Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What did the workmen leave? Q & A--Blakeman

Ciro Monaco Jr. asks:

Regarding the nest spike removal, I have to ask whether the workers left the nesting material up there. I'm no expert and maybe this isn't the case, but it would seem removing the material would be a setback as Pale Male and Lola would again have to work endlessly to rebuild the nest and this would deplete their energy stores. Just wondering if you knew the answer.

John Blakeman answers:

Ciro's concerns are well thought out, and need to be addressed.
First, the lining material in the nest was not removed or discarded. That was a specific instruction in my recommendations for operations at the nest. So large amounts of new lining materials will not have to be flown up to the nest.
But interestingly, in wild rural nests, old nests must be almost completely rebuilt each year, with a near-complete replacement of the old soggy or blown-away lining materials. In the 927 nest, the old lining materials were actually held in place by the spikes, as the photos show. So naturally, the hawks are physically and behaviorally adapted to bring up fist-fulls of new lining materials.
Being the big, broadwinged birds they are, Red-tails can easily play on even the most modest winds to effortlessly lift a few grams of new lining up to the nest. Instead of being a complication or detriment, nest construction or in this case, refurbishment, has very positive behavioral outcomes for the hawks. To be anthropogenic, all of this will just like the selection and moving a young couple's new furniture into an NYC apartment. Yes, it will be work, but exciting, rewarding work at that.
All of the hawks' activities at the nest in the coming weeks will be positive, setting things up for real incubation and hatching.
--John Blakeman