Saturday, December 06, 2008

Portmann Photos of PS 188 Scaffolding, Another Chelsea Red-tail Sighting, and Mixed Flock Dynamics

Photo-Francois Portmann
Photographer and hawk watcher Francois Portmann hiked over to PS 188 with his camera and took these shots of the scaffolding on the building.

Photo by Francois Portmann
And here is the accompanying note:


Here are pix of ps188. The nest is still there and the netting is open on top but that’s not enough!

I keep seeing what seems to be that same female Red-tailed Hawk around here, (Francois’ neighborhood not the banded PS188 formel. D.B.) no sight of the 2nd.
She is regularly harassed by crows (btw, a good indication that rth are around)

Photo by Francois Portmann

I did forget to add Crows to my list of bird species who love to mob Red-tails in yesterday's post, didn't I? A definite oversight as Crows just can't wait to go after a hawk. In fact they are often how I find the Cooper's and Sharpies who predate my feeders in Wisconsin.


Chelsea Grid Map Courtesy of
(They do walking tours and count the number of surveillance cameras in various neighborhoods. You never know what you're going to find on the Internet. I wonder if we could get the people who get the feeds for all those cameras to hawkwatch? That's a joke, unfortunately.)

Yesterday, Brett Odom sent in a sighting of a Red-tailed Hawk in Chelsea (a neighborhood in Manhattan) and I asked for other sightings. Bingo, in came one from Chelsea resident birdwatchers, Elisabeth and James.

Hi there,
Just spotted a Red-tail arguing with a local Blue Jay family! We stepped out onto our balcony for a moment and heard the Jays bickering then were treated to a hawk swooping just in front of us in the space between our building and the buildings across from us! We are located in Chelsea between 7th and 8th Avenue and 20th and 21st St. So perhaps there is a nest in Chelsea?

Happy Birding!
Elisabeth and James

Many thanks for the sighting! Did either of you happen to notice if this hawk was mature or a brown-tail? Keep us posted! Just click on the Contact Me button in the right column of the main page to email.

And now to Mixed Flock Dynamics--
Today's group of ground feeders were the Wisconsin big three after the snow starts to fly: Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Sparrows.

Now the House Sparrows are, how can I say it? Well, the House Sparrows are just downright flighty. Every ten or twenty seconds on a particularly nervous day like today, they take off for their brush pile to hide due to what seems like invisible provocation most of the time to the other two species who look around for a few seconds and then tend to stay put, and keep foraging.

Not that some of the Mourning Doves don't have flighty moments themselves. The dove in the photo is Doorstep Dove who knows me quite well and isn't bothered if there is movement beyond the glass door. Earlier she'd flown in by herself, and after about ten minutes of not being eaten by anything, the rest of the flock of seven doves came in to forage as well.

Unfortunately for them, after several hysterical flights by the House Sparrows back and forth, the other Mourning Doves eventually became so rattled that they flew off with the sparrows, though they weren't so quick to return.

So when the mixed flock congregated once again it was just Doorstep with the sparrows, and the Juncos.

Then whatever it was set the sparrows off once again, and Doorstep as well. Notice how they stay low and fly beside cover, the house and the planter. The sparrow will fly into the brush pile which is about 10 feet away and Doorstep once past the glider will hug the house for a few feet and then curve quickly gaining altitude and fly into the Maple that overhangs the area.

Notice that the Juncos are looking but haven't taken to their wings. At this time of day, had they decided that there was danger they would likely have gone into the "Junco Freeze". They would have stayed on the ground completely still until the alert was over.

Why the hawks don't see their little dark birdie shapes against the snow, I don't know. But the Junco Freeze seems to work.

Having had enough to eat and likely enough of the nervous House Sparrows, Doorstep takes up her evening position on the warmed birdbath, often facing where the sunset ought to be. This evening there is no light show. Yet again the snow clouds have rolled in and as of now, the snow is falling heavily.

Donegal Browne

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Looking for a Red-tailed Hawk Nest, and Odom Sights a Red-tailed Hawk in Chelsea

A tough nest to find and to watch--June, 2005--
Charlotte, the eyasses, and the foam noodle, on the Trump Parc Nest

Here are today's emails from Lower Eastside Hawkwatchers Jose, and Francois Portmann concerning the usability of the Houston & Avenue D nest.

Hey Donna,

In addition to the scaffolding, ps 188 is wrapped in a sort of netting, it looks like it could be there for a few months! There is no access for the birds!

No way that the nest would be used this coming season....

Best look around for the new location!!


Which completely agrees with Jose's take--

Hello Donna,

The scaffolding that was placed on PS 188 covers the whole outside of the school building and does cover the entire nest on the air conditioning unit. So I seriously doubt that the RT hawks will be able to use that nest again.

I am still looking for them and their nest site and will let you know if I find it. Take Care.


Hi Jose,

Though a bit of a set back, at least this site didn’t have a nest that had been worked on and improved over many years. As it’s only December they’ll still have plenty of time to build. Hawks do loose nests and sites in the wild as well and this one was difficult for the fledglings to branch up to safety after their first flight, so since this one is no longer and option, let’s hope they choose something a little easier on the kids this time.

