Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Goodbye Vali

We put our dear companion Vali to sleep today. He was diagnosed with primary lung cancer a couple of months ago. Words cannot describe the loss I feel.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Red-shouldered Hawks Have Fledged

The chicks have now fledged and are flying ... sort of. They are not very graceful but they are making forays out of the nest tree towards the river. I saw one land on the roof of the house this morning. I am not sure where they roost in general.

This evening, I got some pictures of one of the fledglings feeding on a snake by itself, a couple of trees away from the nest. I am not sure if it caught the snake itself, though.

I also found this collection of feathers, part of a wing, and a claw below the nest. I think this might be an Eastern Screech Owl, but am really not sure. The patterning looks close to one I found in a feather atlas. The talon has feathering on the toes, also consistent with some sort of owl. The prey is a bit out of the ordinary for the Red-shouldered Hawk, but not unheard of according to this Wikipedia article.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Martin Changing of the Guard

This morning, two of the chicks in gourd #1 fledged, one about 9:30 and the other at about 13:00. This evening, the five resident adults and two fledglings made passes around the colony before dispersing. Tonight, the male martin is taking care of the two remaining chicks and the female is presumably off roosting with the two escapees.

Meanwhile, in gourd #3, the female has laid her first egg. This is the new mate of the male whose previous mate was killed by Starlings. As far as I can tell from videos, the male has yet to succeed in entering an unmodified gourd. I am a little worried about how this pair is going to feed its chicks.

Update June 9 - Third martin from gourd #1 fledged today at 17:40. As I watched later from outside, the last chick was making thrusting attempts to get out of the hole. These were especially frenetic when the rest of the family was chirping and strafing the colony.

In gourd #3, a second egg was laid at 09:30. This female lays much later in the morning than the last two broods I have watched.

Update June 12 - This pair in gourd #3 seems to have abandoned the nest with no further eggs.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hawks are Branching

All three juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks are now "branching."  That is, they are hopping out of the nest and onto nearby branches. They are not really flying anywhere yet.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hawk Chicks Waiting for Mom

Some nice views of two of the Red-shouldered Hawks in the nearby tree sitting and waiting for the "food lady" to show up. The larger one is getting breast and head feathers in. Possible fledging window in a couple of weeks.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Returning with Lucy

Today I experienced something new ... the Amazon Locker. I needed to return an order I made on Amazon and found one of the return options to be "drop off package at Amazon Locker". What the heck, I opted for this. I got to select from several locker locations down in Round Rock which were open 24 hours. I printed out the RMA form to put in the package and a shipping label for the outside. I also received a "locker combination."  I drove down to the location named "Lucy".

At the kiosk screen, I typed in my combination into the kiosk. It opened up a locker door which was too small. I pressed "my package does not fit" on the screen and it opened up a bigger one. I put in the package, closed the door and was done. No worrying about UPS or FedEx hours with this technique. Well done Amazon!

Hawk Chicks Starting Six Weeks

Now approaching beginning of sixth week, the chicks are standing up much more often and have begun to exercise their wings.

On the menu today was a large snake which we think was a Yellow-bellied Racer based on the coloration of the bits we could see. The adult still rips off pieces to feed the chicks. However, they are also learning to rip pieces themselves and play tug-o-war with them.

After a big feeding, the chick appears to have a full crop

Sunday, May 28, 2017

First Martin Nest Change

We did our first nest change of the season today. The chicks in gourd #1 are between 16 and 18 days old; the late one remains developmentally behind but is getting his share of bugs. Today is at the tail end of the allowed window for nest changing.

My approach is to prepare an identical spare gourd ahead of time, then transfer the chicks into it quickly. I then put the new gourd up in place of the original one and can clean the old one at my leisure to use as the next replacment.  In this image, I am stuffing new straw into the replacement gourd.

We found a few mites on the chicks; no blowflies thankfully. Challenge yourself by looking for the mites in the pictures below! The bigger problem the birds face is night-time mosquitoes which we can see swarming in the video feed ... not much we can do about that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hawk Chicks Get Feathers

This is the start of the fifth week for the Red-Shouldered Hawk chicks. The oldest one is showing a solid covering of feathers on the wings. Meanwhile, we are seeing the adults in the back yard more often, here perched on our songbird houses. The hawks are more likely spying for rodents, snakes, and lizards than birds. They also hang out in the tree above the bird feeders. Again, I think they are preying on lizards that come for the dropped seed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Four Purple Martins Hatch

In the first gourd, four of the five eggs hatched. Two of them early last Wednesday, the other two late on Thursday. The older two have the beginnings of darkening on the spine and rump from feather growth. They are now mobile enough to squirm a bit out of the nest cavity.

The fifth egg did not hatch and the female has not been trying to incubate it anymore. I removed it yesterday evening during the nest check. The pipping marks thought I saw in the video turned out to be dirt. There is no evidence of an attempt to hatch. It is shown below in comparison with a House Sparrow egg removed from gourd #7 (lower level to right of #1) along with the adults.

May 13 - Chicks progressing, oldest chick is a little over 9 days old.

May 23 - Oldest is now 13 days.