Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Ms Have a Surprise, Osprey nest, Franklin Institute Nest, and Another Look at the NYBG Red-tail

Everytime I had stopped by the Ms nest in the last few days, there wasn't a hawk to be seen on it. I'd begun to worry that they had abandoned it. Therefore today when I got there I was incredibly relieved to see a head sticking up beyond the rim of the nest.

The wind was blowing so hard that the scope was shaking on its tripod. I set it up and began looking through it and focusing. Suddenly I realized that Mom had a white spot on her breast that was brighter than the rest of her breast.

I pulled tighter. Not only did she have a white spot but within the white spot was a little bit of black...WHAT?

Hooray! The Ms have at least one eyass, and maybe more. You never know.

See mom sheltering the little bit of white and black against the wind?

A closer look. Little Bit looks like she is sleeping, snuggled up against Mom's breast. She looks to be up off her haunches, an sleeping upright like a "big" bird.

I didn't want to disturb them so decided to get back in the car and leave for awhile.

Of course when i got in the car, mom got up off the bowl fo the nest and stood on the rim. Where was Little Bit now?

Still there, just to the right of the perpendicular which helps hold the nest together on the other side. See the top of the white fluffy head?

Now look at the positon of the eyass head. While moment ago, the head was left of the skinny upright branch, now there is a head with that branch directly behind it. Did Little Bit move or is there another youngster on the nest?

I start organizing all the junk in the car, so I'm not hit by an avalance when i put on the brakes. I look up. Mom is still there but she is no longer hiding her head behind things. She has turned slightly to look down at the nest.

Mom is now taking an action that I have never seen a Red-tailed hawk do before. She has turned but look at her foot, she's got her talons curled under and it looks like she is pushing the eyass or eyasses (look carefully, are there two little heads being pressed back into the nest?) back down into the nest.
I suspect that mom was pushing the eyass/eyasses back down to keep them out of my sight. And being seen by humans isn't the end of the world to urban hawks might it might well be so for rural hawks.
Many times I've seen eyasses get themselves too close to the edge of the nest, or any number of dangerous choices and the formel doesn't do any thing about it. Wait, I did see one form of "rescue" at the Trump Parc nest. Little was toddling extremely close to the edge of the nest, the Trump nest had no rim as they couldn't keep the twigs in place so a real hazard to young flightless birds. What Charlotte did was she walked over and sat on him. It was rather a plunk down as opposed to all the gentle easing down she'd been doing on the nest. Little seemed to struggle a little. Charlotte's feathers wiggled a good deal, but then Little must have gone to sleep because Mom eased up when the wiggling stopped.
Screen capture courtesy of Robin of Illinois and the Blackwater Osprey Cam
From Robin, "The Blackwater Osprey Cam nest has THREE eggs!"

Photograph by John Santiago
One more photo in from Pat Gonzalez of one of the NYBG hawks for perusal, by way of her friend John.

Screen capture courtesy of Sally of Kentucky and The Franklin Institute Nest Cam in Philadelphia
The three eyasses at the Franklin Institute take a nap. (No they aren't dead, they just look a little like it. Babies of whatever species do look rather boneless when they sleep sometimes.)

A while back we began a discussion as to why the seed pods of Sycamores/London Plane trees were being brought to the Tulsa KJRH nest. Photographer Francois Portmann read the post, went through his archives, and found that the seed pods were also brought to the Houston nest in NYC. Other nests were discovered which also contained the seed pods, what is the deal? We've yet to figure it out but...

Sally of Kentucky who is a member of the KJRH Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum had this to say about yet another example--

Dear Donna,
I was watching the Franklin hawk nest today and what did parent (?Dad?) bring to the nest but --- a sycamore twig complete with pod! Junior looked at the brown dangling pod as dad debated exactly where to put it down in the nest and pecked at it. "Dad! That is NOT a mouse!"
I thought it was interesting. At the Portland nest an green twig was brought to the nest today too, looks like boxwood or the like, not sycamore.

Do they not have London Plane trees in Portland or was the parent just freshening up the nest a bit greenery?

Donegal Browne

Thursday, April 30, 2009

NYBG Hawk, Franklin Institute Red-tail Nest Cam, and Courting Snakes in Texas

More photos of the hawk in the New York Botanical Garden. Here is a great shot of the birds belly band. Many watchers use belly bands to discern one Red-tail from another.

The attached photos were taken by my friend John Santiago on the same day I took the photos of our mystery hawk (Tuesday, April 28th). His photos, were taken in the morning around 10:15 am.

