Friday, April 28, 2006

Office Visit

Once again I've spent the entire evening reading an incredibly long thread on Making Light, in this case broken up with two viewings of the excellent "Father's Day" episode of Doctor Who, plus the reading of a long debunking by Michael A Stackpole of anti-D&D propaganda. So now it's very late and I'm very tired, and tempted to skimp on tonight's entry. But if you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I'm not at all good at keeping things short around here, no matter how tired I am. So let's just see how it goes, shall we?

The Hawk at the Window

A hawk turned up today on a light pole, just outside the second floor window of the Unnamed Largish Company accounting department. The first person to spot it guessed it was a "crow," the second thought it was a Red-Tailed Hawk. It was a Harris' Hawk, probably my favorite of the hawk species around here with its rich two-tone coloration of chocolate and chestnut feathers. The photos I got today unfortunately don't capture the colors properly, because of backlighting and the polarized, mirrored windows. The chest should not be that blue!

The mirror effect seems to have been a problem for this particular hawk. Co-workers situated closer to the windows than I was said they heard or saw the bird fly THUNK! into the plate glass, repeatedly. I heard a few of this "thunk!" sounds myself. I can only suppose that the polarized(?) glass reflected the sky, disguising the its solidness from the hawk. Still, I would have expected the bird to catch on pretty quickly to this, especially given a raptor's excellent eyesight.

It didn't. All this went on for about an hour, I estimate. The hawk would hang out at the top of the pole, take off, hit the glass, land on a ledge, get its bearings, fly again, and return to the pole. It may have gone after some prey in there somewhere, but I saw no particular evidence of this. I did see it "buzzed" by a hummingbird, though!

There was also something odd about the hawk's cry, shortly after one of these incidents, just before it flew away for good. I can't really explain, save to say that I've never heard a hawk sound quite like that. It sounded "wrong," somehow. My co-worker said it sounded unhappy.

I suppose I'll never know what was up with this hawk. I did notice from the photos that it's a banded bird, though. It's possible that someone from Arizona Game & Fish or Tucson Audubon Society has a whole history of this bird recorded somewhere. But I'll never know that for sure, either. Still, I wish the hawk well, preferably far from deceptive window glass!

Tomorrow: Enter the Marshalls

In which I discover the charms of an old mining town in Southwestern New Mexico.


Update: I've done a bit of research this afternoon. Some bullet points that may be of interest:

  • John James Audubon himself called the bird Harris' Buzzard, after a friend of his, Colonel Harris, who was with him when he discovered it. Audubon's painting doesn't look much like the bird at all.
  • The species is called Harris's Hawks, Harris' Hawks, Harris Hawks and, for some reason, Bay-Winged Hawks.
  • I found a few recordings of the Harris' Hawk cry. The first one was similar to what I heard, but I really think "my" bird sounded more annoyed or in pain for something. The second one gives a whole range of hawk sounds. Listen to the bit at the beginning. That pretty much matches my memory.
  • Harris' hawks hang out together more than other hawk species. This is good and bad. The tendency of the dominant individual to perch higher than the others results in a lot of electrocutions on the unsafe parts of power poles. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has been working with Tucson Audubon Society to reduce the high Harris' Hawk mortality rate from power poles. The good news is that a damaged bird can sometimes survive in the wild, due to the Harris' Hawks' tendency to hunt cooperatively and share food.
  • Females are larger than the males, but similarly colored. I suspect the one I saw was female.

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DesLily said...

oh neat that you got those photo's! but it sure makes me wonder why it would fly "repeatedly" into the glass, reflection or not.

Chris said...

Is it just me, or does everyone else see the tag on his left leg (his right)? He's been handled before. He is beautiful. This is my favorite bird ever. So much so that I've been looking into falconry. Great shot!

Wil said...

Do you suppose this hawk was attempting to engage in combat with its reflection? I get that repeatedly here from some birds.

Glad you could get photos. That's a handsome bird, no doubt about it.

Bea said...

Poor hawk! Obviously he wasn't happy with not getting whatever it was he was after. I enjoyed this educational entry, Karen.

Becky said...

Hmm. I suspect since these birds are very social, maybe the hawk was trying to fly closer to make friends with the one on the pole across from it. LOL Not realizing that it was just her reflection.