Category Archives: chicks
Photo of last year’s young Golden Eagles by Cleve Nash Cleve Nash, our resident photographer, and I took a ride out to Creston, CA, where my daughter and her family live. There had been numerous eagles, Golden and Bald, around … Continue reading
This is the sixth in a series of tales about the “famous and not-so-famous birds of Morro Rock.”
She was a fledgling falcon just out of the nest her first day. She was one of three chicks hatched that spring of ’08 on the south side of Morro Rock. Nothing special or unusual about her appearance or abilities, just a “plain vanilla” falcon until she landed on a narrow ledge on her first flight. The ledge and the rocks behind were covered with foliage, a nice spray of yellow flowers and some green vines. A nice backdrop for photos. If she were a bull they would call her “Ferdinand,” but with the floral above and around her she looked like a gypsy until we saw her eating the vine growing around her. Three leaves on a stem, it must be poison oak. Every one was astounded to see this. In the few months she was around the rock, she did well being fed by her parents, but we still caught glimpses of her with her favorite snack. She was given the name Madame Rue, you know “the gypsy with the gold capped tooth.” She’s got a rock with some flowers and some vines (“selling little bottles of …….”)
Happy trails, Bob P.S. If you know the rest of the lyrics you’re showing your age!
This is the fifth in a series of tales about the “famous and not-so-famous birds of Morro Rock.”
This bird that I am speaking of is probably the most famous bird in the las two decades as far as I’m concerned. She is the matriarch of Morro Rock. She was a young female when she arrived at Morro Rock in the late summer of 2000, a sub-adult still carrying some juvenile plumage. That summer we had lost a banded female named “Millie.” No one knew what happened to “Millie.” There was no carcass; she was just gone. Her mate at the time was a banded tiercel named “Rudy” because of the “RU” on one of his banded legs. “Rudy” had been single for some time when the young female arrived. He tolerated her perching on his rock and as the weeks passed by he showed some interest by flying around her. Nothing spectacular.
As October turned to November and the days got shorter, she was now in adult plumage, distinct white patch on the side of her head to contrast the black mustache and yellow cere. She is a powerful and swift female, large, but not overly large. Somehow they know after the winter Solstice about Christmastime, there is something in the air that says courtship.
The male starts flying faster and closer to her as she perches to watch this display of speed, power and agility which is all meant for this young maiden. Within a couple of days he approacher her overhead, the young female went into a submissive squat, her chin on the rock and her tail high. They continued this several times a day for the next three months. That year, her maiden year, she had one chick in a nest site called the “mailslot.” Since that first year and the ten years after, she has given us 25 young falcons from three different males. She is about thirteen now and just as beautiful as the day she arrived that late summer day.
Happy trails, Bob
Photo by Cleve Nash
This is the third in a series of tales about the “famous and not-so-famous birds of Morro Rock.
Before I get into the story of our third famous bird, I would like to give our readers an update on the injured falcon chick found June 26, 2012. The young bird is doing well. She has been moved to a larger 30 foot flight cage where she is being conditioned to fly. With full time care by Jeri Roberts, she will be released in the next week or so. I hope to have a video of this.
Every few years, we have a clutch of young falcons with one bird in it that shines head and heels above the others. This bird was hatched on the north side of the rock in a cast of three falcons. He was a small male, distinctively colored with a pale bleached blond hairdo. Some one called him the “Surfer” and the name stuck. He was very gregarious and much of a loner. He didn’t seem to indulge in nestling games. You might say he didn’t play well with others. He was farther ahead of the others in every respect, very agile and coordinated. As they got older and ready to fledge, the other two would flap to strengthen their muscles, but the “Surfer” instead flew straight off the ledge and across the bay to the big power plant and landed on the roof. We were all astonished and amazed. They don’t do this. They fly 50 feet and crash in a bush. For the next couple of days, they might go 200 yards and get stuck on a steep slope for two hours. But not the “Surfer.” On his third day of flying, he tried to grab a swallow over the north parking lot. The other two young falcons could only watch and wish.
By fall when it is time for the adults to chase the young off, the “Surfer” was already gone. I missed him. He was special.
Happy trails, Bob
On one of my previous postings, dated July 5th, titled “Pure speculation” I had a good idea that the black turkey vultures might be nesting in an old eyrie they had used a few years back. Earlier that month I thought I saw vultures copulating near the nest site.
Well, yesterday all my speculations came to fruition. “Welcome Spec to Morro Rock.” One big beautiful ugly baby vulture! Most people thought I was full of you-know-what, but there he was at 12:12PM standing on the rock that hides the nest site. A lot of white on the chest and a downy head. I hurried to get a shot with my Canon SX35. I fumbled and stumbled, then buck fever set in, but I got one at 200 yards. The image was fair so I got on the horn to Cleve Nash, our resident long range specialist. I begged and pleaded with him to meet the next day with all of his large artillery, close to 5000mm fully armed. Well, for the first three hours, nothing. And to think I pulled him away on the first bright sunny day that we’ve had in a week. A photo of a vulture! No dignity at all. Cleve was a great sport all the time I was apologizing and groveling about the vulture not showing up. We watched several pairs of adult vultures circle the nest site. We would get excited on thinking one would land to feed the young, but nothing came of it. After they left, the chick came out and Cleve got the shot, in fact he got many shots of him hopping to another rock and flapping his wings. Cleve was not entirely happy because of the lighting and the wind. So tired, hungry and happy, we left the rock and the young vulture in the warm sun and cool ocean breeze.
Happy trails, Bob.
P.S. This was written yesterday. “Spec” fledged today.
Photo by Cleve Nash.
This is the second in a series of tales about the “famous and not-so-famous birds of Morro Rock
The chimney is the home of “Heathcliff and Gertrude.”* It is a free-standing spire about 60 feet in height with many holes and crevices. It has one large dominant hole with two vertical ridges at the back giving the appearance of a throat with a smaller hole underneath. It is separate from the main rock by about five feet. Every year the large hole is occupied by a pair of Western Gulls at nesting time. You just kind of took them for granted; they were a fixture.
About four years ago, the female peregrine took an interest in the chimney and would fly by the face of the hole. That year, the falcon had three young just out of the nest. The gulls had three downy chicks in the large hole on the chimney. The male falcon would land on top of the chimney frequently with prey to pluck and then deliver to the young. Then one day I no longer took the gulls for granted; they got my full attention. When the female falcon swooped in and grabbed one of the chicks and flew over to one of her young not far away and proceeded to open up the chest cavity for the chick. Within minutes she came back and took a second chick, but not without the parent gull giving chase. She killed the young gull on the wing by severing the neck behind the head and gave it to her second chick. She returned one more time and landed in the small hole beneath the larger nest site hole. When the adult gull flew from the nest to see where she went, the falcon jumped up and grabbed the third gull chick and took it to a perch alive. I watched the falcon with the chick in her talons through my spotting scope for three or four minutes. The young gull sat there looking around in the falcon’s talons. The falcon was looking around for her third chick. She spotted it on a distant dune a half mile away. Then she proceeded to bend down and dispatch the gull, then flew it out to her young on the dune. No one occupied the chimney hole this year, but I am sure in the future there will be another “Heathcliff and Gertrude.”
Happy trails, Bob
* Heathcliff and Gertrude – Some of you will remember the “Red Skelton Show” of the 60s and 70s and his skit of the two seagulls “Heathcliff and Gertrude.”
June 25, 2012 The first of the Heermann’s Gulls arrived at the rock today. They will be around for the next six months. This gull is quite a bit smaller than the Western Gull, and I have on occasion seen … Continue reading