Friday, July 06, 2012

And What Did Pale Male and Zena's Fledglings Do on the Fourth of July ? Part One.

 All photos and commentary in italics by Central Park Red-tail observer and photographer Jeff Johnson.

Started at the North side of the Temple of Dendur MET Museum at 1400, [12 noon], looking for Pale male and Zena with still no sightings of them. Carefully scanned facades, terraces, windows, their favorite antenna with no joy…noticed there seemed to be a lot of maintenance crews out on the roofs. Moving to the back (west) of the Temple of Dendur I worked into the Park and I got just below the Arch Bridge when I spotted a fledgling by a playground along 5th Ave (forgotten its name). I got one frame, then it flew SW while I tried to get closer.
  I kept moving in a SSW direction and happened upon a fledge a bit south of 76th and 5th Ave. Time 1520…fledge is upper left corner.

 It was trying to hunt a squirrel ! It would peer over at where it had chased the squirrel to the opposite side of the tree's bole and flick a wingtip (frustration) I think. 
Exactly the reason why squirrels in trees tend to be perfectly safe from a single Red-tailed Hawk.  Many hawks will eventually realize this, some sooner than others.  We've seen brown-tails going into their 2nd year still attempting to nab squirrels in trees.  These young hawks have obviously been reliably hunting other things and haven't gotten the hang of stealthily waiting for a squirrel to scamper across an open space on the ground where they can readily be made into dinner. 
 He/she may have been at it a while for it seemed irritated (maybe just hungry and hot).
 Stepping back onto the walkway a Red-tail bulleted straight overhead going due south then handily veering sharply left  onto a tree limb about twenty feet up.
Faint but discernible without any aid, it's on the second branch.
You can see it's too dark to be Pale Male. Dashed off before I could get close enough for an ID frame.  Flew like a pro.
 Jeff check out the crop above.  Those youngsters are learning fast when it comes to flying and I'm betting hunting as well.  Look at the tail.  It's brown with bars.  You snagged one of the fledglings.
Now I was at 75th so I moved in toward the cafe area which the fledglings have decided is their favorite LZ. Within ten minutes two fledglings appear.
 When the two dropped down to a lower level tree limb I slipped in beside the tree and got a close frame.

