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3.23.17  I’ve watched this Bald Eagle’s nest for at least five years, intermittently photographing the family.  This year I decided to photo-document every 4 to 5 days, (then 2 to 3 days, then every other day as the eaglet grew closer to fledging) to see and share the progress with you.  In addition to our national emblem, the Bald Eagle is a spiritual symbol for our native people.

After my first shots of the eagle nesting I headed out to see how fast and furious the spring waterfalls were flowing here in the Gorge.

4.9.17  Mom’s still on the nest.  Bald Eagles mate for life and this pair return to the same nest each year.  Another resident pair of Bald Eagles on the Oregon side of the Columbia also return to their nest each year.  Both parents share nest duty, but the female has the larger share while the male hunts or fishes.

4.16.17  A gorgeous sunrise over Mt Adams on my way down to the Bald Eagle nest.

As I arrive, Mom is on the nest.  As with most raptors, the female is larger than the male.

After a little while, Mom begins calling for Dad…Dad arrives and immediately starts calling for Mom!  At one point they were in the nest together, which makes it easier to tell who is who.

Dad left shortly before Mom flew back into the nest.  She settled in and I quietly crept away, delighted to see the family interaction.  This is a nest I hike to, down a steep hillside and heavily trafficked road.

4.23.17   A breezy morning, my view of the nest is constantly hidden by foliage on nearby trees.  Bald Eagles can live long lives ~ the longest known eagle in the wild was over 38 years when it was struck by a car and died.

Not sure which parent is in the nest and which is on the branch.  They must be side by side for me to tell them apart at this stage of my Eagle Education.  The white head indicates they are at least 5 years old.

4.25.17  Parent is still incubating in this huge nest.  Bald Eagles build nests that are typically 5 to 6 feet wide and 2 to 4 feet deep.

4.28.17  The Bald Eagle parent sits at the side of the nest today instead of incubating, so a chick probably hatched between 4.25 and 4.28.17

4.30.17  Dad is waiting for Mom to come home so he can go fishing.  They typically eat fish, but will also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small to medium mammals.

Mom’s home! They’re not quite side by side but you can see Mom in the back is slightly larger than Dad.

Dad takes off to do a little fishing for the family.

Isn’t he Gorgeous!

Mom ‘rearranges furniture’.  When they build a nest, both mates bring sticks (and branches!), and grass, moss, and soft plant material to line the nest, but the female does most of the arranging.

She ruffles her feathers…..

…then tends to her chick.  The chick in the nest that I still can’t see….

5.4.17   This morning I arrive in time to hear one parent calling to the other…and look closer!

We have an EAGLET!!  Isn’t he adorable?  He’s now called a ‘nestling’ and will remain so for 56 to 98 days.

5.11.17   A rainy day, one parent perches above the nest while the other parent works to feed the family.

Little Eaglet is already losing his white downy fuzz.

5.15.17  Today I arrive in time for breakfast.  Mom brought in a fish earlier for the youngster.

Looks like a tasty bite of salmon.

Mom also gets a little nourishment.

I personify, and emotionally attach myself to this family.  And wouldn’t you agree this is a tender beautiful moment.

Mom hires me to take a parent and eaglet portrait

5.19.17   A hot sultry day, everyone is trying to stay cool under the hot sun including me.

5.23.17   I’m invited to another meal at the Eagle Nest.

5.28.17   Even though I began the previous day at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction.  If my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I would show you pillars and waves but alas I needed sleep so headed home for a couple of hours sleep before checking on the eaglet.

Steller’s Jays harass the eagle family today and swallows often fly around the nest.

Little Eaglet stretches his wings as Mom perches above the nest and Dad perches below.

5.30.17  Eaglet is on the other side of Mom on this windy day, probably just lying low.  I always worry about the eaglet falling out of the tree-top nest; it has happened in the past.

6.3.17  Little Eaglet is home alone today!  

I watch him preen his beautiful feathers.  He’ll remain dark for his first year and will keep that dark beak and dark eyes.

6.8.17  I can barely see the eaglet hunkered down in his nest as a parent perches on a branch above.  We have a cold, rainy day in the Gorge and I would hunker down too if I were home.

6.11.17   I went down to the Eagle nest early in the evening for better light and found him stretching his wings and jumping in his nest.  I’ve seen this action before and it’s fun to watch a raptor learn how to fly…I equate it with kids jumping on the bed.  Eventually wind will catch his wings and lift him up off the nest.

He dances around the nest for half an hour, then settles for a minute and dances again.

He’s still very young and won’t be ready to fly for a few more weeks…..

….but what do I know…look at him go, it could be any day!

 6.13.17  Each day his wings are stronger and I’m happy to arrive during his dance sessions.

He has more oomph in his efforts…

…until he finally has lift-off, and jumps higher.

6.15.17  Another gray Gorge day, the Eaglet lays so low in his nest I can barely see him.  For a moment I thought he fledged without me!

6.17.17   A beautiful day in the Columbia River Gorge!

I went back to the Eagle nest near sunset hoping for more great light.  Evening is so much better than morning light for this nest!

Little Eaglet practicing flight techniques as I arrive….I can feel the power in his wings growing.

And he’s learning to master the wind!

He is incredible to watch, I could stand here for hours on end.

As the sun goes down the eaglet lays down to rest.

All evening I’d heard his parents calling from above and finally caught a glimpse of one.

