Monday, October 29, 2012

Voila!


Finally my dear harris hawks Alba and Matias reappeared and are back at the park. 
A week ago, I sighted them as they glided into the park and perched on their favorite trees, after nearly a month of sporadic and unsure sightings. 
But 'voila!', as the French say, I finally see them both, looking just fine, hunting together and most probably preparing for new family. 
Most birds of prey, as the experts say, particularly eagles and hawks, are usually monogamous. In the case of this pair, Alba and Matias have been together at least seven or eight years since they came to this park (how? why? is yet a mystery); have sired more than a dozen strong looking juveniles. Some of us have had the great fortune to see them a few days after hatching, have watched them grow, fledge their nests; practice for hours walking from tree branch to branch, make short clumsy flights from one tree to another, then to one farther away; cry for food, do their first hunting exercises, flight practices with parents, and two or three months later fly away to other territories. Sadly, a large number never to be seen again.

Harris hawks  tend to be more social, more closely knit as families, hunt cooperatively, in pairs, in trios, or more; they're territorial, tend to use the same tree for their nests and apparently each family or group has its own hunting range.

I spent a long time watching this beautiful pair from 'my watchtower', and they were quite active, flying from one tree to another, hunting for squirrels that were playing hide and seek with them. 
The truth is squirrels sometimes outsmart hawks, especially the adult ones who manage to camouflage by lying flat and hugging on to the branches making themselves practically invisible. Baby squirrels seem easier prey, and I have the feeling they're just simply snatched from the nests.
I took a peek at the hawks' original nest this week and it looks like it may be put to use again, hopefully. However, these last few days I have sighted Matias picking branches and twigs to take to another cedar facing west, hardly visible even from my tower, but possibly a stronger and safer tree to build an alternate nest.

Well hello pretty girl! (Alba)
Back view of Alba perched on her favorite Eucalyptus tree branch
Looks like Matias roosting in the old original nest
Male hawk Matias perched on a Eucalyptus farther away
Two views of one of the hawks perched on a large billboard.

View of one hawk at another eucalyptus tree
And while nervously waiting all these days for the reappearance of the hawk pair I shifted my attention to other birds, some of which are residents and others that are passing by the area in their migration path. One of my favorite resident species is the so called "Primavera", or rufous-backed thrush (turdus rufopalliatus) which is our Mexican version of the American robin, and one of the boldest rivals of hawks because the latter steal their eggs and chicks. 
Primaveras commonly 'dive bomb' the hawks by flying over them and pecking their heads.


  1. Three views of a primavera at my garden



Thrushes often make a loud call when a hawk is near to alert mates and other birds of impending danger. Sometimes I know there is a hawk perched somewhere close because of the primaveras' alert call. If the hawk moves or is ready to attack its prey a group of two or three primaveras chase the hawk away by diving fearlessly towards its head. I've never seen the hawks strike back.

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