Sunday, May 08, 2011

Hawk Watching--Exhaltation and Despair, "One woe doth tread upon anothers heels, so fast they folow." from Hamlet

Photograph courtesy of Emily S. Rueb/The New York Times
Note Violet's foot in the bottom right corner of the photo. Just so there is no misunderstanding-- One might think that her curled toes were abnormal. Not this time. In reality it is her other leg that has the problem . In order to protect their offspring from their lethal feet, Red-tails curl their talons under when in the nest.

Photo courtesy of
Try to get a look at Violet's leg on the left in the photo, her right leg in reality.

from Huffington Post

A miracle happened this morning.

A red-tailed hawk egg hatched live on camera, despite many saying it had already been "past its expiration date."

The live feed, set up outside the 12th-floor the office of the president of New York University, has been chronicling the potential hatching of these red-tailed hawk eggs for days. The New York Times said in all likelihood the eggs were void of life as of Tuesday morning.

Well they've never been happier to be wrong.

If you can't see the newborn on the feed below, you can see it here, in a screenshot from the NY Times City Room blog. When the video of the hatching becomes available, we'll be sure to update.

However, it's still unknown whether or not the final two eggs are viable.

Then a foreboding of despair, an email from Julia G in CT with a screen capture comparing Bobby and Violet’s legs arrived. One of Violet's legs did not look good at all. (As yet haven’t been able to format the screen capture into the blog but we’re working on it.)

Hi Donegal,

Just a quick line to update you - I located WINORR (Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation), which I believe is Bobby Horvath's organization, on Facebook. They received several comments apprising them of the situation and report that they are "working on this hawk situation."

I also left a voicemail message for good measure offering my screen caps showing Vi's leg in detail.

I e-mailed Prof. Colin Jerolmack, figuring he would be able to make the connections on the NYU side, and he very kindly e-mailed back. The rehabbers are on the case, and will have to work out a plan that meets everyone's requirements. The president's window does not open from the inside, etc. It sounds to me like they'll do their best but they don't want to raise everyone's hopes unrealistically, which makes sense.

Still, it raises the question, how did they install the camera, and recently upgrade the nighttime infrared? They must have some sort of access. In any event, with Bobby Horvath on the case, I am confident that if there is a solution, he will find it.

So that's the news from Washington Square - keeping all fingers and toes crossed for Violet.


Julia G in CT

Julia, from my understanding all the tech is being done from inside the window through the glass. and yes, it is the Horvaths at WINNORR.


Then direct from NYU, an email from Myisha Priest, who spearheaded the WildNYC Seminar and teaches at the Galatin School

Dear Donna,

Have you heard about the injury to Violet's foot? Bobby and Cathy Horvath are coming today to see if they can help.


Here is the conversation from the RaptorsNYC chatroom:

This bird was brought to our attention back in the winter when Lincoln took pictures of her . She was not nesting or breeding and free flying in lower Manhattan . We contacted the bird banding lab about it and there wasn't much that could be done considering the circumstances .

Today she did have something tangled around her leg as well as showing some balance problems also. There is considerable swelling and a possibility of permanent damage or even loss of the limb if something isn't done to remove the band.

The NY Times people contacted us half a dozen times tonight but we aren't convinced intervention is necessary at this time since their concern is the recent hatchling . We also received numerous e mails from other unknown folks across the country who are watching the live cam.

The Times folks have to contact the school people for permission and assistance to get us to the roof to assess the possibility of catching her to remove the band and treat the leg as best we can in a short period and return her right away .

They are usually extremely defensive parents and our hope is she would stay on the nest as we lower 2 nets along the face of the building and when they are close she grabs at at least one enough to get tangled and we raise her to the roof. This is no guarantee and she could just fly off as well when disturbed and not give us a chance to catch her.

Another option might be lowering a falconry trap with a pigeon inside and if she strikes at it shed get caught in the nylon nooses and then we lift the trap and her as well up to the roof for the same process. Its been this way for months or even longer but now is probably the best time to act as once the young are more mobile theres a chance of spooking them and causing harm . They asked if there was any other rehabbers that could do this at a better time and we said no that they are free to try to find someone but we would like the opportunity to help this girl sooner than later.

The window is a fixed pane and not removable so the only other way is to work off the roof which will not be an easy task but Cathy and I and more than willing to try. I know in their hearts the people involved care very much about the new hatch and the other 2 potential young but the adult will not be around another season to breed again if nothing is done with the leg situation deteriorates and now is the best time to attempt to do anything.

Bobby Horvath

1.PM Saturday—From Robin of Illinois!

Violet is keeping her weight on her good foot, and feeding her eyass, seemingly without problem, including standing on the prey and pulling meat off of it for feeding. I've seen her fly off the nest and back again. I think that Bobby brought the meal she is currently feeding the little one. Bobby (father) was on the nest with Violet and the eyass briefly just now. No updates of news on rescue plans. I do think I see a horizontal crack in the egg currently closest to the camera, but of course, could be a bit of grass.