6.22.17   Another early start, looking west down the gorge on my ‘commute to work’.

Little Eaglet is my last stop of the day and I watch him as he looks out over the Columbia River.

The late afternoon light is lovely today as he practices his flight techniques.

He looks so determined in this shot like he’s going to jump right off that nest and into flight.  He’s getting so close to the edge of the nest lately that some of the nest material is spilling out.

6.23.17  Little Eaglet looks almost as large as his parents.

6.24.17  I check the nest frequently now because it feels like the eaglet will fledge any day.

He continues to practice his flight skills.

6.26.17  Just chillin’.

6.27.17   A windy day, his feathers need some preening to put them back in place.

6.29.17   It’s always amazing to watch the family dynamics of the Bald Eagles at meal times.

Dad arrives home with breakfast.

Little Eaglet with head down and shoulders hunched politely waits his turn to eat.

Mom and Dad converse….

Dad takes off and Mom finally says it’s ok for Junior to eat.

7.1.17  Little Eaglet is resting on another windy afternoon.  I hope he navigates his way through a long life.  The most common causes for Bald Eagles’ deaths are electrocution from power lines, trauma from impact with cars or buildings, and poisoning from lead bullets or chemical pollutants.

7.2.17   Little Eaglet jumps higher and higher in his nest.

He lands with a firm touch-down.

And then propels himself higher than ever!  Are you ready to fly little guy??!!

A parent flies in with breakfast…

…which makes him focus on eating instead of jumping.

Right after breakfast, Little Eaglet goes back to jumping in the nest!  He is SO READY TO FLY!!

7.4.17  After another jumping session this morning, Little Eaglet jumps high and steers himself to the perch above his nest.

His parents have tried to lure him there by calling to him from the perch, then flying off either to fish or to the perch where Dad sits.

He kind of skitters and clumsily lands it, but he has officially fledged.

And here he sits!  A Fledgling!!

I saw him there again a couple of days later; then not again for several days.  The last time I saw him he was back in his nest eating a fish that I hope he caught himself.  On subsequent visits Little Eaglet wasn’t home.  His parents will be back to rebuild this nest next year and this winter we’ll host hundreds of migrating eagles on the Columbia River.

For more about Bald Eagles check out  National Wildlife Federation, Audubon, Cornell’s All About Birds, and Wildlife Society Bulletin

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

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5.25.17   As I sit in my car observing Red-tailed Hawk Nest #2, a woman stops to chat with me.  I always appreciate that because I learn more about the history and people of the area.  This is a special conversation ~ she tells me about yet another Red-Tailed Hawk nest only a couple of miles away!  And again, it is barely off the road!!  Yep, I am now watching THREE Red-tailed Hawk families!!!

5.27.17  The parent shields her chicks from the hot sun as there is no shade other than the utility pole.  This nest seems a bit small and frail which makes me wonder if it’s a new set of parents.

5.30.17  I know these shots look similar, I tend to arrive about the same time each day.  I don’t stay long at this nest because the road is too close to the nest and obviously makes the family uncomfortable.  Mom tells me to depart immediately!

6.3.17   On my way to the nest I have to stop for an early morning shot of Mt Hood.

Hard for me to tell at this stage which is the older or larger chick.  I missed the incubation stage (28 to 35 days) for this family, but the nestling period for Red-tailed Hawks is 42 to 46 days.

The chicks settle down in the nest.  Baby hawks are called eyasses but many refer to them as chicks and if you read my Hawk Nest #2 post, you know that I think they should be called hawkettes.

6.8.17   It is pouring rain.  The Red-tailed Hawk parent protects her chicks.

6.10.17  The parent is out of the nest today, watching from a nearby utility pole while the other parent soars over a nearby farmer’s fields.

The kids stay in bed and don’t move around much the short time I am here.   A quick stop to check on the chicks, then I’m on my way.

6.11.17  Nice to see you sitting up!  Look at all those big brown flight feathers!!

6.13.17  Both chicks have new feathers growing in and are looking around their environment with interest.

6.15.17   I check my nests every other day now because a couple of nests are close to fledging.  This pair doesn’t seem close at all.

Look at that big stretch!  You can really see the brown feathers filling in.

Doesn’t he look like a little prince?

As I watch this nest and Red-tailed Hawk Nest #2, I notice how tall the wheat is growing.

6.17.17  Sibling rivalry?  The youngest hawk chick siblings are getting darker ~ check out the tail feathers on the right chick.

6.19.17  A beautiful sunny day as I arrive at the nest site.

The hawk chicks are maturing quickly now.  As the youngest nest, they have a few weeks to catch up with their counterparts.

A parent watches from a utility pole down the road.

6.22.17   HEARTBROKEN!!!  Where’s the nest?  The day before, Mother Nature provided a big gust of wind on summer solstice that blew the nest down.  From my car I don’t see the nest or family so I abandon caution, park and jump out to find them.

A parent is frantically calling as she flies overhead, then lands on a post in the field.  I see what must have been the nest strewn across the same field.

After searching from every angle, I finally find one chick in the field.  I hope his sibling is nearby in shade.  Yes.  I called Rowena Wildlife Clinic again to learn what I should do.  “Leave them alone, their parents will provide.”  A reluctant ok from me because they hadn’t even begun to practice flight skills.  Or maybe hopefully they have and I didn’t see it.  Leigh said to call her back tomorrow if the situation worsens.  Again, thank you Leigh.

