Friday, May 16, 2008

Isolde Too Long Off the Nest? Plus the Goldfinch and his Disappearing Cloaca

Isolde guards the nest from St. Luke's Hospital

Today I received an email from Curtis Webber, who is visiting New York City. He has been following the adventures of the New York City hawks for several years and made a trip up to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine to see the nest. He also happens to be a wildlife rehabilitator and echos a concern first brought to my attention by local rehabilitator Bobby Horvath.

When I arrived at the corner of 113th and Morningside Avenue I saw a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the building across the street from the nest. Using my binoculars, I saw that the hawk's eyes were not lightly colored so I assumed the hawk to be the Cathedral female, Isolde. I began to watch her as well as the nest hoping for a glimpse of an eyas. Isolde was showing signs of stress and did not return to the nest in the time, two and one half hours, that I watched.

She watched the men doing construction, with her bill slightly open and did not preen or engage in other activities typical to a perched bird. When men on the high walkway walked toward the nesting area she made three passes over them. They continued to walk from one side of the nest area to the other seemingly using the walkway as a shortcut to another section as no work was performed.

I read on Robert Schmunk's website that he believes there is at least one eyas in this nest. I have a large concern about that eyas or eyases. Young birds cannot regulate their own body temperature adequately and need their parent's body heat to remain viable. Several eyases can remain warm for more time but for young the age of these, to be without the body warmth of a parent for two and a half hours is dangerous. They may not survive. The lack of regard being shown these nesting raptors is unconscionable. If not illegal, at least in my opinion as they are being unnecessarily harassed.

A concerned friend,

Curtis Webber

As I mentioned earlier, Bobby Horvath also expressed concern over the possible very young inhabitants of the nest being left too long without being brooded as their mother is attempting to protect them from intruders.

Glenn Phillips, executive director of NYC Audubon and I spoke about the situation and he has contacted officials of the Cathedral a number of times about his concerns. I too have contacted the Cathedral with my take on the situation with a choice of suggestions as to how these dangerous interactions might be avoided and allow both the hawks to tend their nest and the men do their work. As of Thursday, there has been no response from the Cathedral.

I do hope that a dialogue can take place. Talking goes a long way in understanding any given situation and what accommodations might be made to bring about a happy ending for this newly bonded pair of hawks.

But it is Spring and the world is full of bird song if we listen. The Robins have begun their ritual of daily bathing.

The neighbors have begun their yearly battle with the Dandelion. This example was several inches wide and quite beautiful. And while we're on a yellow theme--

Mr. Goldfinch slide his eye into the shadow to check out my intentions without glare, giving us a super view of his back pattern.

Satisfied he flips over and goes for another seed. Look carefully at the Goldfinch's anterior. Exactly where is his cloaca?
Donna Browne

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blakeman on the Riverside Nest Fall, Creepy Coop, the Traxler Park Goslings, and a New Peregrine Cam


RIVERSIDE UPDATE: Lincoln Karim reports that he has taken the two remaining eyasses from the Riverside Nest along with a partially eaten pigeon, also found in the fallen nest, up to Dr. Ward Stone for testing.

The pigeon will be tested just in case it was the carrier of the poison. The poisoning of pigeons and the sale of pigeon poison is illegal in New York City. Though periodically pigeon haters will illegally poison pigeons sporadically in the city just because they feel they are "messy and dirty" as opposed to what pigeons really are. Besides being smart, beautiful, and friendly to say nothing of urban Red-tails main food source, Pigeons are our first line of defense against rats as they are the daytime vacuum cleaners of our streets and sidewalks. Pigeons clean up before dark when the rats come out to feed. The pigeon poisoners either use commercial pigeon poison bought in other areas or make homemade concoctions sometimes containing rat poison.

