Sunday, July 22, 2012

Francois Portmann and the Tern Family, the Fabulous Fifth Avenue Fledglings of Pale Male and Zena, Morningside Hawks, and the Falcons After the Mailman

Fifth Avenue Fledgling photos and italicized commentary by Jeff Johnson.

When Jeff originally sent these sightings which not only are telling about the fledgling's behavior but also give a view of the humans watching them,  cyberspace ate them and they didn't arrive.  Jeff has lately resent.  Therefore to head today's post we're flashing back to July 8th.

Fledges have definitely broadened their scope of Park areas they operate in. Their airspace is taking in the vertical as much as the ground based horizontal aspect of the terrain. Two female size fledges still tend to interact with each other but I saw them attempting more serious takes on hunting. 
Opera Star fledge seems to know how he can isolate Pale Male's attention. As you pointed out, he situates himself in prominent spots where he's certain Pale Male is looking and doesn't appear to waste energy competing for a meal delivery the female fledges have contested.

Didn't get into the Park until late in the day and I decided to start at the 79th Street entry since fledge activity is moving north to the MET grounds. One of the females was perched unobserved in a tangle of tree/brush about twenty-five feet south of the entrance and eight feet inside the wall. She was quiet and intently studying something on the ground to the SW. It's not bulging, but her crop looks gum ball size so she must have eaten recently.  Metadata time 1703.
 Going back to the north (5th Avenue is at left) within ten feet of the Park entrance this is how the fledge was perched. She's in the upper right corner of the frame. Metadata time 1706.
Walking south along the wall to get the sun out of the lens gave a little better frame though a back view of her. Metadata time 1709.
 Unfortunately for her, my attention has begun drawing a crowd which distracts her from the Park observation she was doing with a great deal of concentration. Going into the Park, I found there was another fledge messing about in some brush on the ground about forty feet opposite the female by the wall.

 Many bystanders and hawk watchers were grouped there taking photos. I never had an opportunity to try for an ID or shoot any frames but I think it was probably the other female. Maybe the two of them were hunting in the underbrush or there was a recent food drop in there. Metadata time 1713.

 Getting back out onto 5th Avenue I decided to sweep down to 72nd Street and proceed around to the Sailboat Pond while scanning into the Park from the wall to look for Red-tails. I got as far as a block and sitting like he owns the Park is Fledge 3 about twenty-five feet up. Even in this full frame he's clearly visible in the upper right corner. He may be small, but his posture seems authoritative for a fledgling. I didn't hear a sound from him for several minutes.  Metadata time 1717.
 Close look and it's Mr Opera Star in uncharacteristically quiet mode. It doesn't look as if he's eaten yet, so I'm curious about why he's just studying the Park grounds and not vocalizing. Metadata time 1724.
 Another close frame reinforces my belief this is Pale Male Jr…imperious stare…resting leg pose…coloration.  He begins to vocalize a little, but it's not loud or insistent. Sounds more like he's just announcing his presence. Metadata time 1726. [5:26pm]
Without ever going into full voice he takes wing due south going low down the avenue.  It's easy to see how a fledge could be seriously injured by traffic when they make flight maneuvers like that. Metadata time 1729
 Instead of going south following Fledge 3 I returned to 79th Street thinking that Opera Star was going to a high building perch.  Female fledges were in the low branches of a tree by the entrance within a hundred foot radius of their location in the previous hour. Metadata time 1740.
 Female fledges moved near each other.  I'm not positive but both seemed to be begging, though the one which had been out by the wall had eaten recently. Metadata time 1743. 
 Finally got down by the Sailboat Pond to check the 927 Nest and saw no one visible there or on surrounding buildings. No one soaring. Metadata time 1800.
 With squirrels displaying themselves like this as they eat it's no wonder the fledges go after them so often. Metadata time 1806.
 Not seeing any Red-tails I hurried north parallel to the 5th Avenue wall thinking there would be feeding at or around Dog Hill soon. Still not hearing constant Red-tail begging. Encountered a female fledge as I exited the Park at 79th Street. (upper  left corner).  Metadata time 1813.
 Opera Star was on the low railing of the playground next to (SE) the "Three Bears" on the MET grounds. Metadata time 1822.
 He moved over atop a swing set in the middle of the playground still not giving his signature volume. Metadata time 1826.
 He dashed out onto the light pole Pale Male often hunts from. Metadata time 1835.
 Crossing onto the median in 79th Street looking due east, Opera Star is still on the light pole  in the upper left corner. Metadata time 1736.
I had o depart scene before seeing any meal deliveries.

When Opera Star dived off his tree limb perch into 5th Avenue traffic he demonstrated how dangerous a learning curve these urban fledglings undertake. It was the first time I fully understood it because he plummeted right off the limb into car top height and went south down the center of 5th Avenue. It made my heart stop…maybe he had judged his trajectory already and made allowance  for tour buses and vans, but maybe he was just lucky.  It's very frightening to think about.

Jeff it absolutely is frightening when one thinks about all the possible dangers to fledglings in the first place, let alone those added in an urban setting.  At least one of Pale Male's fledglings has been hit and killed on Fifth Avenue.  

Even Red-tails of long experience with cars, can be hit.  Chocolate the first female with with Pale Male sired young was killed on a highway in New Jersey during her winter vacation in 1996. 

We know because she'd been banded previously by Len Soucy out at the Raptor Trust.  It appears she may have been a Jersey hawk natally.

 Another fatality was the original Franklin Institute tiercel, who had been doing fine with Philadelphia traffic previously, but while hunting for his family was struck and killed this season.

Of course that story did have a happy ending, as watchers began supplemental feeding, suddenly Mom was being courted by T2, who then pitched in to help raise the eyasses.

Speaking of which, can anyone think of other species, which raise young with just the parents providing care and feeding, no pack or other collective involved, in which when the genetic father is no longer on the scene, another male will help the mom raise the orphaned offspring, besides humans and Red-tails? the father is removed from the scene, another male will pitch in to help raise the young?

Do please let me know if you can think of any.  Some folks are having trouble with my contact button, if you do,  leave something in the comment section.  

Next up, some great moments of late caught by other photographers around New York City.

First the great bird photographer Francois Portmann was doing one of this trips out to Jamaica Bay when he caught this family of Common Terns...

Photo by Francois Portmann
 A pair of Common Terns at Jamaica Bay with their begging chick..
Dad arrives with a little fish.  Well,  little that is for us.
Photo by Francois Portmann
Tern parents looking proudly at the camera, while Junior, back on his haunches from the sheer weight of breakfast if nothing else, appears a bite flummoxed by what to do with the fish.

Check out Francois' stuff, he's brilliant!

Then there is Rob Schmunk one of the chief watchers of Isolde and Norman at the Cathedral Nest of St. John the Divine in Harlem, who though practice killing is most often done on twigs and stones by fledglings....
 Photo by Rob Schmunk
... Rob caught one of the fledglings eyeing a poster which it then killed with gusto. 

And last but not least, from Robin of Illinois, falcons decide the mailman is a predator and single him out but....
"The mailman and the neighbors understand that the falcons are protecting their nest, and are happy that there are falcons nesting in their neighborhood."

Happy Hawking!

Donegal Browne

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