Saturday, May 22, 2010

Red-tail Updates: Riverside Park Pair, St. John's Cathedral Nest, Unisphere, Brooklyn

Photo by Mitch Nusbaum

From astronomy buff and hawkwatcher Mitch Nusbaum--

The Riverside Pair: There is a new nest in the same tree in Riverside park as the previous nest. A passerby told me that the pair have been mating atop the Normandy.

Though we'd love for the Riverside Pair to double clutch this season, it may not be what happens. In the past when their three eyasses died of rat poison they began a second nest and there were sporadic reports of copulation but they, in the end, did not have a second brood.

There is an arc of hormones that leads to nesting and when the sequence is disrupted, as in this current case the nest falling to the ground killing their three young, the descending cascade of hormones creates a similar set of behaviors. In some cases the hormones continue descending and a second clutch does not occur even though initial behaviors appear that that may happen.

In other cases, such as in the disappearance of the eggs in the Trump Parc nest of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. in 2005, a new set of eggs was laid, eyasses hatched, and fledged. It isn't completely clear why double clutching occurs in some cases and not in others.

More from Mitch-- Meanwhile at the Cathedral nest, at 4:30PM Saturday, 5/21 One of the parents made a visit. After she left 1 eyass was up and about at 4:40P. That eyass is sporting an Orangy chest. Photo above taken at 4:50PM...

From professional photographer and birdwatcher Francois Portmann also at the Cathedral nest later the same day as Mitch only a little later on 5/21-

Sad news for the Divines!
I was watching the nest Thursday morning and saw only 1 eyass,
today (Saturday, 5/21/2010) I went back early, curious about the 2nd nestling!
At first, same scenario with one chick,
then an adult flew in around 6:30 with a twig and started to reach deep in the nest
and pulled up a dead eyass! Perhaps trying to get it off the nest but looked too heavy and let it go down out of sight again!
It was brief but clearly showed the dead eyass (have it on video footage)
Frounce? Rat poison? Weather? Who knows?
Would be interesting to test the carcass if the pair manage to get it off the nest!
Sorry to be the messenger

In actuality the Cathedral nest started with three confirmed eyasses this season, Bruce Yolton and I saw three eyasses while both of us happened to be watching the nest at the same time. He saw three through his viewfinder and I saw three through the birding scope. It appears that nest has lost two young this season as, has the Briarwood nest.

And the Unisphere nest has lost one eyass as per Peter Richter's report, http;// , which follows--

After visiting the Unisphere yesterday evening, I noticed one of the eyasses (probably the oldest one) had fallen out of the nest and perished. I couldn't get to the body because of a fence surrounding the Unisphere during the rehab. period for the fountains below it. I will try to retrieve the body another day when the contractors are there.



Better news from excellent birder Rob Jett--

This week I surveyed the three known Brooklyn nests to see how the
hatchlings were progressing.

The easiest nest for viewing is the pine tree at the edge of Nelly's
Lawn in Prospect Park. For a second year in a row, the parents are
raising three offspring. When I visited the nest yesterday afternoon,
Nelly was busy feeding her brood. They all seem healthy and have
started to grow adult body feathers. Their wing feathers are also
growing in rapidly. In the video I shot one youngster is already
attempting to flap-hop to the opposite side of the nest.

I found a new and fairly decent viewing spot for Alice and Ralph's
Ravine nest. Over two days I monitored their nest for an hour each
time and was only able to confirm a single hatchling. Although, the
nest is very deep and the viewing angle quite steep, so there could be
another chick. The chick that I watched is well behind the ones at
Nelly's Lawn and likely most of the city's Red-tailed Hawk chicks. It
is still mostly covered with down with maybe an inch of adult feathers
seen emerging from its tail and wings.

At approximately 75 feet up in a Linden tree, the Green-Wood Cemetery
nest is the highest and most difficult to get a chick count. My friend
Marge and I watched the nest for a long time this week and only got
fleeting glimpses of an erratic, white wing flipping up above the edge
of the nest. Big Mama was sitting at the nest watching her offspring
the entire time we were present. Perhaps in another week the chick(s)
will be large enough to view clearly. I will keep you posted.

I have a short video and a couple of pics here:


Though the loss of young hawks on the nest saddens us, we must remember that in reality the fact that urban hawks exist at all is rather a miracle in itself.

Remember in these times particularly, to be glad and filled with wonder that we have any hawks at all in our lives. Consider the many dangers of the city, combined with what might be considered the "normal" dangers to raptors even without those urban dangers.

Allow your heart to fill with wonder and joy while even one pair of wide wings soar across the skyline, for, without doubt, every single hawk or falcon or owl that graces the skies of New York City or any other city, is a major miracle with talons. Feathered miracles that prod our own souls also to persevere, to adapt, to soar above what attempts to stifle us, to keep our spirits earthbound, and tempts us to allow ourselves to be less than we can be-- And teaches us to remember to love the earth and her creatures in a new way, all over again, everyday we see one.

