Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Horvath Eagle News plus Crows for Sadie

Eagle photographs courtesy of The Horvaths

The juvenile American Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, currently under the Wildlife Rehabbing Horvath's care.

A note from Bobby Horvath--

I’m off to work but a quick huge thank you to all for your support and interest in the Eagle. We moved him outside over the weekend and he’s doing better. Still needs improvement with the feather situation but we're working on it. Again thank you…

Happy New Year to all,

Bobby, Cathy, and Sadie

I'd also sent an email along to Cathy to see how things were going at their facility. I'd thought that perhaps her tremendous load of responsibility for all the birds who needed help had surely slowed down at least a little since the rush of fledglings needing help during breeding season.

I was wrong.

And no doubt raptor biologist John Blakeman would have reminded me as he so often has reminded all of us about the dangers of a young bird's first winter just as Cathy Horvath did.

Cathy said that with the particularly tough cold weather that has hit New York it is even harder than ever for this year's youngsters to survive.

So the birds keep coming.

The other day a young female Merlin with a broken wing was retrieved, and a trip made to save another. Yesterday two Great Blue Herons who were found starving in the cold, one who didn't make it, but Cathy's busy feeding up the second.

Today brought a Dovekie covered in oil, and a young male Red-tail from the Bronx. Who knows what tomorrow may bring and all these are on top of the many patients being cared for already, including the young Bald Eagle.

And oh yes, we mustn't forget Skippity Doo Da the playful Fish Crow with the broken wing who plays tag and tug a war using a sock of Sadie's with her brand new long haired chihuahua puppy, Lobo.

Why, some might ask, would a little girl who lives in a place with all those other wonderful animals need a puppy? Well, as her mother told me, it is nice sometimes to have someone to snuggle with who doesn't have talons. Which, you must admit, is an excellent point.

Which brings me to my point, if anyone would like to make a last minute year end charitable contribution, the birds at the Horvaths, with all their special needs when it comes to food, let alone medications, could use your help.

You can send it right along to--


202 No. Wyoming Avenue

North Massapequa, NY 11758

Some weeks ago on a particularly blustery and bitter cold day in Wisconsin, I noticed that a family group of American Crows was sheltering in the lee of the Spruce tree. I few would go down to forage, while others would stay in the sheltered spot to keep watch and then they would switch. There were approximately 6 or 8 individuals in and out though out the short day.

But this I'd never seen before. Look at the two Crows with their heads softly leaning on each other. They weren't allo-preening, a behavior done by Crows much like that of social grooming in primates, in which a bird preens the head and neck of it's fellow. This I take to be a form of bird snuggling. One day I'll post the whole sequence.
I suspect the snuggling two to be the bonded reproductive pair of this Crow group. The alert Crows above and below keep watch for predators who might threaten those members in the yard or the pair intent on each other and give that couple a chance to deepen their bond. Which considering the rather nasty reputation that the species has gotten would seem quite out of character.

But it isn't at all. There are any number of family events for which the entire group collectively cooperates and dare I say it, enjoys.
For instance, as far as anyone who seriously watches Crow nests with identifiable Crows has seen, only the single female who lays the eggs, ever sits on the year's eggs. Not even the male takes a turn.
How does she eat? The extended group brings her food. During incubation, trips to the nest average about three or four food visits per day all tolled. But on the day that the eggs hatch, suddenly the average number of visits jumps to nineteen. And these aren't trips to feed the nestlings.
Why then? Well, serious researchers who don't come to these sorts of conclusions easily at all, have concluded that it looks very much like everyone in the family pays several visits that day because they want to look at the new babies.
It doesn't hurt the hypothesis either that Mom has a tendency, when the others arrive, perch nearby, and stare, to get off the nest so that they can see the chicks.
Rather like the parade of grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and close friends of the family who troupe through looking at a new human baby, don't you think?
Donegal Browne

Monday, December 29, 2008


Pinkie is a Laughing or Java Dove. He was found in a snowbank two winters ago. Though he's banded we couldn't find the owner. Since, we've gotten the impression that he may have been a working bird because of a peculiar behavior of his. These guys are the ones you tend to see on Christmas cards and photographed in various Christmas scenarios, right. Interestingly if Pinkie is in a Christmas setting, no matter where you put him he just stays there until you move him again.

