending the eggs of this year’s hope.

Female Bushtit parent flying from her nest to collect food

Female Bushtit parent flying from her nest to collect food

Then things got tough. Continue reading

Field Notes: Mid-spring on May Day

It’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May!

Female American Robin with nest material Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Female American Robin
with nest material
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

This time of year, the park is alive with song, sun, and scavenging for just the right nesting setup. It’s often a team effort; as the robin above collected dry grass, her mate was on a nearby branch, seeeep-ing softly.

Male American Robin Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Male American Robin
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Robins’ approach to nest construction is within the broad category of assembling: taking biological or non-biological materials and putting them together in various ways to form a sturdy nest. More specifically, robins use an interlocking technique, piling sticks together, then weaving grass to make a soft bed for their eggs and later young.

But the real expert weavers in our woods are the Bushtits, Continue reading

Starting Small: Bushtits, Beethoven, and the Art of Memoir

The forest is in high gear these days, with everyone busy at the different tasks of life in springtime. Uncertain speckled juvenile robins are trying to copy their parents as they forage on red elderberries.

Juvenile Robin in elderberries

Juvenile Robin in elderberries

The park is ringing with the cawcawphony of teenage crows arguing with each other…

Juvenile crows on rooftop; 2 on left objecting to the one on right having the treasure (a conifer seed)

Juvenile crows on rooftop; two on left objecting to the one on right having the treasure (a conifer seed)

…and harassing their parents for one more, another, another feeding they don’t have to get for themselves — yet.

Parent feeding juvenile crows

Parent feeding juvenile crows

Flicker parents pry the ground open in search of ants, beetles, and other bugs to deliver to their hungry young, still in the nest for just a bit longer.

Male Flicker feeds two young - more aggressive one is blocking its sibling

Male Flicker feeds two young – more aggressive one is blocking its sibling

A pair of Bushtits are busily helping the forest economy through new-home construction. It seems late to be getting started, but they’ve chosen a lovely spot in an aging Pacific Madrone, with a nice view of Puget Sound. The husband harvests the dried flowers of a nearby oceanspray and carries them over to the nest.

Male Bushtit harvesting dried oceanspray

Male Bushtit harvesting dried oceanspray

He then disappears into the opening they’ve woven into the lengthening bag, it wiggles for a bit, then he reappears and flies off to Avian Home Depot for more hardware. His wife arrives a few seconds later with some soft fluff in her beak: bedding for the tiny eggs that will become these tiny birds, perhaps?

Bushtit brings fluff to nest Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Bushtit brings fluff to nest
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Their nest is the woven story of the forest: tube lichens from Douglas Fir bark, silk webbing from our Cross Spiders, dried grass, Madrone flower petals. Reading a bushtit nest, you learn where you live.

* * * * *

I’ve recently begun considering a memoir of some kind, stretching myself to write in a new style. But although I’m comfortable writing academic pieces, I’ve never tried anything as intimate as a memoir. How on earth do you go about it? Being the aforementioned trained scholar who’s spent decades honing my scientific research skills, I put them to good use: I went to Google and typed “how to write a memoir.”

Behold, up came William Zinsser’s marvelous essay on the topic, creatively titled “How to Write a Memoir.” Zinsser begins by relating his father’s annoyingly straightforward and angst-free writing of his own memoir: the man just sat down in his favorite armchair with pencil and paper, wrote the thing out in one draft, had it typed and reproduced, handed copies around to everyone in his family, and was done.

Since it isn’t that easy for many of us, Zinsser taught memoir courses. A woman in one class wrote about her journey to Poland to unravel her Jewish father’s early life in the village he escaped at 14, one of few survivors to do so. Zinsser describes his own World War II experience of riding across North Africa in a “forty-and-eight”: a train car that could hold forty men or eight horses. Like a peephole camera, the tiny lens of a single short time span allows a whole world to come into focus on the page. You don’t have to write the Whole Big Drama Of Your Life — you just have to start with one memory, and then another, then another. You can trust Life to shine through your life.

