Saturday, July 08, 2006

Map-reading, Multi-tasking, and Robert's Fledge Report

Bird Park Roses Photograph by D.B.

(I'd suspected there might be some hard wiring going with map-reading and being able to do more than one thing at a time, and the article below rather supports that notion. D. B.)

Why women are worse at map-reading than men but more women can multi-task.
by ROBIN YAPP, Daily Mail

Men frequently despair at women's map-reading skills - or rather their lack of them.
Now scientists believe they have pinpointed the reason for these long-standing conflicts between the sexes.

Researchers say it is all down to differences in the reliance of the sexes on either grey matter or white matter in their brains to solve problems.

They found that in intelligence tests men use 6.5 times as much grey matter as women do - but women use far more white matter.

Different pathways
Grey matter is a category of brain tissue crucial to processing information and plays a vital role in aiding skills such as mathematics, mapreading and intellectual thought.

White matter connects the brain's processing centres and is central to emotional thinking, use of language and the ability to do more than one thing at once.

Professor Rex Jung, a co-author of the study at the University of New Mexico, said: "This may help explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing-like mathematics and mapreading, while women tend to excel at integrating information from various brain regions, such as is required for language skills.

"These two very different pathways and activity centres, however, result in equivalent overall performance on broad measures of cognitive ability, such as those found on intelligence tests."

Previous studies have shown that women have weaker spatial awareness than men, making it harder for them to read maps.

Brain map

For the latest study, published in the online edition of the journal NeuroImage, researchers performed a series of scans on 26 female and 22 male volunteers using magnetic resonance imaging equipment.
Their brains were scanned while they carried out tests to assess their intelligence. Researchers then created a map of a single brain showing the varying levels of activity in the brains of men and women.

The researchers found that on average men used approximately 6.5 times as much of the brain's grey matter as women did in performing the test. But when it came to white matter, women used around nine times as much as men did.

The researchers also found that nearly 90 per cent of both grey matter and white matter utilised by women in the tests were located in the brain's frontal lobes, which are central to emotion. The grey matter driving male intellect is distributed evenly throughout the brain.

"These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behaviour," said Professor Richard Haier, lead author of the study.

My hawkwatching was curtailed today due to Steward obligations at the Hell's Kitchen Bird Park. A pocket bird sanctuary and migration stop for those birds who can't quite make it to Central Park on any given day, located on 39th St. between 9th and 10th Ave.

Photograph by today's only known Fledge Follower, Robert Schmunk.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Red-tail and Lily Night, 7 Jul 2006

Things to do while hanging out in the foliage...


Watch dogs.


Suck bark.

Look for the pigeon you just knocked off the branch.

See who can go without a head the longest.

Hawk photos by D. B.

Michigan Lily, Lilium michiganense

Referred to in John Blakeman's email below. A rare prairie plant, five of which he found, and will use to propagate many more for use in the restoration of a large prairie for NASA.

Photo of Lily in Central Park by Eleanor Tauber

The Lilies are in bloom all over the place. Photos in today from New York and Ohio.


Frankly, I don't know how you folks in NYC can take the time and effort to be jaunting all over Manhattan with your cameras, etc. to find a few, often hidden red-tails. Out here, I can get in my car (now at elevated gas prices that may soon approach roundtrip NYC subway fare) and leisurely travel down back roads that I think have red-tails. Still, finding the birds this time of the year is very, very difficult.

Yesterday I was talking with one of my falconer friends, a fellow who also does a lot of raptor rehabbing. We both lamented the virtual loss of the red-tail in July. For vacation, my wife and I traveled some 350 miles down to Louisville, KY. On the seven hour trip I saw a mere three red-tails. When I do this at Christmas I see 25 to 35 or more. The hawks are still here and alive. But they really prefer to sit in the foliage of trees instead of out on open poles or dead trees. Why they do this is still a mystery after 40 years of observations. It's not an attempt to get out of the sun or heat. They birds park themselves in the foliage even in cool morning.

In August, when the eyasses are no longer being fed and are being driven from the territories, things open up dramatically, with red-tails perched all over the landscape once again. But for July and much of August, the birds seem to almost disappear.

Yesterday when I stepped out into the prairie in my back yard I was struck again with the opening of my Lilium canadense, a close prairie relative of the even more elegant L. michiganense. Both species are just stunningly elegant. They are a bit smaller than horticultural lilies, but this diminutive size conveys a marked natural elegance. Nothing like in all the world, for me. (I've attached a pair of JPEGs -- reduced in resolution so as to pass through my whisker-sized phone line.)

--John Blakeman

Canada Lily in Ohio

Lillium canadense

Thursday, July 06, 2006

If you don't look will you find them? 7 Jun 2006

It's overcast, 76 degrees, wind light and variable and sunset is officially at 8:30pm. though for the light that is happening currently, sunset could be nearly now.