Donegal Browne

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How the Red-Wing Flies and Animal Ingenuity

All Red-winged Blackbird Photographs by W. A. Walters

After watching Red-tails so closely for so many years, I sometimes am scrutinizing them so closely I don't always see the wonder in some of the other common birds around me. Take the Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus, for instance.

They seem to be everywhere enjoying a bumper population, even eating seed under my bird feeder. Birdseed? Aren't they supposed to be hanging out in mushy areas? Well they are and they do but they too seem to be adapting to at least suburban areas if not urban ones.

They're certainly spunky. We've all seen the photographs of them riding a Red-tail's back while pecking her in the head.

But what else does it take to ride buteo?

Certainly if you're the size of a Red-wing, a Red-tail's back certainly has plenty of space for your feet but that hawk is attempting to get that head pecking Red-wing off by a variety of maneuvers and still they often stick until it appears they'll be brushed off by a limb. And then zip off they go with a hairs breath of escape time only to catch the Red-tail on the other side of the tree and do it again.

That takes great agility and speed.

A Red-wing also has the physicality to rise steep and fast somehow, it seems, without flapping just with sheer speed and lack of wind resistance.

Then over that hump of a tree and be on his way again with the look of little effort.

That sort of thing seems often done by meticulous us of wind power. Near the ground more effort in the flapping department is needed.

Going for the steep climb.

And he's soon high enough to be obscured by the trees. See him?

Then it's into the bomber stance of least wind resistance--Zoom!

A soaring turn.

And then chasing insects closer to the ground.

He's found a fair cloud of them and then just keeps on going mouth open and knoshing.

One moment he is there and and then in another, whoosh and he's gone. Without a speck of concern about what I'm doing or the hawks are doing, just riding the wind spectacularly and having dinner at the same time.

A discovery from Storm (by way of daughter Samantha), a member of the Drew U. Covert Rehab Triage Duckling Nabbing Squad--

As to the bear --

There is no question in my mind,

I mean look at the ingenuity, creativity, and balance,

that she's gone to Barnum and Bailey's Clown School. And that the filler of the bird feeder would have been better pleased if she hadn't.

Seriously though what that very large mammal just did is truly quite amazing for the diameter of the rope. Think large bulky paws and the perfect control of sharp teeth not to bite through sad rope plus the bending an acrobatics necessary to grab the feeder. To say nothing of figuring out the several step procedure to get to the goal.

And from Robin of Illinois, a chicken that broods kittens--

And also from Robin a sequence of a Cat and a Gull which I find has many levels of thought and behavior on both the cat and the gulls part concerning what is actually going on-

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Red-tail Update--How Many Eyasses at Fordham? No Belly Band on Grove and Waiting For Reggie Bluebird

Photo by Richard Fleisher
Rose has done it again, with the help of Young Vince of course, have done it again! Is it my imagination or does Rose do it rather more often than some of the other urban formels?

Photo by Richard Fleisher
The news from Richard Fleisher--Definitely three eyasses in this year's Fordham brood. These photos were taken on Monday and you can see that they are becoming more active and adventurous with each passing day. Additional photos can be seen on flickr -

Photograph by Donegal Browne

Remember noting that Grove of the Emerald Grove Road Red-tail Hawks appeared to have absolutely no belly band at all? Did you wonder why? I mean, Grove is darker than Pale Male and even Pale Male has some belly band.

Well, Red-tail expert John Blakeman a true fount of obscure and fascinating factoids about Red-tailed Hawks knows why Grove is belly band-less. Here's the scoop.


Grove, the RT without a belly band, is most likely an older haggard. Younger hags virtually always have some sort of belly band. Red-tails without one are probably well into their first decade, if not older.

Not all red-tails lose their belly band as they age, but some do.

--John Blakeman

Thanks John, Who knew?

Photo by Donegal Browne
This is a male Bluebird (Shall we call him Reggie, for brevity's sake?) sticking a twig into the nest box of Margarette and her husband who live very near Marian Anderson. Marian helped find the Emerald Grove Road RTH nest. As of 8:51 this morning another neighbor, Gary, noted the first twig to go into the box. It looks like Reggie and his mate,( How about Madge?) are in business.

So I trotted on over in hopes of getting some photographs of the process. Obscure it was afternoon by then, and Reggie and Madge had been busy all morning and seemed to be taking a nap somewhere while Marian and I waited for them to appear.

I thought about the flowers I'd seen outside the library when I 'd returned my books. No Reggie.

We three had begun to weed the flower bed and discovered a nice little Maple sapling. As the power company had chopped down four of my maples, I borrowed a bucket and spade and started digging young Maple up to put in my yard. Being that young Maples are severely frowned upon by flower beds. We waited for Reggie.