Bowie, our fat matriarch cat, spent her time generally watching NATURE on PBS . Specifically the Christmas in Yellowstone episode had her fixated. First it was the Dipper, and now she's watching otters.

See. Otters. No one bugs Bowie when she's watches nature programming. She becomes quite grumpy.
In the midst of it all, package opening and the like--suddenly Silver realizes he really must have a bath. Now this bath thing doesn't seem to be something he has any control over. When the massive urge hits him, about once a month, unless an appropriate receptacle of water is presented for his use, he'll crawl into the nearest liquid, in this case eggnog. Though on a previous occasion it was vegetable soup and on another, Sam's glass of milk. Very strange wiring.
Speaking of strange wiring...Stealth Pinkie, just waiting for this photo op to be over and the next shot to be set up.

The star for the Christmas Tree disappeared somehow so this year, the Red-tail Puppet took it's place.

The sun begins to go down...

...the lights come up...

... new year is coming soon.
COMING NEXT-News and photos of the Horvath Bald Eagle

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Portmann Red-tail Photography, Kestrels, and John Blakeman on Red-tail Hunting

A LEAP INTO THE NEW YEAR by Francois Portmann

How cool is this composition of Valkyrie the Thompkins Square Park juvenile female moving into flight!

Speaking of Valkyrie, for more on the meaning and derivation of her name see the comments section on the next post down.

Plus, many thanks to John Blakeman for a correction to that posting--I said that a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk's tail was longer and the wings shorter than the adults. I should have said instead that the juvenile's tail was longer and the wings were narrower than an adults.

Two completely different things.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Male Kestrel blends right out of a Union Square reflection. Who would have thought?

I can't tell you how relieved I am to see how Kestrels are taking to the urban landscape as there is fear for the species in many of their former habitats. Now if we could just solve the problem of the common issue of their learn-to-fly-from-the-ground-up- fledglings stranding on the sidewalk we'd be near to all set in cities.

The Horvaths foster dozen upon dozen of these youngsters every year and do a grand job but in a perfect world we'd note all the nests and give each one enough branching opportunities to keep the youngsters (or more of them) "up there" instead of "down here" with people.

In the early 1980's, driving down a road in even well spaced suburban areas, let alone the rural areas, every other mile or so, there would sit a Kestrel hunting from a pole, a tree, or wires. This is far from the case now. There just aren't many there anymore. To see none in fifty miles isn't unusual.

Photograph by John A. Blakeman


Remember the James Blank anecdote about the Red-tail swooping seemingly blind into powdered snow and after several hops coming up with a rodent?

And here is Red-tail biologist John Blakeman's answers to our questions about the episode.


About the Red-tail that blindly jumped into the snow and came up with a rodent. Did the hawk hear the little mammal under the snow?

Not very likely. Yes, owls are famous for this, but they have exceedingly accurate prey locating systems based upon prey sounds. Red-tails don’t have any of this, I’m sure. They can hear just about as well as we do. And with their smallish ears, they are not able to locate prey by their sounds any better than we can.

But they do have remarkable eyesight, that’s surely what was involved with this hawk and its successful killing of a rodent in the deep snow.

The rodent was almost surely a meadow vole, the primary prey of rural Red-tails. Under the snow, voles create tunnel runways, which after a few days of snow can become quite complex, creating an intricate network of buried, ground-level tunnels from one vole nest to another. I’ve attached a photo of these, taken when the snow was only about two or three inches deep. The runways became visible when the snow started to melt the tops off the tunnels.