I know this seems strange but I've done a phase of field notes on rats at night in New York City, proving to my satisfaction that it isn't bird feeding that fuels the furnace of the rat population, and I'm backed up by the rat experts as well, but people don't want to hear that the rat population in any given area is directly linked to the amount of available night time human garbage. What are we thinking? Rats have no problem whatsoever getting through the ubiquitous plastic bags that we now use to contain garbage for pick up.

Unfortunately New York City does not have daytime garbage pickup nor is it mandated that all bagged garbage left on the curb at night for pick up must be left in rat proof containers. Either adjustment would reduce the rat population exponentially and make live much safer for everyone, including urban hawks.

It's seems easier to leave poison around than for people to take responsibility for their leavings until the bill comes due and something or someone not meant to be poisoned, is.


Red-tail expert John Blakeman and blog reader Mai Stewart (in italics) Have a Dialogue--

Hi John,

You're so right, we could have had a disaster had the nest fallen w/ the eyasses in it -- possible injury to the eyasses plus danger from dogs, even people -- but also, there appear to be a number of hawk watchers and friends-of-RTs who frequent RSP, almost a network, so it's quite possible that someone who's responsible and/or knows what to do might have come along or at least alerted someone who knows what to do. I find many New Yorkers can be surprisingly caring. But better not to have to face that situation.

The problem with retrieved, "rescued" half-grown eyasses is that they are impossible to raise in captivity with the hope of releasing them back to the wild. They instantly get imprinted to humans, and fail to learn to hunt, fly, etc. It's just as well that they did not liv I assume the parents would have attacked anyone who'd have tried to help (or dogs investigating) -- as the St. John Divine parents have the workmen?

No, with the eyasses on the ground, out of the nest, the parents are still protective, but usually not to the point of attacking a human on the ground. Once an eyass leaves the nest, especially when it falls to the ground, the birds are much less aggressive. They will continue to try to feed the eyasses, but that's about it.

I thought your first inclination as to the eyasses' demise -- the weather & hypothermia -- was actually most likely, since that Friday had been very cold & wet.

Yes, me too. But in either case, the demise from rat poison, or from the shabby, poorly-placed first-time nest falling out of the tree, the birds' inexperience probably played major roles, certainly in the poor placement of the nest.
Next year, they should choose a more secure location. We see these poorly-constructed and poorly-placed nests frequently with young Red-tail pairs, most of which go on to successes in subsequent years. They learn from these childish "Let's play house (or nest)." routines.

Do we assume that "poison" means rat poison? I don't think the Parks' Dept. puts out poison to kill pigeons. And if so, what, if anything, can be done about it -- there had been stories in the Times about a year or 2 ago of "packs" of rats trolling West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, approaching apt. buildings, a very scary prospect, so perhaps the intensity and frequency of rat poisoning on the West Side, esp. RSP, has been increased.

The poison was almost surely an anticoagulant rat poison, probably containing warfarin, the exact same chemical (in far stronger amounts) as the human drug Coumadin, which is used to prevent clotting. And no, here is little that can or will be done. Anticoagulant rat poisons are among the cheapest and (except for hawks) safest rodent poisons. No heavy metals, no neurotoxins, no appreciably bioaccumulating toxins, etc. In Europe, anticoagulant rodent poisons actually cleared a number of cities of rats. Of course, those were primarily in northern Europe, where attention to the proper disposal of rat food (garbage, etc.) is diligently attended to. Since then, a number of rat populations have evolved resistance to warfarin, making such poisons useless there.

But it didn't affect the RT parents -- Does this mean that they could eventually die from the same cause? Which is worrisome because they seem to have established that particular area as their territory.

No, the parents won't die from this single exposure. Apparently, they didn't eat the single rat with the poison. Only the eyasses got this fed to them.

Also, what did you think about the posting on Donna's website by someone who thought both last year and this that there have been 4 eggs in the Fordham nest -- is this possible?
[Chris lyons theorized the presence of 4 eggs in the last two Fordham clutches. D.B.]

