Friday, July 03, 2009

Dollar RT Protects a Fledgling, Jules on the Astoria Release, and Twin Fawns

This is the backyard of Dollar General and that big Walnut to the right is where I often see an RT hunting the filed below. But today I was at the carwash next door from Dollar General. Suddenly I heard something that sounded suspiciously lke a young Red-tail. Then I heard the famous adult Red-tail fighting call, Khreee. Oh dear, what's up with this? And RT landed in the top of the closest tree then headed out and if you look carefully in the distance between the two trees...


I'd say that's a female. Look at the extremey hawkish look to the head. Then I hear, crows calling to one another. Are they the cause of the dispute?

She looks over her shoulder and sees me. Normally she'd flee immediately but there is some intruder and she has made it top priority.

Takes another look to the east...

Red-tail Photos by D.B.
But not for long. She hunkers down for a better look and to obscure her shape against the sky. Thank goodness for this photo with the obvious red tail or I'd not known for sure if what we were looking at was a parent or a fledgling. She does directly fly off so I'm not sure what the interaction was but I'll keep an eye on the area to see if there is a repeat. Which if the issue is Crows, there is very likely to be a replay.
From Jules Corkery, Triborough Nest Watcher--

I wasn't there but Robert told me that it was terrific to watch Bobby and Kathy handle the bird and get it back to its family. I understand there was even a quick sprint across a very busy street! Thank you for doing so much for these animals that are our neighbors.This morning all 3 fledges where in the same locale. We easily figured out who was who. Baby 2 was fed but still in the tree at 21stand Hoyt Ave North. Although s/he wasn't doing much branching, s/he was triangulating on things in the immediate environment and branching more than we've seen so far. Baby 3, the smallest but by far the best flyer, was comfortable moving about high in the trees above the back fence of the paved area while Baby 1 (now banded which is great!)followed his more tree smart sibling around. Baby 1 landed with wings outspread in the top boughs of a small tree but easily got himself together and followed Baby 1 to a larger branch. Baby 1 and 3 were not fed but were trying to hunt for themselves and were not crying out. Baby 2 who had been fed was calling out from the tree at intersection and was looking in the direction of the his siblings -since he was fed we wondered if he was calling to the other two. Peer pressure is a good motivator.We will be out of town from today until Monday so if anyone is available to check on them please stop by. Look for black crown night herons on the river front and near the site where the fledges are residing, you might find a bunch of cedar wax wings chowing down on the last remains of the mulberries and other fruit trees.On the incoming tide we get lots of cormorants fishing as well. Then a dip in Astoria Pool? See? It's well worth the trip!Have a restful weekend everyone. Jules

White-tail Deer Photos by James W. Blank Jr.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lacking Red-tailed Hawk Ms, Tailless Mourning Dove, and Maligned Pigeons

Since I returned to Wisconsin on June 27th and through June 30th, I've been stopping in at least once a day to check in on the Ms. Unfortunately I've not had a bona vide sighting of any of them since the 22nd.

I had suspected that this might be the case when I returned as just as I was leaving, the fledglings had begun to spend more and more time off the nest tree and were to be found in trees on the perimeter of the cornfield.

Late on the 27th, I pulled the car over on the shoulder and saw, far in the distance along the treeline, a flying Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by Crows. (My camera battery took that exact moment to expire and these distant interludes don't last long so no pictures of the moment were taken.)

The M parents have several standard tactics to elude the Crows; the most common of which is to just out fly them. Crows are not swift. They are heavy bodied, and considering that, they fly very well for their proportions. Red-tailed Hawks are considered a little chunky themselves but if a Red-tail takes a straight path (with space to do it for distance without intervening buildings and the like) and flaps with gusto, the Crows are often left in their metaphorical dust. And that is exactly what the M parents most often do to get rid of the pesky crows.

But that wasn't what was happening in this case. The hawk was flying and attempting to elude the attacking Crows by a harried constant change of direction. It wasn't working out all that well. Finally after getting struck several times the hawk headed out along the treeline and I'm reckoning as it was a straight path and therefore eventually out distanced the Crows.

Therefore I surmise that this was either Primus or Secundus in one of their first personal attacks from Crows. But since then, there hasn't been a feather, a beg, nor the typical mixed species mobbing that occurs constantly to fledglings. It was--quiet. Very quiet. Too quiet, at least it seemed to me for there to be any hawk activity going on within sight.

