Saturday, May 19, 2007

Isolde Serves Dinner

4:19PM Isolde is on the nest, feeding the eyasses. She checks out what is happening behind her on the sidewalk. Satisfied that all is well she goes back to distributing dinner.

4:24PM Isolde prepares a bite and Eyass One watches.

4:25PM Eyass Two pushes in. The eyasses feed very close to each other on this nest.

4:24PM Another large chunk goes to Eyass One. Mom holds onto it as if to get her to tear bites off. One rips it out of Isolde's beak, swallows, can't get it down, continues to swallow repeatedly, stretches her neck up, and wiggles until it finally goes down. Isolde watches.

A learning experience: Some things are too big to swallow therefore they have to be reduced in size first before trying it. (Some eyasses learn this faster than others. Little, one of the 2005 Trump eyasses, had attempted to swallow a small rat that was too big to swallow at his current size. It got half way down and stuck. He stood on the nest for several minutes, his beak in the air with the bottom half of the rat on the outside and the top half down his throat. His mother, Charlotte watched as he struggled to swallow without success. He then just stood there, beak up, rat tail hanging, and waited. She gave it a minute and then finally leaned over and pulled the rat back out for him. He then immediately attempted to swallow it whole once again.)

4:27PM A last few bites and Isolde flies off the nest.

The eyasses watch her go.

4:27PM Immediately their full crops begin to get the better of them and they slowly sink down on their haunches, Two is intermittently completely out of sight. One yawns. Her head nods down. Then up it comes again looking around. Her head sinks once again.



4:30PM Asleep and sinking out of sight.
4:35PM Just the slightest margin of white fluff had gone across the nest behind the twigs from east to west and then abruptly Eyass One appears from behind the pillar. Is there any possible way that she could look more like someone who just stepped out of a UFO?

After some toddling about and possible wrestling with Two the eyasses settle down assumedly to sleep.

The seasons have cycled and it's time once again for the Feast of Spring Tree Fruit. They have collected in every gutter, every crevice, and cranny. The seed eating birds are gorging themselves.

4:49PM So that's where he's been keeping himself.

4:54PM Tristan keeps an eye on the nest, and the pigeons busily enjoying the Feast Of Spring Fruit below him, from the roof urn of The Plant Pavilion.

Donegal Browne

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pale Male Waits for Lola to Return

Pale Male waits.
Lola seems to be withdrawing from the nest. Pale Male was observed covering the nest today, Friday, head up, watching for Lola for hours. It's not known when Pale took over the nest but from 5:30PM when the observer arrived until after 7PM when he exited, Lola did not return.
Donegal Browne

Rare Spot of Wisconsin Sun

As the season progresses, the yellow eyebrows on the White-throated Sparrows seem to get brighter, bushier, and more bristle-like.

Doorstep Dove has been somewhat scarce and I haven't seen she and Friend together for a number of days. I'm thinking that she's still on the nest.
Donegal Browne

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Will Pale Male and Lola Double Clutch this Year?

Dusk, June 10, 2005. Charlotte and very young eyasses on the nest. The year she and Pale Male Jr. double clutched and were finally successful in their Trump Parc location. Earlier that season and for a number of seasons before that, their nests had failed because the eggs had rolled or were blown out of the nest. The nest surface has no protuberances with which twigs could be anchored and the twigs blew away faster than they could be gathered. At that height the wind and rain are extreme. That year Charlotte and Jr. did lay a second set of eggs in the nest after the first set disappeared. The late Spring and early Summer of 2005 were very dry and I believe that change in weather was key to the success for their second clutch of eggs staying put long enough to hatch.

Last night it occurred to me that since Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte had laid a second set of eggs, that perhaps Pale Male and Lola might decide to do the same thing after their current set is gone. (The DEC is going to remove this years failed eggs for testing, leaving Pale Male and Lola in much the same situation, no eggs, as Jr. and Charlotte were in 2005.) So off went an email to hawk savvy John Blakeman for his thoughts on the matter.


I seriously doubt that there would be a second clutch (double-clutching, in the terms of the raptor breeders). It's very, very late. They've been on the eggs for a long time, way past normal hatching.

The double-clutching of the other pair was completely unexpected by me. I don't know of any other double-clutching by red-tails, although it obviously occurs. Certainly it can only happen when there is ample prey, and that's the case in Central Park and probably all of the other new NYC red-tail territories. That's the very reason the birds are there.

