Friday, May 12, 2006

Peregrines, Geese, Goslings,
and a Black-crowned Night


Thursday, 11 May 2006
Immature Black-crowned Night Heron at Harlem Meer Photo by Eleanor Tauber

Temperature-62 F
Wind variable
Gusts to 15MPH

All times PM unless otherwise noted.

Gapstow Bridge

6:39 Peregrine perched on mid-railing preening, northface GM
Building, midsection, 1. It has distinct white "earmuffs" and is
nearly five slats tall. It is the Mrs.
6:45 She shifts to far west corner of railing, facing east. Wind ruffles her feathers, preens wings. Triangulates, alert, preens breast, focus N.
6:48 Mature Black-crowned Night Heron is preening on Goose Nest Island, the small island of rock, two trees and a circle of greenery, just south of Gapstow.
6:52 Mrs. P. takes off and I loose her.
6:56 She arrives at GM 5 West, facing in, cocks head.
6:57 Head down, she looks out over right shoulder.
7:00 defecates, crouches, then down, inside of railing, disappears.
7:02 The male Peregrine, appears at the bottom of railing GM6 West, drops into the air and out of sight.
7:13 A pair of Canada Geese have their 6 young goslings on the lawn.(Yesterday it was seven, I wonder if the Night Heron skulking in the reeds of Goose Nest Island is the culprit.) The family is on the south bank of The Pond, the section north of Gapstow Bridge. The gander stands tall and alert doing sentinel duty. The goose herds the goslings and eats grass with them. Gander allows sparrows and robins to come close to the young but when a Grackle strides toward them, he jumps at it and hisses. The Grackle retreats. People get too close and the geese take to the water and come out on the north bank.
7:38 The male falcon flies in from the south, to past GM 5 West then back south. Geese are in the water paddling toward the island. The goose and gander are horizontal to each other with the goslings closely massed between them as they swim.
7:39 Night Heron is standing nearly invisible and completely motionless in the reeds of Goose Nest Island, NW side.
7:44 Goose family come ashore, the SE side. Gander goes to the north side of tree and it's green vegetation circle, goslings into the greenery, goose circles the south side of the tree.
7:50 Goose and Gander looking large and muscular, go closer to the Night Heron. He goes to the NE edge of the island. Goose family go back into the pond following the six goslings. They head to the east shore where a man is eating and look at him expectantly.
7:53 Goose family returns to island, where Night Heron is back being motionless in the reeds. Gander goes closer to Heron, suddenly does a quick jump at him. Night Heron is startled out of the reeds and goes to far E tip of island.
7:54 Goose and Gander fence goslings into the green area by the tree.
8:11 Goose is sitting the depression on the island where she previously sat her eggs. The goslings crowd under her. Gander stands alert and vigilant.
8:15 Duckling calls sound. I'd been told earlier that a Mallard Hen had been killed and her ducklings orphaned. Two remained. We pack up quickly and go towards the sound on the east bank of The Pond. We see them. They are very, very young. They make it into the water, quacking, and swim away where they can't be followed. More people are needed to catch these guys and get them to the rehabber.

Ducklings this young not only need protection from predators but their waterproofing oil glands haven't begun to function yet. They would normally get the oil for their feathers that keeps them from becoming waterlogged from contact with their mother.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Site of the nest, as mentioned in the previous comment, complete with Charlotte.
More about Red-tails and Peregrines

Ben Cacace, well respected observer of the southern Central Park raptors for many years, comments...

This isn't a new situation. Peregrines have been occupying this exact same territory for at least 10 years.

The nesting RTs at the south end of the park have been in the area since 2002. I've been watching mated Peregrines in this territory since 1996 but this is the first year I've been able to see exactly where they are nesting.

I once watched both Peregrines diving on the Red-taileds as they were perched on the current nest site. I don't remember the number of times they dove but both Peregrines would alternate and dive on the pair of RTs perched on the nest structure. I feared for both the PFs and the RTs since the PFs were approaching the nest so closely.

None of the raptors were injured during this incident.

Ben Cacace
Manhattan, NYC

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Young Beth, who follows the hawk's activities with her Mom online, emailed me some questions and I sent them off to John Blakeman, the Ohio Red-tail Answer Man for his response.

Beth said...

My Mom and I are very interested in the Red-tailed Hawks. My Mom says it sounds like from your notes that the peregrine falcons and redtail hawks live close to each other. Do they? I've read that Peregrines can hurt hawks. How dangerous is it?

John Blakeman's reply...

Beth's concerns are legitimate. Normally, in wild rural areas, red-tails and peregrines seldom encounter each other. Peregrines tend to stay high on cliffs or out over marshes or large waterways where they can drive prey birds out into open sky and easily capture them. Red-tails tend to stay close to the ground, seldom higher than the tops of trees (except in migration, where peregrines pay no attention to them).

