Saturday, January 07, 2012

Is this Bobby of Washington Square Park?

Maybe-Bobby of Washington Square Park
Four Photos by Francois Portmann

Francois Portmann managed to get over to Washington Square Park on Jan. 6 to try and take some photos of Bobby's New Girl. He got these and said if this was NG, she and Dominatrex aren't the same bird.

My take is that this bird is Bobby but I'm waiting for major WSP watchers to poll in on whether the bird is he to confirm. If so, than that's another kettle of fish altogether. This bird looks much more like a tiercel to me.

Smaller feet, rounder eyes, less beak depth, posture, expression, and smaller size.

In from Robin of Illinois, Whooping Crane Migration stopped by FFA. (Good Grief. Practical sense seems lacking here.)

Much more to come from readers and invited contributors.

Donegal Browne

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Primer on Comparing Photos of New Girl of Washington Square Park/Dominatrix of Tompkins Square

Photo by Pon Dove
Pon Dove a daily watcher at Washington Square Park identifies the bird above as Bobby's New Girl.

My apologies to Pon Dove for taking the liberty of cropping this photograph in hope of giving viewers a better look at the eyes of this hawk. Check out how light colored they and the hawk appear in this photograph.

Then compare this hawk with the photo next down also identified as Bobby's New Girl.

Photo courtesy of Roger_Paw

Roger Paw a daily watcher at Washington Square Park identifies this hawk as Bobby's New Girl.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that one of these watchers is wrong in their identification and completely full of Shinola. Not at all. They report they are main watchers at Washington Square Park and as such their identification of this particular hawk is assumed by me to be credible until or if other main watchers at Washington Square Park dispute it.

What I am attempting to illustrate with these photographs is how different another day, another photographer, another perch and a different camera, not to mention the camera settings including if the anti-vibration function is engaged, (notorious for what it does to feathers as it "sees" them as vibrations) can change the image recorded of a particular hawk into something one is likely not to recognize as the same bird as the bird in another photograph by someone else.

This is particularly true if the observer of the image is depending on certain camera processed criteria such as the bird's color-which is dependent on the camera's reception and processing of tint, saturation, and white balance setting or the bird's light/dark ratio which depends on the day, the photographer and the camera and settings used for the processing of the photo's exposure. Exposure affects contrast, detail, and the lightness or darkness of the bird to name but a few variables.

Also my apologies for not remembering to discuss all this initially as some who might like to participant in the discussion haven't yet experienced how radically different photos of the same bird may appear.

So dear readers, please give this conundrum some thought before we discuss the pros and cons of the hawk(s) and a possible identify.

If you have data or photographs which may fuel the discussion, or bolster your own opinion, by all means send 'em in!

The least contribution might be very beneficial in our group investigation, to the discussion we share as to whether Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park and Bobby's New Girl at Washington Square are the same bird.

By the way, if you think you know whether I think that this is or is not the same bird, you are mistaken. I don't know where I stand on this question myself. And I shouldn't, as I haven't heard or seen what everything has to offer on the topic yet.

Trust me. If it were easy or obvious how to prove or disprove the hypothesis currently on the table, I wouldn't be talking about it.

I mean, for goodness sake, what fun for us or benefit to the hawks, would easy be? :-)

Happy Hawking!

Donegal Browne
P.S. If you are looking for the early photos of the currently named Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park on this blog. Look under the name Valkyrie. That is what I originally called her. Her main watchers at Tompkins eventually decided on Dominatrix as her name. That is as it should be. The name that sticks on the ground with chief watchers stays. Though it can make things a little confusing later on. :)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Has Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park Moved in with Bobby of Washinton Square Park?

Photo by Francois Portmann

The only hawk that I knew who was so human habituated that she'd go about her business within a few feet of humans on a regular basis, no matter who the humans were, was four year old Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park, seen above.

That is until the new female appeared who has taken up with Bobby over at Washington Square and displayed the same sort of behavior.


Then a few days ago professional photographer and hawkwatcher Francois Portmann asked me to compare the physical characteristics of Dominatrix and Bobby's New Girl.

I did.

Even more interesting.

Photo by Francois Portmann
This is Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park. She is as far as I know the darkest Red-tailed Hawk of name in Manhattan. Somewhat of a rarity in the Eastern United States as the population tends towards a paler hawk.

She also has a very heavy belly band that extends rather far down her sides beneath her wings and it also peaks down in the center onto her lower belly.