It's very possible that 4 eggs were laid, given the large amount of prey available. This sometimes happens in the West, in areas with abundant ground squirrels. But I don't think there is any record of adults being able to raise 4 eyasses. One or two always die in these situations. It's almost impossible to capture enough prey to adequately feed 4 giant eyasses in the last weeks on the nest.

So much still to think about, and at least we still have viable nests, and nestlings, and can look forward to their growth and fledging. Hopefully, things will be better for PM/Lola and the RSP pair next year.

Although there have been these so-obvious deaths and nest failures, the fact remains that Manhattan and the other boroughs are now loaded with Red-tailed Hawks. I'm not concerned at all. The Red-tails of New York City are here to stay. They've set up housekeeping and are probably creating some unique, local dialect. Along with the rats, the pigeons, and humans, they're real New Yorkers now.

John A. Blakeman

If I hadn't seen her glide into the tree, I likely wouldn't have noticed the neighborhood's resident Cooper's Hawk. She stealthily enters the trees, often with the sun at her back, and predates the bird feeders.

For some reason, her form of creepiness reminds me of the feeling I used to get from the flying monkeys in the Wizard Of Oz when I was a kid.

Meet Daisy and Bill the Canada Geese parents at Traxler Park. I'd seen them along the shore and had gone slightly closer to count the goslings. They steeped into the lake and started going the other direction. Keeping my distance, I followed.
Bill gives me a look and hisses.
Upon hearing the hiss, Daisy gives me a look.

She then leans further into her paddling and picks up speed. Perhaps feeling that he's done his job and scared me off, Bill becomes distracted by a snack in the water.
This allows the gap to lengthen between he and the goslings.
Daisy slows slightly for Bill to catch up. She looks back seemingly to make sure that he has closed up the gap, and then they pick up speed and off they go.

I hadn't realized that the goose would adjust her paddle speed if the gander had lagged. My thought was that it was the gander's job to keep up. But after thinking about it, if he were distracted as in this case, and if there had been a real predator instead of me, and she didn't adjust, the longer duration gap might have given the predator an opening to nab a gosling. It makes perfect sense.

Another of Central Park Photographer Eleanor Tauber's expressive Raccoon moments--She's focused. But is she seeing a dog or a bag of corn curls?

And a friend from Illinois, drew my attention to the wonderful Peregrine eyasses in Allentown.
And here's the Allentown Peregrine cam link--
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nest Hits the Road, Isolde Attacks Again, Pale Male and Lola, and Turkey Parts

Built by first time parents, the Riverside nest was always precarious with it's position out on a branch and over a road. Andrea Barnes sent this email about discovering the nest had fallen from the tree on Tuesday May 13th.


I just wanted everyone to know that when I went to walk my dogs in Riverside Park earlier today, I saw that the hawks nest had fallen out of the tree. There was a sign that said the nest had come down at 10:45 and the dead babies had been taken to Audubon for testing. Poor parents, it is just one thing after another for them. One of the hawks was sitting in a tree not far way. I think it was the mother. Will the parents stay in the park after all the trouble?

Andrea Barnes

This pair looks to be well bonded, and they have carved out a prey rich territory. They fed three eyasses and it seems likely that they will maintain their hold on their chunk of Manhattan. As to where they will choose to nest, whether in the same tree as this year, another tree in the park, or on a building is impossible to predict. They have their own criteria and we hope that this season's experiences will refine their choices.

And we also hope that if their eyasses were poisoned, that humans will refine their choices as well.

Isolde fears for her young

James O'Brian reports that once again today, workers passed too closely to Isolde and Norman's nest at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, which we believe has eyasses in it, and Isolde once again attempted to drive them away and protect her young.

And a report from the New York Daily News--

Hawkishness on rise in city
Wednesday, May 14th 2008, 4:00 AM
Feathers flew furiously in the city Tuesday during a flurry of avian incidents involving red-tailed hawks.

