Friday, March 13, 2009


The 80th Street Riverside Formel preens her redtail. Which isn't easy with her broken beak.
Photograph by Francois Portmann,

Professional photographer and hawkwatcher Francois Portmann took some time to visit the Riverside Park bonded pair who last season built a tree nest in Riverside Park, near West 79th Street and the West Side Highway.

These beautiful young hawks, possibly in their first breeding season, created many new wonder struck Hawkwatchers in the park. They gathered to watch first the activities around the nest, and then to enjooy the sight of the parents feeding their three white fluffy eyasses. Unfortunately the eyasses in 2008 were lost to suspected ingestion of poisoned rat.

Then later in the year, the formel's beak somehow was broken, making it more difficult for her to eat. Last season, I often called her Intrepid (not knowing that she also was called by other names) for her courage in sitting the wildly swinging Riverside tree nest.

She has yet again proved her intrepid nature in perservering through her beak issues by continuing to hunt, preen her feathers, and eat no matter the difficulties involved.

The cycle continues and once again Intrepid and her mate Builder are back flying the skies over Riverside Park strengthing their pair bond and preparing for another nesting season.

Photographs of The Riverside Red-tails by Francois Portmann
Francois comments--It looks like the Riverside Park pair is having a good time!

Female, with broken beak, is looking to her left.

And indeed they do look like they are having a wonderful time with each other! This formel is one of the few in NYC who's head is appreciably lighter than her mates. Many of the males of the NYC nests have been lighter than their mates. Observe the difference between Pale Male Jr., coming up further down in the blog, and his mate Charlotte who is a rather dark hawk for the city. The theory being the males have been decendents of Pale Male. While in this case some believe that the formel is. D.B

Jackie Dover Of the Tulsa Hawk Forum sent in this series of captures from the Tulsa Hawk Cam KJRH TV Tulsa
(See her anthropomorphic conversation for Kay and Jay below.)

I have asked what the moment before was in this sequence of behavior as I've not seen it in the NYC Hawks and I'd very much like to get a grip on what may be happening...not that it may not have happened in NYC, it is just that I haven't seen it.

Check out the sequence--

From Tulsa's Jackie Dover--A series of captures with an anthropomorphic slant, from today, 3-13 for the above photographs.
"Jay's Earful"
1. Kay: "Listen up!"
2. Kay gathers herself...
3. ...and the Earful commences.
4. " ...and furthermore..."
5. (unintelligible)
6. "Yes, Sugarplum," he says." ("Hormones!" he grumbles.)
Note: This beak-reading may have been totally misinterpreted, and therefore, unfair to both Jay and Kay. But whatever the exchange was, it did not conclude with, "Meet you in the Magnolia!" or "Race ya' to the Sycamore!"All captures taken from the KJRH Hawk CamJackie Dover
As we had been talking about Great Horned Owls I asked Pat Gonzalez to send me some of her photos of the one in the NYC Botanical Garden. And what a big bad beauty this bird is.
Pat's commentary--

Hey everybody:

Within the NY Botanical Garden are 50 wonderful un-cut acres of native forest. That's where I met my new pal, the great horned owl. I first laid eyes on him three days after the snow storm. With the exception of the main roads and walkways, the garden does not shovel snow, which was good for me as it made for some excellent photos. About one hour before the garden closed, I was walking past the forest edge trail when I heard the distinctive call of an owl. I turned and saw him. He was very well camouflaged against the trees. I looked around me, making sure there were no employees that might scold me for what I was about to do next. All clear. Then I carefully stepped over the fence.

Personally I wouldn't want to tangle with this bird. Talk about attitude!

From the photographer Pat Gonzalez--
The images were OK, but I made it a point to return after the snow melted to try and get some better shots. I took these pics yesterday. I got in MUCH closer. The forest floor was littered with leaves, branches, pine cones, acorns, rocks, etc. This on top of me having to step over a couple of tree limbs while trying not to get scratched. I only noticed recently that some of the shrubs there have thorns on the end of their branches. But it was worth it. He (or she) was beautiful.

Once I got in to a position that was clear enough for a good pic, but not close enough to spook my new pal away. These two are my favorites.

To be continued..

I also thought this might be of interest you. It’s video that I shot at you know where. : )
(Particularly good for those who seldom have a chance to see these birds move and react close up. D.B.)

First up, my pal red tail giving me the eye.
Here’s red tail grooming himself.
Red tail getting beaned by a blue jay : (
Lastly, a female wild turkey strutting her stuff.

