Monday, May 25, 2009

Hawk Banding

Today the girls and I went hawk banding. I know! I was so excited!!!!!! (Either you are totally confused right now or you are as big a nature geek as I am. Either way, hang in there, it's an interesting story!)  My friend from Waterloo (WAEC) casually mentioned that she'd be going when I saw her at market on Saturday, and I jumped at the chance, so we met her and her son and carpooled to a nest by the side of a country road that had been staked out by a family of researchers from Cincinnati, who have been doing this for as long as their kids can remember (and longer).  We were looking at red-shouldered hawks today - they mostly inhabit woods near wetlands, and so are a good indicator species for the health of the local wetlands.  If the hawks aren't doing well, that probably means trouble for the frogs, snakes, salamanders and other inhabitants of the wetlands.  When we arrived (tipped off by the line of four cars by the side of the road, just beyond a bridge over the Raccoon Creek), Jeff was already up in a tree, cinching his way over to a larger tree next to him, where the nest was:
(Jeff is in the center right, in a white shirt.  
The nest is to the left of center, in the crook of the tree. )

While we listened to the mama calling and calling her alarm from high above (they have been known to dive-bomb a researcher before - one of the women there today was hit in the forehead and suffered a black eye at the speeding body of a protective parent), Jeff carefully checked out the nest - four babies! Apparently they rarely find more than two, so this was good news.  They appeared to be about 4 weeks old, meaning they have about 2 more weeks left before they fledge.  Jeff carefully loaded all four babies into a canvas sack and lowered it by rope to Sherry.  She brought it over to a tarp where they had assembled their equipment for measuring, recording, banding, and taking blood.  The kids sat on a ground cloth next to the tarp to watch.
Their mouths were open the whole time, though only one of them made any squawks during the examination.  Sherry said it was stress and possibly the heat.  After they were banded and measured, and checked for ear maggots, they let each child hold one in their lap.  Oh my stars!!!
My very happy nature girl (who declared she wanted to be an ornithologist)
And her more tentative sister (who declared she wanted to be a hawk).  Actually I think Ani is trying to get a better look at its face, without getting too close.  Those beaks are pretty intimidating, even at four weeks.
Check out the talons as well! This was the one who had something to say, and though smaller and fuzzier, was also clearly not happy about the situation.
Once the banding and examination was finished, the hawks were loaded back into the bag, pulled back up into the tree and placed back in the nest.  It was an amazing experience for us. We also got to drive in beautiful country we hadn't been in before, saw a fox run across the road, and helped this turtle across the road.  

Do any of you Ohioans know what kind this is? The closest I can get is a Blanding's Turtle, whose shell is this shape and color, but we did not see any distinctive yellow chin - Eliza suggested that maybe it was just too muddy?!  Perhaps more impressive was the leech on its shell.

It was all totally worth the sea of poison ivy we waded through to get to the hawks, and I was able to confirm my identification of jewelweed, which we do have in our backyard, and which I am testing on a small patch of my arm that is could just be the mosquito bite I got while I was holding the turtle and unable to get to it, but I am suspicious...Dan has an arm full of poison ivy that appeared as an absolute mystery and is just so nasty, and I'm hoping I'm not heading down the same road..


alissa said...

you are such the nature girl. mormor, lucy and i went for a hike today (we walked all the way around indian lake!!) and we were trying to identify various things. lucy said, at least once, "aunt debbie would know!" wish you were here!!
those hawks are amazing...what a great experience!!!

Stacy (mama-om) said...

I LOVE the girls' respective comments.

What a great adventure!