Winter Red-tails learn that voles run in these tunnels, and when perched always look for the minute workings the voles reveal when they start to create the tunnels, or when they run in them, or, perhaps in this case, when they periodically “swim” up through the snow to poke a nose out into the cold, clear air, creating ventilation holes.

The hawk certainly didn’t hear the vole. Voles are very quiet in the snow. But she almost surely saw it excavating or moving the snow beneath the surface. From this, she could rather easily discern where the vole was working, allowing her to plunge her foot into the snow to see what she could grab. Being a Wisconsin Red-tail, she’s probably done this many times before.

In fact, this is a real factor in the over-wintering of Red-tails at higher latitudes. Across the northern tier of states, at the northern latitudes, Red-tails seldom, if ever, spend the winter up there. Too much thick snow. The majority of Red-tail prey animals, the voles, can easily avoid being taken by the hawks by remaining in their networks of runways or snow tunnels.

Where there is persistent winter snows, Red-tails have to leave for the season and go to generally snowless areas to the south. Now it’s not fair to say that Ohio, Indiana, southern Wisconsin, and this general latitude of states are snow-free in the winter. We’ve got an inch or two of snow on the ground here in Northern Ohio, and we have lots of winter resident Red-tails.

But our snows are seldom thicker than 6 inches or so, and when they are, they seldom last for more than two or three weeks. A warm air mass comes in and melts things down.

A healthy adult Red-tail can lay on enough fat in late fall to easily go without food for a week or longer, if snow conditions would require that. But longer than 7 to 10 days, things get a bit desperate, and the bird simply starts flying south to snow-free latitudes where the voles are unprotected.

John A. Blakeman

Francois' Friday Catch, Plus Guess What Was in the Tulsa 2007 Nest Besides Eggs?

Photograph by Francois Portmann www.fotoportmann.com
Here she is again! The Thompkins-Square-Park-winter-resident-juvenile-female or Valkyrie for short.

You have to admit the full identifier is a lot of typing or talking every time you want to specify which bird she is. Particularly when the name Valkyrie, and her style truly typifies her take-no-prisoners-personality. Look at the flight shots and tell me you can't hear Wagner in the background.

Photograph by Francois Portmann

There is no question in my mind at least, that this bird has a sweet spot for Francois as she always puts on a show for him.

Mr. Portmann said, "She is a curious bird as you'll see." Indeed she is, as this photograph shows. Her eyes are in mid-flash, as she latches onto a twig in a squirrel's drey. Obviously the squirrel isn't home, but just as a house cat will imagine prey, the chase, and the catch, so she appears to do as well.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Off she goes again. Look at that focus and energy. And while you're
looking, note the dark patagial mark. (In eastern Red-tails the dark patch on the top edge of the underwing between the bottom of the neck/beginning of wing and the carpals is a species field mark.)

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Here she goes for a skulk across the roof. Eventually most Red-tails learn that sitting patiently in just the right spot works the best in real hunting, but I suspect the younger ones have to get in some dry practice/play before they're able to execute the proper moves. She rather looks like she is sneaking up on that arched inanimate object.

Now how might you know that this bird is a juvenile if you didn't see the color of her tail?

Juveniles have shorter wings and longer tails than adults, therefore their wing tips fall short of their tail tip.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Valkyrie banks into a turn and cocks her tail for brakes.
We all know what the tail feathers look like, but what about the little feathers that together create light and dark stripes just above the tail feathers?
Those are the upper tail coverts.
And the dark area above the upper tail coverts?
The rump.
Photograph by Francois Portmann
The always interesting urban hawk position when one wonders if they are watching something in particular through the windows?
The soaps?
Or using their peripheral vision and not looking forward at all?
Photograph by Francois Portmann
Wow. I believe this wing position is often used by sculptors for Archangels and Valkyries.
Photograph by Francois Portmann
And what have we here?
Francois reports that while Valkyrie was hunting one corner of the park, this red tailed male was hunting another. Though considered a mature Red-tailed Hawk, he looks just over the line as his eyes are still quite light. A two year old perhaps, like Norman of the Morningside Park Hawks was last season?
(Also note the patagial mark on this hawk. He's lighter so it's perhaps clearer.)
Photograph by Francois Portmann
Here he is again.
Look, the wingtips are down there with the tail tips
Photograph by Francois Portmann
And here comes the flight of a Valkyrie...
Baa, pah, pah, baaa, pah
Baa, pah, pah, baaa, pah
Baaa, pah, pah, baaaaa