In one, a red-tailed hawk protecting a nest of chicks at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the upper West Side attacked two construction workers at the church, according to New York City Audubon Executive Director Glenn Phillips.
The workers weren't wearing hardhats and were taken to the emergency room of nearby St. Luke's Hospital, the Audubon reported. A call to the cathedral for details was not immediately returned.

In another bird brouhaha, a preliminary autopsy of a red-tailed hawk chick found dead in Riverside Park this week revealed a cause of death consistent with rat poisoning. Its two siblings likely suffered the same fate, according to Audubon.
Experts speculate the hawks brought a poisoned rat to the nest and fed it to the chicks, said Phillips.
And if that wasn't enough, Pale Male and Lola, the city's most beloved red-tails, fled their upper East Side nest days ago, a definitive sign that they didn't hatch any chicks this season, Phillips said.
"It's been a bad month for red-tails in the city," he said.

Yes, as we know, Pale Male and Lola have left their Fifth Avenue nest for the season and will now take a well deserved rest. Hunting when they like, bathing, preening, or sitting with a foot tucked watching the world from their favorite perch of the day.

That is until next year when they will once again begin to bring twigs to their nest and court in beautiful circles in the sky.

To answer the question that many have asked me, as to whether Pale Male and Lola's eggs are to be retrieved this year, I've looked into it, and as far as I can find out, there are no plans so far for their eggs to be removed from the nest for more advanced testing than in previous years.

And now at least a tiny respite from all the bitter news--

7:11:27PM My, my, it's a back. Glad to see some section of turkey after all this time, but this portion isn't really the most interesting segment of the bird.

7:13:37PM Ah ha! A tail unfurls and then I see the top of a turkey head, undoubtedly peering at me through the grass. Poof! They're gone.

7:14:10PM Yikes, finally a head pops up and then pops back down. They really do that. I mean pop their heads up and down like a video game.
Please give that head a good look! I'm sorry, wild Turkeys just don't look real. Evolution really is a stunner.
Donegal Browne

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Frounce Discussion Continues and a Red-tail Update on the Fordham Nest

One of Tristan and Isolde's very healthy juveniles from the Cathedral Nest, 2007

Premier urban raptor rehabber, Bobby Horvath, joins the frounce discussion and shares his experiences treating urban wildlife--

As far as the frounce discussion, I see it quite often in Peregrines, Kestrels, and Red-tails here. Most of the time it occurs in juvenile birds but it can hit adults as well. Just last year I had two peregrines die of it from the city, one banded adult and the other a juvenile. Over the winter we saw at least 6 juvenile Red-tails with frounce as well. That doesn't take into account the birds that die from it and are never found.

Young raptors are very susceptible and most adults may have some resistance to it unless they are somewhat compromised health wise. The one adult I had last year had just fledged her babies so she was thin and probably exhausted. And that’s why the disease was able to impact her so seriously. I suspect that raptors outside cities don’t have anything near the problems that we experience here. Frounce is much more prevalent in New York City than most people know.

Things are about to become very busy. I’ve just started getting in some young critters here and the full swing of baby season is just around the corner.


Which only goes to show that the care we take in the observations of urban raptors is important and we should cherish every one one of them as special no matter the number, as it isn't easy making it in the big city.

The Fordham Hawks--Hawkeye on the left and Rose on the right.

There had been some concern that with the poor weather and the fact that one eyass had been lost already at the Fordham nest, possibly to illness, that another could be lost. Here is Fordham observer Chris Lyons' update of today--

I finally got back up on the roof of Dealy Hall with my scope, and at first all I could see was two young hawks, sometimes moving around, mainly resting. Then Rose showed up and and there was a little feeding, and a lot of preening. I could rarely see more than one chick at a time, but I knew there were two, and was starting to conclude that with the bad weather we've had since three were last seen and a possible contagion amongst the clutch that might have taken the first eyass, that perhaps there really were only two now now.