Her pale parts tend toward the creamy rather than bright white and she also does not have the white patch on her neck beneath her beak that many Red-tails have on the East Coast. The area is slightly lighter than her head but definitely not the usual contrasting area we often see here.

Also check out her mantle. That's the extension of her head color down over the sides of her shoulders and the top portion of her breast. Hers is quite long. In fact a number of hawks around the area don't really have much in the way of a mantle; their head color stops near the bottom of their necks.

(Isolde up at the Cathedral Nest of St. John the Divine has a distinctive mantle.)

Photo courtesy of roger_paw
New Girl who was seen checking the nest with Bobby in Washington Square Park.

I was going to call this hawk Bobby's new mate but having had the recent experience of Pale Male and his revolving females early last season, we probably shouldn't technically call her Bobby's new mate until courting and copulation occur. So I'll stick with the New Girl.

Check the New Girl's mantle, the belly band, and the other details observed as characteristics of Dominatrix.

That's it. Compare each characteristic. Keep looking.

What do you think?

Early on Francois brought to my attention Dominatrix's feet. Compare them with New Girl's feet and tarsi.

Taking into account the difference in light on the days the photos were taken, the feather coloration looks remarkably similar. As does the belly band pattern, long on the sides and peaked down at center, the saturation saturation, eye color (same age), mantle length, feet, tarsi, under beak patch...

Photo by Francois Portmann

Back to Dominatrix again.

Look at the slope of her skull, the proportion of beak length to skull, depth of brow, and the light patches which constitute her "back pack straps".

And how about that attitude?

Photo courtesy of roger_paw
Bobby's New Girl hunting in Washington Square Park.

Compare the characteristics of Dominatrix just observed above with this photo.

I know. They do look alike don't they?

And Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park are 8 crosstown blocks (of irregular width) from each other.

Google Maps Move the map east of Washington Square Park to find Tompkins.

Not far at all is it?

Those who have been watching the New York City hawks over time have found it initially rather remarkable that if a female in a bonded pair is lost hard on breeding season that another female will be seen
with the male almost instantaneously.

The commonly accepted explanation for this is that there are unbonded hawks who are waiting near by with an eye on a pairs prey deep territory and likely even more important in New York City- their well proven nest site.

Last but not least, take into account the very similar and remarkable human habituation factor seen in the female observed in Tompkins Square Park and the female observed in Washington Square Park.

It is really quite out of the ordinary.

Are Dominatrix and Bobby's New Girl the same hawk?


Donegal Browne

A Far Coast Thank You to the Horvaths and a Hope That Violet's Suffering Will Bring Immediate Help for Other Hawks

Courtesy of The New York Times Hawk Cam
May 13, 2011- 5:15PM

Violet feeds Pip

Tonight, in my email box was a note from the Uptons of Washington State-

Thank you so much for posting news on Violet. Please pass along to the Horvaths that folks from as far as Olympia WA are watching, have been touched, give thanks and have the utmost regard for them.
Mark Upton

Thank you, Mark. Be assured I will let the Horvaths know. It will mean a lot to them. Though Bobby and Cathy have comforted the passing of many wild creatures over time, the passing of Violet has, without doubt, been extremely hard.

The Horvaths always put the hawk first but it appears that those who made the arguments to withdraw permission to allow them to treat Violet early-on did not think of her first. Other concerns seem to have gotten in the way. Was it politics or personal bias or red tape, fear of bad publicity, lack of judgment, too many "cooks", endless second guessing, or whatever kept help from reaching her, it took precedence before Violet.

In actuality though, whatever the arguments were, they all would have fallen away to nothing if the decision makers had simply remembered to put Violet first.

Let us hope that in the future when people with the power to decide are tempted to convince themselves that to do nothing for a hawk in need is for the best, when they do not listen to those who have the hands with long experience, the eyes that have watched for years, who give voice on the hawk's behalf for the help that is needed, that Violet's name will be as a standard, that it will recall her indomitable spirit to soar once again across the sky with a Red-tail's screaming battle cry merged with the voices of those she enlightened, with those who loved her, and help those who would be timid and tempted by other arguments, to remember how long Violet suffered, and think of that dear wild mother hawk in the heart of the city landscape who was lost, and in her memory fresh remembered, think of the urban Red-tailed Hawk currently in need... first.

Best regards,

Donegal Browne