6:05pm It's Wednesday so Sam has piano lessons so Beloved Albatross the Wheelie Bag and I will have to fend for ourselves. Albatross and I make our way up Cathedral Hill and there really isn't much to listen to at the moment. Well, except cars and trucks and racing motors.
6:19pm A Catbird jumps through the park fence and gives me a talking to. Good sign, he's really excited. I stop and strain my ears. Fledgling? Not so you'd notice. No other hawkwatchers either yet?
6:21pm A Blue Jay cruises by, one of the few I've seen up here, but he doesn't stop. Bad sign. Keep walking.
6:23pm There is a Downy Woodpecker on the London Plane by St. Martin's Chapel but no hawk.

Time to bite the bullet and walk down all those stairs into the park. Just as I pass the second guy drinking a beer and smoking a joint, I hear something. Oh HO! It's a Catbird. And there is a squirrel but she seems totally unconcerned eating her berry. The Catbird keeps up the pace alone. In fact where is the catbird, let alone the hawk? I keep trundling along back and forth in front of the trees where the Catbird must be and therefore perhaps, a hawk might be. Keep the eyes moving, back and forth, up and down. Zip. Keep looking, keep listening. Sigh. I look at may watch, that has been a really long ten minutes.

Keep looking, stay focused.

Now I have noticed very frequently that one can keep one's eyes glued to a hawk, or be looking near where a hawk might be, and that hawk won't do a thing until that split second when you look away. This can't all be by chance. Hawks being the acutely visual creatures that they are, they are just waiting for one to look away. Fine. I'll look away while still being aware that a hawk just might do something I need to see.

I'll look at this lovely berry bush. Will that work?

Okay, how about a young sleeping sparrow in the berry bush?

Alright, how about a Robin. I'll look at that.

Right, a Robin walking out of frame. And the Catbird keeps calling.

6:47pm It's begun to drive me completely crazy. There is a hawk here somewhere. Forget Warbler neck I've a dread case of Fledgling neck. I'm hearing that Catbird scolding over and over and over. Then a squirrel whines, then...wait it's another Catbird and I walk around to the back of the copse of trees and what do I see?

Finally...I look into the scope and see this....
7:04pm Robert appears and I point. Alright, it's about time somebody found one. He's having the same trouble I am. A single scolding bird here or there but no hawks. But this fledgling is beautifully placed so let me try for another position.


Waiting for dinner.

Just a few feet away, a Catbird scolds with intention.

7:30pm The fledge begins to look up, then to beg.

At 7:34pm I noticed Isolde, the Divine Mom sitting far across the park on a favorite railing on a roof with another large bird taking a pass at her head. She stayed for quite some time,vigilant, though I did not see her attacker return.

Robert did return though with the news that the adult RT was no longer sitting atop the water tower across the street from the Cathedral's southern grounds.

At 7:43pm the fledge I've been watching starts to beg while scanning the sky. At 7:44 she's off then west , then north. Unfortunately I'm out on picnic rock by now, having discovered near by a largish grave covered with bricks, rocks and paper flowers...a beloved family pet, hopefully not just a cheap way to deal with Grandma, get focused. The only way to follow the fledge with any speed is up the steep incline, covered with bushes and rubble.. Okay, here we go Albatross. Worried about the scope on the steep slope on my shoulder, plus the bag and a pair of sneakers whose tread could be better, I don't notice the Locust branch waiting in ambush. Now these Locusts have thorns. The branch catches on my leg, my hands are full, keep going. YOW! I've got seven evenly placed scratches several inches long above the knee. Well that's what you get for wearing shorts, Doll, and then running uphill through the bushes after young Hawks. I see Robert, wait there is begging?

Ah HA! There are two birds, the fledge is following Dad. Who seems to be bringing in a before roost snack. As of 8:16, he flies out of the foliage, makes a circuit above the cathedral and back out again. The begging stops, the food must be delivered. Though we don't see the fledge or the food.

I realize that I've got blood dribbling down my leg. Better do something about that. Robert goes farther afield to look. I go as far as the Albatross and rummage around. Here's my bird first aid kit. Boy, could it use refilling. No antibiotic ointment, no peroxide, just the one dreaded alcohol prep pad. I'm very excited as I know my nerve endings will be in just a second.

They certainly are and it's time to start walking and looking before this gets to me and I start making uncool girlie eeek noises.

While I'm searching for the fledge with the food, I see a couple talking to Robert from a bench. It seems that Dad is perched on the Plant Pavilion urn, one of his favorites. And Mom, stealthy lady that she is, is sitting on the scaffolding on the school, behind the green netting so she is only visible from the street from a very certain angle. I look at my watch, and it's official sunset. Time to leave them to their rest and get my own.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

4 Hawks, 4 Fledge Followers, and the 4th of July

On the left, North Fledge who is darker and on the right, South Fledge, who is lighter.

The beginning of today as blog permits....

Seed pods must die.

South Fledge keeps an eye on North Fledge.

