Sunday, June 20, 2004

Red-Tailed Flyers

My schedule said to start work at 10am, but with the heat bearing down on the desert floor, I went to work at 9am. Just means I get off an hour early. Anyway, the task today was to locate a red-tailed nest and see if there were any juveniles in the nest.

I pulled up to the parking lot, doused myself with OFF with cancer causing DEET, and headed down into the wash. Mosquitos should be gone, but the deer flies would still be around. There was absolute silence as I walked above the wash eventually dropping down the rock face into the wash. The breeze was just blowing slightly through my ears. The birds were chirping, the doves mourning. Echoes shatter the rocks and the violet-green swallows paint the rocks with their shadows.

I entered the third canyon on the left and paused a minute to add more DEET and OFF because the deer flies were swarming me. My pant legs were just covered so I sprayed my entire body with the stuff. Just as the canyon opened up I saw a hawk fly up the canyon. With the wrong lighting and the quickness of the flight, I was unsure if it was an adult or juvenile. I located the nest, however; it was empty of any juvenile birds or parents. I walked underneath it and did not observe any signs of dead chicks so that is positive. I scurried up the dirt mound across from the nest and saw the red-tail (further referred to as RT) perched on a rock. The RT appeared to be a juvenile (further referred to as JR), but I couldn't be 100% sure because I had the crappy binos today.

I needed to find some shade so I could wait and watch the nest. It was not going to happen because the left side of the canyon was sun drenched so I pulled up a rock and waited. I was smelly, tired, hot, and smelling of OFF, but absolutely content. The rock I was sitting on was pretty covered in droppings so I assumed that they used this area frequently. There was also quite a bit of rabbit fur in the area.


That noise scared the shit out of me. That scream was so close that I thought it was going to get me. I looked up and around, but could see nothing. And then just 10 yards to my right the juvenile flew across the canyon and towards the nest. JR tried to land, but it was a false ledge so JR returned to my side of the canyon. JR had to be within 20 yards of me although I couldn't see her (it might have been a male, but we are going with her) because of a boulder between us. I waited. I have about zero patience for this type of work. 10 minutes, 11 minutes, I must go look. And when I did she flew into a tree and was even more difficult to see. I definitely needed to get closer to view more of the characteristics to see if it was a juvenile.

I started walking towards the area slowly. There was no way to hide behind anything. JR had to be watching me the entire time. I found some shade under a Juniper tree. Ah, the smell of juniper is so grand. Brings the senses alive. I need to spend hours observing to get a feel of RTs, but it is boiling hot. The birds on the other hand can spend all day because all they do is fly, rest, fly, rest, eat, poop, hunt, etc.

Patience wore out so I started walking again and was able to get around the tree and come at it from another direction. 20 yards away. Her eyes are staring at me as intently as I am staring at her. Wonder what is going through her mind. She is beautiful. Her breast is a pale reddish color and underneath her breast are brown stripes of sort. She does not have a red tail which indicates she is a juvenile. She was well concealed within the cottonwood because I would stop to write something and then couldn't find her again for a bit. I told her I was no threat, just observing. She said ok by not flying away. 10 yards, 5 yards, I am leaving the area. She has yet to fly away. I am right underneath her. She is beautiful as said.


At first I thought it was her again, but realized it was coming from further up the canyon. I walked right underneath her and she didn't move. I went back towards the nest. Two adults came over the cliff face and were circling. They were calling out to JR, but she was not answering. They circled and circled. Calling out and calling out. No movement or answer from JR. Again, I walked towards the tree of JR. She just turned her head and observed me walk out of the canyon. I looked back one last time and waved.

I observed an adult on the rim of the canyon in a dead juniper. He was talking rather loudly and waiting. He eventually flew back towards the canyon where the nest was. I hope JR finally came out and settled down her parents who were frantically looking for her.

Sweat dripping off of me, my body smelling of OFF, and my soul screaming the RT song, I exited the wash and headed for the office to slurp down that cold refreshing coke. What a job I have!

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