* * * * *

On the spur of the moment a couple of weeks ago, Rob and I decided to attend our local stage theater’s penultimate performance of the season, “33 Variations” by Moisés Kaufman. In the play, Katherine, a contemporary Beethoven scholar, seeks to understand why the great composer used such an unremarkable rustic dance theme, written by his publisher Diabelli, [1] as the basis for a grand range of complex variations, working far beyond the original task even as his health is giving way towards the end of his life.

Katherine’s story is interwoven with that of Beethoven. As her own health deteriorates from ALS, she is able to see that in her life as an academic, her search for the universal has led her to disregard the particular, the individual—especially her quirky daughter. Ultimately, Katherine comes to understand Beethoven’s motivation and his genius in the Variations: he is glorifying the profound beauty of the mundane, showing that even a mediocre theme, a rustic dance, the simple events of a single life, are the shimmering seeds of the transcendent.[2]

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day! sings Jesus in the carol of that name, as he dances the redemption story “for my true love.” Transcen-dance: a grain of sand becomes the world, an hour holds eternity. A little nest is a mosaic containing a forest full of dances.

* * * * *

Zinsser’s final advice for writing about your life is: Think small. Moments become memoir; motifs become meaning; one life becomes a lens to the drama of history. A bushtit, second only to the hummingbird as tiniest in the forest, weaves her nest from the inside. The setting sun illuminates her form as she performs her own rustic dance, transforming the small bits of the forest into a home for her true love.

Male Bushtit (upper left) holds decoration as female works inside nest  (Click for 90-sec video of her work)

Male Bushtit (upper left) holds decoration as female works inside their backlit nest
(Click here for 90-sec video of her dance)


[1] You can hear Diabelli’s theme here: http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Diabelli-Variations/dp/B000TPXKK8 by clicking on the first item, “Tema: Vivace.”

[2] In the piece’s title, Beethoven chose the unusual term Veränderungen, rather than the more traditional musical term Variationen. Why? Veränderungen implies transformation rather than simply variation.

Room to Move: The Space of Stories

Room to move,” cautioned my excellent photography instructor, Meredith Blaché, during my first digital-photography class. “You’ve got to give your subject room to move in your photo.” She showed us comparative photo-pairs of faces, children, nature. All of the pictures looked a whole lot more interesting with space integrated into the image.

Here’s an example. Look at this first photo of Rob in our neighborhood park:

Contemplating in Lincoln Park

Contemplating in Lincoln Park

The photo is placid and still. His head and body form a stable triangle with the log. The image emphasizes being here.

Now, notice the different energy in this second photo, taken a moment later but with a shift:

Contemplating in Lincoln Park - II

Contemplating in Lincoln Park – II

This photo has more energy. The space in front of him raises questions: what is he looking at? How did he get to this place? Is he making a resolution of some kind? Might he be about to get up and walk forward into the green forest? With this new room to move, the scene has a past and a future instead of only a present. In this photo, the man has room to move: he has a story.

For a different kind of room to move, consider this information.

Bushtit nests are pendulous and sometimes reach 12 inches (30 cm) in length, with an entrance near the top. When the outer shell of the nest is completed, the pair spends the night roosting in it.

A nest can take from two weeks to almost two months to complete, but adults will abandon a nest they are building if disturbed. Bushtits recycle previously gathered materials to use at a new site.

–From The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, National Audubon Society

Interesting, isn’t it? How long those tiny bushtits will keep working until their nest is constructed to their satisfaction, and the fact that they are recyclers?

One April day I watched as a pair of bushtits worked on their nest. Alternating, the dark-eyed husband and golden-eyed wife flew in with treasures of spider silk and twigs, then disappeared one at a time into the nest.

Bushtit male arrives at nest with material Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Bushtit male arrives at nest with material
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

I could see the crocheted bag wiggling as the bird wove each new bit into the structure. After a moment or two of hookwork, the bushtit would appear at the entrance, peer around, then fly off for the next round.

Bushtit male exits nest after weaving material Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Bushtit male exits nest after weaving material
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

But once, a male bushtit brought in a twig that was just a little too long for the nest entrance.