Then I realized I could see three little beaks in there at once--four, counting Rose's much larger beak. I never got a very clear look at all three at the same time (Rose kept getting in the way), but I am positive there were still three today.

So what Rich photographed was probably a repeat of what happened the first year they nested on Collins. Rose laid four eggs, but wasn't able to rear four young to maturity. I'd hazard a guess that what's happening here is that she's so well nourished that her body is stimulated to produce four eggs--probably the outside limit of Red-tail fertility, or very near it. But perhaps she can't incubate all four of them sufficiently, and one chick doesn't develop properly, and doesn't survive long after hatching. This may have happened last year as well, for all we know.
It doesn't seem at all likely that poison was the culprit, or inclement weather, or disease. Perhaps the dead eyass never even had a chance to be fed. Beyond the fact that four eyasses is quite a lot to handle, even for two healthy experienced Red-tail adults in possession of a prime hunting territory.

So they are literally three for three now--this is the third year in a row they've had three healthy hatchlings. With a bit of luck, all three will fledge in a few weeks.


It's very nice to get the good news of a reassuring update from the Fordham nest. If you haven't seen the news today about the Cathedral Nest Adult vs the Construction Worker, scroll down to the first blog of today.
Donna Browne

Construction Workers Work Up the Divines

Isolde, alert on the nest, and surrounded by workman's scaffolding-3/05/08

Today, I received a report from blog reader, Terry, who informed me about an interaction between The St. John the Divine Hawks and two construction workers at The Cathedral. He reports that one of the Cathedral Hawks after repeated vocal alarms, began warning swoops over the workers who were near the nest. The workers, who were not wearing their hard hats, did not retreat and after the efforts by the hawk to deter them failed, there was contact with one of the workers which resulted in a minor injury to the human.

If you have any further information on the incident, please get in touch by clicking the "Contact me" button.

Coming up later this evening, an update from Chris Lyons on the Fordham nest, Rehabber Bobby Horvath on frounce, and, I hope, more information on the death of the three Riverside eyasses.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Three Times Sad- The Riverside Eyasses

Preliminary Necropsy Report: Lincoln Karim reports that the male eyass taken to the State Wildlife pathologist, Dr. Ward Stone, died of an acute hemorrhage of the lungs. This sounds like a response from anti-coagulant rat poison but definitive results are not in as yet. Further testing is being done for anti-coagulates and other toxins.

Many were transformed into Hawkwatchers by the Riverside eyasses and their parents.

From reader J. Bliss who often visited Riverside Park and then suddenly discovered something very special there--

I run almost every day through Riverside, and was thrilled to see the nest weeks ago. I finally saw a fuzzy little head last week...but Sunday saw nothing, and worried that they wouldn't make it through this last windy rainstorm today, with the nest perched on that flimsy branch. Now I find that they didn't make it through the one on Friday, unless poison was the culprit. How sad. We've made it so hard for creatures to survive and procreate. It was a tiny piece of wildlife in the middle of our toxic city which brought smiles to our faces.

We can only hope that next season once again, but with a better outcome, there will be eyasses to bring smiles in Riverside park. And lest we forget, there is still one very good piece of news, their parents are still alive and well.

A pigeon delivery at Riverside Park

From John Blakeman, with a correction of my mistake (Oops!) concerning frounce--


The causative organism of frounce is Trichomonas gallinae, which is a protozoan, not a bacterium.

The frounce issue must surely be considered. Since I first learned of Pale Male's frequent takings of pigeons, and as with any falconer familiar with the depredations of frounce in raptors, I've wondered why there have been so few known encounters with it. That holds equally true for all of the urban peregrines across the continent, a great deal of which should have gotten frounce from the pigeons they prefer.

Apparently, wild Red-tails and Peregrines are much less susceptible to frounce microbes than captive (or perhaps, eyass) hawks and falcons.