Photograph by Francois Portmann
And she still looks to have enough energy to do it all over again.
Screen Capture March 27, 2007, Video courtesy of KJRH TV Tulsa
Photographer and Tulsa Hawkwatcher Cheryl Cavert was browsing and guess what she discovered laying with last season's pre-hatched eggs?
One and a half Sycamore fruits.
It's a repeated action in that particular Tulsa nest and it's been observed at least once in a NYC nest.
The Sycamore Fruit Plot thickens.
Donegal Browne
P.S. More on the Tennessee sludge spill from R. of Illinois and Karen of Rhode Island--

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Drat! Indisposed.

The Water Lily by Eleanor Tauber

I've picked up a nasty bug. Be back soon.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wounded Uptown Juvenile and More Holiday Hawk Whimsy

Photograph by Robert Schmunk of http://bloomingdalevillage.blogspot.com/
I came face-to-face with a juvie red-tail as it was hunting
along Broadway between 111th and 112th Sts.
Face-to-face because at one point it landed in the middle of
Broadway to check out a miniscule bit of roadkill, and I chased
him off lest the oncoming M104 end the story.

That it was checking out whatever it was in the street made me
concerned that it was hungry and having bad luck hunting.

Pictures make me even more concerned, as in about 25-30
pix, I don't seem to have any where it is putting any weight
on its right leg.

Although I lost track of the juvie when it flew south 10 minutes
after I first saw it, it looks like it's still in the area. Pigeons in
the area are occasionally behaving like there's a predator

Robert B. Schmunk

This is worrisome, for a full report, go to Rob's website at the link above. If you're out, do keep an eye peeled for this bird. D.B.

And more Holiday Hawk Whimsy from Jackie of the Tulsa Forum

"Twas the night before Christmas, when through the Hawks' house,
Not a creature was stirring--especially a mouse!
The stockings were hung by the nest bowl with care,
In hopes that old Santa Hawk soon would be there.

The Red Hawks were settled all snug in their beds,
While rodent-and-pigeon dreams danced in their heads.
With Kay, Jay and Thunder tucked into their nest,
We Forumers readied to sign off and rest.

When all of a sudden there 'rose such a clatter,
We sprang to our monitors--What was the matter?
The Hawk Camera panned, tilted up, tilted down--
Then it zoomed out to catch something clad all in brown.

The Moon o'er Peoria glistened and threw
A luminous luster around Channel 2.
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a sleigh, and a number of odd-looking deer.

With a driver we knew--it was clear from his squawk
That he plainly, it seemed, surely must be St. Hawk!
More rapid than falcons, his coursers they came;
Then he rose, and raptorally called them by name:

"Catbird, Catgirl, Socal, Sallyls, KC,
Workaholic, Observer, Trips, Bob, Wings2c,
Weeyin, Redfinch, Chinook, G-unit, Bville...."
(Others, off for a while--in our hearts, with us still.)

As dry leaves that before TU's Hurricane fly,
When they meet with a TV tow'r, mount to the sky,
So up to the Hawks' Nest the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of goodies, and Santa Hawk, too.

He was dressed in brown feathers, from talon to beak,
With a crimson-trimmed tail--an RT, so to speak.
Santa unpacked the bundle of presents he had
For a good little hawklet, her mom and her dad.