If Houston Mom finds a mate and keeps the territory, they’re going to be starting a nest or two from scratch and building like crazy. Females like to have a choice, though usually only one sites really has much work done on it.

By the way, as you’ve no doubt seen, urban Red-tails can be very crafty in their choices. See the photo of the Trump Parc above. Look on the sunlit side of the building. See the tiny corbels that run across that wall? In 2005 and 2006 Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. built their nest way up there. So look higher than you’d think would be possible. You never know, what they might be up to.
Beyond scanning the buildings, the trees in the park for nest building activity, and places you've seen the hawks perch before also keep your eye on the upper branches of the trees. The hawks will be clipping lots and lots of twigs for the new nest. If you happen to spot them doing it, or flying with a twig, do your best to follow them. It may take several tries but eventually they'll lead you to at least the general area of the nest if not the exact spot.

If you have access to any roofs or high floor apartments, you can watch from those now and again in hopes of seeing the hawks flying, that will also increase your chances

If you haven't been doing it already, listen for the scolding of squirrels, Robins, Catbirds, and Jays. They too can lead you to a hawk foraging for twigs or sitting somewhere hunting.

You can also increase the area in which your searching, just in case they’ve branched out quite a ways.

I know it's frustrating when you don't see them after searching day after day. But it is all the more exciting when you finally do find them. And while you're at it, you'll discover all kinds of other wonderful things you never knew were there before in the process.

Let people know that you're looking and then they'll let you know if they see something.

And I wouldn't be the least surprised if other hawkwatchers are on the prowl as well in hopes of finding a new nest.

Good luck, Jose!

Remember Brett Odom, who's office looks onto Charlotte and Pale Male Junior's 2007-2008 nest site? He had a treat on his way to the subway in Chelsea.


Now wouldn't it be nice to have a nest in Chelsea. Red-tails do come into the city for winter hunting but one just never knows, she or he might just find a mate and stick around.

As to a green space, the nest down at Houston and D overlooked a yard in front of apartment buildings. Of course that didn't work out very well for the fledglings and as you know the best of all of us, there was Charlotte and Junior's latest nest that didn’t' overlook any green.

Never underestimate a Red-tail.


So folks you heard his request, send in those sightings! In fact, send in any sightings in NYC and we'll see if we've got some resident hawks that have been keeping themselves under the hawkwatcher's radar.


Houston Red-tail Nest Report, Snow, Crows, and Tracks in Trees.

March, 2008-Isolde on the nest at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine with scaffolding.

A report came in today from Lower Eastside Hawkwatcher Jose--


I have not seen the Lower East Side Red Tail Hawks for a while and I have been looking for them all over the Lower East Side. The old nest on PS 188 has been totally covered over with scaffolding for the construction workers who are performing reconstruction work on the outside of that school so I doubt that the hawks will be using that nest again.

I read on your blog that Mr. Portmann has seen a pair of Red Tail Hawks flying around the East Village so they must be the same ones that I observed and I guess they are not the same Red Tail Hawks that we were watching back in May and June of this year. Well I will keep my eyes open for them and will let you know if I spot them.
Happy Holidays.

Hi Jose,

Thank you for the update!

Francois told me that the Red-tails that he has been seeing saw are far enough away that they would likely be in a different territory from the the hawks we were watching earlier in the year in your neighborhood. Neither of the birds that Francois has been seeing is banded so don't give up on the possibility that the Houston Mom is still in control of her territory. I found that that area isn’t an easy place to spot hawks as well.

Have you checked the park along the river in the early morning when she might be there hunting rats?

How much scaffolding is over the school nest? Would it keep the parents from flying in and out of the nest?

Is the scaffolding at the school more constricting than the scaffolding in the photo above?

Last season, Isolde and Norman had scaffolding above, below and on both sides of their nest up at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 113th st. and they used the nest anyway. It was a rather bad situation as the workman kept disturbing the nest by getting too close to it. Isolde would then swoop at them, and sometimes stay off the nest for worrying amounts of time. The pair did manage to fledge two young.

If the territory is used this season, perhaps the scaffolding is a blessing in disguise and the parents will find a more fledge friendly spot for their nest. Perhaps another building nest, but also they might try their luck in a tree in the park. The plantings there would give the fledglings more branching opportunities so they could get up off the ground to where they’d be safer.

Thanks again,


The first three days of this week have brought nearly a foot of snow. Foraging tactics have changed.

Little Goldfinch sits in the lee of the bird feeder to find shelter from the snow storm

Samantha my daughter decided to make the traditional green been casserole with the french fried onions on the top that is always being advertised right before Thanksgiving on TV. She made a lot. As a little experiment I put it outside to see if Crows had a taste for greens beans and mushroom soup. To my surprise, five Crows showed up to work on it, attempting to out gobble each other for the lion's share. though it wasn't easy as it was frozen.
Okay, here is another of those--Hey, why-didn't-I-notice-that-before moments.
The squirrels can leave very clear tracks when they climb snow covered trunks of trees.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Doorstep Dove and Friend? Turkey Tracks, Squirrel Tracks, Rabbit Tracks, and Crow Tracks.

