Head in the clouds

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The tower there in the background is, by Knucklehead's Scientific Wildass Guess (KSWAG), 184 ft. tall. I found some documentation that it is "approx. 185 ft. high" so I think I did OK.

The blob thing at the top center is an osprey nest. Best I can KSWAG that it is roughly 6-7 ft in diameter but is far from a perfect circle.

I don't have the photographic equipment to allow y'all to get a good look at what's going on in and around that nest but as of this AM I'm pretty sure an ospring or whatever they're called (a fish eaglet?) has hatched and is quite hungry. Shortly before I took this one of the nesting pair was sitting there on the edge of the nest and for a brief moment I was able to see something smaller moving around and poking up above the edge. I got binoculars on it and am nearly certain but not quite positive yet. I know you'll stay tuned with 'bated breath. The timing would be about right. Roughly 5 weeks to hatch an egg and they've been back from their winter condo roughly that long, maybe a week longer.

The osprey don't seem to think very highly of turkey buzzards (the blobs at the top of the light pole to the right). Those lights, BTW, are at least 18 in. diameter each. Turkey buzzards are just flat out ugly but they fly pretty. Whenever the turkey buzzards are milling around the osprey stay close to home (at least as far as I can tell). If a group of the buzzards get to circling around too close to the nest the osprey pair will get up above them and keep a wary circle going. I take it they can get higher and dive faster and everyone involved know that. CW on these buzzards is that they are not strong enough of talon to hunt or beak to eat fresh kills. I suspect the osprey don't cotton to the CW when it comes to the ospring. How much strength of talon and beak can it require to snarf up a fish eaglet?

This little blob of trees is far more interesting, at least to me, than it might seem. To the right of it is open sky. For some reason way beyond my pay grade to understand, that little patch of sky is right in the osprey flight path for returning from water. Almost every day I get at least a quick glimplse; always returning, never going.

The buzzards will sometimes circle off in the distance beyond those trees. There's a small park over there a few hundred meters so they probably get a dead critter or two from time to time over there. But more interestingly, toward the center of this blob of tree branches, just left of the squiggley one there, is the stump of a larger, vertical section of tree. These are oaks, that particular one is a red oak. On that "stump", each morning sometime around 10ish or so, what I'm nearly convinced is an American Kestrel alights for a few seconds. Three of the past four days I've spotted it. The flightly little so and so won't hang around long enough for me to get the glasses on him for more than a very brief moment so I'm still not certain. The coloring doesn't seem to cut it but the wings would be very different (longer) if it were anything else it could reasonably be.

18 comments:

Skookumchuk said...

We may or may not have ospreys. We have had bald eagles and various hawks in the past. Kind of like their human counterparts, they leave to go salmon fishing way too damn early for me to even catch a peek.

Knucklehead said...

From a distance, perched, it looks to me that ospreys and bald eagles would be difficult to distinguish. In flight the difference is easy to spot. Ospreys have a much narrower wing and the wing has a pronounced "elbow" look to it. An osprey in flight (when it is going somewhere rather than hanging out) looks a lot like a very large seagull that knows how to keep quiet.

They're very pretty to watch. I find the tension among birds interesting. A smaller bird of some sort (almost certainly a crow) made a run at the osprey nest this morning while I was walking by and keeping an eye on it. I don't know what the little dope was thinking 'cause an osprey was sitting right there on the edge of the tower. It just sorta hopped up and smacked the snot outta the little bird which, of course, turned tail and got outta there.

The buzzards gathering up on light poles and such is not usual. That's just been the last few days. My guess is they're hoping something falls or gets tossed out of the nest. Or, I suppose, they could just be aiting for the osprey to get clumsy when returning from a hunt. But the osprey seem awful nervous and jerkey when those buzzards gather around.

Skookumchuk said...

I can normally only tell the difference between ospreys and bald eagles in flight, especially when far away.

About five AM, maybe a bit earlier, all Hell breaks loose around here as everybody wakes up and starts yelling at once. Predator types who are normally pretty quiet and crows especially, it seems, with the occasional seagull thrown in. I think the predator's fishing trip makes the crows all jumpy somehow.

chuck said...

Across the mountains from where I live there is a large rookery in the cliffs back of Farmington Bay where Bald Eagles nest. During the evening in season there are literally scores of them in the air wafting home from the Great Salt Lake. Lots of pictures here.

American Kestrels are a dime a dozen in the valley. I remember trying to raise up some of the little ones we found on the ground. Swanson's Hawks and Redtails are common, sitting on the power poles along the roads. The most spectacular thing to see are the Great Blue Heron rookeries. It's a memorable experience to sit in a raft and drift along under a canopy of trees filled with the nests of those monsters. If you drift, paddle, and portage a bit, you will eventually end up in Cutler Marsh.

