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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   No photo to share as my informant didn’t take one.

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

 

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

Empty Nest

July 20, 2017

Empty Nest….a phrase with multiple meanings, but in my case quite literally.

I followed seven raptor nests from birth (incubation) until graduation (fledge) this season.  An arduous task barely completed, but I’m ready to show you my journey.

I followed three Red-tailed Hawk nests, (Nest #1, Nest #2 and Nest #3)

…a Great Horned Owl, (link to post here)

…Prairie Falcon triplets (link to post here),

…Peregrine Falcon triplets  (link to post here),

…and a Bald Eagle (link to post here).

I’ve followed nests before, but not this consistently or with as much determination; and never from beginning until end.  I did a ‘nest check’ every 4 to 5 days in the beginning, then every 3 to 4, then 2 to 3 days until the raptors were close to fledging when I checked every other day….and sometimes every day!

Starting mid to late March with a couple of nests, I picked up more as I went along.  My last day was July 4th when the Bald Eaglet fledged (I now call him ‘Freedom’, of course!)  Some days I shot thousands of photos, some days only a few, depending on circumstances at each nest site.

What got me started you ask?  I participate in a raptor survey each winter for East Cascades Audubon Society.  This winter I noticed empty nests through branches of deciduous trees and decided to keep my eye on them.  I also noticed a Prairie Falcon perched at the opening of a ‘stick’ nest high on a cliff that was likely occupied by Ravens last season.  A couple of people gave me leads for other nests when they heard about my project and I followed up on those.  Only one location was on private land and I’m grateful for owner permission to enter that gate.

Special thanks to mentor cjflick on this project.  She showed me many historical falcon sites and while together one day, we observed Peregrine Falcons flying into a known location that was formerly a Red-tailed Hawk nest.  She is also instrumental in my education as I travel through this wondrous adventure, always available for my many questions!

Also thanks to Rowena Wildlife Clinic who I called on several heartbreaking occasions.  Leigh put my mind at rest, told me what to expect and how to handle what I observed in the morning before most of my friends were even out of bed.

If you want to learn more about these amazing raptors there are many sources.  I used Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds,  The Crossley ID Guide, took a fabulous Raptor ID class from Dick Ashford at Winter Wings, followed up with many questions to mentors cjflick and others; and chased down each bit of information I came across.  I’ve learned much, but mostly learned I still have much to learn.

I tell the story of each nest as I lived the adventure.  I tend to personify or anthropomorphize so forgive me if I call ‘my raptors’ he or she, Mom or Dad; or even suggest a human relationship action that may not be accurate in the real world of raptors.  I appreciate corrections for any mistakes, comments, and additions that you care to give.

Just so you know, I use a 150 to 600 mm zoom lens and my photos are all cropped.  Most of my nests were photographed from my car without disturbing the raptors in any way.   It’s unethical to bait, lure, flush or otherwise disturb wildlife and in some situations illegal … especially when nesting or raising young.  I also don’t use bird calls from my phone apps to lure or engage.  My goal in this series of posts is to share the stages of each nest with the hope of educating and building respect for these creatures that we share the planet with.

All my photos are now loaded, I simply have to add written content…a task that would be so much easier if I could read my notes.  And if I’d dated my notes.  And if I hadn’t let them get rained on….you get the gist!

 

 


I spent two glorious days at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, thanks to Julee at Mt Adams Lodge for inviting me to lead a group of people on a bird walk.

It felt delicious to catch a sunrise without rolling out of bed at 3am to arrive in time.

During my preview tour of the refuge, I spotted a trio of Northern Harrier Fledglings.

It was delightful watching them practice take-off and landing in a field off Laurel Road.

On my preview and the walking tour, we found Four-Spot Skimmers ~ no they are not birds, but wonderful creatures with wings.

There were plenty of Western Bluebirds actively feeding families in nest boxes.

A few Western Kingbirds could be seen on fence and utility wires.

A Hairy Woodpecker high in a snag.  We decided he was still learning the ways of the world as he scrambled his way to the top.