6.23.17  I return to find one sibling on the ground, but not the other.  I can’t tell if it’s sleeping or….

A parent is still around keeping watch, so I have nothing to report to RWC.

WAIT!  There’s one sibling safely perched behind a wire fence.  I’ll check back on you kids tomorrow.

6.24.17  One Red-tailed Hawk chick is still in the field not looking good & I can’t find the sibling.  No other word for my thoughts but heartbroken…..

6.27.17  Started as a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  I’m holding out hope for the little Red-tailed Hawks.

From across the field I find one sibling perched on a branch behind the fence. YAY!!

I am ecstatic to find the missing chick near his sibling.  See him on the ground in front of the wheat to the right? Maybe he’s just been hiding in the wheat fields!  I confess relief washes over me.

6.29.17  I search and search for the youngest of my Red-tailed Hawk chicks…

They are not anywhere near where I’d last seen them.

Finally I see one chick farther out and sitting on a post!

A parent sits on a utility pole in the distance, but once again I have a missing chick.

7.2.17   A Red-tailed Hawk parent floats in the sky overhead.

The other parent sits on a utility pole surveying the field.

I find one sibling perched on a snag again.

No sight of his brother despite my search.

The wheat fields near this nest have changed color.

7.4.17   My last visit to this nest, I watch the little Red-tailed Hawk ~ now officially a fledgling ~ fly from his perch to a fence post farther out in the field.  I still hold out hope for the other.

His parents are both still flying overhead as I leave.  They’ve probably already begun teaching the little hawk how to hunt.  I hope next year these parents build a bigger, stronger nest!

One last look at this beautiful view on my way out of the area.

More about Red-tailed Hawks at Hawk Watch International, American Birding Association, and Cornell’s All About Birds and a few questions answered from Cornell.

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

5.2.17   My friend cjflick was helping me with the Prairie Falcon nest site, confirming some facts and shared some historical falcon nest sites with me.  As we looked at this particular site we spotted a Peregrine Falcon in flight with prey, so followed it to see where it landed.

We were practically dancing with delight when we saw it land on this former Red-tailed Hawk nest and watched its mate fly away.  Peregrines typically lay their eggs on bare rock, called a scrape; or take over an old nest and parents share nest duty.  Incubation takes 29 to 32 days.

This nest is high on a cliff ledge, the furthest distance of all the nests I follow so please forgive my picture quality.

5.4.17  I watch the Peregrine Falcon flying in toward the nest with prey in its talons.  They generally eat birds and surprising to me, bats!  The pair mates for life as do many raptors and return to the same breeding ground each year but not necessarily the same nest site.

The parent lands in the nest with breakfast.  The falcon blends in with background cliff rocks.  Nest sites are generally on high cliffs, away from predators.

5.11.17  Today I don’t see any Peregrine Falcons but that doesn’t mean she’s not on the nest.  Incubation period is 29 to 32 days if she’s laying on eggs.

5.15.17   I see a Peregrine Falcon adult on the nest, not incubating according to its posture,  so I’m guessing we has chicks!

5.19.17   I can see a FUZZY WHITE CHICK but barely!!  His head pokes up toward the left middle part of the nest and stands out against the dark rock background.

5.23.17   Today I can clearly see three Peregrine Falcon chicks high up in their nest!!!  Nestling period averages 38 days.

5.25.17  Peregrine Falcon chicks are still difficult to see, but their fuzzy little white heads are peeking up just above the rim of the nest.

5.27.17   A downy little Peregrine Falcon chick is oh so close to the edge of his nest, just beginning his young life.  The average life span of these raptors is 7 to 15 years.  The oldest banded Peregrine was close to 20 years old according to Cornell’s All About Birds.

 

Even though my day began at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction and am so glad I did.  I must tell you that if my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I could have shown you pillars and waves but alas I needed sleep so headed home.

5.28.17  A Peregrine Falcon parent sits in a tree high above the nest while I listen to the chicks calling.  Osprey also loudly call and fish nearby.

The kids must all be asleep, I see no activity.

5.30.17   I’m trying to remember to show my surroundings while ‘nest-watching’ and this is another early morning start to see as many nests as possible in a day.

Even though I’m far away, I can see dark feathers growing on the nestlings.  Like Prairie Falcons, chicks are called Eyases….a fellow raptor enthusiast suggests Falconette, which I like better.

Peregrine Falcon chicks stretch their little wings, showing the dark flight feathers growing in!  I’m guessing they’re about 5 weeks old based on what I’ve read.  Peregrines are the fastest bird in the world, diving over 200 mph in pursuit of prey, with a normal ‘cruising’ speed of 24 to 33 mph.

6.3.17  Another very early morning to check my nests, starting with the Peregrine Falcon.

The chicks are quickly growing, compare this shot to the fuzzy chick’s first wing stretch just a few days ago.  I can hear them steadily call for their parents.

6.8.17  In five days time most of the remaining white feathers have turned brown on this trio of Peregrine Falcon chicks.

Rain with gray sky ~ not the best background, but still happy to see the falcon parent hunting overhead.

6.10.17   The Peregrine Falcon chicks explore the rim of their nest and surrounding rocks and crevices.

They race back and forth across the nest.  Look at those wings!  It makes me think they’ll fledge sooner rather than later!

6.13.17   The trio matures at a fast pace, exploring more outside the nest.  Parents place food farther away, luring the chicks farther beyond the nest.  Eventually parents will exchange food with the fledglings in flight, training them to catch flying prey.

