Thursday, December 08, 2011

Washington Square's Violet, Not-Violet Red-tail, John Blakeman, Bobby Horvath, and Last of All-Thoughts on the Passing of Hawks

Many apologies folks, my computer has been down and I haven't had access to another so we've got a lot of catching up to do.

First from longtime blog reader and contributor Mai Stewart to our fabulous NYC rehabber, Bobby Horvath--

Dear Bobby,
I'm SICK about Violet -- this is unbearable.
Is there anything at all you can do?
Is it at all possible to capture her, remove her leg, and then at least allow her to live out her life in a protected environment?
Would she be more easily captured now w/ her injured leg?
I'm sick about this situation, and the fact that NOTHING WAS DONE WHEN IT COULD HAVE BEEN.
You tried -- you did your best -- but no one would listen to you. Everyone else thought they knew better.
Whether or not the cause of Violet's current state is the banding is irrelevant.
There was a time when she could have been captured and treated and cared for, but NO ONE WOULD LISTEN.
This situation is sickening to any and all who love not just our RTs, but the great, glorious, wonderful, wild creatures God has given us.
Thank you for all your efforts,
Mai Stewart

Bobby Horvath's response concerning whether the hawk in Marble Cemetery is actually Violet --

Mai ,
I compared pictues and forwarded them to another WSP follower and
they agree this isn't Violet but unfortunately a different injured redtail in the neighborhood. Yes if it was her it might make chances a lot better trapping as she is nomadic and does some traveling during the day making getting the trap under her or in her sight difficult. We still want an opportunity to trap and see what could be done for her .
Thanks, Bobby

And next an email to me from Bobby addressing the identity issue of the hawk in Marble Cemetery.--

Hi Donna,

I forwarded the picture of the possibly injured redtail from Marble Cemetary to one of the close followers and she an another close person determined it definitely was not Violet from plumage and the way the leg is being held. SO this is unfortunately another injured bird in the same neighborhood.


And an email to Mai from falconer and longtime observer of Ohio Red-tails John Blakeman--

It's not clear which hawk is being referred to. It appears that there was a red-tail with a broken leg seen in Marble Cemetery, and the opinion of some is that that bird is not Violet.
I don't know the location of Marble Cemetery or its distance from WSP. But I think that's really immaterial, inasmuch as we are all concerned with Violet, proper.
I'm absolutely certain that the bird identified as Violet, in Washington Square Park, has consistently been Violet. No injured-leg interloper would be allowed into the Park by Bobby [Bobby the hawk not Bobby the rehabber-D.B.] while still pair-bonded with Violet. A new bird would be allowed in the park only if Violet had died. Then, the chances of a second new haggard with a debilitated right leg showing up and being instantly accepted by Bobby in the breeding off season is infinitesimally small.
The last sightings of Violet in WSP, last week or so, I'm sure were her.
Now whether she can survive is ever more questionable. In emails and postings with a number of WSP hawkwatchers, I've come to understand that no reputable sightings of Violet have been seen for about a week. This could be ominous, as I've previously noted. When infection sets in her foot, she will retreat to a sheltered ledge or building nook and hunker down, to die. I hope that's not what's happening just now. But her now extended absence is not promising.
--John Blakeman

Many thanks to Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love , and for posting John Blakeman's thoughts on the injured Washington Square female, Violet, while I've been out of commission.

There is no hope for Violet. Absolutely nothing can be done to save, treat, or cure her debilitated foot. She's doomed. It is impossible for a hawk to live on only one leg. Sooner or later, the un-rested, always-stood-upon remaining foot will get bumblefoot, an infection and loss of tissue very similar to human bed sores. Once that begins, the hawk will die.

So far, bumblefoot hasn't set in, probably because she's able to spend some time in the air, allowing microcirculation in the foot. But in Dec and Jan, with 16 hours of cold nights, the leg will be stressed. The game will be over.
And nothing could be done to treat the dead foot if she is trapped. Bumblefoot and death would result, just as in the wild, but perhaps with a short delay.

The sad, biological truth is that Violet is doomed. My scenario is this. In a few weeks (or sooner), bumblefoot will set in. Violet will become sick and sedentary, and will fly off to an obscure building nook or cranny and die without human observation. She'll just disappear, unseen.

With that, a new floater female will fly in and in a week or less take up with Bobby. Pair bonding will occur. A new pair will take up reproduction at the NYU nest.

And once again, the band had absolutely nothing to do with any of Violet's tribulations. It was properly and safely applied, at the right size and right place (the tarsus), five years ago. The injury was a squirrel or rat bite that crushed bone and ripped tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Healing was never complete. It couldn't have been. Too much tissue damage. She was fortunate to survive as long and as well as she did.

And some will ask how I can know all of this. Well, in the 70s and 80s I did hawk rehabbing and had several foot-injured hawks, caught in animal traps, with crushed toes or foot joints. I was able to save only those where a single toe was crushed, by the toe's amputation. When there was greater damage, the hawk had to stand on the uninjured foot, which in time, usually a few weeks, always had lethal bumblefoot set in. My vet and I tried tetracycline treatments for the bumblefoot infection, but it never works. The bird always dies. Bumblefoot in one-legged hawks is universally fatal.

Violet isn't the first haggard (adult) or immature red-tail to die from injuries caused by prey attempted in capture. Rabbits and jack rabbits can give lethal and skin-tearing kicks. Even rats, if not quickly dispatched, can bite severely. And wings can be broken on limbs or fences when plunging onto fleeing prey. Many red-tails die with broken wings on the ground.

Life for red-tails is not always as calm or tranquil as it can appear in a Manhattan nest cam or through a pair of binoculars there. Sadly, we are witnessing the other side of red-tail life, the inevitable death that eventually frequents them all.
--John Blakeman

As it does for all forms of life, including ourselves. Therefore we must not forget to use the time we have, to watch, to truly see, to revel in the beauty of all life, including our own.

When the time comes for these beautiful, smart, infinitely fascinating creatures, these well loved Red-tailed Hawks who have shared their lives with us, to go before us, we grieve deeply their passing.

Without fail we wonder if we could not have done more to help them, somehow to have eased their last hours, and perhaps to have kept them among us for a little longer.

There isn't a day that goes by that I do not think of sweet Tristan of the Cathedral looking down at me with a "So-there-you-are-where-have-you-been?" expression, or of no nonsense Charlotte, clever Pale Male Jr. training Big and Little to about face in the air, long-lived, wise Hawk-eye, the giant Athena, Riverside Dad building nest after nest, of Houston St. Dad and his son Hous, both we did manage to lay hands on near the end but who left us anyway, and Lola the valkyrien who brilliantly battled intruders with her mate Pale Male but who also diligently and with another kind of courage sat on eggs year after year that never hatched.

And though, in some cases, we may not have been there to "help them" at the end, not showing themselves to us was their choice. Perhaps if they had to go, even perhaps with pain and discomfort, they preferred to pass free in their own land-- with their mate, the trees they had roosted in, a view of the beautiful sky they had flown, and with the wind rippling gently through their feathers.

Donegal Browne