In September Doorstep Dove and Friend, the bonded Mourning Dove pair I've been watching for going on three years disappeared.

In fact there were no Mourning Doves at all in neighborhood. During the summer the accipitors trolled the neighborhood and to make matters worse, Wisconsin has a Mourning Dove hunting season.
I began to fear the worst.
It had been months without a sighting, and in past years they'd never disappeared. Daily they arrived at dusk, usually both but on rare occasions only one, but now no one came to watch the sunset from the warm bath. I did miss Doorstep looking at me through the window and bobbing her head. I'd mimic her and she'd mimic me and then with a flip of wings she'd go about her business.
Then yesterday I looked out the window and there was a plump Mourning Dove on the back of the glider. She looked, bobbed her head, I bobbed mine and I knew Doorstep was BACK!
And today, she appeared with Friend at the feeding area. I feel a lot better now.
Five inches of snow last night and a sunset promising more snow tonight.
Turns out Blossom hadn't made a dive the other night after all and though still slowly listing to the side, she's still there. Now with a bowl of bird seed in her paws.
Do you recognize these tracks?
I'm not sure I would have, but I saw the perpetrator. Those are Crow tracks. Though Crows will hop now and then, this guy was walking in the snow.
For comparison, these are a pair of Crow tracks interspersed with those of a squirrel. I'm not sure whether a fat squirrel or a Crow is heavier but as the squirrel has more feet on the ground at a time compared with the one foot at a time Crow, the Crow would more likely break the crust of the snow than the squirrel if they were the same weight.
And here, squirrel comes into frame, runs in a circle and runs out of frame.
And these are? The exclamation point tracks of the Cottontail Rabbit.
Photograph by Wisconsin photographer, James Blank.
And this? Here's a hint. It's big. Were talking turkey, here.

Steam the RT, Pye, Blossom the Bear, More on the Bunny/Deer Relationship, Vinzant on Squirrels Need Your Help This Year

Photograph by James Blank
This is Steam the Red-tail that frequents Thresherman's Park. Steam is very wily. In two and a half years I've only gotten one photograph of him.

Another of those prairie sunsets, that's a portent for snow.

And for those who have asked after Pyewackit. She's doing fine. There hasn't been one "accident". And she's become cheeky enough to stalk wooden elephants from the dresser top. I find the nose to the wood technique quite interesting. Is it for balance?

This is Blossom the bear sitting on her tuffet.

In actuality Blossom is sitting on her tuffet in the middle of heavy snowstorm and is the result of my boredom while shoveling snow. And let me tell you there is a lot of snow coming down. To be honest the amount of snow also had something to do with Blossom. I found it much easier when shoveling the snow in the driveway to shovel it into a wheel barrow and then dump it to the side. Then instead of dumping it to the side, suddenly I found myself wheeling it to the backyard and...

When I went after the driveway for the second time tonight, and wheeled a load to the back. It looked to me that Blossom's casual lean to one side had gone from casual to acute.

As it indeed it had under closer scrutiny. A while later when I checked on Blossom, she'd obviously been hitting the sauce or perhaps the honey mead, as she'd fallen completely off her tusset. Tsk.
R. of Illinois dug up the back story on yesterday’s post about “Bambi” and “Thumper”. Check out the link--
And also, here's video of the deer and rabbit playing.

Catbird of Tulsa asked after the Tail-less Turkey of Central Park--I've had no more reports on so I suspect all is well. I also suspect that there are two turkeys in Central Park. Central Park's Eleanor Tauber took this photograph in the beginning of November. The Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin have a good bit more tail than this turkey. But this turkey is the domesticated model, I think. Or a different morph from those I see here. Is this a whole turkey tail of this model turkey or only a partial one? Does anyone know?

A flying squirrel retrieves food put out by the staff at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington County . (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)

Carol Vinzant of writes-
And here's why from The Washington Post, which continues at the link below.

The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.

Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill.

But Simmons really got spooked when he was teaching a class on identifying oak and hickory trees late last month. For 2 1/2 miles, Simmons and other naturalists hiked through Northern Virginia oak and hickory forests. They sifted through leaves on the ground, dug in the dirt and peered into the tree canopies. Nothing....

My investigation of the acorn mast in the woods at Thresherman's Park has shown that the only oaks that did produce acorns this season were the Burr Oaks, which produced a large crop. As for the Black, Red, White, and Pin Oaks--I found no acorns. There has been a high level of road kill here as well in the squirrel population as they attempt to procure nuts from the few trees that produced. Also the bird feeder raiding has reached epic proportions as the population is higher than in the past few years at this time. Not only are they raiding the feeders but they are destroying them if they aren't filled immediately upon becoming empty. Even in an "empty" tube feeder for instance, there are always a few seeds which are out of reach so the squirrels have been attempting to chew their way in.
Now don't get me wrong, the squirrels in this area are certainly quite chubby but they don't have the rolls of fat around their necks the way they did last year at this time.