There's a few things to share about that little break, but this post is just about one special thing, or rather two.
Do you remember our last pass by the house, the one where I found Gemma on the neighbors land and had to rescue her? It was just a couple of weeks ago. You might also remember I discovered that while visiting the horses I was under surveillance,...
While we were home this past weekend, Malcolm and I got in the jeep and went out into the pasture to see how things were progressing.
The nest is on the tip of a hill. It's not a large hill, but it gets steeper the closer to the top you get. Steeper and more prickly.
And then there's egg #4.
I feel pretty confident in pointing out, though, that chick's #1 and 2 are obviously going to dominate the parental attention. I think 3 and 4 are doomed.
I've been working on identifying what species of hawk these are. I only ever get to see the parent's from beneath as they take flight as soon as they see us, even from a great distance. But based on what we have seen of the parents, the nest structure and location, and the egg, which helped a lot, even though I'm sad it didn't hatch, Malcolm and I think these are Ferruginous Hawks. If you know differently, I'd love to hear from you!
Maybe I can get a closer look at the parents when we're home in a couple weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing how much the chicks have grown too. And this time I'll remember to take binoculars out with us.
If they are Ferruginous Hawks, then it is extra exciting to have this nest! Ferruginous hawks are the largest hawks in North America. They are also a "species of concern" in Montana. They build nests that outrank even eagles nests in size. Because the nest is on the ground, these chicks are in great danger of being discovered by coyotes or other predators, which makes me worry. The Ferruginous hawks have a life span of about 20 years, but I read on one sight that most don't live much past the age of 5 or 6 years, and chicks have a 60% mortality rate. That's all very depressing. On a happier note, during breeding and chick raising season, they feed almost exclusively on prairie dogs, of which we have an abundance! So the surplus in food should help ensure their survival, and maybe as an extra return, they'll thin the prairie dog pack a little! No one would be complaining about that. Well, maybe the prairie dogs will, but their opinion quit counting a long time ago.
I'm so thrilled these young ones have joined us! And I feel so blessed to have been provided with the opportunity to see them and their parents. This particular species of hawk are non-migratory and tend to use the same nesting area, sometimes even the same nest. I hope we'll have the honor of hosting their young ones for many years to come.
Another website, in case your a bird fanatic like me. I love this website. It's rich in information, and they have recordings of the birds different calls so you can hear them to help with identification.
There's a couple other things to share about the weekend, but that will have to wait for the next post. This one had to be exclusively for our babies!