I check the nest. Somehow it has taken on that deserted look that nests get this time of year. There is a complete lack of energy in the area which manifests itself in no avian alarm calls, no bright white bellies displaying purposefully in the trees, no raucous begging, nor no mobbing passerines.

Just a hot day with a bit of a wind without those little intuitive cues that make us think to ourselves. "I know you're out there somewhere. "

The corn is getting taller. It rustles slightly against itself in the wind I suspect making it a little harder to hunt voles in, but not tall enough for a Red-tail to just skim the tassels, fly in the direction of the rows until a rodent breaks cover, and a kill made.

WAIT! WAIT! There is a bird on the favorite hunting electrical pole. But when I zoom in, it is a Crow. The Crows do seem to think they own the place these days and perhaps they do.

I'd been concerned, as I said, when I left that it was about time for the fledglings to spread out, though still being fed by their parents, and discover a wider world. It is the next stage and they are always more difficult to find than they have been previously when this happens.

Though yet for awhile in NYC we will still find them most days. We have multiple eyes looking and unless a roof is involved we have access to most anywhere they may go.

Not so the case here. I and they are surrounded by acres and acres of private property therefore I can't go tromping about looking for them but they can take to the next treeline and I may well never see them.

Photo by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen Kolling of Rhode Island is the owner of the Gonzo Deck which has hosted a fox, Raccoons, and possibly a skunk plus many other feathered creatures one would expect. Today "Weird Bird Stuff" from Karen--
Weird bird stuff - I found some feathers by my steps, and thought someone had met their doom, but it looks like he just lost his tail. He's been like this for the past few days, and seems okay.

Hi Karen,

It's been my experience and John Blakeman concurs that Mourning Doves loose their tails at the drop of a hat. If a dove is agitated, a touch can make their tail feathers fall out. I expect that it is an anti-predator device. I can well imagine a mammal predator pouncing at the Mourning Dove, the dove is on its way up and the carnivore gets the end of the bird, the tail and , the feathers fall out and predator if left with a mouthful of feathers.

Wildlife observer and Red-tail expert John Blakeman says that in the winter, Mourning Dove's tails sometimes freeze to the roost branch. When the Dove flies off in the morning, the tail feathers remain behind.

And you're right, the lose of the tail feathers doesn't seem to hamper the Dove very much at all. It may affect the whistle that occurs when a dove with a complete tail flies but that is about the only difference that I have observed.

Photo by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen continued--
A moment later this was going on (I had looked away, so I don't know if it was the same bird) but another moment later he or she was up and about and seeming fine:


Your dove is having a sunbath nestled in the seed bowl. While any number of other species will spread their feathers to dry them in the sun, Mourning Doves will spread their dry feathers in the sunshine. Doves have several habits that suggest they are particularly fond of absorbing heat, whether sunbathing or by nestling down on a surface that has earlier absorbed and retained the heat of the day.

Subject: Chelsea Piers trapping pigeons

Chelsea Piers, a health club and recreation center at the edge of the Hudson River in New York, has been trapping pigeons for at least a year and a half in cages with one-way trap doors. The traps are boxes about three feet long and are on fire escape stairways.

This is illegal, according to the NYC fire code.

It is not determined what the Piers do with the trapped pigeons. The traps, provided by a New Jersey-based pest-control service, ensnare the birds in a wood-and-wire cage to prevent them from massing freely on fire escapes. The company then collects the birds and claims to release them back into the wild, although the Health Department-issued permit does allow the birds to be euthanized humanely. It is heard that the pigeons are gassed or have their necks broken in the extermination process. Erica Shietinger, V.P. of Corporate Communications at Chelsea Piers, said they had previously tried humane methods which had failed. An alternative simple and inexpensive device made of plastic or wire, as well as sloping surfaces, are an effective way to keep pigeons off buildings and they don't kill. Droppings still remaining can be hosed off. Killingor removing pigeons does not work since others simply take their places.

It's the same with all wildlife. Shietinger claimed disease as her reason for trapping pigeons, however, according to the NYC Health Dept. pigeons do not get or transmit bird flu or West Nile virus, and they do not transmit disease to humans any more than other kinds of birds. If these were any other kind of birds,Chelsea Piers would think twice about trying to rid itself of them. Removing pigeons from buildings is up to the owner, and it is legal, but there is a kinder way than trapping them.

Please contact the following and ask them to use sloping surfaces or plastic/wire devices instead, instead of traps from which there is no escape.

