Monday, June 11, 2012

Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract: Grading Noise Affecting Red Tailed Hawk Behavior

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 8, 2012, 10:51 AM.  The deafening sound of giant grading machinery on is changing the way the Red Tails raise their young.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

(I'd like to also point out the scale of the grading equipment next to the adjacent house in the above photo.)

In years past, the sound of hawk calls was like clockwork in May, June & July.  At least 3 times each day you would hear the adults calling to announce they'd caught food, stopping at their favorite feeding perches, before heading to the nest.  Later as the young fledged and began to fly, the adult would call to the fledglings to meet at those perches to be fed.  As time went on, the young knew to sit near one of those perches, calling to the adults to bring them food.  It happened so regularly, you could set your watch by it. 
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 8, 2012, 10:51 AM.  This year, the calls are drowned out by the extreme noise of the grading equipment on the controversial 16-lot subdivision in the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract.  If you set foot on the street at the corner of Allesandro & Rosebud, while the heavy machinery is operating, it's very, very loud.  And noise travels up.  The nest is 80' above the street level.  It's impressive the hawks didn't abandon their nest. 

Clearly, this is why the City has a rule requiring construction sites have a "quiet zone" within a 500' radius of nesting raptors.  (The entire site is within 500' radius of the nest.)  Of course, in true City of Los Angeles style, the rule calls for the developer's paid consultant to set the mitigations for the noise, without public review.  (This is despite nesting raptors being a consideration under CEQA.)  So we have no idea what was recommended.  If this had been a more sensitive species, like Cooper's Hawks, we may have had more of a bargaining point on the noise issue.  But, without a supportive City Councilmember, the public has no power. 

The developers and their biologist consultant said we shouldn't complain because we live next to the freeway. 

Well, living next to the 2 Freeway is a lot different than enduring constant rumbling of machinery and back-up horns sounding on multiple vehicles ALL DAY LONG, 5 days a week.  Freeway traffic noise is generally limited to a few hours each morning on the 2 Freeway.  The day-long traffic noise is more like the ocean.  (Really, that's how you convince yourself to put up with it.) 
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 8, 2012, 10:51 AM.  It looks like the female is feeding the 2 remaining babies that had not fully fledged yet.  We have not seen all 4 babies together since the first 2 started flying last week.  Nor have we figured out where they might be hanging out. They are not using any of the regular feeding perches.  Nor have we seen the adults hanging out on any of their favorite trees since they first two babies left the nest. 

As of yesterday, June 10, there was only one remaining baby in the nest. (You may remember it was quite a surprise to see the 4th baby, long after we thought we had only 3 in the nest.)  It seems to have a good amount of fluffy feathers left on its head, so it may be a few more days before it takes flight.  I did see one of the adults feeding the chick Sunday morning.

The female seemed to be staying near the chicks still in the nest.  The last 2 to hatch were much smaller than the first 2. 

Perhaps the female was testing if she could be heard over the grading noise when I heard her calling for a half hour below my house, about 10 days ago.  Since then, I've heard very few calls from the nest and a few from the adults.  Nothing anywhere near their normal behavior.  Even on the quiet weekends they are not calling they way they did in years past. 

So, yes, there is a reason for the 500' radius quiet zone for nesting raptors.