Friday, August 31, 2012

Opera Star, Pale Male and Zena's Only Remaining Fledgling in the Wild May Be Dead

Photo courtesy of

NYC Hawkwatchers believe that the last of Pale Male and Zena's 2012 fledglings still in Central Park, Opera Star, may be dead due to being sprayed with pesticides. (Or by secondary rat poison as he has disappeared after showing the classic symptoms of poisoning and his body has not been found or a necropsy done. DB 4/7/2012)

  I watched for years before any of the known hawks were made ill or died due to human activity.  Now it's become heartbreakingly constant.

Opera Star, who was very similar to his father in activity and dash, appeared to be doing amazingly well in avoiding secondary rat poisoning so far.  Now he may be dead because of people's inability to deal with a mosquito bite now and again and the advertizing of exterminators.

Poison is poison, and it isn't good for us, our children, or who knows how many other birds and assorted wildlife who will have died anonymously  due to the spraying campaign.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pale Male's New Mate and the Mystery Hawks at 85th and Central Park West on August 14th.

Courtesy of

Pale Male's new mateShe is his 8th. They may be very tough to tell apart at times.

 Lola his mate of longest duration was 5th.  She and those following her,  either are known to have died of secondary rat poisoning or are suspected of dying of it.

Does Pale Male really know something the others don't that allows him to avoid secondary rat poisoning?  Or has he just been extraordinarily lucky?

 Photo courtesy of

This photograph is a prime example of the difference in the profile between the male hawk, left, Pale Male and the female, right, who is yet to be named.

Look at the difference between the eye to tip of beak ratio, length and angle combined with the shape of the brow.

Both hawks are in molt, hence the somewhat disheveled look of their feathers. Note in the top photograph the tail feather which is only half grown in on the female's tail.

Interestingly the late hawkwatcher Jeff Johnson, on August 14th, saw a  female Red-tailed Hawk that he believed to be Zena.  This bird attracted Jeff's attention initially because she was having a difficult time flying, missed her perch, and fell to another limb.  

Whether this was Zena or not, it appears from my take that this bird was ill or poisoned.  A healthy Red-tail doesn't flop about in the manner Jeff described.

Another oddity was that, if the female was Zena,  she was seen near a Red-tail who was not Pale Male, below.
(Both had red tails.) 

The two hawks near 85th and Central Park West.

WINORR- A link from the Horvath's Facebook Page concerning the two previously poisoned Fifth Avenue  fledglings.

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jeffrey Johnson's Observations Unpublished Before His Death-- Continued


                         IN MEMORIAM

May Jeffrey Johnson's spirit be lifted on the wings of  birds and carried softly with good grace into the Light.

Photos and commentary in italics by Jeffrey Johnson
Un-italicized commentary is mine.

Striking into the Park from 85th and 5th Avenue I went directly to CPW and checked the Beresford towers and the 241 Building looking for Red-tails with no joy. Metadata time 1801.
Going across The Great Lawn I cane upon Pale Male surrounded by admirers just to the west of  Cleopatra's Needle. Metadata time 1818.
Pale Male having dinner near Cleopatra's Needle. Metadata time 1819.
 Pale Male close. Metadata time 1820.
Pale Male pauses in a ray of late day sunlight. Metadata time 1823.
Keep in mind that Pale is currently awash with people on the ground looking at him.  But being the original human habituated urban Red-tailed Hawk he isn't the least bothered and in fact is going about his Red-tail business completely unfazed by the attention.  

In fact he often hunts quite successfully in full view of the crowd.  The prey in Central Park rather tends toward the human habituated themselves or they wouldn't make much of a living.
Pale Male tree scene from the NNW. Metadata time 1825.
 Pale Male lustily enjoying his catch. Metadata time 1829.
 Pale Male launching to the NW. Metadata time 1832.
 Pale Male briefly lands in a tree to the NW. Metadata time 1833.
 Pale Male flew to an adjacent tree and moments later dove off to the NE. Metadata time 1835.
Had to depart scene without seeing Zena again.
Thus ends Jeff's observations for August  12th with a look of the end of Pale Male's tail feathers. 

More to come...

Donegal Browne

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jeff Johnson's Observations That Were Unpublished At the Time of His Death Begin Here

Looking for Zena
Friday,  August 17,  2012

Spent quality time with Opera Star in the Park today... I'll send frames Saturday.

Snailing in 3G from my iPad, Jeff

Saturday, August 18, 2012
 Photographs and commentary in italics by Jeff Johnson.

Got into the Park from 85th and 5th at about 1550 and proceeded to the west side hoping to spot Zena. 241 Building had no Red-tails visible. I decided on a more SW probe.
Metadata time 1616.
Squirrel from Summit Rock and  West 83rd. Metadata time 1649.

