Friday, April 22, 2005

Blakeman on Feather Care -- And a hint for concerned readers about this year's nest outcome

Lincoln Karim sent me the picture above and asked:

What do you make of his tail feathers? First thing came to my mind was that he's brushing up against the concrete wall behind the nest. This theory only holds if he turns mostly counter-clockwise.

I sent the photo to John Blakeman. He responded:

The concerns for Pale Male's tail feather tips are understandable. The fact that they are reduced in length only on one side (the right) is, indeed, curious.
But perhaps the converse question, of why so little wear on the left side, is of equal interest. Many wild adults have much more wear, with even some broken shafts from time to time. Pale Male has kept himself in fine form.
It is getting late into the feathers' year, after a winter and early spring of much hunting , and in this year, a complete rebuild of the nest. This is rather normal feather wear. I have no concern whatsoever. Only the tips are worn, and only slightly so. This is rather normal, although feather wear can vary greatly from year to year, even with the same bird.
This may relate to the iron prongs of the nest support structure. I'd expect a new layer of branches to go over this year's when annual refurbishing begins again next January or February, tending to elevate the birds above the ironwork -- if that's the cause.

John A. Blakeman

Dear Readers, I've enlarged some words in the preceding exchange between Lincoln and John Blakeman about feather wear. As we are filled with anxiety about this year's outcome -- there is still no feeding at the nest -- those words should fill us with hope about the future. If no success this year, then much hope for next year when the hawks will be building on top of an existing layer of twigs.[As, for the first time, in 1995] Yours, Marie

PS Meanwhile, we haven't completely given up hope at the Hawk Bench. But after today..