Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pale Male and "Ginger"? Another Tiercel Down the Shaft, the Watch Goat, and the Sheepskin Eagle Nest

Photo by Francois Portmann of
A head the color of a Ginger Snap Cookie and the grace of Ginger Rogers of the movie, Fifth Avenue Girl?

As many of you know, I'm a firm believer in New York City's resident Red-tailed Hawks having names. Why?

It builds rapport with new community watchers.

A name is far less cumbersome to say, as opposed to the pale headed male with the nest on 927 Fifth Avenue, let alone type it.

They often describe a physical or environmental characteristic of the hawk making the bird or her territorial location more memorable.

It's more respectful (and fun) therefore when local photographer and birdwatcher Murray Head suggested to Marie Winn, , author of Redtails In Love, that perhaps Ginger might be a fitting name for Pale Male's new girl, the reasons above, below the top photo, and Marie went with it, it seemed like a pretty good idea. They've been around a lot longer than I have and they've put it out there to see if it would float.

It floats well with me-- I'm voting yes, to Ginger.

Dianne Moller with her Egyptian Desert Falcon

While we have the Horvaths, wildlife rehabilitators extraordinaire in New York City, in this area of Wisconsin we have the renowned rehabber Dianne Moller of Hoo's Woods. I went to see one of her educational programs on Wednesday over at the Lutheran Church.

A stately bird without question, and a species I'd never seen before as well. This is a very large falcon, in fact possibly the largest.

If you're wondering why Dianne has a bird that isn't a native, part of the answer is that besides being a raptor rehabilitator, and educator she's also a falconer. And this bird in many ways was a rescue. She was originally the mascot of the Atlanta Falcons, but not for long as instead of just doing tricks with a lure, this girl wanted to hunt, which is after all her nature. When she saw huntable creatures which she sometimes did as a crow flew by the stadium full of people and off she'd go. This wasn't really what the sports team had in mind so Dianne ended up with her and I'm sure the bird is much happier for it.

I got to chatting with Dianne and it turns out she knows our redoubtable John Blakeman though her work as a board member of the national falconers association. The world can be very small.

Bon Bon is a Merlin Falcon. She's quite dark for a Merlin as Ginger is for a Red-tailed Hawk. A Merlin is bigger than a Kestrel and smaller than a Peregrine.

Bon Bon

Diane's previous small falcon of many years, a Kestrel, was taken by a Cooper's Hawk when she was flying him.

I asked her if she still had Time, her Peregrine/ Gyrfalcon, and she told me she had been flying him, he took off after two Red-tails, refused to be called back to the lure, and the two Red-tails killed him.

I find this fascinating as though I've seen falcons go after Pale Male and Lola and also Isolde and Tristan I've never seen a moment where I thought the falcon was in danger of its life.
This was something new to me. I knew that Peregrines could kill Red-tailed Hawks but hadn't really considered that the reciprocal action was possible. I've never seen it in the city and many urban Red-tails are often tormented by Peregrines and the hawks take defensive or evasive action. The concept of a Red-tail pair double teaming a Peregrine and actually taking her out was a revelation.

I'd gone to the event with my cousin Bruce and his wife Mary, and on the way home Bruce decided that we should track down some of the tips he'd collected about possible Bald Eagle nests in the area. One such was that there was an eagle's nest on Sheepskin Pond that could be seen from the road. We scanned the trees for big dark possibly nest shaped blotches. We saw several but they turned out to be big wads of grapevine with and without entangled black trash bags. We weren't having much luck.

Mary said that one of her cousins lived on a farm just adjacent to Sheepskin Pond and perhaps we should drive up to the farmhouse and ask if they knew the nest's whereabouts. We drove up the drive, got to the house and what should we see, but a big, long haired, strongly horned goat having a snack out of a plastic bucket.

Goat took one look at us and decided we were intruders.

He ran along the side of the car giving us the eye just as a farm dog would. At this point Mary, commented that she wasn't getting out of the car no matter what. Goat then galloped the other direction and stationed himself directly in front of the door to the house. Gosh. We sat and looked. No one seemed particularly eager to hop out and go knock on the door as they'd have to get past goat to do it.

I was just about to volunteer to try and get past the watchgoat guarding the door, and had my hand on the door handle of the car, when Bruce commented that it didn't look as if anyone was home anyway. I took my hand off the door handle. Good enough for me. And off we went without an further advice from those in the farmhouse.