--John Blakeman


Three Baby Hawks Are Most Most Likely Dead
New York Times - United States

By Sewell Chan

As if this Monday morning weren’t dreary and chilly enough, now comes news that three nestlings born in recent weeks to red-tailed hawks in the south end of Riverside Park are believed to have died.

The body of only one young hawk — or eyas — has been recovered so far. The city’s avid bird-watchers have confirmed that the other two babies are not in their nest and are feared dead as well.

“It’s so devastating,” said Dr. Leslie Day, who recovered the body of one of the chicks on Sunday and kept the body refrigerated to preserve it.This morning, Dr. Day, a naturalist who teaches at the Elisabeth Morrow School and the Bank Street College of Education, gave the body to a friend, the photographer Lincoln Karim, who planned to drive to Delmar, N.Y., near Albany, and turn the corpse over to Ward B. Stone, who runs the Wildlife Pathology Unit of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Stone is expected to perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

Dr. Day said she first heard something might be amiss on Saturday morning, when she got a call from Beth Bergman, a friend who watches and photographs the birds. Later that evening, Dr. Day received an e-mail message from Mr. Karim, also expressing alarm. (Mr. Karim runs the Web site, which follows the lives of two more well-known East Side hawks, Pale Male and Lola.)

“On Sunday morning I went out at 7 a.m.,” Dr. Day said in a phone interview this morning. “Standing at the nest, I could see there were no babies. They had become so large, standing at the rim, strengthening their wings.”

Dr. Day said she told a friend, Cal Vornberger, the author of “Birds of Central Park,” that she was worried. “At that moment a dog walker came by,” Dr. Day recalled, “saying another dog walker had seen the mom carrying her dead baby out to drop on the ground.” The dog walker told Dr. Day that the other dog walker said she could not bear to leave the body on the ground and had placed it in a bag, then in a trash can. Dr. Day and the second dog walker, who herself walked by, went over to the trash can and retrieved the body.

“And this was Mother’s Day,” Dr. Day said sadly.

News of the deaths has quickly made its way across blogs watched by bird lovers.
While the cause of death awaits a toxicology analysis, Dr. Day suspected that the parents may have fed the nestlings pigeons or rats that contained lethal levels of poison — a common cause of death for the delicate hawks.

Bird-watchers said they were saddened by the news. “I’ve lived on Riverside Park since 1969 and it’s only this year that I’ve seen a hawk,” said Carol Andrus, who was walking her Rottweiler, Bruno, on Saturday. “We had a lot of seagulls and robins and other stuff. I’ve been watching these hawks — they are just fascinating birds.

On Saturday morning I went to the park really early and a woman was standing there crying, saying: ‘The baby hawks aren’t there. They’re dead.’ About 15 other people were there. I didn’t want to cry publicly. I said to myself, ‘C’mon Bruno, we’re going home.’ I told my daughter and then she started to cry. It’s so sad.”

Donegal Browne

All Three Riverside Eyasses Believed Dead

Intrepid foremel of the Riverside nest stuck tight as the branch swung and swayed.

11:13PM The Riverside Tiercel arrived at the nest with a rat.

Blog Contributor Eleanor Taubor writes that she was told by long time Hawkwatcher and photographer Rik Davis that on Friday, May 9th, he visited the Riverside nest, and only saw two eyasses. He wondered at the time if perhaps there had been a mistake in the count as he never sighted a third. It never appeared. It's unclear whether Rik visited before or after the rain so there may have been something wrong with at least one eyass while the other two were still acting reasonably normally.

On Saturday, May 10th, Lincoln Karim and Bruce Yolton reported no observations of eyasses on the nest plus erratic behavior on the part of the adults.

On Sunday, May 11th, Cal Vornberger reports seeing the formel, Intrepid, remove a dead eyass from the nest and carry it to the lawn. Lincoln will take the body to New York State Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone on Monday for a necropsy.