Because the pair is older I think there is a reduced chance of any re-laying. A young female, as was Charlotte, is more capable of mobilizing a second round of calcium compounds from her bones for the eggs. I don't think older birds are as likely to do this.

Glad folks enjoyed the prairie grass landscape photos. Hope it prompts people to think beyond the castle greensward and golf course motifs.

--John Blakeman
Now I realize, as John Blakeman says, it's very late in the year for laying. And he's probably right as he most often is that there is some serious doubt that it could happen.
In fact the photo period may be so far off that they wouldn't even be cued to do it. But during their withdrawal from the nest back to the park in the last two failed years, they reversed the order of courtship. They play out all the stages of coming to the nest and go forward with them in reverse order. That's how they do it. Less time was spent on the nest, they copulated, they danced over the Model Boat Pond, Pale Male brought Lola presents, they brought twigs to the nest, and eventually curved back to where they had started, back to spending their daily lives centered in Central Park.
This year will be different. There will be no eggs in the bowl of the Fifth Avenue nest as there have been in past seasons as the birds begin to withdraw.
One day soon the eggs will be gone. The visual cue will not be those pale ovoid shapes but rather a gently curving nest bowl of twigs. That's a different cue altogether. For Charlotte and Jr. it meant coming round to the copulation stage again but not continuing courtship in reverse after all but rather, going back, revisiting the copulation stage, and producing a whole new set of eggs and hence, Big and Little, their first eyasses.
Maybe just maybe, might Pale Male and Lola do the same?
Maybe, yes.
Oh, no question Pale Male is certainly older than his probable son Junior, but he doesn't have to put the shells on the eggs himself, now does he? And from all reports, when Lola appeared back in 2002, she was a true spring chicken, her eyes hadn't even as yet completely turned dark. And as John Blakeman says, there is always plenty of prey in Central Park making the feeding of eyasses possible even late in the season. Pigeons do reproduce year round as do rats after all.
What if, just take a second to think about it, what if, there is a problem with the human devised contraption under the nest? Hypothetically speaking lets say, just hypothetically now, it radiates cold through the metal towards the eggs when the air or rain is chill. Perhaps, just lets say perhaps it does.
The change in weather as the season progresses may well have made all the difference in allowing Jr. and Charlotte to have their success. If Pale Male and Lola's failed attempts had something to do with cold, might a later set of eggs make all the difference in the world?
It might, it just might
You say it would take a miracle. It might, it very well might take a miracle.
But then again, we forget Pale Male is a miracle. He's the original urban Red-tail, who cruised into Central Park one day and not only decided to stay but managed to find a mate to share his ridiculous urban breeding scheme with him. People said, "Red-tails don't nest in New York City." Poppycock. They hadn't met Pale Male.
In fact Pale Male found four mates as the dangers of a human environment took them. He built nests in a tree, the back stop of a baseball field, and heaven knows where else, until he found a spot that worked, the eyebrow shaped cornice above a windown at 927 Fifth Avenue.
It's a building. People said,"Red-tails don't nest on buildings." That was a miracle too. It doesn't seem like one now, no, not with building nests all over the boroughs but that's because he showed them and us that it could be done. But it sure looked like one then. And it was. It was inexplicable. It was unbelievable. It was an unexplainable event. It truly was a miracle.
And there was a little group of people down on the Hawk Bench before it ever was the hawk bench, watching, just in case a miracle did happen, first one year, and again the next.
Then after persevering as he's done in all things, (Pale Male learns from experience after all), he got the nest to work, and raised family, after family, after family. Twenty three eyasses fledged from that cornice covered with pigeon spikes.
Anyone counting miracles? How many does that make now?
I've no doubt he still has a few more miracles left in that pocket of his that holds prey so we don't see it until it magically appears on the nest.
Will he and Lola lay another clutch and find success this year? Maybe, maybe they just might use one of those miracles for that.
Or perhaps the miracle would come with the removal of the human built contraption and the return of the tried and true pigeon spikes.
Only this time with a little bowl trimmed into the middle so it wouldn't take two years for enough twigs to layer above the spikes to protect them from abrasion or cold. For we too, can learn from experience. Plus a pile of twigs we've collected heaped on to help the nest on it's way. Maybe, just maybe that would be the miracle.
Whatever form it takes, there will be another miracle. This is Pale Male we're talking about. Just as Charles and Marie and James and the rest of the original hawk watchers waited, so will we now, without loosing heart, whatever the report on the eggs or whether or not he and Lola double clutch, or we have to somehow deal with 927 and get the contraption removed. For Pale Male's courage knows no bounds, his big heart still beats, he spreads his wings every single day and soars over New York City, the spirit, beauty, and brains of the wild personified--and yes, with miracles still in his pocket.
Donegal Browne