I wonder how much more time I’ll have with this little family as the chicks gain maturity so quickly.

The Peregrine Falcon parent is easy to spot in the sky, but difficult to catch as she’s so fast.  Like most raptors, the female is larger but it’s difficult to tell them apart when not together.  According to Jim Watson, Wildlife Research Scientist at Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the wing beat for a male in powered flight is more rapid and Kestrel-like, whereas with a female you can better distinguish individual wing beats… also the male is bluer than the female.

6.15.17   The Peregrine Falcon Chicks have a quiet morning.  Many fledglings do not live past 2 yrs old.  Several reports I read indicate until they grow wiser, they run into buildings, windows, fences, and airplanes while aggressively chasing prey.  DDT is banned in the US, but not in every country this raptor travels to, so pesticides are also a cause of death.

6.17.17  One chick is completely out of the nest!!  A fledgling!!

Look how high he can jump, as he returns to the nest.

Grabbing onto sticks to further propel him back in while his siblings watch and learn!

6.19.17  The chicks are gone!  They fledged so fast!  I stop by the nest every few days, then once a week while on my other nest checks but I saw no more of this Peregrine Falcon family.  My friend cjflick has monitored Peregrines for years and says  they usually traverse the fields over Catherine Creek as they grow stronger, learn how to hunt and improve flight skills.  Hope I get to watch them next year, I’ll keep a closer eye on them.

If you’d like to learn more about Peregrine Falcons, Cornell’s All About Birds, Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy for a great start.

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I write them is Empty Nest

 

4.9.17   As I watch this nest on the first afternoon, Dad swoops in with a treat for Mom!  The nest is on a road with light traffic which the hawk family seems comfortable with.  I am able to park off pavement (barely) and observe this family quietly without disturbing them.

4.20.17  This post is probably my longest in this series as I spent the most amount of time with this family, thanks to a lead from Nancy at a wildlife photography presentation I gave for ‘Wild About Nature‘.  Mom does most of the incubating, which takes 28 to 35 days.

4.23.17   My day starts at sunrise from Rowena Crest, then I head out past the Deschutes River to visit the Red-tailed Hawk family.

A parent is still laying in the nest, but wait….are those little downy white feathers I see?????  Could we have chicks????

5.2.17 Hard to say if there is a chick yet as Mom is still lying low in her deep nest.

5.4.17   Today Mom is no longer lying low….Plus I can see little white downy feathers.  If we have chicks, their nestling period is 42 to 46 days.

Lucky me to see Dad fly in with lunch!  I read that the female feeds the chicks and is the main nest duty parent.  Dad does most of the hunting but Mom helps once the chicks can be left ‘home alone’.

5.11.17  Outrunning the rain at dark thirty in the morning to check all my raptor nests, I hope I can keep up with my plan to watch each nest until all chicks fledge.

Both parents are at the nest when I arrive today and I did not outrun the rain.  I decide to park and watch anyway.

One parent takes off…

…the other shakes off the rain.  No visible chicks yet.  Red-tailed Hawks mate for life…or as it’s often said “until one mate dies”.   I find myself wondering how long this pair have been together, their nest is large and sturdy.

5.15.16   WE HAVE A CHICK!!!  I do a little happy dance … silently and motionless inside my car!!!

I watched Mom tenderly feed her chick.

Zoomed in a little closer, he is so precious.  Baby hawks are called eyasses but many refer to them as chicks like other birds…I think they should be called hawkettes.

5.23.17  When I arrive I notice feathers embedded in the tree above the nest and no parent around.  I’m told later by the coordinator of The Feather Atlas that these are Red-tailed Hawk feathers so I wonder what happened to the parent and how those feathers got there.  If it isn’t a parent, who is it?  In the wild, Red-tailed Hawks live less than 12 years generally (in captivity they can live as long as 30 years).  Many die in their first year just from inexperience…they may starve but like other raptors, they are hit by cars, electrocuted by power lines or shot.

The good news is I can see TWO chicks, the one standing and another fuzzy little white head in front.

5.25.17   Awww, clearly I can now see both sibling Red-tailed Hawks.  Simply too cute for words.

5.27.17  Most of the neighbors just smile and wave as I shoot from my car, but today a kind young fellow stopped to talk.  I learned that this nest and the Great Horned Owl nest down the road are fought over each year by the hawk and owl.

As we chat, I catch a glimpse of a parent hawk bringing home a snake for lunch.

As it flew closer, the snake looked bigger.  I read that they take the prey head off with their talons, but it was still moving when placed in the nest.

The tree trunk prevents me from seeing a lot of arrivals and departures, but the kids don’t miss anything.

No different from any kid after a big meal, there is some business to attend to.  This is how raptors keep a clean nest!

Even though my day began at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction and am so glad I did.  I must tell you that if my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I could have shown you pillars and waves but alas I needed sleep so headed home.

5.30.17  The chicks call for a parent to feed them.  Constantly.

Sure enough, a parent shows up with food!  Most of the food I’ve seen brought back to the nest are snakes and rodents of some sort, but they also eat squirrels, rabbits, and birds.

Mom feeds Little Sibling.

Older Sibling is annoyed….Sibling Rivalry?

6.3.17   Chicks are standing at the edge of their nest!  Be careful kids!  Look at those brown flight feathers growing in!

Stretch those little wings!!

After eating and stretching, the Red-tailed Hawk chicks settle down in their nest.  I call it a good day.

