Friday, July 01, 2016

Stella Hamilton with a Pale Male and Family Report Direct from the Park!

greywacke arch
Photo courtesy of

Greywacke Arche

I got a text from NYC Hawk Watching contributor Stella Hamilton asking if I'd missed her report of 6/28 in my email box which indeed I had. I couldn't wait until I got home to check it out.  

Here are the adventures of Pale Male and the Fledglings from the 28th direct from Central Park!

Hi Donna ,

Our baby Hawks have been very active and driving us crazy . I'd heard one of the babies fell in the waters of the Toy Sailboat Pond early in the morning on 6/13 , just before the Puerto Rican Day Parade . I also heard from one of the Regulars that said the baby hawk has been seen sitting on the side of the pool seemingly fascinated by the water the day before the incident . 

Now I remember , that Sunday of the Parade as being a very windy day , and we all thought he might've been blown into the water. Word is the police scooped it up and sent it to rehab . The park was closed to the public that day and the place was cordoned off  due to the parade.  This baby hawk , who I call " Skinny Dipper ", Esther Williams by someone else, and Olympia by another, was released the next day by Ranger Rob on Pilgrim Hill.

 I found Skinny Dipper perched on a tree that afternoon . It's sibling who some call Speedo was nearby , busy eating a squirrel on a tree as another squirrel tried to shoo it away .  

Fast forward to today ..... Wow what a day !    

Saw Octavia land high on a tree West of Alice in Wonderland statue around 7:02 pm with prey that looked like rat , then she she flew off to 5th avenue. I couldn't locate her later, so I decided to go up toward the Met where I saw Pale Male perched on a lamp post  with babies crying in the background .  Around 7:30 , Pale Male flew toward the Great Lawn . We followed him and found him on the ground.   Then he went up a branch where he eyed a nest , grackle perhaps . He flew again  and grackles gave chase .  Next , he flew off, toward the West , caught a rat and ate it near the Polish King Statue . Meanwhile , I and another regular , heard this crashing , stumbling sound along side of the the Greywacke Arch . I thought a baby hawk had fallen from a tree and stumbled .

 But guess what ? He caught a mouse !!! I am so proud of this baby . Couldn't tell which one it is , as it had gotten dark . I must say our babies are growing up fast and heading North just as fast . I do believe they'll be OK . 

Many,. many thanks to Stella for the wonderful detailed update!  
Almost as good as being there!  

 As to Stella's mention of the fledglings heading north- as the fledglings become more self sufficient  they do tend to move north in the park, to explore, to hunt, and begin life on their own.  They are then seen less often and eventually they will leave Central Park and their parent's territory altogether, at least for awhile.

We have often wondered if the young fledged in Central Park eventually came back and were the hawks that have begun to stake out territories in other parts of the city.  According to some research I read not long ago, young Red-tails do tend to return to the greater area of their hatching and therefore at least some of the hawks which now populate the greater New York area are the progeny of  Pale Male, his mates, Tristan, Isolde, Pale Male Junior, and all the rest that we have watched for low these many years.

Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Stella Hamilton Spots Pale Male and the Tree Frog Returns. Plus Guess Who Eats Japanese Beetles?

Longtime New York City Hawkwatcher Stella Hamilton spotted Pale Male perched on a security cam (down center left) hunting.

 Plus Stella spotted one of Pale Male and Octavia's fledglings perched on the "Bates Hotel".

 And TADA!  The Tree Frog has taken up evening hunting residence on the laundry room window yet again this season.  I can't be sure this is the same Tree Frog but he is using the same window and the same pane as last season.

As I may have mentioned, I have Japanese beetles on my property.  Therefore I go out periodically during the day with a plastic ice cream container filled with water and dish soap and shake the leave they are sitting on so they fall into the liquid.  After I have collected all that I can find I go in and dispose of them.

This of course is basic, somewhat effective, and it usually does save some foliage on the plants from total annihilation.  I had never seen anything eat one until today.  I saw a fledgling grackle going from one plant to another that I knew had previously been infested delving into the leaf whorls where the beetles had previously been and whose pheromones  now had attracted other beetles as Japanese Beetles work on pheromones.   Once beetles appear on a plant, and I've removed them the pheromones attract more bugs of the same species.  And there was young Grackle delving into the leave whorls and gobbling them up.  This is the first creature that I've seen eating them.

Donegal Browne

Friday, June 10, 2016

Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Brood Patches, and Fading Red Bellies

This is a male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus, hanging upside down on one of the suet feeders.  You can't see the "red cap" which announces his maleness but I did see it so you will just have to take my word for it.

The detail in question is the fact that he has no feathers below his sternum.  When I first saw the bare spot I thought, oh dear, poor guy, he's loosing his feathers.

Wait!  Might he have a brood patch?

Yes indeed!  Not only do  Red-belly pairs share egg sitting responsibilities but they both loose their feathers in the "nest sitting egg contact area" and develop brood patches.  

And if he didn't have a brood patch you would possibly be able to see why a Red-bellied Woodpecker has its name.

Now, when I was training and looking at Red-bellied  Woodpeckers in the bird skin drawers, none of them had the long thin reddish area below "the waist" you can see in the photo below.  I had even read that there was a only slight diffused "reddish hue" on their underside which could only be seen sporadically in the proper light.

Not true.  There are dozens of photographs of the "red belly" these days.
       Note the black and white pattern on her back.  That pattern is called ladder back.

 Above is an example of the red belly on a female.  All I can figure is that that patch must fade to near nothing on a preserved bird.

There is just no substitute for live birds and modern photography to get the actual scoop on any number of  things concerning wildlife.  As well as leaving them in the wild for as full a life as they can muster.  

Happy birding!
Donegal Browne

P. S. Don't worry I never killed anything. (Otherwise I would have had to do theatre full time.) By the time I was in training we used road kill to learn how to preserve and stuff bird skins.