St. John's in the Rain and WI report

Tristan, Isolde, and Eyass One

4:15PM Thunder, lightening, the sky opens, the rain falls rapidly and hard. The wind is whipping branches off of trees.

4:23PM Isolde is on the nest, sheltering the eyasses from the weather. They seem to be asleep.

4:50PM She preens her damp feathers.
4:56PM Movement?

4:57PM Isolde watches a very large fly.
A sudden explosion of white fluff.
5:06PM Both eyasses appear.

5:11PM Toddling and wing flaps
5:13PM All three look east. Where's Dad?

5:19PM Isolde looks down behind eyasses.
5:20PM Isolde leans down for the snack stash.
5:38PM Tristan???
5:41PM The "I know you're hungry" look.
Where's dinner?
6:50PM The natives are getting very restless.
Beautiful Isolde. The deep circles under her eyes are much better.
5:52PM With the kiddies getting restless, Isolde is either looking for Tristan or giving him the eye about dinner.
Tail Biter sees something and triangulates.
6:12:14PM Suddenly Tristan flashes in front of the camera and lands on the nest. Watching Dad flap seems to make Tail Biter flap her wings as well. Isolde hunkers down behind Andrew getting out of the way.

6:12:50PM Everyone looks at Tail Biter who looks back. (Sorry, rain on the lenses.)
6:13PM Tail Biter peeks through the twigs while Tristan and Isolde deal with Two.
6:13:01PM Tristan goes perpendicular and begins feeding.
Under Dad's tail.
6:14PM She can't resist and does it again...trying a bite of Dad's tail.
6:15PM Tristan disappears deep into nest with Eyass Two.
6:17PM And for those who haven't realized just exactly how roomy this nest is, there are four hawks up there at this moment and none show, except the slim sliver of Isolde's head, which if she lowered it a bit, one wouldn't be able to see her either. Rain and wind continue unabated. But considering the weather it's quite dry and snug up there.

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Two Eyasses and Tag Team Feeding Part 1

Note the TWO eyasses. One on either side of Isolde's beak


5:44:28PM Tristan is on the nest and checks out the new arrivals. He's been feeding. See the red on his beak?

5:44:52PM He then checks out his progeny.

5:50PM Everyone accounted for; he begins to feed.

5:53:10PM Eyass One crowds in close, stretches her beak up and tugs on Dad's wing while he's feeding Eyass Two. Dad must have "said" something because she then backs off quickly.

5:53:19PM Eyass One watches Eyass Two being fed.

5:53:29 Note the crop of Eyass One. It's rounded. No one goes hungry on this nest.

5:54:13 PM Tristan turns, checks the perimeter, makes eye contact with Isolde, then flies off the nest. Eyass One watches.

5:54:22PM Watching....
5:54:31 Dad.....

5:55:41PM ...Gooooooo.
5:55:01PM Now what?
5:55:31PM Watch the people.
5:55:51PM Then...
5:56PM Watch Mom.
6:11PM Isolde on the small top roof of the Plant Pavilion shows off her brood patch in a high wind.
6:47PM Tristan on a decorative peak of the Cathedral. Just how is he holding on? By the back talon of one foot
6:48PM The camouflage is really quite good when you don't know where he is. Considering he's a feathered bird and the cathedral isn't. Tristan had to be pointed out by Rob Schmunk.
7:03PM The wind is really beginning to pick up and Isolde keeps a firm grip on her perch, the gabled roof of the cupola on top of St. Luke's. (In case you were wondering why suddenly some of the photos have taken on a green tinge at times, it's because of the wind. Wind? There are green shapes that have blown into frame that you'll know are leaves but also when a leaf has whisked in and out rapidly the photograph will have portions with a sheen of green. That's a fast leaf.)

Part 2 Next post down.