This and all photos below by Marian Anderson

We looked at and talked about the terrific and unique bird houses. We waited for Reggie.

And suddenly there he was on the cross bar of the clothesline..

Down he went and with a sideways stance appeared to be putting a twig into the nest box.





And then suddenly, he looks round. Excuse me, but what are those people doing over there?

Ah, weeding flower beds, digging up trees? Fine. Back to the work of the season.

That dealt with,

Zip, back to the crossbar.

Any thing good flying by? I really cannot think of Bluebirds as anything less than teensy raptors. The way they lean and sit in stealth to swoop down on insects looks very familiar. Well not the insect part, just substitute pigeon, squirrel or rat.

Reggie begins a total sweep of this territory. Those wrens who considered this nest box must be around here some where and my be spiteful, you never know.

A look-out's job is never done.

NO he isn't gone quite yet but he will be soon. Reggie is still up on the pole. How can something that blue blend in so well?

Answer: It just does.

Donegal Browne

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grove, theTiercel, of the Emerald Grove Road Hawks

Notice the hawk peering under the branch with one eye? That's not the hawk that was after me the other day. No overall beige tinge, and virtually no belly band at all. Therefore for the time being I'm thinking that this is the Dad, whom I've decided to call Grove. Emerald, the mom, is the one with the temper.

I didn't want to upset the EG's so I'd decided to test my theory about humans being okay while on normal human pathways and not okay while tromping about in areas where humans are rare. The other day we had tromping about in areas where humans are rare. Remember the day I considered that I might just need a hardhat?

Note the hard hat withe eyes just in case.
Photograph by W. A. Walters
My first set up is in the road. Not terribly safe but it is a country road and not heavily traveled. No Emerald, the female. And Grove, the male, is peering at me as that's what rural hawks do if given half a chance. But he hasn't taken off for parts unknown or at my head so seems to me that in the road as per my thoughts is okay

I"ve gone down the road a piece, but also have encroached into the vegetation but no further than the near edge of the field where if humans were around that would be a boundary they'd tend to respect. Grove is watching closely but my position on the near side of the field nearest the road seems fine too. No screaming just looking.

Photo by W. A. Walters
Along to help is longtime blog contributor, Bill Walters, who has managed to catch me with his camera appearing to wear a Red-winged Blackbird hat.

Now I move further down the road, which is closer, but stay on the grassy area between field and road. Dandy.

Photo by W. A. Walters
Now I am directly across from the nest, while on the verge and doubly the cross in for tractors so doubly human frequented, instead of a diagonal off the human pathways which seemed to be causing everyone anxiety, including me.

See the two tallest trees in the group of trees on the left side of the field? The nest is in the left tall tree, one in from the field. The one with the more rounded natural shape as the one which looks to have grown more affected by the wind.
Photo by W. A. Walters
We zoom in a bit. See the darkish blob on the left side of the tree? That is the nest. I tell Bill to take a look through the scope and check out Grove. But Grove isn't there, nobody appears to be there. No little white heads either. While I was making my move, Grove took his opportunity to get lost while I no one was looking.

Then suddenly, whoop! Guess who? One of the eyasses makes it to the edge of the nest. My last visit I only saw one eyass and was hoping to see both today as well, the way things have been going, I just want to make sure both are still up there. I'm often concerned needlessly. What can I say?

A little aggression stance practice.

Ahhh, and what might be in the bowl?

If I don't see more than one eyass, when there have previously been two or more, this is the posture that reassures me that there are likely still more than one. It is the archetypal, I'm higher than you are eyass game look.

And who might be over to the west?

Made it to the edge and the current cock of the wal

Back into the bowl.

Now is the same eyass or a slightly younger one?

Peeking but fading.


Oops, curiosity has spurred her back up for a look

Then the one eyed peek.

And a deeper nod.

And disappeared....asleep?

In the meantime Bill Walters has pointed out to me that Grove has now situated himself in the windswept oak to the right and north of the nest tree. I can't get over his lack of belly band. To say nothing if not vigilant he's quite the bird. I'm late today, does Mom Emerald take an evening break similar to Isolde's which makes her scarce late evening?

No doubt Grove is keeping his eye on me and any other perceived dangers but like all multi- tasking RTHs , he is also memorizing prey trails for future possible meals.

All quiet on the nesting front.

And then it happens , a day wouldn't be complete for a Red-tailed Hawk if some other bird didn't decide to take a few pot shots at his head. Which he does and then gives Grove a large part of his mind. Grove looks the other way. Sometimes i
dis-ng them is the way to g

THE STANDOFF, and and I head for the nice warm car.

Donegal Browne
P.S. Many thanks to W. A. Walters for being today's second sent of eyes, I might have been so engrossed in the nest I never would have seen Grove stick and the fisticuffs between he and Mr. Red-Wing Blackbird.