Proud bushtit with twig at nest entrance Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Proud bushtit with twig at nest entrance
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

He tried to poke it into the nest, but got it tangled with some spider silk at the opening:

Bushtit's twig too big - and now stuck with spider silk Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Bushtit’s twig too big – and now stuck with spider silk
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Now what? The little guy tugs and yanks, to no avail:

Bushtit pulls valiantly to extricate twig Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Bushtit pulls valiantly to extricate twig
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Finally he had to give up in disgust and just let the stick hang there. Maybe he told his wife it was a lovely creative new doorway decoration. (“Honey, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!“)

Know that feeling of the home-renovation project gone wrong? That hope that no one will think to remind you of the old saying to measure twice, cut once?

The space of story

As with the two initial photos of my companion in the forest, the first portrayal (the paragraph of Sibley facts) is accurate and interesting but inert, still. Like the second photo, though, the anecdote of the bushtits’ nest-building gone awry opens up time and empathy. The bushtits become people to us; we can empathize with their plight, their hard work, their desire to create a home for their children.

A story opens this room to move, a kind of space we can enter and explore. Stories invite us to move through possibilities, with imagination, into an as-yet-empty future. Moving through time, we project ourselves forward with the story’s protagonist: what’ll happen next? What would I do in that situation? What will the hero choose?

It’s this capacity to enter into story, into a space of imagination, that lets us create our future—and thus ourselves. “L’existence précède l’essence,” wrote Sartre: existence precedes essence. Who we are is not limited to facts or a still pose; the basic concreteness of our existence yields to an essence that we develop over our lives through our choices. We write our own stories.

Do animals tell stories?

I’d argue that we’re not the only ones who do this. An inner voice left over from my philosophy education kept pushing me to finish that previous paragraph with, “It’s what makes us human.” That’s what Sartre thought. But I don’t buy that. What’s the evidence that animals don’t have access to the story-space that allows such existential—essence-ial—choices?

And there is evidence that many nonhuman animals do share our capacity for storytelling, including birds, cetaceans, and fish. This article, for instance, includes the charming assertion that there is more solid evidence for transmission of culture by fish than by nonhuman primates. How else do we creatures pass along our cultures than through stories told through one manner or another?

John Marzluff has documented the passing of information across crow generations through experiments in which he and his students once wore caveman masks as they captured 7 crows for banding. Five years later, 28 crows were still harassing mask-wearers, even though nothing else “bad” had been done to the original crows during that time and the other crows had never personally had a negative interaction with mask-wearers. The crows had passed the mask information to their children—excellent and effective storytelling.

For us storytelling creatures, stories serve several essential purposes. Stories teach us who we are as individuals. They also show us the possibilities for our roles in our communities. Stories are thus the intersection of the personal with the universal: they’re how we make meaning in our worlds. We all, both human and nonhuman animals, need room to move, space to create our stories and thus to shape our selves.

Listening to another’s story—human or not—opens that space: one of the profoundest gifts we can offer. What’s your favorite story?

Bushtit Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Bushtit
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Long Journeys to Hidden Homes: International Migratory Bird Day, May 11

“Congratulations – it’s a FOY!”

Janeanne, Mark, and I were peering last week through binoculars at a fuzzy blob on the top of a Western Hemlock on the other side of the little clearing. Janeanne, a far better spotter and diagnoser than I, called it: a Western Tanager. Since it was the first tanager any of us had seen this year, that made it a FOY (first of year), always very exciting.

Tanagers are lovely little birds, the males glowing yellow with an incandescent reddish head. So you’d think in our fifty-shades-of-green Pacific Northwest forest, they’d be easy to spot. But no: it turns out that these beautiful feather-people love to hang out in Pacific Madrones, whose peeling bark is a translucent brown-orange and whose aging leaves turn yellow and then deep orange. Perfect camouflage for a brilliantly-colored traveler.

Fortunately, in today’s fresh clear morning, an energetic tanager chose an east-facing Madrone to forage through, and I finally got my first-ever recognizable photos of one.

Western Tanager, Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Western Tanager
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

He was right on time. Here in the Upper Left-Hand Corner, our tanagers start arriving in late April and really increase in numbers after early May. (That is, according to our local birders’ listserv, Tweeters. I hardly ever see them until a really good birder like Janeanne or Mark points them out. Sigh.)

