Our fledgling

Yesterday morning everyone at Blithewold – staff, volunteers and even a few visitors – ran an emotional gamut from excitement and pride, to awe, to dismay, fear, sadness and around again to hope. All for the love of our resident red-tailed hawks.

Gail, Tara and I could hear the loud squeaking as we made our way the Rose Garden and were amazed to see a young hawk on the front drive, obviously freshly fledged. He/she was crying for food like they do – hawks need to be taught how to hunt but the parents will keep feeding their young until they’ve got the hang of it.

He let us get pretty close and did make some adorable attempts to fly but it became clear to some of us with more experience with birds that he was unwell. (Who knew that Karen, our executive director, used to work with raptors?!) Evidently the first red flag was that we shouldn’t have been able to get so close. Another indicator of distress came with the information that he had actually left the nest for the first time two days prior and should be flying by now. It also appeared that something was wrong with one of his eyes. (I thought he closed his eyes when I came close just to make me disappear, not because of anything amiss.)

I have always been reluctant to interfere with nature and her natural processes (and, yes, I know that’s a bit ironic given my line of work) but I would generally rather assume that the animals know what they’re doing better than me since as a typical human, I am apt to anthropomorphize. So I’m glad that humans with a better sense of hawk’s natural processes were in charge yesterday. Karen made the call to the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of RI and determined to take our fledgling all the way across the Bay to their veterinary facility to be checked out.

Meanwhile, those of us working in the gardens – who all still thought everything was fine and dandy and isn’t nature wonderful! – were thrilled when mama hawk (named Rose by Karen’s sons; and papa is Ginkgo) dropped like a stone into the North Garden just feet from where we worked. She landed a rabbit and flew off to leave her baby’s next meal draped on a branch high up in the tree where he rested (still squeaking, incessantly and insistently.)

He wasn’t able to “capture” his meal. He did make it up to the branch but the meal fell and he kept crying. Fred and Dan coaxed him back down, and Dan, reluctantly (Rose was circling overhead) caught and crated him.

It’s a good thing that Karen brought him to the vet. Turns out that he had suffered some sort of head trauma which may have caused the damage to his eye. I wonder if he fell hard from the nest… He’s being tube fed and treated with pain medicine and anti-inflammatories. We don’t know yet if he’ll make it. If he recovers from his injury, he’ll still need to be taught to fly and hunt, which may take anywhere from 3-6 months including recovery time. But if he does get better, Ginkgo Jr. (who probably is a male given his present size and weight – though hawks can’t be reliably sexed until closer to maturity) will be released here with as much fanfare as we can muster – along with a naming contest perhaps. Fingers crossed. Talons too.

(click on any picture for larger view.)