Hah, now I feel the urge to get out and see the wildlife. Why am I spending spring at the keyboard? It's crazy. Thanks for the reminder, Knuck.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

There are trout in Cutler Marsh, right?

I sense a road trip.

Skookumchuk said...

We are also up to our eyeballs in blue herons and cormorants.

chuck said...

There are trout in Cutler Marsh, right?

Lot's of carp. There are plenty of streams in the valleys coming down from the mountains that have trout. I don't fish or hunt, but I know a couple of experts here, folks who would show up at a party with some huge trout because they "just stopped off to do a little fishing on the way." If you get serious and head down this way I could put you in touch.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

I just may do that. The Logan River flows in to or out of there, right?

chuck said...

The Logan River flows in to or out of there, right?

Yes, the Logan river runs down Logan canyon and then sort of joins up with the Little Bear and meanders into Cutler from the south. But the main source of water is the Bear River, which is dammed at the cut where it flows through the mountains in the background of the photo to form the Cutler Reservoir (marsh).

Knucklehead said...

Chuck,

Around this area raptors were all but gone for a long time. They're back now and I'm enjoying the heck outta watching them when I can.

That little guy who stops by the red oak in the AM has been difficult to ID. Too small for a peregrine. And most of what the documentation says can be found in the area has wings that, when folded, the tips reach as far as the tip of the tail. That is absolutely not the case here. His wingtips don't reach more than halfway down the tail. The coloring is a tannish brown, very light breast. Haven't been able to get a good look at the legs or talons yet.

The Swainson's Hawk would be a good fit if it were slightly smaller and not limited to the western half of the nation. I'm still guessing Kestrel on this one. Sooner or later I'll notice him in time to get a good look. The whole package screams raptor but I can't get enough ID to peg which one.

terrye said...

I just ordered a new bird book. For some strange reason this year I am seeing new birds, birds I do not remember seeing before.

This is woodpecker heaen around here and the pileated woodpecker is making a comeback...but there are other birds I have seen as well that I can not idenify.

Back in Oklahoma the state bird is the scissortail. No such critter up here.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

Got it. I was a bit mixed up there, geographically-wise. The wife and I are looking for a cheap, emphasis on cheap, summer place or plot of land on which to build a shack that is drier than here in the PNW, so we may bum around Utah in a few months time. Do some fishin', too.

knucklehead:

The whole package screams raptor but I can't get enough ID to peg which one.

It can be maddening. I'm not a true birder by any means, but a friend who is one says that birders sometimes refer to smaller critters as "LBJs" - Little Brown Jobs. So much for taxonomic accuracy.

Skookumchuk said...

terrye:

I just looked up scissortails. We don't have any out West it seems. Quite pretty li'l critters.

chuck said...

Knuck,

I haven't been birdwatching in, oh, 16 years and I wasn't all that hot then, but I always found the Kestrel's face markings and size pretty distinctive. 'Course, if you can't get the glasses on the little sucker...

Skook,

...so we may bum around Utah in a few months time. Do some fishin', too.

TmjUtah is out here too, lives south of Salt Lake City. I've never met him, but he always writes beautifully.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

That's good to know. I used to read him, then he stopped blogging for a while, and I see just now he's back.

Speaking of TMJ, shooting some cannons might be nice, too, in addition to the fishing stuff.

Boom-boom is fun. Just ask terrye's fella. Ain't that right, terrye?

Which bird book did you get?

Knucklehead said...

Chuck,

The picture of the Kestrel at that link you provided just about seals the deal. I'm not "birder", I just get a kick outta looking at the feathered critters. I'm no oenophile, I just like wine.

My problem with this particular critter is that I never get a gander at it until he heads into that jumble of trees. My eyesight not being what it once was, that 80 ft. out and 40 ft. up means I gotta get glass on the little beggar to make out details like beak and face and such. But he's in the jumble of leaves and branches so I can't get at what I need to see to ID it. He ain't no swallow, finch, bluebird, or crow, I can see that ;)

BTW, Kestrels aren't a dime a dozen here and while other raptors are making a comeback apparently the kestrels are suffering for some unkown reason (other raptors making a comeback?). Those darned turkey buzzards are a dime a dozen.

Skookumchuk said...

knucklehead:

Here's another one.

chuck said...

The picture of the Kestrel at that link you provided just about seals the deal.

There are a lot more great kestrel photos there if you click thru the link to "more photos" at the lower right.