What went wrong?

Dr. Stone will no doubt tell us eventually but in the meantime I can't help but wonder why three thriving young Red-tails have seemingly died. My first thoughts were Frounce or rat poison. I then learned there had been a drenching rain and cold temperatures on Friday which could also be a death sentence

How old were these eyasses anyway? I started to investigate. When we actually see them above the nest rim or we see feeding behavior, that isn't necessarily the day they've hatched. There are fewer experienced Hawkwatching eyes at Riverside daily, than there are at the Hawk Bench so in particular we may have caught this hatch late.

I looked back at my field notes and as of March 11th, Intrepid was sitting half down in the nest and therefore had probably started her clutch. If we add 28-34 days for a hatch we come up with eyasses out of eggs from April 8-12 approximately. Fledging occurs about 6 weeks after hatching, so these three might have been ready to go in a week or two.

Of course all the previous data is deductive, none of us know positively when the eggs were laid and the first day they hatched.

What went wrong? So far I've come up with three possibilities: Disease, Poison, Cold.

I mentioned the disease Frounce. It is a bacterial disease that is contracted by raptors from infected pigeons. Contrary to what some say, that "pigeons are carriers but aren't affected by the disease" that is untrue. Malnourished pigeon's health is impacted by the disease but it is just called by a different name.

When the no feed ban was put into effect in the parks, the increase in disease and the decrease of prey had me worried. Not only that pigeons depend on humans for food in the city, they are feral domesticated animals and therefore the ban was inhumane (By the way, from the NYC Board of Health, there are absolutely no documented cases of humans getting disease from pigeons. Yup, you heard it here folks.) but also that an unhealthy prey population or a nearly nonexistent one, could wipe out the urban raptors.

I've collected the Hawk Eats data. The park Red-tails eat about 81% pigeons, 9% squirrels, 8% rats and the rest tend toward the out of the ordinary, songbird, gull, nestling, etc. It does vary by season, year, territory, and time of day.

Poison as in rat poison could be another culprit. True we're told that the parks use a rat bait that is less toxic to raptors, but Riverside is a very narrow park and the Riverside nest is quite close to buildings in which the old style less expensive bait, the anti-coagulant kind, may well be used. Rats poisoned by this bait absolutely do come out in the daytime in a desperate search for water. I've seen them many times in my neighborhood, in Grand Central, and Penn Station. I've seen rats brought to the Riverside nest before dusk when most self respecting rats are still hiding out somewhere. True many poisoned rats do crawl off to die, but many also go into the open to search for water. But, a caveat here, not all daytime rats are poisoned as sometimes a colony may be disrupted by construction, flushed out of their holes, and conceivably into the park to be nabbed by raptors.

The third possible culprit is cold drenching rain and resulting hypothermia. According to research that was done early in the 20th century in Alaska, cold drenching rain is a leading cause of nest failure. The formel gets soaked, the eggs or downy eyasses get cold and bam, they get hypothermia and die. I thought that only eggs and very young eyasses would be affected but I may have gotten the wrong impression and even fully feathered youngsters are at risk. If it were hypothermia, I assume the eyasses would go nearly at the same time. Whereas the other causes might have a more staggered mortality, but nothing is set in concrete.

I know that nature is a very hard system and animals die everyday as do humans. But the beautiful young pair in Riverside, with their three lusty eyasses plus the fact that the formel looks so much like Tristan--and Pale Male before him, seemed a kind of consolation for the failure of the Fifth Avenue nest yet again. And yes we know that not every year can be a bumper crop of eyasses as last season seemed to be in so many places in the country including New York City. We know that if it happened every year, many eyasses would be hungry and there just wouldn't be enough room for them all.

Still no matter the good reasons that not all creatures may have a long life, including the ones fed to those eyasses, at every feeding I am glad the eyasses are fed, but I also grieve for the creatures who make up their dinner.

Donegal Browne