His eyes--how they twinkled, excitedly glowed!
His wings were like eagles', his feet, talon-toed.
His droll little beak was drawn up like a bow,
And the fluff on his belly was white as the snow,

With some speckles of rust--a right jolly old hawk;
And we typed Forum posts full of raptorous talk.
A blink of his eye and a flick of his tail
Prompted many a posting, IM and email--

Plus some queries to Donna for her expert touch,
'Bout his color, his size, his behavior and such--
"Is it usual for Redtails to fly after dark?
Do they do this at all o'er New York's Central Park?"

Santa squawked not a word, but went straight to the nest,
And he filled all the stockings with things hawks like best.
Then laying a talon aside of his beak,
Flapping once, flapping twice--he sped off like a streak.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a screech,
And away they departed from KJRH.
But we heard his "kree-eee-ar" ere he flew out of sight--
"Happy Christmas to Forum Friends ALL--and Goodnight!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Good Crow Wenceslas, Thunder's Christmas, and Tennessee Slurry...Bah Humbug!

Good Crow Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel

When a poor Crow came in sight

Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder poor Crow, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear them thither."

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed

Therefore, Crows and men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing

And a Merry Christmas as well!
**************************************************************************** And another Merry Christmas from Thunder, Kay, Jay, Jackie and the Tulsa Hawkwatchers!

The stockings were hung by the nest bowl with care.

Thunder's Christmas Wish List
Original photo by Catgirl of the Tulsa Forum
Jay's Yuletide transformation.
Next up --Just in case we considered getting comfy, complacent, to say nothing of merry there is always something like this--in from R. of Illinois...

J. Miles Carey/Knoxville News Sentinel
Clean” coal ash flood may make new Superfund site Posted on December 23, 2008 by Brian Angliss under energy, environment [ Comments: 1 ]

A major environmental disaster occurred yesterday, but few news outlets outside Tennessee appear to be covering it: 2.6 million cubic yards (about 525 million gallons) of fly ash sludge poured out from behind an earthen dike at the Kingston coal plant (source: The Tennessean). S&R’s Wendy Redal blogged about the October, 2000 Massey Energy coal slurry flood earlier this month - this flood is bigger, and while it’s more solid, it still covers 400 acres in up to 6 feet of toxic coal ash.

The Young Tompkins Square Formel Does an Aerial Show and The Horvath's Tend a Lead Poisoned Eagle

Photograph by Francois Portmann, www.fotoportmann.com/
A tremendous sequence from Francois Portmann who said," The Thompkin's Square Park resident female juvy put on an aerial show yesterday despite the cold!"
(Boy, he can say that again! Scroll down and feast your eyes. D.B.)

Photograph by Francois Portmann
I think this is the Norma Desmond shot.

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Or is it this one?

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Yet another contender for Sunset Boulevard.

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Wow, that girl can really fly!

And from the superman of wildlife rehabilitators, Bobby Horvath--

This guy came in last week. Immature male shot, still has pellet in abdomen. Also suffering from mild lead poisoning from eating something killed with lead shot. Its duck hunting season now and he was found at the beach nearby legal hunting area . He was scavenging on undesirable fish caught and left on the beach by the surfcasters for over a month which probably saved his life .

We found pellets in the cage as well after he defecated . In addition he has an unknown sticky substance totally covering his feathers leaving him only partially flighted at the moment. Numerous baths in Dawn Dish Washing Liquid didn't have much affect so we soaked the feathers with warmed cannola oil first, leaving it on for 15 minutes and then a Dawn wash after and it worked much better.

I tried catching him a few times but he could glide from the tops of dune to dune while I had to run up and down them to no avail. Finally on the day I caught him he actually flew about 100 feet out 3 feet above the water till exhausted and ended up plummeting into and treading water just to keep his head above. I was able to net him when he got close to shore.

We did x rays, blood work , and a fecal sample so far. He's eating now and perking up and much stronger than last week. We hope his recovery is full and will be released upstate in an eagle wintering area where he can mingle with many others of his kind .

Bobby Horvath

P.S.- If anyone knows hunters with extra deer meat our patient would be appreciative. We already have his rodent fish menu covered.

Thanks Bobby! And once again, lead rears it's ugly head.