6.8.17  A heavy rainstorm today and I find a Red-tailed Hawk chick alone in the nest. WHERE IS YOUR SIBLING?

He looks so miserable.  What could have happened to his little brother?  I can’t find him anywhere.  Mother Nature, you are so cruel!!

Adding insult to injury, the blackbirds won’t leave him alone.  I spent a long morning watching and wondering.

6.10.17   I can’t stop thinking about this lone little chick and thought maybe I didn’t search thoroughly enough for his sibling.  Alas, what I find is dismaying.  The lone chick is in his nest and it looks like a parent crashed into the tree under his nest.

I don’t know if this is the only parent, due to the feathers seen weeks ago above the nest, so I decide to call Rowena Wildlife Clinic for advice.   “Wait and watch … see if there’s a parent still feeding….” and other pertinent info.  Thank you Leigh for being there!

Meanwhile, the lone chick is jumping on his bed like there’s no tomorrow.

Seemingly delighted to have the place to himself.  In the meantime, I worry and wait and wait and wait.

6.11.17   I return today for a follow-up, for both RWC and myself.  Yay, he has food so someone is feeding him!  I won’t have to go catch mice or snakes and throw them up to his nest.  Yes, I was thinking I would have to become his meal provider!

6.13.17  I’m so relieved to actually SEE a parent flying in with food.  I’m still pondering what happened to the parent under the nest.

Yum, snake seems like the food most readily available.

6.15.17  Once again I see the remaining parent bring home food.  I’m checking as often as I can now to be sure both remaining raptors are ok.

Afterward the parent gets harassed by blackbirds again.  Makes me wonder if blackbirds forced the other parent into the tree…  Or was the other parent defending his chick from a predator, since the chick disappeared the same time as the parent’s crash… Or…

She takes off in flight….

…while her chick jumps on the bed again.  omg so cute!  His feathers are changing rapidly now, look at that beautiful color.

As I wait and watch I notice the wheat fields nearby have grown tall.

6.17.17  I arrive to find the Red-tailed Hawk chick standing on a perch outside his nest.  I haven’t seen him fly, but he can hop up to the perch/landing where his parent delivers food!

6.19.17  It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Little Red Tail gets harassed again by blackbirds while he tries to practice for his first flight.

Looks like a standoff to me.

Sheesh, who knew blackbirds were such bullies!  I guess all’s fair in love & war and this looks like war.

6.22.17  Little Red Tail calls loudly for his parent.

Remember how pathetic he looked that rainy day when I discovered his sibling missing?  What a difference, he’s so beautiful and strong now!

6.24.17   Little Red Tail is further away from the nest on a higher branch and can ‘fly/hop’ from branch to branch above the nest!   It’s about to get exciting….

His parent flies overhead……

Little Red Tail takes off in flight chasing and calling his parent!!!  His calls sounded downright gleeful to my ears.

I’m not sure how this happened, it was so fast.  Either the parent led the fledgling to the rodent in the field, or perhaps the parent dropped it for the fledgling to find.  Little Red Tail pounced on it, played with it for a tiny while, then began to eat.  Now I know how they learn to hunt!!

After eating his own ‘catch’, Little Red Tail takes off from the field and awkwardly lands in a ‘new’ tree farther from his nest.  Learning by leaps and bounds now!!

7.4.17  My last nest check, I am thrilled to see Little Red Tail soaring in the sky across wheat fields.  I’m sad to end his story here but happy knowing the little guy made it this far.

A last look at Mt Hood and wheat fields as I leave the area, wishing Little Red Tail the very best.

More about Red-tailed Hawks at Hawk Watch International, American Birding Association, and Cornell’s All About Birds with a few questions answered from Cornell and Hawk Mountain

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

 

4.9.17  Thanks to a lead, I arrived at a Great Horned Owl nest east of the Deschutes River just in time to see the incubation stage.  This is Mom, sitting on the nest.  Dad is in a nearby tree watching my every move.  Fortunately for me, this nest is just off a quiet road, so I grab a couple of quick shots, then leave so I don’t disturb the family.

4.20.17  I began the day at sunrise from Catherine Creek before heading out to the Great Horned Owl nest.

I find Mama still incubating.  Great Horned Owls incubate for 30 to 37 days and typically use the old nest of another large bird.  Thanks to a resident who stopped to chat with me, I learned that the owl and a Red-tailed Hawk fight over this nest and another about a mile down the road each year.

I searched for and found Dad in a tree near the nest.  I know if there’s a Mama in the nest, Dad is likely nearby.  He keeps the family fed while she keeps the family warm.  When the chick is old enough to stay home alone, both parents hunt.

4.23.17  Mama still incubating and Dad was hunting in the distance.  Yes, in broad daylight!  Great Horned Owls eat a smorgasbord of mammals, birds, and reptiles.  The list is longer than any of my other raptors in this series.  I offer a link for you at the bottom of this post.

5.2.17   Great Horned Owl still in nest……..WAIT!  Is that a chick???

YES!  A fuzzy little Great Horned Owlet joins the family, I’m so excited to see it!!

5.4.17   I try to drive by slowly, stopping barely long enough to snap a few pictures and move on.  I am thrilled to see the owlet’s fuzzy little face.  There is a shoulder I can park on, but I can’t see the nest from there.  It’s all I can do to not park my car in the middle of the road and just watch!