North Fledge considers tugging South Fledge's body parts. The fledges orangy-ness looks more intense in the early evening light.

Squirrel passes by.

Festivities for the Fourth are getting into full swing. A drummer begins wailing away on his drum down in the park and both fledges watch wide eyed.

There is that foot posture again.

7:25pm Darker fledge, north end of branch, creeps up on Lighter Fledge on south side of branch, who is picking at the bark and gives her tail a tiny pull. Then North Fledge leans down and gently grips South's wing in her beak and opens it out. South isn't amused and goes further south on the branch.
8:01pm Darker fledge flies down Morningside two trees and perches.

8:07pm Both fledges heads go up and the chorus of begging begins. We know they've seen a parent, but just where is that parent?
8:10pm Begging continues.
8:14pm Parent spotted on Gabriel. It's Isolde the Divine Mom.
8:16pm Darker and north fledge takes off across park.
8:23pm Lighter and south fledge flies across street towards School and lands in tree outside fence.
8:31pm Time to get back for the fireworks as the hawk version is done for the night. Exit.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Nearly Extinct Since 1941

Many thanks to Kentaurian for sending in the Whooping Crane wild hatch news.

Whoopers hatch historic chicks
June 24, 2006

For the first time in more than a hundred years, a Wisconsin marsh cradles a pair of newly hatched wild whooping cranes.The parents of the chicks, which hatched late Thursday afternoon deep in the watery back country of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, are among the birds that have been trained to migrate to the Gulf Coast of Florida behind an ultralight aircraft.

Whooping cranes neared extinction in the early 1940s due to hunting and the loss of the wetlands in which they thrive. They have slowly recovered and the latest and most ambitious effort to help them came in 2001 when a partnership was formed to establish only the second flock of wild migrating whoopers in North America.

The effort - a partnership involving several agencies and private groups, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Natural Resources and the International Crane Foundation - has resulted in a flock of 65 whoopers. The hope was that the birds would not only learn to migrate on their own but would return to Wisconsin to nest and raise young.

That hope was realized about 4 p.m. Thursday when project biologist Richard Urbanek saw a pair of nesting whooping cranes apparently tending new babies. Urbanek confirmed the arrival of the chicks Friday, watching as the parents took care of their two chicks."They were just shoveling food down these chicks," Urbanek said. "Tadpoles, mud minnows, whatever they could find."

The parents appear determined to raise young. This was their second attempt to hatch babies this season. The first failed, as did the efforts of four other pairs that laid eggs.

Last year, for the first time in the five years of the recovery program, two pair of cranes laid eggs but those nests also failed.Urbanek said the new arrivals appear healthy and are behaving like true siblings. "They're fine," he said. "They're fighting with each other."

Others involved with the recovery program were thrilled and more than aware of the significance of the moment, not only to the project but to Wisconsin, where the deep, echoing call of the whooping crane has been so long missing."We are ecstatic," said Dan Peterson, a ranger and public use specialist at Necedah. "It's uplifting, to have a program that started in 2001 and to now have reached this point.

"Urbanek said the chicks face an uncertain future. It will be 70 days before they are able to fly and during that time, they will be at the mercy of numerous predators in the marsh.But, for the moment, little can dim the excitement of having two baby whooping cranes living in a Wisconsin marsh that has not known such an event in more than a century. is operated by Capital Newspapers, publishers of the Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times, Agri-View and Apartment Showcase. All contents Copyright ©2006, Capital Newspapers. All rights reserved. /./

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Loosing some of the orange color?

Youngest before.

Youngest now.

Eldest before.

Eldest now.

Marie Winn, author of the marvelous book , REDTAILS IN LOVE, and the equally marvelous website and blog , left a comment referring to the photos posted 2 Jul 06.


Today's photos make it seem like the fledglings are losing some of the orange color on their chests. Have you noticed this?


Hi Marie,

Yes, I absolutely have noticed it.

It does depend some on the light. The more I look at hawks the more I see their feathers are a wonder. I don't know if you've noticed it but when these fledglings are up trees and bathed in the green light of leaves, their feathers incorporate that light and take on a yellowish or downright greenish tinge all over. Their eyes even become green. I'm assuming a feather adaptation that makes them more difficult to see. Which is nifty for them and not so nifty for us.
Another example is that the light late in the day makes the adults and the young both, more reddish all over.

But yes, those orangey chests are taking their leave without a doubt. In most lights now the fledge's breasts are buffy, creamy, or the palest yellow, with just the last vestiges of orangey-ness.

As you've pointed out, the hawks are very visual. Some of us were talking the other day and discussing whether the various color transitions in feather might be cues to the parents that it's time for the "next stage" in youngster care and education.

The obvious just struck me. The babies are growing up and before long they'll be harder and harder to find until we'll only see them by chance on our way to somewhere else.

Oh dear," Empty Nest Syndrome" over actual birds instead of children.