Western Tanager, Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Western Tanager
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

The Western Tanagers are presumably here in my neighborhood park to build their little cup nests on one of our abundant conifers and to snack on forest food. To do that, they fly all the way from Central America or Mexico, around 3000 miles.

Western Tanager Range Map
(From Fieldguide.mt.gov)

They’re not the only well-traveled spring arrivals in our woods. On April 28 I heard the FOY call of a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and the warblers have been spreading through the trees for about the last ten days. (The two below visited today – check out the Lincoln Park Bird List for photos of several more warbler species.) While tanagers build their nests up pretty high in trees, warbler nests are soft weavings of soft moss and grass, hidden carefully near the ground.

Orange-crowned Warbler Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Orange-crowned Warbler
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Wilson's Warbler Near Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Wilson’s Warbler
Near Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Of course, it’s not just the migratory birds who’re building nests this time of year. A pair of Northern Flickers have been diligently working on their nest hole—

Northern Flicker pair greeting each other at nest hole Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Northern Flicker pair greeting each other at nest hole
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Northern Flicker excavating and cleaning her nest Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Northern Flicker excavating and cleaning her nest
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

—and if you’re quiet and attentive, you’ll notice lots of little birds preparing homes for themselves and their children.

Pine Siskin gathering nesting material Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Pine Siskin gathering nesting material
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

"A robin feathering her nest Has very little time to rest, While gathering her bits of twine and twig..."

“A robin feathering her nest
Has very little time to rest,
While gathering her bits of twine and twig…”

Hutton's Vireo gathering nest material Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Hutton’s Vireo gathering nest material
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

If we just consider the tanagers and the six warbler species who spend summer in our park, that’s 21,000 miles traveled by the seven species—times, oh, say, 50 birds per species in our area—gets us to over one million miles traveled by little birds in order to build their nests in our neighborhoods.

That’s a million bird-miles through storms, wind, mountains, hunger, thirst, massive weather systems–as well as navigating around lost habitat and other human-generated challenges. Of course, then they have to go back south at the end of the summer, bringing us to two million miles of travel.

All that effort, and it just takes one dog running through the shrubbery, or one group of people chatting as they push through a trail-free area, to disrupt the delicate nesting process that’s the culmination of weeks of effort, the future of that little family.

May 11, 2013 is International Migratory Bird Day. Celebrate the wonder of warblers, the thrill of tanagers, by taking a quiet moment to imagine the forest as a network of fragile hidden homes: cherished cradles that need and deserve our protection.

Happy Bird-Day to you!

Blockwatch

Taking a break from working on a writing deadline, I loaded up my binoculars and camera and headed down my street toward the park. I didn’t make it farther than the end of the block.

Atop the light pole on the corner was a Northern Flicker, calling loudly to an unseen companion (who joined him later).

Northern Flicker with mate

Northern Flicker with mate

Then he made his way vertically down the pole, investigating various holes tiny and large.

Northern Flicker examining hole

Northern Flicker examining hole

Northern Flicker examining second hole

Northern Flicker exploring hole #3

Northern Flicker exploring hole #3

Let’s look at that last photo a little more closely:

Northern Flicker extends tongue into cavity

Northern Flicker extends tongue into cavity

Woodpecker tongues are really amazing. The structure supporting them wraps all the way around their heads, in some cases looping around their eyes.

https://i1.wp.com/www.sloshtheory.com/Anatomy/files/collage_lb_image_page4_0_1.png

Woodpecker bone and tongue structure. Click on link for source.

This gives most woodpeckers lots of tongue with which to explore tree cavities—and that means they have to spend less energy on excavation. Then when they encounter delicious bugs, their elegant barbed tongue is sticky enough to grab the bug and bring it back to where the woodpecker can enjoy his meal.

Tongue of Hairy Woodpecker. From "The Woodpeckers," by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm (1901)

Tongue of Hairy Woodpecker. From “The Woodpeckers,” by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm (1901)

But that’s not all we can learn by observing what’s happening on our block! Let’s go back to the flicker’s exploration of the second hole. Did you notice anyone else?