5.11.17   Little Owlet misses nothing as I slowly drive by.  The nestling period for a Great Horned Owl is 42 days.  If this nest weren’t so far from home I’d be here every one of those 42 days!

Great Horned Owl parent watches me from a field.  Like most raptors, the female is larger than the male, so I think this is Mom.

I drive to a nearby Red-tailed Hawk nest, observe for an hour or so, then return to the owlet on my way back down to the river.  This has become my pattern allowing me to see the owlet twice without too much disturbance.

5.15.17   Mama gets some sleep while Junior keeps an eye out.

5.19.17  From time to time I park on the shoulder and try to peer around trees.  With my brown pants and green hoodie I get into the character of a tree.  Junior doesn’t buy it, so I leave.

5.23.17  I arrive to an EMPTY nest!  The Owlet is too young to fly away but I know they can climb in and out of their nest at 5 weeks.  I search but can’t find him and more worrisome is I find neither parent around.  I park and walk the entire length of this hardwood forest to no avail.

5.25.17   As I drive slowly by, searching the area for Junior again, I suddenly spot him high on a branch!  Two days ago I don’t remember if I looked UP so I have to laugh at myself!

He was more easily seen on my drive back down to the river after checking nearby nests.  Yes plural!  Today a woman stopped to chat for a moment and shared the location of yet another Red-tailed Hawk nest.  Thank you!!

5.30.17  The Great Horned Owlet continues to mature each time I find him.  Owls are silent when they fly and their feathers are oh so soft.  Most raptor rehabilitation centers have a ‘Birds of Prey’ program where you can see for yourself.

Owls can live long lives ~ I believe I read one was found that was 28 years old in the wild; and in captivity one turned 50 at a zoo.  Those admitted to rehabilitation centers have typically been hit by a car, shot, electrocuted, or caught in barbed wire.  They can also starve if food sources are scarce.

6.3.17   I leave most mornings in time to see the sun come up on my way to check nests.

Each morning I wonder if the Owlet will still be here.  Yes!  There he is, perched on a branch closer to the field than to the road.

On my way back down he’s perched on a different branch, close enough to see those long sharp talons.

6.8.17   Today was gray, rainy, and looked pretty miserable for the little Owlet.

6.10.17  I saw a parent sitting on a snag near the field, but didn’t see the Owlet, so decided to park and look around.  You can barely see the parent, he blends in so well with his environment.

All of a sudden, the Owlet burst out in front of me and took off in flight.  Sorry little guy, didn’t mean to startle you!!

He flew across the field….

…and landed near some pretty wildflowers.  Soon he’ll fly away and not look back.

6.13.17   The Owlet is getting more and more difficult to locate, but yay, I found him again.  I’m grateful this road gets so little traffic, and I apologize to the residents if I ever block your lane.

On my way down the hill, he was more out in the open, but started to climb down the branch at my arrival.  I want to emphasize that I try my best to not interfere, interrupt or otherwise disrupt any activity, so I quickly move on.

6.15.17  Another day of rain, but at least it’s a light rain.  Owlet continues to mature.

6.17.17  My last sighting of the Owlet was a warm and sunny day.  Had I known this was my last opportunity with him, I’d have stayed a little longer soaking in those beautiful feathers and mesmerizing eyes.  I can only hope that I get this lucky again next year…..

For more information about Great Horned Owls:  Cornell’s All About Birds, Audubon, and International Owl Center  There are many more pages to check, these will get you started.

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

3.19.17   I originally saw this empty nest while doing my winter raptor survey for East Cascades Audubon Society and today find a Red-tailed Hawk in it.   The nest is pretty high up in a tree and on private property.  Later, after investigating I found the owner and received permission to enter.

It was a beautiful day in the Gorge as I left to check on the other raptor nests I follow.

3.28.17   The Red-tailed Hawk looks like she’s incubating (keeping eggs warm).  At this point I am looking for the property owner’s permission so am not as close as I’d like.

4.25.17  A parent still sits on the nest.  Both parents share nest duty, so this could be Mom or Dad.  Incubation period for Red-tailed Hawks is 28 to 35 days.

Nest viewed from the road, the smaller trees are each about the size of a farmhouse.  I now have permission to hike in and plan to take cover under the smaller trees.  A long open hike in, I’ll have to somehow avoid parental detection.

Nesting parent’s mate watches me as I open the gate…

…and didn’t like me opening the gate.  Plan aborted, I will figure out a better way to slip in, undetected.

5.11.17   All looks the same from the road, I try to nonchalantly enter again.

Drat, caught again.  This time I am so close to cover that I duck under a tree and wait until the parents settle down.

When I dare lift my camera I catch a shot of a snake on the nest.  Food for chicks or possibly in the nest eating eggs!?  Worried about the family, I quickly leave so the parents can kill it if it’s the latter situation.

5.19.17  From the road I can see THREE CHICKS IN THE NEST!!  I’m still figuring out how to camouflage or otherwise slip in without disturbing the family.

5.23.17  I hike in at dawn, settle in under a tree, then see this sweet little nestling.  Plan worked!

5.27.17   Hiking in at dawn seems to work in avoiding parental stress from the Red-tailed Hawks, but they still see me hiking out..

I drink my morning coffee and eat muffins under the cover of nearby trees while I await the chicks to peer out under the sun.

Each time a parent notices me, I stop and wait for it to think I’m a rock… turns my hike out into an hour-long look at the surrounding fields as I make my way back to my car.  I hike a circular route so a predator following my scent won’t detect where the nest is.