Screen captures from Jackie Dover courtesy of KJRH TV Tulsa Ok
Today's nest--Look at all the London Plane fruit!

Kay's brooding feathers.

Jay's brooding feathers. Males have no bare "brooding patch" on their anterior while females do during the nesting season.

Jay very carefully fluffs down on the eggs. Did anyone notice if he hunkered down further? Or are they waiting for a possible egg number 3?
Kay, head and shoulders warming in the sun. Unless she is just in the midst of settling, it looks as if she isn't sitting full down yet either.
Photograph by Brett Odom
Charlotte in front, Junior in back on scaffolding on roof of 888 7th Avenue
From the most fortunate of hawkwatchers, Brett Odom, main nest observer of the Southern Central Park Red-tails Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte. His office is directly across the street from the nest on exactly the right floor for optimum nest views. But this day he looks to have gotten higher in his building to obtain these photographs of the activity. Brett's take for the day--

Here are some photos I took today while at work. Everyone was running into my office telling me how beautiful the hawks were soaring between our building and the building with their nest. So there was a lot of activity with them today.
Photograph by Brett Odom
Same photo, just cropped smaller.
Photograph by Brett Odom
Charlotte takes off leaving Junior on scaffolding on roof of 888 7th Avenue.
Photograph by Brett Odom
Again, same photo, just cropped smaller.

Photograph by Brett Odom
Junior alone on same scaffolding after Charlotte left.
(Junior is a sweet, thoughtful, smart, and stealthy hawk, with expressive body language, very much like Pale Male himself. Note how much paler his belly band is than Charlotte's. The two have been faithfully bonded for years. D.B.)

Photograph by Brett Odom
Charlotte soaring 49 floors up. Time Warner towers are in the background.
Wow! And isn't she just as beautiful as everyone in the offices said?

Photograph by Brett Odom
Charlotte soaring way above top of buildings. This was taken from the 49th floor with a 400mm lens.
(See how dark Charlotte's belly band is compared to Junior's band. Not much problem telling these two apart at all. D.B.)
I was able to get a few shots of Charlotte at the nest after having brought something white, either paper or a plastic grocery bag, I couldn't tell. But because it was late in the day the glare from the sun made the photos completely impossible to decipher.
Oh, when I got to work, Charlotte was at the edge of the nest ledge and then went behind the glass and stayed there on the nest for well over two hours and didn't move. Obviously there are no eggs since both she and Junior spent the entire afternoon off the nest, but it appears the hormones are kicking in and she's becoming broody.
She engaged in this same behavior last year with no success, but hopefully this year will be different.
Brett Odom

Screen captures from Jackie Dover courtesy of KJRH TV Tulsa OK

Jay makes his first visit since the second egg was laid and like all hawk parents with eggs, he stands for some time looking at them. (I dearly wish I knew what they were thinking when they did that. They also do it with the eyasses, just like any proud parent.) And then he sits the nest so Kay can have a break.
Sleepy Kay nods
Her nictitating eyelid closes.

And she is asleep. At least for a short amount of time. Birds sleep for only moments before waking again, to monitor the area for possible danger, then another very short doze....
From the Blackwater Eagle cam web log:
(Gleanings from eagle eyed Robin of Illinois, who suggests you look at the above tiny-stuffed-to-the-gills crops and the little Eagle wings in the next photograph.)

March 13 2009
Growing Eaglets and Great Horned Owls
Posted by Lisa in Eagle Cam, Eaglets, Hatching

Blackwater YouTube Channel:
In case you missed it, we’ve posted four videos on our Blackwater YouTube Channel (look for the videos with 2009 in the title). These first videos of the 2009 season offer some interesting shots of our parents interacting and playing tug of war with a piece of food that the mother brought in (and didn’t want to give up!). Also one of the videos clearly shows a hole developing in the first egg — this was right before the snowstorm hit.

I have some more videos from the Refuge (our ranger tapes them for me) and I’ll be posting more clips soon, so stay tuned.

Every year we are amazed at how fast our little eaglets grow, and this year is no exception. We’ve been seeing some interesting shots on the Eagle Cam, and here are a few I wanted to point out:We saw a photo yesterday that showed the eaglets’ bulging crops. A crop is a pouch on the bird’s chest where extra food is stored for later consumption. Bulging crops mean the chicks are well fed. We’ve seen the eaglets holding out their tiny wings as they begin to slowly exercise them. We’ve also seen more entertaining shots of the eaglets peeking out from under the parent’s chest.Also, on at least two occasions, we’ve seen one of the parents calling out or clearly shielding the eaglets. It’s possible that a young immature bald eagle was tempted by the fish in the nest or was simply flying too close to the nest, and this alarmed the parents. It’s good to see the parents are on the ball when it comes to scaring away intruders.
We’ve also seen the mother put grass on the eaglets, either to hide them or to keep them warm while she was off of them.

