Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lend A Hand To NYC Audubon plus Pale Male and Last--The Blizzard

Pale Male sits on Linda 4. His breast feathers show it's windy up there. Also note his feet. He holds onto the back of the rail with one foot and the front with the other. He's not about to be dumped off. Much too humiliating for the Monarch of Central Park.

REPORT FROM THE BENCH: Pale Male was seen today clipping a twig off a tree in the line along Fifth Avenue.

And next, the newest version of NYC Audubon's Update on the work done on Pale Male and Lola's nest. And once again, many thanks to them!


Spring spruce-up came early for Pale Male and Lola, the red-tailed hawk pair nesting on the facade of 927 Fifth Avenue. On January 29th, scaffold workers, directed by New York City Audubon, made adjustments to the nest cradle mounted atop a 12th floor cornice of the building. Although the work done required only a few hours, it could be critical to the birds’ ability to produce chicks this spring and in the years to come.

The beloved red-tailed hawk pair, have had no success breeding chicks since re-establishing their nest on the cradle in spring 2005. Prior to that date Pale Male and his mate produced chicks each year from 1995 through 2004 – a total of 26 hatchlings, of which 19 survived to fledge – making Pale Male one of the most successful red-tailed hawks ever documented. Concerned by the correlation of lack of propagation and construction of the cradle, NYC Audubon enlisted four red-tailed hawk experts around the country to study the situation and present conclusions.

At the panel’s request, NYC Audubon arranged for two wildlife photographers, Jeff Kollbrunner and Donegal Browne, to take photos of the interior of the nest from the building’s roof. Those Jan. 4 pictures showed that stainless steel pigeon spikes extend above the nest material, posing a serious threat to successful embryo development during the 5-6 week egg incubation period. Birds must roll their eggs so that fluids within the egg are gently distributed and the tissues don’t stick together and form a dense mass. The erect spikes appear to impede this critical step and also to interfere with the hen’s ability to make proper contact of the eggs to her brood patch, keeping the eggs consistently warm. An observer reported that the hen’s brood patch appeared to be rubbed raw this past nesting season.

Braced with that evidence and the panel’s recommendation to remove the spikes beneath the nest bowl, NYC Audubon worked with various city authorities and the building’s coop board to obtain permission to remove the spikes from the nest cradle. NYC Audubon is especially grateful to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who helped obtain needed permits, and to board member Sandy Fiebelkorn, who worked tirelessly for months to coordinate the whole process. The task was time-critical; early February marks the start of copulation.

There is no guarantee that this improvement of the birds’ habitat will mean chicks in mid-April, as the recent lack of reproductive success may have other causes. However, as one NYC Parks & Recreation official said, “I’m hawkish about what we’re doing.”

For those in a position to give NYC Audubon their thanks for all the work they did for Pale Male and Lola's benefit in a financial vein, the cost of workers and a swing stage alone in NYC is astronomical, here is a handy link-- http://www.nycaudubon.org/home/AnnualAppeal.shtml

3:32PM And while Pale Male snipped twigs with thoughts of Spring, what is predicted to be a foot of snow by Wednesday afternoon in Wisconsin, began to fall. The passerines taking their cue from the weather, gather near sunset to find food to keep themselves warm through the blizzarding night to come.

4:24PM Doorstep Dove, on a familiar perch, checks for the hawk before coming down to feed, while the snow swirls around her.

4:26:08PM A Crow calling loudly eats what looks a lot like Kentucky Fried Chicken that he's foraged from somewhere, while in the Maple closest to the house.

Doorstep and Friend hug the step for safety and peck madly at the seed that the squirrels have once again spilled from the feeder, in an attempt to beat the rapidly fading light and the need to roost before pure dark.

4:44PM Speaking of squirrels, One Eye digs through the snow already accumulated inside the suet feeder to get at the high energy fat.

4:46PM I opened the door and caused this lone Dark-eyed Junco to veer off. Instead of heading for the Spruce tree which would be the usual sanctury for flushed Juncos, he flew a few feet away and waited in the Pussy Willow until I went in, then joined Doorstep and Friend near the step.

4:47PM How many Juncos shelter amongst the snow laden boughs tonight?

5:11PM The world turns blue and fades to black. All the birds have found their roosts and hunker down for the night.

10:00:41PM Snow not only falls it swirls and dances. Not one print survives from the day and it's almost as if there never had been any creatures stocking up before the storm.
But by 12:30AM, even though the snow has not subsided, the tough Wisconsin bunnies have come out to feed leaving their tracks on the previously clean slate of snow, as has at least one of the Opossoms.
My last check, 1:36AM, there are fewer flakes falling now but they are all much larger than before. Only a handful of the dozens of tracks from an hour ago survive. They too soon will disappear, wafted away by the wind.
(For recent posts, click on Palemaleirregulars at the top of the page.)

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