Even though my day began at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction.  If my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I could have shown you pillars and waves and more color but alas I needed sleep so headed home.

5.30.17    The nestling’s feathers are changing and I thought I saw the third sibling from this vantage point as they stretched their little wings.  It’s a big nest, about 6′ wide and quite sturdy.

6.3.17  Yay, here’s that definitive photo ~ showing THREE Red-tailed Hawk chicks!

Their feathers are growing in so fast, replacing the fuzzy white down.  They look so much the same I wonder if I’ll be able to tell them apart later.

A parent scolds me from above as I hike out.  Sorry.  Red-tailed Hawks mate for life…or as I often read, until one dies.  They return to the same area each year but not necessarily the same nest.

Did I say how early?  This early!  Hiking out is still a problem but at least they see that I’m walking AWAY from the nest.

6.8.17  Pouring rain, no one gets out of bed this morning.  Except me of course!

Hard to see, but one little eye looks out at me.

6.10.17  Standing like little sentries at the front door, the Red-tailed Hawk chicks are growing up fast.  Their nestling stage generally takes 42 – 46 days.

I crept under my cover trees to see the Lone Sentry at the back door.  Obviously I wasn’t sneaky enough.  Sorry!

6.13.17  A windy day, the entire tree rocked back and forth and everyone lies low.  My cover trees didn’t cover very well.

6.15.17  Kids are standing sentry again.  Looks like the nest is getting a bit crowded now as they grow.

6.17.17  Two chicks are standing in the nest, and check out the brave one on the front porch!  Close to fledge I think! 

 

6.19.17  When I arrive there’s only one chick in the nest!  Where’d everybody go?

Ahhh, there’s one sibling perched near the top of the tree, but I didn’t find the third.

Parents are still hunting to feed the chicks, but they’ll soon learn to feed themselves.

Mt Hood reflecting in the Columbia on my way to the next nest.

6.22.17   Nest looks empty, I wonder if it’s worth a walk out, but then I see junior on an upper left branch.

Parents are still circling overhead protecting their offspring.  What great parents they are to have successfully fledged a trio of chicks.

Here’s the last fledgling zoomed way in and cropped.

6.24.17   Red-tailed Hawk fledgling perched on utility pole. Today I watched from the road as they practiced flight skills.

They practice landing and taking off from a utility pole.

On my way home photographers are lining Hwy 14 to see this steam engine train as it travels through the Columbia River Gorge on the way to Bend.

6.27.17   One Red-tailed Hawk chick perched on a branch near his nest with no siblings in sight.

6.29.17  Although I did get to see all 3 siblings practice flight, landings and take-offs I couldn’t camouflage myself enough to hike in and get as many pictures as I did for Nest #2 which I’ll post soon.  We now have an empty nest, everyone has fledged.

7.4.17   I stopped by for one last look and got to watch the triplets soaring overhead.

The Red-tailed Hawk fledglings continue to practice landing and take-off.  The family will stay together while the fledglings build muscle, learn to hunt and become expert fliers.

More about Red-tailed Hawks at Hawk Watch International, American Birding Association, and Cornell’s All About Birds and a few questions answered from Cornell.

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

3.19.17 I saw a Prairie Falcon sitting high on a cliff while doing my raptor survey for East Cascades Audubon Society.  I knew from experienced friends to not directly look at, point to or otherwise make myself known to him so I slowly slid the tip of my lens out my barely rolled down window, took aim & quietly grabbed these shots.

He perched for a bit at this nest site, then back up to the cliff.

He flew overhead several times then landed below the nest, looking around as if determining whether or not this was a good spot.  I didn’t want to discourage him, so quickly left, hoping he’d choose that spot for a nest.

It was a beautiful sunny spring day in the Gorge.  This nest will be “the western-most PRFA scrape we know of on the Washington side of the river”, according to wildlife research scientist, Jim Watson of WDFW…I’m ever so grateful for his sharing of information with me.

3.23.17  A few days later I was thrilled to see the Prairie Falcon IN THE NEST!!  He seemed to be skittishly looking around and I hadn’t seen a mate so didn’t know if this would be the final nest choice yet.  Again I quickly left.

3.28.17  Prairie Falcon sitting in front of nest on cliff, I was excited to see him still here!

4.9.17   He’s still there!

4.20.17  My day began with a sunrise at Catherine Creek.

Darn, no Prairie Falcon today…..

4.25.17  There was no one home again at the nest, but I spotted a Prairie Falcon close to an historical nest site a couple of miles away from the nest I’m watching.

I only observed him a few minutes before he flew.

5.2.17  My friend, cjflick joined me at the nest site to help me confirm whether or not the Prairie Falcon was indeed using this as a nest.  Typically falcons don’t build nests, they use a ‘scrape’ (bare rock) or cliffside dwelling previously made by other raptors.  Once again there was no Prairie Falcon at the stick nest site that I’d found.

5.4.17   No sighting again, but I’m learning more about these falcons.  They begin breeding at about two years old.  During courtship the pair visit potential nest sites together for about a month.  They eat small mammals, birds and insects and on average only live 2.5 to 5 yrs in the wild. Why do they not live longer?  Sadly the top three causes of death are gunshot, hit by cars and run into fences.  Fourth is owl predation.         