This raptor atop the ANHM is probably the only one I'll get a frame of today. Metadata time 1650.
Beresford from SW at Swedish Cottage with No Red-tails visible. Metadata time 1658.
Made my way back to the Sailboat Pond and did a 927 Nest check with nobody visible. Metadata time 1739.
Out of the blue comes opera Star as I'm crossing to the NNW at the foot of Cedar Hill beow the Arch. Metadata time 1752.
(A lovely photograph of Opera Star.)

 Flies to a different tree. Metadata time 1754..
 Flies to a third tree on Cedar Hill. Metadata time 1755.
Opera Star close. Metadata time 1755.
Glade Arch and Cedar Hill scene. Metadata time 1756.
 He's jumped into the brush trying to snag a squirrel. Metadata time 1758
Opera Star in London Plane south of Glade Arch. Metadata time 1800.
 Now to a different tree nearby. Metadata time 1801.
 Flies to a tree midpoint between Glade Arch and "Alice" to these south. Metadata time 1802.
Opera Star zips into a tree NNE of Glade Arch so he's now on Dog Hill. Metadata time 1803.
Close frame. Metadata time 1803.
 Flies into low tree east 78th. Metadata time 1805.
Dives into the brambles below Glade Arch trying to grab a squirrel. Metadata time 1807.
Back into a Cedar Hil tree to scope out the prey. Metadata time 1807.
 Insisting on having squirrel for dinner. Metadata time 1807.
 Giving chase on the ground to a squirrel. Metadata time 1809.
 Up into a tree SSE of the Arch. Metadata time 1809.
 Cedar Hill squirrels must be the boy's favored prey because opera Star persists in his pursuit. Metadata time 1811.
 Now in an east 78th tree. Metadata time 1811.
 Opera Star has unflagging strength, but I'm getting tired chasing him. Metadata time 1813.
 He's on the move again. Metadata time 1814.
 Back to south Cedar Hill. Metadata time 1819.
Cedar Hill tree scene (looking due west). Metadata time 1821.
Opera Star's six showing as he heads east. Metadata time 1822.
(? D.B.)
 Now going ENE. Metadata time 1822.
Finds a London Plane to hs liking south of Glade Arch. Metadata time 1823.
It's easy to see why he favors London Planes. It's almost beyond belief that he camouflages so easily. Metadata time 1824.
 Glade Arch scene. Metadata time 1824.
 He seems very interested in the cavity he's perched over. Metadata time 1831.
 Then his attention wanes and he bullets down to a bench outside the Playground by 77th Street and 5th Avenue. Metadata time 1837.
 Playground scene as he overflies the kids splashing in the fountain. Metadata time 1840.
 Takes some time to human watch. Metadata time 1840.
 Opera Star watching kid at play in the fountain pool. Metadata time 1841.
In the blink of an eye Opera Star plummets from is perch into the brush on the let side of the Playground entrance and then hops up onto the railing with a mouse in his beak. Metadata time 1844.

 Secures his catch in a talon. Metadata time 1844.
Proud moment. Metadata time 1845.
 Takes his catch up into a nearby tree to the SW Metadata time 1851.
 Opera Star having his hard won meal. . Metadata time 1853.
Or maybe not. we just saw that he had a mouse and looked to be eating, but here he is with no crop bulge whatsoever. did he decide to cache his meal for later ? Metadata time 1855.
Flies up onto the south railing of the Playground. Metadata time 1856.
 Scoping out the bushes below the Playground's south railing. Metadata time 1858.
 Many in the Playground are uninterested in this magnificent creature. This is an unfair statement on my part, the children being looked after in the Playground are the primary and legitimate concern of those seemingly uninterested people.   Metadata time 1858.
Opera Star's interest is piqued by something in the bushes. Metadata time 1906.

I had to depart scene but Opera Star was still in pursuit of more prey and pounced into the brush below the railing in this frame as I was leaving. No joy about seeing Zena.

The observations of the following day, "Looking for Zena 18 Aug Saturday", has already been published.

Also published was a photo of a Red-tail who he thought might be Zena which referred back to the day's observations below, titled...

Looking for Zena 14 Aug Tuesday (Who Are These Red-tails ?

Which has not been published.  It will appear next.   It includes 61 photographs disconnected from their captions.  It will take some time to collate and as it is 5:20 AM it cannot be done until I've slept.

Why were these observations never published you ask?

As some of you may remember my internet connection was down for two weeks and I was ill besides. When the technology became available again,  I made the decision to post Jeff's more current observations while attempting to catch up on the previous ones that he had submitted earlier.  This had not been completed at the time of his death.

In an attempt to possibly find some sort of order in the events of his last days, a glimpse of his thinking, or telling changes from his previous work, I have decided to publish his Central Park Red-tailed hawk observations posthumously.

 The chronology is important as there were at least two occasions in which Jeff wrote he would not be able to follow the hawks after a certain specified date.  After I'd reiterated to him how many people enjoyed his work, and asked why he wouldn't be continuing, he didn't explain why he was moving on, but the deadlines passed and he continued to watch the New York City Hawks.

I hope we may find some insights together.

 More to come.

 Donegal Browne