But red-tails will not pass up an easy meal, and nothing could be easier than four half-grown peregrine eyasses sitting wide open on a cliff (or building or bridge) ledge. Consequently, peregrines will drive off any nearby raptor, especially a red-tail that ventures out into open air. The red-tails can remain relatively safe if they stay down near the trees. Peregrines can't maneuver well in trees. They need wide open skies in which to stoop (dive) and kill their prey or drive off red-tails.

But everyone who has watched Central Park red-tails knows that these big birds commonly soar high in open air. A peregrine with a nearby nest is very likely to attack the soaring red-tail. If the hawk is attentive and watches the falcon dive, the big hawk will turn over and offer its talons as the falcon attacks, protecting itself. The smaller falcon will probably veer off, with no damage done to either bird. But a red-tail is only going to take a certain amount of these attacks. After consistent peregrine attacks, a red-tail is likely to move on.

A determined peregrine can kill an inattentive red-tail. The peregrine can dive at speeds in excess of 200 mph. A soaring or flying red-tail must be quick in turning over and protecting itself. If it's looking at something else, the big hawk can be instantly killed.

Newly fledged red-tail eyasses would be particularly vulnerable to peregrine attack. These young birds don't know much about anything, how to fly, how protect themselves, or the flight habits of peregrines. It would be wise for red-tail fledglings to stay down among the tree limbs until they perfect flight skills and learn about the lightning fast peregrines shooting through the skies above.

So, will peregrines limit or change the nesting behaviors of Central Park red-tails? They might. Central Park hawkwatchers need to make good observations. Let's see how this new development might play out.

--John A. Blakeman

(For more recent posts, click on palemaleirregulars at the top of the page.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

(Part 1)
Pale Male Junior and Charlotte

160 Central Park South*

The Essex House is the pale building photo center with, yes, the red ESSEX sign on top. Though the hawks have been known to sit on various corners and rooftops of The Essex House, the sign is a huge favorite.

They frequently perch on the top outside edge of both the X and the first E. Seats with a grand panoramic view which includes the nest. It's perfect for prey sussing, hunting, keeping an eye peeled for unwanted visiters, or catching some sun. Junior has even been seen, sneakily sitting on the middle bar in the shadows below the ESSEX and above the HOUSE in the sign. With such good views, and depending on light, wind, and weather, the Red-tails have been known to perch just about anywhere on the sign that can give their feet purchase.

Just to the left of The Essex House, east towards Fifth Avenue, is The Hampshire House. It's the structure with the green roof and double chimneys. The east chimney, the one to the left, ordinarily gets more visits than the chimney to the right and west.

Though both hawks often use the east chimney, last season as the eyasses became larger and the afternoons sweltering, Charlotte in particular would fly up to that chimney, and sit in a patch of shade created by metal hoods attached to the masonry. Being a dark hawk she does absorb a good bit of solar energy and spent hour upon hour once the young hatched, panting and mantling her 2005 progeny, Little and Big on the nest. A multi-purpose perch, beyond having a cooler spot, the chimney had an excellent view of the nest and her babies. Plus, if an interloper did appear near the nest, her elevated position above it gave her a decided advantage over opponents.

During the same time period and to keep everyone guessing, Charlotte was also partial to a mini-roof over a window, just a touch lower down on the west side of the building.

As late as last week Charlotte spent some of her break time off the nest, sitting on the roof on the south side, near the west corner, just above where the roof meets the masonry.

Junior too, puts the east chimney to good use. Particularly interesting to me was his positioning on May 5th of this year. After a lengthy bout of skydancing with Charlotte and then madly and repeatedly swooping over the nest, Junior plunked himself down on the top of the chimney in a manner I would have found quite unhawk-like had I not seen him do it. In fact, at first I thought he might be injured in some way. He was lying partially on his right side with his left talon, "palm up",lying back under him, peeking out of his fluff feathers. Still reasonably alert considering his posture, he was nonetheless taking a breather.

More to come, including perches on the AOL Building, Columbus Circle, and the CNN sign.

*Central Park South is the portion of
59th St. between 5th Avenue and
Columbus Circle.

Where is Columbus Circle? It's where Broadway crosses
Eighth Avenue on the diagonal. But as soon as Eighth Avenue reaches the corner of Central Park it becomes Central Park West.

Who said the New York City street grid was easy?

Monday, May 08, 2006


For those who are familiar with Columba Livia, the Pied Pigeon in the foreground might look like she has her resonating sac expanded and is involved in typical coo and spin behavior. Not so. This is a bird with an extremely full crop. The Pied is so full she has her tail tipped down to balance her crop so she doesn't fall forward from the weight of her meal.

Note the round beige spots on the ground. Those are the wings of the Elm fruit. These paper thin wings, after sailing the fruit through the air on the breeze, when dried, and brushed against the earth or park paths, wear away, and the small seed is left "unwrapped" on the ground. Currently they are everywhere. Piled alongside the paths, in drifts in gutters, heaped in any lee of the wind, waiting for Pigeons and Sparrows, Bobwhite and Grouse, Gray Squirrels and if we had any, Prairie Chickens and Opossum.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mrs. Peregrine, nearly 5 slats high.