5.11.17  No action in the nest again today….should I give up on this one?  cjflick encouraged me to keep watching.

5.19.17   After not observing any activity for a month, I am thrilled to see a Prairie Falcon on the nest today!

Later, when I zoomed in on today’s photos, I saw a parent’s head in the far back of the nest!  Had they been incubating all this time?  I learned they incubate for 29 – 39 days, so my answer is YES!  You can barely see the falcon’s head behind a front stick that stands up at an angle.

5.23.17  today I see one parent at the edge of the nest.

5.25.17  I spot a Prairie Falcon on a ledge near the nest.

I can’t see any action IN the nest.   If only my camera could zoom UP and IN!!

5.27.17  was an exciting day.  I watched a Prairie Falcon take off from a cliff above the nest…..

He flies down towards the nest…..

It happened so fast I couldn’t keep my camera focused on the raptor, but I think what happened is he grabbed a rodent, took it to the nest and now the mate is flying out of the nest with said rodent.

Then she repositions the rodent from her beak to her  talons while in flight!

She now has the rodent in her talons, while still in flight, and heads back up to the cliffside perch above the nest.

Her mate stays back at the nest, presumably with the young chicks…or Eyases as their technically called (if used for falconry).  I’d rather call them Falconettes.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, an Aurora is predicted tonight.  I decide to stay up and watch it despite my 4am wake up call this morning.  I had to quit about midnight but heard that I should have waited for the better show only 30 minutes later.

5.30.17  LOOK!!  WE HAVE CHICKS!!  Another exciting day for me in my ‘Prairie Falcon Nest Watch’!!  You can barely see their fuzzy white heads above the sticks.  The ‘nestling’ time is 29 to 47 days.

Looking at their size and comparing them to other chicks I’m watching, they are probably the same age as the Peregrine Falcons.  I’ll share a link to that page as soon as it’s written.

Falconettes stretch their wings while a parent gets out for a breath of fresh air.  Just kidding.  The nest stays clean because they eliminate out the front door ~ you can see the white stain on the front rocks.

Trying to remember to post pictures of my surroundings while I am enroute to or at all my ‘Nest Check’ locations.

6.3.17   THREE Falconettes in the nest!  How adorable they are!!  At three weeks brown juvenile feathers poke through the white fuzz, so I’m guessing they could be four weeks here.

6.8.17  Did I say three?  We have three Falconettes and what a difference five days make!  At 5 to 6 weeks old, the white fuzz disappears and their brown feathers have grown in.  I’d better check in on them more frequently.

They flap their wings and race from side to side of the nest.  What fun to hear them call to one another or their parents.

It was enough to make this parent fly out the front door!

6.10.17  Two days later, they’re still racing back and forth across the nest opening.  Their wings are darker and as you can see they’re taller!

Yes, they can be still.  They settle down for a short while….

…then resume practicing future flight techniques.

6.13.17  The triplets call and wait for a parent to bring lunch.

A parent must be getting closer, the Falconettes act excited and race across the nest opening.

The parent is closer, the Falconettes race toward the direction of her arrival.

She drops off lunch then leaves immediately after feeding.

Back to hunting for the family.

6.15.17   omg the kids are out of the nest!  Technically, when they leave the nest, they’ve ‘fledged’.

I did not see them go further than the front porch and they scramble back into the nest when a parent flies in with food.

The parent stayed long enough to deliver lunch, then took off again.

Back to the job of hunting for a hungry family.

6.17.17  A beautiful sunny Gorge day.

When I arrive at the nest I find it EMPTY!!  Falconettes have Fledged!  Where are they???

Movement caught my eye up on the cliffs.  Oh just look at them outside practicing flight techniques together!

I watched the fledglings practicing their take-offs and landings on this cliff and a grassy spot nearby.

Perched high on a cliff, they also appeared to chase down prey but I couldn’t tell if they caught anything.

They appeared to feed each other….licking lunch off each otter’s beaks?

I wondered where the third sibling was, then found him nearby on a grassy slope near the cliffs.

6.19.17   I’m told the Prairie Falcon fledglings will hang around as their muscles further develop, perfecting their flight and hunting skills for a couple weeks.

I found all three today, this one is practicing take-offs and landings.

This one was racing around the neighborhood.

6.22.17  Falcon fledglings still hanging around.  Only found two today up on the cliffs but the third is probably nearby.

6.23.17   Prairie Falcons practice hunting skills!  They had bloody beaks, so they must have caught prey themselves.

6.24.17  Prairie Falcon fledgling practicing flight skills.

He takes off, flies a bit, then lands not too far away from where he started.

Taking a little rest in the shade while his siblings are beyond the edge of the cliff.

6.27.17   Prairie Falcon fledglings were difficult to find until they moved while hunting on the rocks below their nest.

As the morning wore on they were easier to find when the sun lit them up.

All three are still near their original nest.

6.29.17  Prairie Falcon fledgling taking off in flight below their nest. They’ve become more graceful in flight.

Another Prairie Falcon fledgling in flight above the cliffs…

Third fledgling hunts in an area also near their nest.

7.2.17   Prairie Falcon fledglings chasing each other across the cliff.

They’re still so much fun to watch.  Like kids, having races, calling each other, and generally having a good time learning life skills.

7.4.17   Prairie Falcons are still near their nest, practicing, learning, and maturing.

This was my last visit but I may go check to see if they’re still there once I finish this series of blog posts.

If you’d like to learn more about Prairie Falcons, in addition to All About Birds I found more information at

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and Seattle Audubon

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I write them is Empty Nest

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