Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Nest of Raptors

I gotta say I get paid good money for the stuff I get to do. The only sucky part is that I pay a 1/3 of my salary. Yes, I actually do. So I figure that 1/3 goes to the times that I am off hiking.

On Sunday, I headed out on the trusty 4x4 Road to pound my body to pieces, patrol the road, and mostly to check on the red-tail nest. Previously, I had spotted 4 birds on the nest, however; one might have been an adult. I parked the vehicle and started up the embankment. I could tell already that something was not kosher about the nest. Something was just not right. No, it was not. Most of the nest was laying below the original nest. There was one chick sitting on the ledge near the nest. The adult immediately came into play. I was going to have to get below the nest to check to see if others had perished. This was not going to be an easy task. I was informed by G-Baby that red-tails don't dive bomb like Coopers Hawks so I wasn't overly concerned. Well, I wasn't until I got within 50 yards of the fallen nest and was using binos to check it more thoroughly and heard the SWOOSH. Then felt the presence of the adult hovering in the air over me. Oh geez, here comes the beak into the top of the head image. I tried talked to the adult informing it I was there to learn, help, and everything else possible, but my words were not comforting in the least bit. I backed away and watched the chick and then the 2 adults for about an hour. Had the others fledged? I don't know, but I hope that is what happened to them.

Monday was just going to be the birds, lizards, and me plus any other wildlife, however; in the desert most wildlife does not come out until the night because of the heat factor. I understand why after Monday because it was a scorcher. I started about 0900 hours hiking out to the eagle nest. We had not seen a eaglet for some time there and were worried it had perished. I saw an eagle flying west as I was approaching, but was not sure if it was an adult or juvenile. Ever see an eagle's nest? They are huge and I suppose smell awful. Anyway, I found no sign of the bird below the nest. There is a crack directly below the nest so it is possible it could be there if it perished. But there were several areas underneath the nest I had to check and two of them would require climbing. It is amazing how much strength two fingertips get when one is hanging from a ledge. It is amazing how well your toes inside a pair of shoes grip a small ledge when there is no ledge to be seen. We tell visitors it is much easier to go up then come down on the sandstone. I have to agree with that statement. As I kept climbing higher and higher, I kept thinking how the hell will I be getting down. I got down in one piece. As I was walking back to the vehicle, I heard a raven called out and looked towards that direction. The shadow I was seeing across the rocks was definitely not a raven. It was an eagle who was being tormented by the raven. It was enormous as it flew directly over me in constant battle with the raven. Sometimes flying upside down trying to get the raven away. Unfortunately it landed where I couldn't see it any longer and unfortunately it was an adult.

As I was walking back I found a bottle probably dated from 1913 from the Norwich Company. You will know them more by the name Pepto-Bismol. I have always wanted to find a bottle fully intact. It even still had the cap to it. The other thing I always wanted to find was antlers and I found some later in the day as well.

I drove down to the nest area and then started hiking. The time was now 1100 hours and the heat was hot. The shade is your biggest friend in the desert. Many people don't believe that. I have been told the shade I was standing in was 102 degrees, but the rocks just below me were 130 degrees. Any opportunity to get into the shade is a must. I stopped to rest and pulled out my lunch. A wonderful burrito from Banditos. Best Mexican food in the world. I know that is pushing it, but it is darn good. I topped out and looked over Eagle Park below me. It was beautifully calm and quiet. And then the ever noise of the ravens. I then saw a red-tail flying near them and figured the adult would be back at the nest as soon as I arrived. The last time at this nest I sat 50 yards away underneath a tree and watched her. She didn't have any chicks so she wasn't concerned about my presence. And when I arrived and she didn't return I suspected we had lost our chicks of this nest. I walked behind a fin and came upon the first chick. Badly decomposed and smelling good enough to make me gag. And the only thought that came to mind was how will I ever deal with a dead body if I need to. The second chick wasn't as badly decomposed. I could make out a lot more of the features like the white mohawk. Poor souls. I snapped a few pictures, measured them, and gagged myself out of the area.

It was a quiet trip back to the vehicle. The only thought through my head was there is a coke on ice waiting at that vehicle. I was draining the water pretty good because of the heat, but that coke quenched my thirst so much more.

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