Nice shot Jeff.  The fledglings have taken up the defensive positions  they will eventually take with their mate.  When perched in close proximity one bird will face one way and the second bird the other.  
The position is not only helpful in evading an up close and personal attack but also increases the chance of seeing intruders coming at a distance, plus who knows what creature might make a mistake close by and end up a candidate for dinner.  
Oh and at this age there is always a chance a parent might be coming with a delivery and everybody wants to be ready and first off the mark if at all possible.
 They remained side by side while I moved back out and got a fairly good frame of their belly bands. As you've noted, the one on the left does look to have a peach color chest/dark striped belly and the other a creamy chest with a checked belly band. Height very close to same size. This is the Kerbs cafe Duo.
Perhaps the Kerbs Cafe Duo might be called Checks and Stripes to differentiate them from each other.  Though if one's breast is without peach completely that might also be a field mark of differentiation.
It is interesting that not that long ago the three eyasses were on the nest in each others constant company.  Some fledglings when they come off the nest tend to immediately become something of a single while others tend to remain in each others company, only drifting gradually apart over time.
You mentioned at one time that one of the fledglings was smaller than the other two.  Which brought to mind that perhaps there might be 2 females and a male in this group.  There is some overlap in size with the sexes so a measurement of the tarsi is often used to helped clarify the matter.  In the photo above, the one on the right, Checks, looks to have smaller ankles than the on the left, Stripes.  
Or is it just the way they are standing? 
 Left fly in close. He/she had hopped to an adjacent branch where I took this frame. I'm using PhotoShop CS6 which has extraordinary auto adjustment…
but you can see it also makes positive verification difficult unless you use a stellar image. My lens and ability are very limited.
Jeff, not to worry.  Without your lens and your energy in tracking fledglings many of us wouldn't be seeing all these wonderful fledgling moments at all.
I've been watching this fledgling's eyes for the last few frames and she absolutely seems to be watching something in particular with high interest.  Any idea what it might have been?   
 Right fly in close. Again you can see good ID with my frames is difficult. 
Not necessarily so.  I  certainly doubt that Photoshop is adding the peach to Check's breast and though lighter than Stripes she's still got some peach so that won't do for a field mark but the belly bands just might do the trick.
Though Tristan and Isolde were drastically different in size and color there were times when perched a great distance away that their belly bands were the only way to tell them apart. 
While I was busy attempting to get some positive ID on the Cafe Duo I kept hearing an unusually persistent begging off to the left along the 5th Ave wall.
I was positive the third fledge was hiding in a sidewalk tree. I spent twenty minutes skulking around in the brush below that wall finding zilch. 
Still the begging was loud and continuous and now taunting me to find it. I got out and around to 74th Street where the begging was coming from and still couldn't find a fledge in the sidewalk trees. Scanning the lower story windows, AC units, and ledges I found nothing. 
Using binoculars I spotted a Red-tail fledge on the roof terrace railing of the 75th Street building (next door to the 927 Nest building). It couldn't be that bird. I crossed 5th Avenue and searched the sidewalk trees and found that when I was at the base of the 75th Street building. the begging was almost inaudible. Get back across the way to the Park wall and the begging sounded operatic ! Maybe the third fledge (who's supposed to be the runt of the trio) has a set of cast iron lungs and will begin performing at Lincoln Center (or maybe Lincoln Center could study the acoustics at 75th and 5th).  On the railing where the far roofline intersects your sightline, sits the bellowing fledge.
Buildings do make for fascinating acoustics don't they?   Perhaps this fledgling is the youngest of the three and as we've seen just a day or two can make a huge difference in maturation and the acquiring of skills when just off the nest.

Also as we all know, Red-tailed Hawks do have personalities.  For some youngsters weaning off their parent's deliveries isn't such a huge deal, though none of them like it, but for others you'd think they were going to drop dead of starvation any second if their begging was used as a measure of their situation.

Note that the beggar has positioned himself where his parents can absolutely see him and where the acoustics are grand. No dummy he.  
Pale Male has raised a couple dozen fledglings and no one has starved yet so I suspect if this little guy were about to keel over Pale Male would eventually bring him a CARE package.

Still amazed at the amount of energy that fledge was expending while vocalizing, I headed back into the Park by the 72nd St entrance and so walked north to the Sailboat Pond.  Checking to see if anyone sat vigil in the 927 Nest I saw an erect Red-tail surveying its domain. I moved all the way to the both end of the Pond to give my lens the best light and angle for the best chance at a clear ID. It looked like Pale Male to me. Metadata on the frame read time at 1637.
 There was some commotion on the far side of "Alice" hill where I found that a fledge was chasing squirrels. Squirrels were really upsetting the fledge who was making terribly ineffective flapping hops from the ground onto the free trunk. Still, some of the squirrels elected to hide like the one flattened on the limb (though it's not using its ghillie suit tail trick because the threat is below it and not above it).
Excellent observation about the tail position. I'd not thought about tail position being the indicator as to where the predator was positioned!  Alright Jeff!

And I love the person taking their ease completely oblivious to the whole event.  Gotta love New Yorkers.
In a stand of trees immediately east of this hunting lesson was another fledge having its own hunting lessons by attacking twigs. It actually looked more as if the fledge was dancing with twigs.
Fledge Twig Ballet 1:
One of my favorite things about fledglings, the Kill The Twigs Ballet!  For which we're going to wait until Part Two which also includes the Lincoln Karim Fledgling Hydration Station, Pale Male's appearance, and Jeff attempting to get past the lady's restroom with his telephoto lens without looking like he's possibly actually taking photos of the ladies in the lou.
Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne
(And no, though I tried diligently I've not totally caught up with Jeff yet.)

No comments: