Date: 3/13/17 7:05 pm
From: Kojo Baidoo <baidookojo6...>
Subject: [MDBirding] A Huge Mistake I Made (RSHAs)
So, I was watching Apollo and Hera Sunday morning, per usual. When I arrived at the heart of their territory, where the nest is located, I noticed a peculiar thing. The hawks were perched in a tree together and had just finished mating based on the vocalizations I heard when Hera, the female bird, flew off when she saw me. That also seemed normal enough. Then, Apollo flew up to the nest and called... also normal. What wasn't normal, though, was that I never saw him leave the nest. Normally, he flies up there with a stick or just to rearrange sticks, but has a specific call that he usually uses when at the nest to communicate with his mate. So, when I didn't see him fly out, I walked to another angle, looked up, and saw a tail poking out from the side of the nest, incubation style. That's when it hit me.

I had gotten the genders of the birds mixed up... for over a year.

As soon as the possibility hit me, it all seemed to make sense. How Apollo normally stays in the heart of the territory while Hera flies off somewhere else. How Apollo has been doing the majority of the nest building. How Apollo, when a Red-tail or Cooper's hawk is spotted in the territory, simply regards them with a watchful eye while Hera will circle, call, and dive bomb said intruder. How Hera is the shyer bird, but becomes much more tame once the eggs are laid. How Hera seemed to be the one I photographed doing display flights last year based on markings. Even how Hera seemed to be the bird on top during copulation, which I wasn't sure of because the majority of the time I have seen them, they were backlit... I can't believe I didn't see it before.

Now, looking back, I believe I onlY decided genders based on the fact that when I first encountered them, the first bird I encountered was Apollo, and SHE was calling territorially from a high perch. Additionally, she seemed smaller than the other bird, and she still does, but I realize that most of my views of them together are often backlit or very fleeting since the MALE is the one who often flies off.

I am absolutely astounded that I didn't figure this out before; it didn't even occur to me, even though all the signs were very, very obvious. For example, when I photographed one of the birds doing display flights in April, and I saw the markings on the breast were different than Apollo's, I immediately thought another male had replaced him and he had died; after all, "he" had to have been fairly old since I'd known "him" for a long time for a RSHA. Didn't even occur.

Well, I've decided to change their names to Zeus and Leto, which I find still fit, and even better, were an actual couple in Greek mythology. And, Leto has started to sit on the nest, so I anticipate egg laying soon.

On another note, I had my first migratory hawk of the season yesterday as well, a high Merlin winging its way north. And, a Coop made an appeaerance, attempting to snag a dove, missing, and then proceeding to perch in a tree not one hundred feet from the nest of Zeus and Leto, who simply fixed the hawk with a docile stare. Not the first time this has happened.

Anyway, with my newfound knowledge, lots of aspects of the birds and their way of life, including their individual dispositions, should make a lot more sense now as they continue their breeding process. Can't wait to observe them again, and I hope they stay warm in the storm tonight and tomorrow.

Kojo Baidoo
Reisterstown, MD

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