Then stalwart contributor Robin of Illinois sent in the following news brief from--

Around 4 p.m. Saturday, Robert and Cathy Horvath, rehabilitators from Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation on Long Island, went into the president's office at New York University to check on Violet and whether she could be reached from the window.

They determined that she could and should be captured and treated, but the Horvaths did not have all the necessary harnesses and safety equipment with them.

They will return within a few days -- the day has not yet been determined -- to do the job. Mr. Horvath said that the band has been stuck there for months and another day or two should not make a difference.
Here is all we know about the situation:

The thing stuck on Violet's leg: Is a government-issued metal wildlife band with (illegible) numbers on it, placed by a researcher. It needs to be removed with a pliers and screwdriver. Bands usually dangle around birds' ankles like bracelets, but somehow this band was forced up to about midway up the bird equivalent of the human shin, and it is constricting her blood flow. Mr. Horvath said that this is a very rare occurrence and he did not know how it could have happened.

Violet's condition: Violet's right leg is swollen to two or three times the size of her left. When she stands, she "knuckles," meaning that her toes curl under. "There could be permanent nerve damage already present that we can't reverse," Mr. Horvath said. "As far as pain, we don't think she's in pain anymore."

Mr. Horvath said that Violet has had the band stuck on her leg for months. He said that Lincoln Karim, the wildlife videographer who maintains, sent him a photo in December or January of a bird with a band stuck on its leg, looking to find out if it could be treated. Mr. Horvath said he told Mr. Karim at the time that the hawk, which was not nesting, could probably not be trapped.

That hawk turned out be Violet, Mr. Horvath said. He did not realize it was the same bird until he was sent photos of her on Friday. (Mr. Karim did not immediately respond to an e-mail.)

Window access: The window that looks out on the nest opens out, not up and down, and cannot be opened without knocking the nest off. But the adjacent window, about six feet away, shares the same ledge and can be opened safely.

The action plan: Mr. Horvath said he would lean partly out the adjacent window, wearing a harness, and try to net Violet. He would bring her into the room, and while he held her, his wife would pry off the band.

They would clean her wound, treat it topically with antibiotic cream and orally with an antibiotic pill, and put her back on the ledge. The entire operation, if it goes smoothly, would take no than five minutes.

The prognosis: Even if Violet can be captured without harm to her or her brood, there are no guarantees regarding her leg. "We don't know what's the condition of flesh or bone or infection underneath the band," Mr. Horvath said.

Even if her leg appears unsalvageable, the Horvaths would put her back on the nest so that she could continue to help rear her young. The father hawk, Bobby, can take over feeding the eyasses if she is unable to manage it. Perhaps after the eyasses have fledged, Violet could be recaptured and taken in for longer treatment. A one-legged hawk cannot survive in the wild.

"If this was a bird that didn't have babies, we'd be taking this bird to our house and treating it for weeks," Mr. Horvath said. "We don't have that luxury now."

And a follow up note from Julia G. of CT who sent in screen captures of the comparison of Violet's and NYU Bobby's legs for comparison.

Hello Donegal,

Just an update to apprise you that this afternoon at about 5pm EST, it looked like Violet was able to fly off the nest from the one o'clock position, so I'm pretty sure she wasn't just off camera. Both Violet and Bobby flew back onto the nest about two minutes later, then Bobby took off and Vi snuggled back down on the nest.

I took screen caps of Bobby and Vi's feet for comparison, and Vi still appears to have a swollen right leg. So it may just be a question of monitoring the situation and treating the injury should the opportunity present itself, rather than intervention.

It really is quite a learning curve, as in learning not to overreact or under react to seeing things we probably walk by every day, blissfully unaware of the little dramas unfolding just out of sight. I'll try to learn a little faster!


Julia G

Though hawk watchers have been having their share of despair there is also exhaltation too. Sometimes several shifts from one to the other in the same day. Like today...first a hatch, then Violet's leg hooked to the nest, then Violet off the nest, and back on again. And exhaltation that she was able to feed the eyass...very good news!

Then suddenly a not from Karen Anne Kolling of RI, she of the gonzo deck--She spied her first live hawk's nest after all these years of hawk watching by proxy!

I saw a hawks' nest today!!!!!!!!!! For the first time ever. I was in the woods, out on a dirt road, walking to my car, and a couple of ladies were looking at a nest about 25 feet off the ground in a tree and I said what's that, a squirrels' nest? and they said no there's an owl in it. And I looked and unmistakably a hawk's head/beak arose from the nest. There were two adults, and after a bit one swooped away. S/he didn't have anything like a four foot wing span, it was smaller than that, I am pretty sure, but the head and beak silhouette looked just like what I am used to seeing in Lincoln's photos.

No camera with me, of course...

Of course you didn't have a camera with you. It's always that way unless you don't make any moves at all without one including stepping into your backyard or even trying to go to Staples at the Mall. Remember the Staples Mallard Hen with her ducklings in the planter? BUT you do know where the nest is now.

Is it close enough to your house to revisit?

Donegal Browne

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