Black-capped Chickadees monitoring flicker

Black-capped Chickadees monitoring flicker

These two Black-capped Chickadees flew in together, at first scolding the flicker and then remaining silent as they watched him poke around in their prospective nest holes. They waited until he left, then went back in — maybe to assess what damage he might have done with that huge beak and strange-looking tongue?

Black-capped Chickadee checking out hole post-flicker

Black-capped Chickadee checks out possible nest hole after visit by flicker

Black-capped Chickadee explores possible nest hole after visit by flicker

Black-capped Chickadee explores second possible nest hole after visit by flicker

I haven’t seen the chickadees at these holes for the past couple of days; maybe they’ve decided to search for nest cavities on a less popular tree trunk.

*   *   *

This afternoon, lured by irresistible sunshine during this extraordinarily wet April, I headed back out towards the forest. Nope.

I’d heard frantic robin cheeping, so I figured a hawk was somewhere nearby. Another drama in our little corner of the city? Yes – but with different players. As I walked out the door, I turned away from the forest, toward the robin calls…just in time to see a crow fly off with a lovely blue egg in its beak.

Hope and tragedy, all in a few short days on one short city block.

What’s happening on your street?

P.S. – There’s a sequel to this story! Check the next post, “Blockwatch Success,” to see what happened.

Male American Robin

Male American Robin

Hawk Ballet: Practicing Preying

Imagine you’re a young hawk who just can’t wait to launch out on her own for the first time. Your attentive mother, with help from your father, has been feeding you your whole life: bringing you breakfast in bed, then converting your bedroom to the dining room once you hopped out of the nest to nearby branches. When she lands on the nest with food, you and your siblings run chattering to the dinner table.

But now you’d rather not wait for mother’s home delivery service. You’d sure like to be able to eat when you’re hungry rather than waiting for her! But how on earth do you figure out how to nab those goodies–small birds–yourself? You have to practice: practice flying to the prey, practice nabbing it, and practice taking it back up to somewhere you can eat it in peace.

So now that you’re in hawk-mind, imagine: what could you possibly find in the forest to use as a small-bird-like toy to practice with?

 

….

 

A pine cone, of course!

Just about the right size for a young bird’s talons – check. Placid and therefore easy to nab – check. Grippable in flight – check.

Easy to land with? Not so much. Especially when you’re a little wobbly on the landing part anyway, even without a carryon. Here’s the young Cooper’s Hawk trying to get her balance as she lands with her cone:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk ries to get her footing while landing with pine cone

And examining her prize:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk examines her pine cone prize

Of course, if you’re all grown up and you catch your prey in one place and decide to eat it somewhere else, you’ve got to know how to keep hold of it while pivoting on the other foot to get the best takeoff angle; here’s our young hawk practicing that difficult maneuver.

First, she rises up from the branch:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk starts to take off with cone

Then she flaps, rotating on her left foot while she holds the cone in her right foot:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk rotates on left foot while holding cone in right

Then she settles briefly down while still holding the cone in her right foot.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk completes rotation while holding cone in right foot

A moment later she took off through the trees, pine cone presumably still in her talons.

Two days later I saw one of the young Coops with what sure looks like actual prey.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk with first prey?

Practice-preying pine cones pays off…for the preyer if not the preyee.

Out on a limb, close to home: Teen hawks’ lunchtime and the future of natural history

Our three adolescent hawks were anxiously waiting while their mother prepared lunch in the home kitchen. They kept hopping up to the nest as if to see if the meal was ready yet, then MamaHawk seemed to shoo them back out to give her room so she could tear up their prey for them. They’re still not too sure on their feet/wings, so they often wobble a bit as they move from branch to branch. (Clicking on the photo will take you to the short video.)

Three young Cooper's Hawks wait impatiently for lunch

While she was working, two of the juveniles (perhaps grumpy from their empty bellies) tussled on a branch below, one eventually knocking the other off–

Young Cooper's Hawk gets knocked off a branch by its sibling, while MamaHawk prepares lunch in the nest above

–then both of them flew to a nearby tree. I could hear lots of whistling and squealing, which I finally decided was actually coming from these big babies.

