Saturday, November 21, 2009


While the neon gleams, the traffic roars, and her counterparts sleep in fitful intervals,

Tip the pigeon mulls the benefits of taking a bath.

Temperature within the bounds of the bathing. No unsafe company to cause trouble, Tip takes her chance.

Tip submerges her head and wallows in the water
Then a look at the camera..
Wait just a gosh darn minute , here comes Thumper pussyfooting around the perimeter of the bowl.

Then here comes Dot the cock, ah oh, Thumber gives him the look

Dot attempts to menace Tip out of the bowl. No deal.

While the interlude takes place Thumper takes the better part of valor and makes her escape toward the dining room.
Tip has had enough, but hark, dot is off chasing after Thumper .
(Continue down to Part ii)


Tip snuggles down to warm her feet and to check depth.

Pinkie loooks out but isn't all all sure he wants to do.

Tip continues in peace for a while.

There she goes.


Still considering her options

Dot prefers his bath with a drip so he's been moved up to the kitchen sink.

Head under drip Dot goes for it.

A squat and look about .

Dot hops up to the edge of the sink.

And then inexplicably does a double wing clap over head as if he's just copulated. ???

A pause for thought about another dip.

But he's had enough and flies off to perch on top of the toaster.

Donegal Browne

Friday, November 20, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009


I'd hopped on the bus to head for Central Park to meet South African Adam Weltz and to see if we could find some of our favorite Red-tails perhaps starting in the southern end of the park. But in the meantime I was heading across Madison Avenue on my way to the Hawk Bench to check for the days Hawk news but as I was walking across Madison Avenue, there was a very familiar voice behind me, I turned and there was Katherine Hertzog- hawkwatcher and rat poison investigator, among many other activities, as well as spending six weeks of her year in Africa looking into the erosion of the animal population.

Katherine's big news today was the fact that Central Park was being treated to one of it's rare and often very short term visits from a Great Horned Owl---and Katherine knew just where he'd likely be.

I grabbed my phone and called Adam who was very excited about comparing our Great Horneds to South African raptors and suddenly as so very often happens in Central Park, our plans completely changed and we found ourselves hurrying off to scan the trees near The Oven and or Azalea Pond.

We didn't have to look long, as a group of photographers were already on the spot. The work had already been done earlier in the day as many experienced birders had scanned the trees down to the last twig. But it wasn't any of the folks with many years of experience that found G. H. Owl today, it was a novice birder from New Jersey who had never seen a G.H.O. before. She'd traveled into New York from Jersey on the off chance she'd catch a glimpse of the visitor and she's the one who found G. H. Owl. There is no question in my mind that she'll now have been bitten terminally by the Birding Bug.

All that said, just look at the talons on that bird!

Something else can be seen in this particular photograph. Due to the petite beak on owls one often has the impression somehow that their mouths are rather petite as well but from this angle you can see the bottom of the wide curve of the mouth that also extends up on both sides. Owl beaks aren't really adapted all that well to tearing they often swallow their prey whole.

When we arrived she was still, for the most part, sleeping.

With the peek of an eye now and again to check on the gathering humans around her. I've often wondered if the sporadic visits of these owls during migration might a times be the owls that make their nests in the New York Botanical Gardens. Not that they are terribly human habituated but they at least do drop in and put up with us for awhile anyway.
Then her eyes close again for another quick snooze.

Then of course there was the prerequisite preening and stretching to be done as a warm up for later hunting. Suddenly she turns around on the branch...

...and stares down with focus. She may be looking fixedly at a dog who was walking by.

Ah well, enough of that, back to more rest.
As it began to get darker, she began moving her head in triangulating weaving motions.
Her shape becoming more and more indecernable amongst the foliage.
There is a reason owls are sometimes associated with dead souls and witches.

5:06pm Fly out! Though only a short hop into a tree not at all far away. Can you see her? Note the spread wings in the up right portion of the M formed by branches. But also look further down, about midway on the left, still within the M, doesn't it appear that there are at least one and perhaps two other large birds roosting there? Earlier there had been a juvenile Red-tail after squirrels in the area. Great Horned Owls are one of the few predators that predate RTs.

