Field notes by Cheryl Dykstra, co-editor of Urban Raptors
Monday, May 14, 2018
So happy our grad student Ania is back from Texas, having just finished her spring semester. Today is her second day, and the first day with our new undergrad intern Madison, a sophomore studying Environmental Biology.
At the first nest, we are disappointed to find nothing but nestling feathers on the ground. A predator, probably a raccoon judging from the feathers clinging to the sycamore’s bark, apparently killed the nestlings we saw here yesterday. One of the adults repeatedly flies into the nest carrying a fresh sprig of maple, looks around, then flies off a short distance. It would be anthropomorphizing to say she looks confused by the lack of young, but that’s what it seems like to us.
The second nest is better. As we walk into the back yard, one of the adults dives silently directly over mine and Madison's heads. While I’m walking out to the middle of the yard, she makes two more close passes, coming within about five feet of my head. Interestingly, in more than 20 years of working with red-shouldered hawks, I have never had that happen before. The bird’s aggressive nest defense isn’t really a surprise, as the elderly couple who live here reported that the birds have hit them while they walked in their yard, and now the couple are terrified to go out. Vigorous nest defense against people on the ground isn’t really that common in Cincinnati—maybe 5% of the nests—but it can be troubling, especially when children or the elderly are involved. I put on my climbing helmet and hand one to Madison—I don’t want to risk our intern getting injured on her first day.
All in all, it’s been a good day.