Just as I changed my camera from video to still-shooting—of course it would be just then—Mama gave some kind of signal and everyone flurried excitedly up to the nest and dug in. In this brief video you can see a couple of the young ones tugging at the same piece of delectable meat: “Mine!” “No, MINE!” Another of the young left the nest after just a minute or so of feeding. Was he not hungry? In poor health? Already fed? After a few minutes, Mama flew off the nest, landing on one of her regular perches over my head to preen.

I’m surprised at how closely the young hawks are still sticking to the nest. Do they still sleep there? Back to the cradle at bedtime? It was fun seeing the three juveniles cozied up next to each other on this branch next to the nest, right at dusk.

Three young Cooper's Hawks at dusk, ready for bedtime?

So many questions, so few answers.

As I’m writing about the young hawks’ development, when all these questions come up, I use Google Scholar to see what research has been published on such events. Ideally, we backyard naturalists can embed our local natural-history observations in the published research, so that we can contribute to or at least be informed by what others have done.

So it’s interesting that most of the publications I dig up on nestling-hawk education seem to come from the 1980’s, and many from other countries. Natural history in this country has seen a decline, both in professional research and in the classroom, and to me this is such a loss. The studies from the ‘80’s are still completely valid, of course—observations are observations—but surely there’s more left to observe and understand here in the ‘11’s.

Natural history research is experiencing hard times vis-à-vis funding, and these days it sure would be hard to get tenure at most universities on the basis of your natural history work. Fortunately, the National Science Foundation sees that there could be excellent research possibilities for natural history, and it’s supporting a terrific new initiative called “From Decline to Rebirth: The Natural History Initiative,” organized by the Natural History Network. I’ll be writing more about this initiative in future posts.

Branching hawklets

The young hawks have started branching! This means that they leave their nest to hop along nearby branches, practicing their balancing and flight skills—and equally important, their landing skills.

Look at this sequence, which I was lucky enough to catch just as I got to my viewing site. The nest is that mass of twigs in the lower right quadrant of the photo, and in the first picture, the hawk is standing on it facing left, stretching his wings over his head like a high diver…which he sort of is, or will be. A second young hawk is perched about 10:00 from the jumping one. (You can click on the photos for a larger view; I wanted to leave the photos this size rather than cropping further, to give you a better sense of the aerial context in which he’s doing his exercises.) Total elapsed time for all eleven photos is six seconds.

Young Cooper's Hawk doing wing stretches

Young Cooper's Hawk gets ready to jump

Young Cooper's Hawk lifts wings to jump

Young Cooper's Hawk in mid-leap

Young Cooper's Hawk touching back down

Young Cooper's Hawk lands

Gawain is strengthening both his legs and his wings as he jumps on the nest. Just as he lands in the photo above, he twists and fly-hops over to the next branch. turns around, and awkwardly returns to the nest, seeming to almost tumble head-over-heels into it:

Young Cooper's Hawk leaps out of nest, legs akimbo

Young Cooper's Hawk makes it to the next branch

Young Cooper's Hawk turns around to hop back to nest

Young Cooper's Hawk lands awkwardly in nest

Young Cooper's Hawk rights himself in nest

Anyone else remember those awkward teenage years?

Here’s one last photo of one of our young hawks for today, still looking like an angel up there on the branch below the nest:

Young Cooper's Hawk on branch below his nest

Of course, as they get more independent of the nest it’s harder to find them in the woods. But their mom is still staying nearby, watching their arboreal gymnastics.

Mother Cooper's Hawk watching her children like a ... hawk

Last night’s West Seattle Blog reports that a different young hawk was found in the next watershed over, apparently unable to fly. It sounds like someone who’d earlier seen the same bird was harassed by the young one’s protective mother, and finally a noble rescuer put her baby in a carrying case for transport to a local wildlife rescue organization.

Was that the right thing to do? It’s hard to say. If it was really young or injured, yes; if it was just on the ground for a little while, having lost its grip on branches above, then maybe a good approach would have been to lift it up onto a higher branch (to get it out of the way of dogs, for instance) and let it fly-hop its way back upwards with its mother’s encouragement.

But it sure is good to know about the folks out there who take the time and trouble to try to care for a young wild creature. Hopefully we’ll get to learn more about what happens to it!