Then another short flight into yet another tree.

And finally she takes to her quiet wings and is gone to hunt amongst the trees and grasses. Often flying over the lake in the moonlight, just a shimmer reflected in the water and a dream floating against the sky.
Donegal Browne
P.S. Never fear I did get news of Pale Male and Lola. They've now begun their transitional move from spending good bits of their time on the Beresford and the Westside and have begun fading towards the Eastside where the nest is situated. Katherine Hertzog tells me that more and more often Pale is making visits to the nest seemingly just to check out what might need to be done in the way of refurnishment for the upcoming season.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Is That Isolde?

This is Isolde of the NYC Cathedral Nest in 2006 taking an evening breather from her eyasses while her then mate Tristan did the end of the day feeding. (Look carefully mid belly adjacent to the masonry and you can see the split in her feathers revealing a bit of her brood patch.)

This is a photo of a Red-tailed Hawk taken by Robert Schmunk of
on 11/11/2009-- Manhattan Ave. at 103rd St., 4:10 p.m.

His subject line reads "11/11 Isolde?"

Okay, is this Isolde or not? Good question. Here's a primer on how I'd go about trying to decide if a mystery hawk was a hawk I knew. (In this case I was nearly positive it was Isolde as I've watched her for months on end but it is always good to do a checklist as one can be fooled.)

1. It very much helps to have a past photograph in which the identification of the known hawk is without question for comparison. Though keep in mind that Isolde will have gone through several molts from 2006 to 2009. In the lead photo above, that is definitely Isolde as I saw her come off the nest and fly across the street to perch on the hospital, and Tristan then flew into the the nest to feed. If it weren't Isolde, Tristan wouldn't have been going about business as usual, he'd have thrown a giant fit. And when he did the real Isolde would have shown up to help him throw it.

2. What are the marks one looks for when identifying Isolde? The basics: Make sure it's a Red-tailed Hawk, then, mature-dark eyes or rufous tail, female-large with that sharp hawkish look due to ratio of skull to length of beak.

3. Isolde has big, and dare I say it, beautiful almond shaped eyes. She hasn't the Pale Male "brow" that a number of NYC Red-tails have. Compare the two sets of eyes in the photos above.
They are well within a possible match.

4. The coloration of Isolde's head extends down further onto her shoulders than is usual giving her the look sometimes as if she had long "hair". True in both photos.

5. Isolde has a distinct dark belly band of long broad streaks with a convex curve to the overall band, interspersed with cream feathers. She is one of NYC's darker hawks and her pale feathers tend to cream as opposed to flash white. Yup, ditto in both. (She is dark though not nearly as dark as Charlotte.)

6. The hawk in Rob's photo looks more rounded and robust but as Rob said she had just finished a meal and whetted her beak before taking off. Also keep in mind the time of year. This photo was taken just lately in November, well after the breeding season and very likely after her molt for the year as she may not have nested this year. She's in fine form not on her way to being run ragged as she would have been on May 31st in the midst of eyass season in 2006.

So first hunch and the checklist both tell me it is Isolde. And I'm very very pleased to see her.

I asked Rob what the situation was at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in the category of scaffolding, workman near the nest and other possible negatives that might keep her from using the site behind St. Andrew's Arm in the upcoming season. Here's what Rob had to say--

Last time I noticed, there was a bit of low scaffolding around the baptistry and one of the southern chapels. Nothing reaching higher than 30 feet above ground level. All the nasty high stuff was removed last May.

Not sure what's up at the baptistry, although it might be water damage in the walls because the adjacent chapel had major problems with that. The chapel on the south side (St. Ambrose I think) probably had work needed on the windows, as I noticed when I was inside the cathedral over the winter that there were chapel windows that were never ever closed no matter how bad the weather was.


Thanks Rob, it certainly sounds more hawk friendly than it did this time last year.

Donegal Browne