It has now been more than a week since we last saw the Cooper’s hawk fledglings. Weather intervened, taking a few days off of our camera regimen, and then the loon project stole our attention. But five days ago, three days ago and again today, I took a camera and an iPad into the forest to inventory which sites appeared to be used for the birds, and to my surprise I didn’t find them anywhere along my cruise. UPDATE: I went to the climbing tree to pirate some power equipment for the loon project, and when leaving I heard a high pitched Cooper’s hawk alarm call. I believe it was higher than the adult male’s call, indicating a fledgling, but cannot be certain. It came from the center of the 50-acre wood in which the nest sits, so as would be expected, the young are probably still about.
Last year, they used several “butchers block” sites, a low tree – often tipped over – that served as a place the adults could leave food, and one where the birds could practice their skills at butchering the prey. They would often “mantle” over the food, spreading their wings like an umbrella over the prey and themselves as they ate, so as to protect the meal from jealous siblings. If you were to create a tree map of these sites, you’d see that they progressed in linear fashion, following a half-mile long stone wall rich with rodents.
I had set up some cameras on the 2015 popular sites, but these 2016 birds don’t appear to be assessing and using the same trees, branches and downed logs, which is a disappointment. It may be that they have followed the parents to the hunting grounds – further west – earlier than did last year’s birds, although the new update above with the audible alarm call probably indicates this isn’t the case.
I have also noticed that they tend to loaf much higher in the trees than last year’s batch, possibly because of their acclimation to that altitude with their record-breaking nest position. It could be that they’re in the same areas as last year’s birds, but a few stories higher, giving little chance of a ground dweller spotting them.
On July 22, coming home from Norwich Fair, my kids and I saw two of the young. One on the Rt 132 side of the Hiser residence, landing on a wire. The other was on the Tillinghast side of Hisers, also landing on a wire. This suggests they continue to move with one another. Neither had food. Their flight movements seemed graceful. Their tails are proportionally shorter than an adult, and at first I could not tell if they were part of the local broad wing nest. Their feathers are quite a bit smoother now.
The full Cooper’s series: