Saturday, July 07, 2012

More Fabulous Fifth Avenue Fleglings on the 4th from Johnson and Eagles Take to a Human Reconstituted Nest When Land Owner Chopped Down Their Nest Tree

 Photos and commentary in italics by Jeff Johnson.  Commentary not in italics, mine.
Saw my first fledgling after entering the Park from 79th Street and winding along through the trees West of the Arch Bridge. It looked to be one of the Kerbs Cafe Duo, the one with a Peach breast/striped belly band. She{?) wasn't doing any begging when I spotted her. Metadata time read 1451. [12:51 PM]
 Getting over to Kerbs Cafe I found there was a fledge perched on the now favored limb, being photographed by July 4th families. It's the same size as the fledge I just saw and because the "Kerbs Duo" appear larger than the remaining fledge of the 927 Trio I'll refer to these two as females. This one has the mottled belly band. You can see a pronounced yellow breast due to the auto color used in PhotoShop CS6.
 Now the other female has flown over from the tree I just left and perched on a limb in the upper left corner.
 While the Kerbs Cafe Duo delighted the holiday throng (myself included) I was also struck by how many squirrels were out and about. Maybe lured out by hopes of visitor supplied treats.
(The italics button is being quirky so my stuff will have to be something other than black until it shapes up.) 

 You may well be spot on Jeff about the influx of squirrels and the possibility of treats.  They've also likely figured out that if they are close to crowds of people the hawks are less likely to dive in and make a grab for them.  Though Pale Male has been known to do just that.  Rather startles the tourists.
I made my way back toward 76th Street because I heard that 3rd fledgling with the opera star lungs and "his" insistent feed me song. 
Near the entrance on 5th Avenue I was again fooled into scanning trees and street level perches because the begging was so loud and clear. An out of place tuft of white along the railing  at the uppermost terrace on the North end of 76th Street proved to be Mr Fledge 3.

The building in question just south, just right of 927, was called by hawk watchers, the Fisher Building, in an homage to Dr. Fisher, an original Pale Male lover. 
 Just incredible windpipes…he(?) sounds like he's on the sidewalk across the avenue. Metadata time reads 1508. [3:08 PM]
 He flew off (every frame I took was unusable) and I headed back toward theSailboat Pond area by the walkway parallel to 5th Avenue. Nearing "Alice" a fledge overflew me from out of the NNE and alighted on a branch about a 100 feet south of me. Sunlight reflecting off its body let me find it just NNW of the cafe patio near where the Duo so often like to beg.
Closer look at the fledgling from a better angle. I wanted to think it was the fledgling from the railing I'd just been watching and it looks small in size, but the markings look to be Peach breast/striped belly.
There is also a difference in the shape of the head between the sexes of Red-tails, though most of us aren't 100% proficient in telling the difference, particularly in fledglings.  NYC birder and Photographer Francois Portmann explains the look of females as "hawkier".  It sounds odd but he's right. The best time to try to get a grip on it is during nesting season when the hawks are paired up and you can often see them side by side for comparison or tell them apart by behavior.  

The gifted British raptor expert Jemima Parry-Jones can not only sex a raptor at a glance she can tell you its age as well.
 It changed to a tree above "Alice" where it stayed for a while before flying into the north Kerbs Cafe trees.
Metadata time read 1545.  [3:45 PM]

 Rather than immediately start begging the fledge pounced on twigs and...

 Dived into the brush to pursue some squirrels. Beautiful Red-tail. Metadata time read 1601. 
 So I had spent about ten minutes prowling about in the brush below the 5th Avenue wall trying to get some decent frames of the fledge play/hunting twigs and squirrels. I follow the fledge as it emerges out into the open glade adjacent to the Kerbs Cafe north patio. "PLOP" …imagine the sound of a thawed Cornish Hen being thrown down beside you…that's what a rock pigeon dropped as a meal by Pale Male sounds like.
 In the instant I looked at the dropped pigeon and brought my camera around it was covered by one  fledglings and challenged by a second fledgling. Thinking I was going to conclude my fledgling spotting recons without ever experiencing a food delivery, I almost had one for a hat.

Completely hilarious.  Be careful what you wish for.  One of the hazards of hawk watching. Particularly with Pale making the drop.  Humans tend to be just another part of the landscape when he's on a mission.  Rather like a shrub as he's so human habituated.  
 I think it was the fledgling I'd followed out from the brush that claimed then mantled the dropped meal but It happened so quickly I'm uncertain.
Situational awareness should have made me aware of what was about to happen. I got locked into getting a "twig hunt" photo and missed a much better opportunity. I'm sure the fledglings were aware of what was about to happen.
 Fledge 1 mantles her recovered meal and keeps a wary eye on her sibling.
 Twelve feet overhead Pale Male watches his charges decide what to do with the fresh meal he's just provided. Note the tufts of feather along his spine. I wonder if he's been pecked upon recently or if he hasn't groomed himself yet after his strenuous flight.
At this time of year, Pale Male likely doesn't do much preening in the daytime.  Things are pretty hectic for him.  In fact the only time I've seen him do much preening at all is after he's gone to his roost and is preparing to sleep.
Also before long adult Red-tails go into molt.  The feathers he's wearing now have been with him for nearly a year and so are well used.
Pigeon delivery scene. Pale Male is directly above the fledglings and concealed by the leaves from this angle. Metadata time read 1624.
 Fledge 1 begins to have her dinner. Metadata time read 1627.
 Pale Male continues to overwatch the fledges. Visible in upper left corner.
 Fledge 1 continues to hungrily eat her dinner. Metadata time read 1645.
 While these two fledges sort out their dinner arraignments I moved out by the Sailboat Pond to check on the 927 Nest and hope to see Zena. Almost missed another opportunity by staying too focused. While using binoculars to get a close look at the nest I almost missed  Pale Male and Zena soaring about fifty feet above 5th Avenue. I watched them make several circuits along the buildings and Park area. They ascended several hundred feet up going in and out of sight lines  for about three minutes. Metadata time read 1650 on this frame, so Pale Male must have decided that his meal delivery was proceeding as it should and left his vigil within minutes of when I left. Remarkable to think what it must be like to have the ability to be firmly on the ground in Central Park and then on a whim, be riding thermals hundreds of feet above the same place.
 Back with the two fledges which had the dropped meal, it looked to me that the same fledge was still gorging.
 But the second fledge was growing impatient with watching from her tree branch.
 Without much resistance the first fledgling surrenders the remaining meal to second one after it drops to the ground. Metadata time read 1701, which means the first fledge had only been eating roughly 25 minutes. Its crop doesn't look very pronounced from this angle. Have the two been swapping turns…do Red-tail fledglings do such a thing?
Well Jeff, that's quite a good question.  I've not seen them do it, which by no means that these two haven't worked out a system as these are the two that tend to hang together, yes?  Though it would be unusual.
My conjecture in the past has been that one fledgling has had enough and leaves the rest to another.  Or perhaps the first was full enough not to want to bother protecting the less desirable parts that are leftovers.  Or as  we've no way of categorically saying it never happens (never say never with Urban Red-tails in particular as they're quite an adaptable group), and Red-tails can be cooperative perhaps they did trade off. 
In what I thought a surprise move, the fledgling which had been eating dashed off into the nearby brush pursuing squirrels. This is the same group of scrub I'd been  in earlier and with the same Red-tail fledgling I think.
Red-tails do have perseverance, and long memories concerning prey.  Besides being freshly fed can bring on fresh energy, and these youngsters are no doubt wired at this age to get this hunting thing down. 
 Besides, who wants to be outsmarted by a squirrel?   

At first I thought this one was full of spirit to decide it wanted to chase squirrels in the heat of the day so soon after just eating. But looking at the crop it doesn't appear very large. Maybe, I have it wrong, this is the fledge that dropped from the branch, but it didn't wrest the pigeon from the one who was eating and now it's so hungry it's decided to try some impromptu hunting tactics.
See the silhouette of her chest?  If this fledgling hadn't eaten for a long time likely her upper chest would be concave. 
 He really enjoys the  scenic view for his grandstanding pleas and he has faint coloration, so maybe Pale Male gives him singular attention. For his vocal efforts alone, this one deserves it.
Here's my theory about about our little loud friend.  He's smaller so therefore will likely not compete successfully with the two possible females below in the bushes.
If he is a male, when he grows up he'll be quicker than the females, more agile in flight, and require fewer calories.  And I've always thought that as the boys don't have the brute strength, they have to learn to be more clever besides being quicker.  Opera Boy is being quite clever to get up there on the roof where he's plain as day and well, raise the roof as well, instead of trying to compete with the big girls down on the ground. 
I suspect little guy would like nothing better than a food drop up there on the roof where he could conceivably eat in peace. Which he might well get without anyone seeing it happen as Pale would likely come in from Sixth Avenue to make the drop to keep the fledglings in the park from seeing it.  He does pay attention.
Let's hope the 927 Fledgling Trio, as well as all the rest of New York's fledglings continue to stay healthy and thrive into adult life.
From your mouth to God's ear.
Next up a grand success story gleaned by Robin of Illinois, people can make a difference! 
The eagles watched while it was being made, and then they used it!
Axed eagle's nest rebuilt by B.C. Residents
CBS News
(Note: This pair of eagles had been nesting in the original tree for many many years, raising young, to the delight of their good human neighbors. The good neighbors wanted them back, even though their first nest and tree had been (illegally) destroyed by the property owner where the first nest tree was situated.)
A pair of bald eagles is resting safely in their new nest after some Vancouver Island residents scrambled to build them a new home when their old tree was chopped down. Residents of Campbell River's Galerno Road were outraged and devastated in February when an eagle nest tree was cut down by a property owner. Janis and Jim MacDougall said it was heartbreaking to watch as the displaced eagles tried without success to quickly build a new nest and they became desperate to help.
So one day at the end of March, they recruited a tree-climbing friend who spent five hours atop one of the MacDougall's trees weaving a new nest with rope, branches, grass and leaves sent up by the work party below, along with bits of the old nest, and a big chunk of salmon for a housewarming gift.
Janis says the eagles watched the entire operation from a nearby tree.
"The next morning the eagles went in and they've been there ever since. They laid an egg pretty much right away." It was April when the egg hatched. Since then the eagles have raising a young eaglet in their new home.
These days the MacDougall's are watching the nest for glimpses of the growing eaglet, which is soon expected to begin learning to fly.
"Everyone's just ecstatic. [It's] amazing that we were able to help. It really is," said MacDougall.
Maj Birch, the founder of the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, said she has heard of few other cases of eagles taking over artificial nests, and praised the community's efforts. "It is kind of heartwarming that people would go to that effort to try and reconstruct something that these birds could use. And what is amazing even more is that the birds took so readily to the nest," said Birch.
The Conservation Officer Service is investigating the possibility of charges under the Wildlife Act for the destruction of the original nest. The tree had been labeled with a Wildlife Tree tag under the provincial Wildlife Tree Stewardship (WiTS) program.
This is the second post in the last few hours so if you've not been here lately do scroll down for the first post!

Donegal Browne--Stay tuned!

And What Did Pale Male and Zena's Fledglings Do on the Fourth of July Part Two!

Photos and commentary in italics by Jeff Johnson  Non-italicized commentary is mine.

In a stand of trees immediately east of this hunting lesson was another fledgling having its own hunting lessons by attacking twigs. It actually looked more as if the fledgling was dancing with twigs.
Fledge Twig Ballet 1:
 Arabesque, with lovely elevation...

Fledge Twig Ballet 2: 
Demi plie'

Fledge Twig Ballet 3:
Ballon, Relev'e! 
Fledge Twig Ballet 4:
And Grande Plie'! 

Closer to the north patio of Kerbs Cafe a fledge was beginning to feast on a rat (lower left corner}.

I moved around to the left of the frame and got low to get a close look. In the ground behind the fledgling is a blue plastic litter tray that Lincoln Karim has buried to ground level and keeps filled with water to help provide cooling and hydration for the fledglings while they learn their survival skills.
 The squirrel chasing fledge (upper right corner) has evidently tired of it and now decided to steal some of its sibling's rat dinner. It has flown to perch in a tree above the rat eating fledge. No one seemed to know if the rat was a fledge hunted kill or a parental delivery.
 I left the twig hunting fledge and rat eating fledge to move back out to the Pond in order to check the 927 Nest again. No one was in the Nest and I could very clearly hear that budding opera star fledge. Though the begging seemed to come from behind the Kerbs Cafe on the south end (indicated). North end patio is where the Cafe Duo usually show up.
An aside- Note the building with the green roof in the photograph above.  Long time Central Park Hawk Watchers will have seen it in pictures about a billion times.  Ever wonder what it was? Anthony of Ithaca NY did so here goes--

 Photo courtesy of
It is the location of The Central Park Model Yacht Club.  That's where they keep their small yachts.  And at least one exquisitely detailed pirate ship.

  Guess who?.
Up behind the Cafe was Pale Male…The Monarch of Central Park. 
This is the first close frame I've gotten of him. It was an honor to finally "meet" him.
We have affection for all our urban raptors and every one is special.  

But there is something about Pale Male.  
This guy has a charisma and a place in many hearts.  And it isn't just because he is paler than the other hawks so that everyone can recognize him.  
He really is special.  
And a part of that is the personal relationship he has with so many people.

For instance when Marie Winn author of Red-tails in Love and Central Park in the Dark is doing an interview having to do with Pale Male, she always asks the interviewer to meet her at the Hawk Bench as they always want to see Pale Male.  Invariably they ask, "Where is he?", and she answers, "He'll be here.", and in a very few minutes of her sitting down on the Bench he'll fly over.  It is his way of saying hello to her. 

When the hawk watchers had a memorial party for Charles Kennedy near the Bench, one of the original Regulars (the one in the movie with the blonde pony-tail), Pale Male and Lola, his mate of longest standing to date, sat on the Oreo building and watched the whole thing into Civil Twilight, when ordinarily they'd have gone to roost already.

There is a reason Pale Male is called the Monarch of Central Park.
But now back to his kids...some of which will likely return to the city after their juvenile dispersal (New research proves that Red-tails do return to the area of their natal territory, as we've always said but couldn't prove.) and follow in his wing beats.
Two trees north of Pale Male. his "fledgling" opera star was begging away at max output.
 Pale Male abruptly launched himself out of the trees like a rocket and flew straight way up to his 927 Nest. He's just left of center in the Nest bowl. Metadata time read 1654. [4:54 PM]
That sort of behavior on Pale Male's part ordinarily means there is something out in the territory that he wants to seem NOW.  And one of the best spots to view the territory is the 927 nest.  From there he'll make eye contact with Zena and signal if he wishes her to return.  
If it is an emergency, say there are intruders coming, he will fly back and forth in front of the nest or other area in which he needs her, to summon her quickly. 
 He can also check on the whereabouts of all three of the fledglings at the same time.  Plus he'll memorize prey patterns for later use in food procurement.
 Feeling like I'd met some-honest-god royalty I left the back of the Kerbs Cafe carefully keeping the camera slung and hanging…you don't want to be a male with a telephoto lensed camera lurking around the woods next  to the women's restroom at the Cafe. No sooner did I reach the north side of the Cafe but I find that I missed the Rat meal fight which had looked to be developing earlier. I saw only the aftermath and am unable to say what transpired.
Thirty-five minutes later I was shooting frames of frolicking squirrels when a chorus of fledge begging started anew. Fledges were zooming in short bursts from tree to tree just north of the Kerbs Cafe. One of the parents must have been close. It seemed as if all three fledges were involved but they moved so erratically I didn't ID any of them.
  Fledge Antics 1:
 Fledge Antics 2:

Fledge Antics 3:
From previous experience with hawk expressions like this one, I'd say that this is a fledgling with a plan and he is determined it's going to work come hell or high water.   His siblings just better watch it if a delivery is about to commence.
  Fledge Antics 4:
 I had to depart scene before I was able to see what was developing.
Much more still to come!!!
 Donegal Browne 
 P.S. Just this minute  in from Diane of Falls Church, NY--
 Just dropping a line to let you know how much I am enjoying your current postings which include Jeff's photos and commentary.
Love Lincoln's foot bath and anxious to learn more.
As Always,

PS  Did you know that Narrowsburg, NY had to cancel their fireworks display due to nesting/resident eagles.  There is an article in the NY Times: Symbols Clash, Fireworks Lose Out to a Hamlet's Bald Eagles.   I know Lincoln would love this.

 (Lincoln has a particular, often verbal, and understandable antipathy to fireworks due to their possible dangers to wildlife.)

And a Good News P.P.S. from me by way of  Jules Corkery a chief watcher of the Astoria Park Hawks, Atlas, Andromeda, and their three new fledglings, there was concern as a big, possibly very intrusive 4th celebration was taking place in the park where the youngsters are making their living--

I see all 3 Astoria Park babies this am. They've gotten through fireworks, a carnival, a giant generator...true New Yorkers.  This winter I would like to work on reducing some of this disturbance for next year. Ideas and contacts are welcome.


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.)