We headed east on Hwy 59 yet again when Bruce said, "Look over there! Is that a nest? I squinted through the moisture on the window. Gloryoski! It was a nest. But from this distance, it could be an old large Red-tail nest as it faced a field on this side of it or an average sized Eagle's nest with what looked like might be a frozen pond, Sheepskin Pond (?), on the other. It was just too far away to really decide. And as the goat was up there guarding the house whether peopled or not, there wasn't much hope of getting permission to tromp over and get a closer look.

I zoomed in with my camera, and clicked away. As the whole hunt had been spur of the moment, not one of us had a pair of binoculars.

When I got home I stuck the memory card in the computer, brought up the pictures, and enlarged one of the photos to get a better look.

Whoo hoo!!! Large, cup shaped, with a smoother construction than a Red-tail nest, it was indeed an Eagle's Nest! Not that I wouldn't have enjoyed observing another Red-tailed pair, but an Eagle's nest will be a new experience altogether.

I didn't see any eagles about but that doesn't mean a thing. There could well be a female on the nest and particularly from this distance I'd never have known. But I think it is still early for the eagles to be nesting here in Wisconsin. Which reminded me. Watching this nest was going to be a far steeper learning curve than I'd dealt with in quite sometime.

I better start boning up.
I'll keep you posted.

Another tiercel down a shaft, further evidence of wildlife rehabilitator Cathy Horvath's supposition that males keep getting themselves into trouble in far greater numbers than females.

(No wonder Pale Male has all these young females flinging themselves at him whenever he's single, all the males their own age are in rehab.)

Here is what Bobby Horvath had to say about the rescue--

We received a similar call today from Equinox Gym that another hawk appeared trapped in an air shaft on 85th st. between 2cd and 3rd avenues. They sent us a picture and it was true , Another redtailed hawk unable to get up and out. Peter Richter answered first and he was available to try to retrieve it and he did .

Thanks again and great job.

Seemed much smaller space,about 10 ' long by 5' wide and dirty with pigeon body parts probably from other birds that also fell and couldn't make it out. There was only brick on both sides so no place for this bird to perch so it was on the ground , making it a little bit easier but still a challenge to catch.

He, yes another boy, was thin , beak and talons dull from the cement and dirty with pigeon droppings on his back from healthy birds perched above on the roof maybe giving a little payback . I hope its not intentional but they did make their mark numerous times so he will get a nice shower and cleaning from Cathy .

They only discovered it today but I'd bet he was there a while since this condition doesn't happen overnight . There are no injuries and hes feisty and strong so just a little food and rest and hell be back shortly.

As with the NY Times bird these are possibly and probably migrants as there are so many juvies being spotted in the city this time of year the release spot doesn't have to be exactly where it was found. Just a safe starting point to start its journey wherever it was meant to be .

We should have 3 or 4 soon to bring back and I know the city folk are protective or even possessive so to continue cultivating the growing appreciation for these animals we would like to bring them all back to any open park to start again. Even Central park could be a possibility as long it was far enough away from the resident pair as to not disturb any territorial courting behavior beginning .

I think there are probably even more of these situations occurring with birds falling down shafts we never even hear about. I say fall because I cant say for sure they are intentional flights into these holes chasing prey but it guess it's possible. I do know with smaller birds like kestrels and screech owls that we do recover every year around this time its usually a fall into a tight chimney down into a fireplace that they definitely weren't chasing any prey into .

Ill try to take a picture soon to show the contrast of plumage of this new light colored bird compared to the darker one we got last week. All the sites lately show different juvenile hawks around the city proof that these can't all be local offspring and some have to be migrants moving through.


More Blackwater Eagles, from Robin of Illinois, We have our second egg--


Karen Anne said...

Can't the building owners screen (or something) those air shafts at the top, or is my mental image of what an air shaft is wrong?

NYC Bill said...

Ginger, of course. She does everything Fred (Pale Male) does, but backwards, and in high heels.

Donegal Browne said...

And even though she's young, she's a girl so won't be falling down any air shafts even though she can move backwards in heels.

Donegal Browne said...

That's an interesting thought. Air shafts come in many sizes and shapes so I suspect some could be easily screened and some perhaps not so easily. Large ones might be problematical but then again, the large air shafts are less likely to trap a bird.

I suspect that most landlords haven't realized they can be a problem for wildlife.