Charleston Hawk Mystery



First let me say how much I respect and appreciate your fine efforts where all of our friends in the natural world are concerned. Please know that you have touch many people and opened many eyes around the world and for that I thank you!

I live in the Charleston, SC area and we too have unfortunately lost some young hawks and it appears by the hand of man. We have the proper individuals looking into the matter. While the loss of life for the young hawks is heartbreaking, it is the comments posted by readers of our paper that are completely gut-wrenching. I have included the article posted in our paper today in the event you are unable to open the included link.

Please continue your amazing and much needed work, Lincoln. We all can change if our eyes are open.

http://www.charleston.net/news/2008/may/21/hawks_chicks_gone_from_church4159 3/

Hawks, chicks gone from church 'Unnatural circumstances' feared

By Bo Petersen (Contact) The Post and Courier Wednesday, May 21, 2008



The red-tailed hawks are gone from the gold cross where they perched. Their chicks have vanished from the nest in the steeple of Grace Episcopal Church below.

Wildlife agents suspect the nest was disturbed, and the church is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

REBECCA ELLIOTT/U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

The nest is now empty where only a few weeks ago one of the two adult hawks was keeping watch over it. The nest was in the steeple of Grace Episcopal Church. The shocking turnabout comes almost three weeks after a story appeared in The Post and Courier about the odd marriage of raptor and rapture that disrupted a $12 million renovation project but thrilled congregation members, construction workers and people in the neighborhood.

At least two chicks had been in the nest, but a search has not turned up any sign of them in the area.

It's very unlikely the adults would have moved the chicks or their bodies if they died, said Jim Elliott, director of the International Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw.

"It appears to be unnatural circumstances," said Rebecca Elliott, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent who has been monitoring the nest in a crook of the steeple pinnacle. She climbed onto the closed-off scaffolding for a look after construction crew members said they were no longer seeing the birds.

"Oh no, I hope somebody has not done any harm to them," said Frank Hamilton, of College of Charleston student computing support, who has had a view of the birds from his office. He walked the neighborhood with binoculars Tuesday but didn't see any sign of them.

The hawks caught the attention of the Bovis Lend Lease construction crew in late April when workers raising the scaffolding reached a level just below the nest and one of the raptors spread its 4-foot wingspan, dropped and circled the steeple menacingly above their heads.

Because the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the taking of the birds, their eggs or their chicks, that high scaffolding was put off limits for eight weeks and the work schedule had to be refigured. That scaffolding section was barred with padlocked doors, and debris netting was strung on the lower levels to discourage people from climbing, said Seth Armstrong, the Bovis project manager. But the scaffolding could have been climbed.

"It would have been a real pain, but if somebody were determined enough, they could have done it," he said. "I don't have a clue what happened. But I hope the birds are all right."

The delay had been expected to cost the church at least $60,000, but the Rev. Canon Michael Wright, the church rector, said the rescheduling reduced the cost to much less. Wildlife agent Elliott told the company that the nest can be removed and work resumed, Wright said in a statement.

"We are saddened to think these wondrous and fragile creatures may have been disturbed or even worse," he said. "Grace parishioners have grown accustomed to looking up as they arrive for services. More than one of the faithful have asked me upon entering, how are our birds doing?"

Reach Bo Petersen at bpetersen @postandcourier.com or 745-5852

Thank you,

Scott Hudson Retention Services Manager The Post and Courier Charleston, SC 843-937-5740 shudson@postandcourier.com To Subscribe http://www.charleston.net/subscriptions/