American Kestrel on a wire off the main highway.

Bunny Rabbit!!!

Western Meadowlarks were plentiful, I love their song.

We heard Sandhill Cranes, but they didn’t venture close to us.

Cliff Swallow fledglings begged for food from their parents and each other.

Saw a herd of Rocky Mountain Elk shortly after sunrise while driving around the refuge before our after-breakfast-bird-walk.

Ruffled feathers on this Western Bluebird from feeding all his babies?!!

Tri-colored Blackbird sitting on a refuge sign begged to have his portrait taken.

I found Fireweed in several spots around the refuge, Community Forests and Mt Adams Lodge.

I’m not quite comfortable identifying warblers, but I am pretty sure this IS a warbler!

There were Mariposa Lilies growing in several spots.

Eastern Kingbirds were in their ‘usual locations’ on the refuge.

Another Western Meadowlark singing for me.

Common Yellowthroats were also seen in several places on the refuge and beyond.

Red-winged Blackbird mom heading back to her nest to feed the kids.

I found Common Paintbrush in a couple of spots on Kreps Road.

Lucky me to see this deer with TRIPLETS!  I could not stop and grab my camera fast enough!!  Glad no one was behind me on the road!!

I have a great butterfly book, but I couldn’t find this butterfly in it.  If you know the identity, please share!

I happened upon this Twelve-spot Skimmer!

I was given a lead that this Western Wood Pewee had a nest near the viewing platform on the Willard Springs Trail but no one in my group could find it.  He entertained us as we searched for his nest with our binoculars.

Spotted a few Dark-eyed Juncos during our walk.

An unidentifiable (to me) hummingbird resting as we hiked by.

Late in the afternoon this Tiger Lily glowed against the dark forest background.

An American Robin watched us watching him as we walked the trail.

This Red-breasted Sapsucker fledgling was so cute but alas wasn’t there when I took the group back to his neighborhood.

Yet another Four-spot Skimmer ~ aren’t they beautiful?!!  They were a golden glow in sunlight.

Tree Swallows are in many of the nest boxes along the Willard Springs Trail.

Group photo taken by Carya Meacham Bair from the bird walk event sponsored by Mt Adams Lodge.

I think a Sunset over Mt Adams on the refuge is a good closing photo.  A fabulous time was had by all!

My next several posts will spotlight a major undertaking that used ALL my time this spring and early summer.  I can’t wait to share it with you, but will take some time to organize my thoughts and photos….stay tuned!

Yes, its June, but I’m playing ‘catch-up’ today and I wanted to ‘plug’ an upcoming event!!  I’m leading a bird walk at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge thanks to an invitation from Julee at Mt Adams Lodge!  Saturday, July 1st right after breakfast at the Lodge.  Hope you can join me!

Thanks to a lead that Pintail Ducks were at ‘Pintail Lake’ I went up to the refuge in spite of the dark & dreary April day.

Lucky me, I found a huge herd of ELK.  I counted over 40!

Later that morning I saw the herd running through a marshy field while I searched for Sandhill Cranes.

The raven looked very black against a gray sky…wouldn’t a BLUE sky have been better??!!!

Red-winged blackbirds are so melodious, I love them and they were everywhere!

I also found a pile of snakes!  This one let me grab his portrait.

 

Swallows were building nests underneath a bridge.

Brewer’s Blackbird…

Northern Flicker….

Western Meadowlark….

I was surprised to find a Wilson’s Snipe!

And some birds we could see on our July 1st birdwalk, that I’ve seen during this time of year:  Yellow-headed Blackbird

Spotted Sandpiper

Eastern Kingbird

Western Tanager

Sandhill Crane

Cedar Waxwing

Maybe we’ll see dragonflies!  I know we’ll see a lot more than I’ve shown you here.  Join me!!   Mt Adams Lodge Saturday July 1st right after breakfast in Glenwood WA, at the base of Mt Adams!

No experience necessary, just your curiosity, willingness to take a walk looking for birds in a beautiful place.  Binoculars &/or your camera are good things to have with you.

 

 

 

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