Trump Parc Nest, GM Peregrines, and Elm Fruit

Sunset: 7:58PM
Temperature: 63F.
Humidity: 28%
Wind: Light and variable
Sun w/light haze
Civil Twilight: 8:28PM

All times PM unless otherwise noted.

4:12 Dodging taxis in the crosswalk at Columbus Circle heading for the fountain, I suddenly see all these "things" in the air. Bits of pale paper from a malfuntioning incinerator? Snow in May? By the the time I've reached the center island there are thousands of them swirling in circles, ascending up and up and up, following the draft used so handily by the the Red-tailed Hawks to gain elevation. No they aren't paper and certainly they aren't snow. They are thousands of the flying fruit of the American Elm Tree. A common sight fifty years ago in the United States, but due to the devastation of Dutch Elm Disease, Central Park may be the only place where it can be seen today. Extraordinary lengths were undertaken to save the park's population of American Elms and the flying of their fruit is a very rare thing indeed. Not only for their beauty in flight for the human eye but for the birds and mammals who feast on them.

To see a larger than life detail photograph of the elm fruit, they are in reality about the size of a fingernail, click on the link below and go to nature observer Ben Cacace's site.

Little Hill-The Trump Parc Nest

4:12-5:13 Not a hawk in sight.

5:14 Red-tail appears between Trump Parc and The Hampshire House, from S to N and into the Park.

5:17 Jr. to north edge of nest with unknown prey in talons. He surveys the area surrounding the nest.

5:18 Jr. still standing, looking out, leans over and beaks prey. Lifts it just enough to see. It's a pigeon. Walks to center of nest. Making room for Charlotte to land?

5:19 Charlotte to nest left, looks at pigeon. She stands facing in, he stands facing out. She begins to pull and eat small feathers, her tail to Park. She then plucks feathers, breeze carries them, eats some flesh, eats a few more fluff feathers. She turns and faces out, starts serious eating.

5:25 Jr. takes off, he circles Central Park South, then circles east of Little Hill. Charlotte continues eating. Jr. circles over nest, circles over Hampshire House, Jr. flies behind Hampshire House. Charlotte eats large portions.

5:27 C. is still eating.

5:29 Charlotte takes off the nest and circles to the NW and into the Park.

5:34 Jr. swoops over nest, circles back, swoops again. Courtship moves. Circles in sky, another swoop. He brought a present where's Charlotte?

5:37 Jr. to nest. He walks center, disappears deep into bowl, tail to park.

5:38-6:00 Jr. still out of sight. I'm still alone on Little Hill. Man appears just below Little Hill. He sidles up to the Park's stone wall and urinates on it.

6:00 I decide to go see how the Peregrines are doing.

Gapstow Bridge

6:20 Mrs. Peregrine is perched in the midsection of the north face, top level of the GM building, three railings in from the west. (See my blurry photo at top of page.) There is quite a crowd of humans for Peregrine Watch this evening. Ben Cacace, his friend, astronomy buff Peter, bird watcher Gabriel comes by, several other bird watchers whose names I didn't catch, my apologies, plus a long line of New Yorkers and tourists who are quite delighted that, "Those birds are HERE?

6:22 Mrs. P. whetts her beak on the railing and deftly "strips" each toe from root to tip between the two portions of her beak to clean her feet.

6:27 She does something but my notes are illegible.

6:53 Mrs. P. beak movement. Vocalization?

6:54 Mrs. P. is up, around , and over GM building, lands west section GM w4. She does sit on that fourth railing after all. It has been thought they might not sit that one. First time we know of that it's been observed.

6:55 She's up to 5, then up and to east.

7:00 I leave to look for an open bathroom. One of the difficulties about being away from the Fifth Ave. Hawk Bench. It's an odessy. East first, no luck, then west which is lucky for the hawk sighting.

7:28 RT appears over the green glass building on 57 th St. between Columbus and the next avenue east where Jr. used to roost at night when last years fledges were still on the adjacent roofs.(Sorry, I didn't get the address, but I will.) RT perches on the far southwest corner of the roof.

7:29 Second RT appears circling over first RT.

7:30 Circling RT out of sight.

7:31 Perched RT gone. RT with folded wings dives down 58th, west to east.

7:32 RT circles above 58th then disappears from sight. I head to the Borders in the AOL building.

7:49 I arrive back at Gapstow Bridge. Ben says Mrs. P. arrived back at 7:40 with either some small feathered prey in her left talons or feathers stuck to her foot. It wasn't clear. She perched on the NW corner of GM roof.

7:50 Mrs. P. is up and perches on GM w3, two away from the nest.

7:53.5 (Illegible note) then she goes to 7, and drops out of sight. We assume she walks to 5 because...

7:54 Mr. P. appears below railing at 5, and drops off into the air.

7:59 Mr. perches GMe4, facing in.

8:11 Black-crowned Night-heron arrives in the Pond area and stands stealthily in the reeds. He's really quite beautiful but creepy.

8:28 Civil Twilight, Heron goes to roost half way up a tree on east edge of pond. Mr. P. is still in place and likely to stay.

8:30 Exit.