And finally, we’ve seen more big meals coming to the nest. One of our cam watchers recently provided me with a great link that shows the most common fish in Maryland waters. You can use this site to ID the fish that the eagles (or ospreys eventually) bring to the nest. Based on this chart, it looks like the meal in the photo was a common carp. Another popular fish with the eagles is American gizzard shad.

Many cam watchers have commented on how mobile the chicks are becoming. In fact a couple times they wandered a little too close to the edge and made some of us nervous, but the parents were good about herding them back toward the nest bowl. Nancy G — one of our cam watchers — put together a Quicktime movie (800KB) that shows the eaglets moving and then being brought back under the parent. Much thanks to Nancy for this neat clip!

A final note about our parents: Some cam watchers have asked if this is the same father from last year, since his food-delivery performance has greatly improved. It’s highly likely it’s the same father — but now he’s more experienced. It’s not uncommon for raptor parents to improve with practice. Some young parents lose their offspring to predators because they lack experience in protecting them. I’ve also heard of young raptor parents building poorly constructed nests in unstable trees, but eventually learning to build better nests in better locations. So raptor parents can learn and they can improve over time — a lot like human parents.

IWS Eaglet Videos and Photos

A couple cam watchers asked me to post the IWS Eaglet Videos and Photos link again, so I wanted to do that. Be sure to take a moment to watch the videos — you’ll see how feisty little bald eaglets can be. They love to peck.

( Blackwater has posted four new Eagle Nest videos on their Blackwater YouTube Channel. Look for the videos with 2009 in the title. -- Robin of Illinois)

From Robin of Illinois--
A Great Horned Owl, caught by the Blackwater Osprey Cam, while hunting from the top of the Osprey nest box. The Ospreys are not yet nesting.
Though the fact that he or she is there concerns me never the less. Great Horned Owls are large strong birds and have been known to raid the nests of other raptors. Though sometimes a GHO pair may use an old Crow or Red-tail nest from a previous season as they do not build their own. They may also go after an active nest, taking the young, running off or killing the adults if successful, and using the nest site for their own breeding season.

Long time blog contributor Robin of Illinois offers up what Lisa the webmaster of the Friends of Blackwater has to say about Great Horned Owls and Ospreys--

Great Horned Owl

I wanted to talk a bit more about our Great horned owl, which has been visiting the Osprey Cam nest somewhat regularly now. In years past, we’ve had the occasional visit from a Great horned owl on the Osprey Cam, but the appearances have been rather rare. This owl (we can only assume it’s the same) has been a regular visitor. The reason it’s meaningful is because while Great horned owls are helpful to humans because of the quantity of rodents they eat, the owls are also known to be predators of osprey chicks — and even sometimes osprey adults.

At Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Maryland they have over 30 osprey platforms, and they have often had an issue with Great horned owls preying on osprey chicks. In fact, on an osprey banding trip last year, a dead, banded adult female osprey was discovered in the water beneath a nest — apparently the victim of a Great horned owl. Considering how large a female osprey is, this was quite a large predator to take on.

As I mentioned on the Osprey Cam page a few days ago, Great horned owls have also been known — on somewhat rare occasions — to take over osprey nests, as can be seen in this post on the Stokes Birding Blog.

We’ve never had a problem with Great horned owls attacking an osprey on the Blackwater Osprey Cam nest. At this point we can only hope that the sight of our returning osprey couple will be enough to keep the owl away. Once the ospreys return north and reclaim their nest, they’ll likely present enough of a challenge that the owl will decide to give up perching at the nest.

As each day passes, we get more excited about the thought of our first osprey showing up on the Osprey Cam. We hear quite a few ospreys have already been seen around the Chesapeake Bay. Won’t be long now!

Until next time,
Lisa - webmaster

Sally of the Tulsa Forum asked if I knew of any instances of a Brown-tailed female who was a member of a bonded pair?

We both knew of instances in which Brown-tailed male RT Hawks were in bonded pairs. In fact Pale Male was just such a precocious bird but neither of us know of instances of a brown-tailed female in a breeding relationship.
Has anyone observed this?
Donegal Browne

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