Dana B. Thayer - Senior Vice President, Director of Marketing & Sponsorship
Mike Braito - Senior Vice President, Chelsea Piers General Manager
Keith C. Champagne - Senior Vice President
Stuart Sheinbaum - Vice President, Director of Communications Erica Schietinger - Vice President, Corporate Communications
Chelsea PiersRoland W. Betts, ChairmanTom A. Bernstein, President
David A. Tewksbury, Executive Vice President
212-336-6800;Fax 212-336-6808
Pier 62 23rd St. Hudson River
New York, NY, 10011
Fire Department:Ask them to remove the cages which obstruct fire escapes.

Use this online form to send a message to Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nest of Atlas/Athena, Isolde/Norman Sightings, and Emmy Embarrasses Quicksilver

John Timmer and his wife took lovely photos of the Triborough Bridge/Astoria nest before the eyasses turned themselves into fledglings. Not at all an easy nest to photograph, they did a bang up job.

For more-- click on the link

Astoria Hawkwatcher Lisa P. once again spotted a hawk in the same area as yesterday, though the hawk was not begging and she isn't sure if it was one of the fledglings or one of the adults.

Keep your fingers crossed. If all goes well the Triborough Nest Eyass that went into the care of the Horvaths after fledgling may be released back to his parents on Monday.

2008-Isolde peeks over the edge of the nest on The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine at 113th St. and Morningside.

Rob Schmunk, long time observer and bloggist, , of Isolde and her mates has an update--

As some of you know, the red-tailed hawks who have nested at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine abandoned that site this spring. The events were pretty mysterious, as only occasional sightings of an adult red-tail in the West 100s and around Morningside Park suggested that they hadn't completely left town.

I am happy to report that both Isolde and Norman have been confirmed to be still in the general area. However, there doesn't seem to be any sign that they successfully nested this season.

Kids from PS 145, the Bloomingdale School, on West 105th St observed hawks in the trees behind the Jewish Home on 106th around Memorial Day. Since then they made several other sightings along the 105th/106th from Riverside Park east to Columbus Ave. Reports of their sightings were passed along by their teacher to hawk- and owl watcher Jean Dane.

I observed both of the adult red-tails for an hour early Saturday evening in the Douglass Houses, the project housing between Amsterdam Ave and Manhattan Ave from 101st up to 104th St. One was very recognizable as the female Isolde. We don't know her mate Norman so well, but the male looked like it was him.

The evening finished with Norman eating a rat on the roof of West Side High School on 102nd St off Amsterdam. (The Douglass Houses are prime rat hunting territory and I have made numerous hawk sightings there over the past few years.) However, during that hour, neither Isolde or Norman behaved In a way to suggest that they had baby hawks to feed or monitor. It is possible that the stress of last year due to renovations on the cathedral roof caused the hawks not to nest this year. But there is also some thought that they did make a nesting attempt somewhere and that it failed, and that a second nesting attempt also failed or did not occur.

They were observed mating in mid April when normally Isolde would have been 3-4 weeks integer sitting, but then mostly disappeared thereafter. As for why they have not been seen at the cathedral much if at all in the past couple months, I have wondered if a seeming increase in crow activity along West 113th St over the past year might be a factor.


Many thanks Rob, I've been wondering how Isolde and Norman were doing. Okay not just wondering, I have to admit to a little worrying as well. What a relief to know that they haven't abandoned NYC altogether.

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters

Emmy the Double Yellow Amazon on the left, Quicksilver the African Grey Congo on the right.

Quicksilver kept saying, "Wanna go outside." So outside we went. And who should we find at the Good and Plenty Cafe but Emmy. Emmy is an entertainer. She says, "Hello Friend" to everyone and when her Dad, Larry, does the toe song, "Little Piggies" Emmy does the Weee weee weee part much to hilarity of the patrons.

Silver on the other hand, the longer he watches Emmy the more boggled he becomes. In fact he begins to look quite freaked out. Emmy sings along with Larry, whereas it seems to me that African Greys in general, Silver in particular, are wired not to talk at the same time as anyone else. He waits for a pause in conversation and then he'll say something. I've begun to think that this singing at the same time thing, seems so ill mannered to him that he suffers from acute embarrassment--a sort of parrot shame, on Emmy's behalf.

Do note though that Silver makes sure he's looking at the camera whenever a photograph is taken whereas Emmy does not. Fascinating the differences between individuals, particularly individuals of different but closely related species.

Donegal Browne