We were both taking photos of our friend when she/he took off from the nest on the library building. Unfortunately our fine feathered friend flew directly into the sun right overhead and try as I might, I couldn't see anything through my lens. John was standing at a different spot and has a much faster camera. I've cropped his photos in the hopes that maybe one of you can better recognize the features of Hawkeye or rose. Will these help?

Every observation and photograph helps because it has the capacity to add another piece to the puzzle.

Thank you John and Pat!

Courtesy of
The Franklin Institute Triplets, Screen Captures by Robin of Illinois
This nest is outside a window at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The camera looks out through the window to view them and there is no artificial lighting of the nest provided so the nest can only be viewed by the video during daylight hours.

(While the other two tussle, number one on this end looks to be considering taking a bite from mom's bloody foot. D.B.)

Unnervingly, there can be seen traffic (perhaps a freeway), in the near distance below the nest.

I don't want to even think about branching and fledging and there seems to be nothing on the web site about plans to deal with the human and architectural and automobile hazards below the nest.

(I went to graduate school in Philadelphia and if I remember correctly and it hasn't changed since, there are indeed multiple lanes of rapidly moving traffic in front of the Franklin Institute. But I expect as so many people watch this cam that some at least will be on the spot for fledge days with their towels and boxes, perhaps including employees of the Franklin Institute. We'll hope that many have read Marie Winn's book, "Red-tails in Love" and will know exactly how to deal with the situation. Fingers crossed. D.B.)


All three had hatched by April 17th. The video shows unbelievable close-ups of the damp feathered eyasses as they are emerging from their shells, as the mother nestles down over them to keep them warm, with her talons curled gently under.

(Betty Jo of California discovered this beautifully erotic sequence of courting snakes but without attribution, if anyone knows who deserves the credit please let me know.)
Ahhhhhh, Spring in Texas and love is in the air.
Photos taken in South Texas , while going for a WALK!
(Original narration in bold.

Note the angle of their heads.


Is that gorgeous or what?

Fascinating that in any number of species, including some reptiles and birds, that a form of synchronized movement or vocalization precedes copulation.
These are diamond back rattlers. Well, I didn't want to take a walk anyway...
From Brett Odom in answer to my questions concerning his latest report on Junior and Charlotte--

I never noticed a food drop yesterday [April 28 D.B.] and I was in my office all day. Nor did I ever see Junior. Yesterday was also a very warm day. It was in the upper 80s. If the glass acts as an insulator it could have been even warmer on the nest. Charlotte was panting for most of the time she was at the nest so it was probably pretty warm back there.

Coming Soon--Cheryl Cavert of the Tulsa Hawk Forum reports on Tulsa's Billboard RTs and 51st&Peoria Pair!
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is it Rose or Hawkeye? John Blakeman on Urban Nest Failures and More!

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
As many of you know Hawkeye and Rose, previously of Fordham have vacated their nest site there. There is thought that they just might be the pair that has moved into a very similar site atop the library at the New York Botanical Gardens.

Many thanks to Pat Gonzalez for getting these photographs so that those who know the pair well, might be able to say Yay or Nay to the theory.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Here is the scoop from Pat.


I started snapping away this series of photos at 4:45 PM earlier today (Tuesday, April 28th). Based on these images, do you have any idea as to the identity of this hawk? Male? Female? Is it one of the pair that lived at Fordham University?

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

This photograph and another coming up, make me lean toward this bird being a female. See the size ratio of beak to head?

Unfortunately I haven't watched Hawkeye and Rose in the field enough to positively ID them. Fordham has a closed campus for security reasons and so you can't just trot over any old time and watch the hawks. Though the regular watchers of Hawkeye and Rose who work at Fordham such as Chris Lyons might well be able to help us on this

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Unfortunately this hawk doesn't seem to be the least inclined to show us her ankles so we can check them. Though it is understandable as her calling in life at the moment is to incubate eggs.

Ankles are very helpful in sexing a hawk and besides Rose is banded.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
This is another photo that tends my opinion of the hawk's sex to be female. I'm not positive by any means.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
In a larger format the eyes of this bird seem just a touch lighter than your average 3 or 4 year old Red-tailed Hawk. It doesn't really show is this size and besides it might just be due to the angle and brightness of the sun in that position. We'll have to wait to hear what the regular Rose and Hawkeye watchers have to say.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
From Pat--
I and friend John were at the NYBG earlier today (Tuesday, April 28th). We were walking through the native forest when at 11:30 AM our nostrils were assaulted by the horrible stench of rotting meat. We anticipated running into some road kill that was how strong it was. Then an INCREDIBLY large creature flung itself up on to a branch on a tree further up. The branch snapped under its weight, falling to the path below. It then landed on the top of a dead tree. This monster seemed to have a wingspan of 4-5 feet. It had a red head, creepy round eyes and ridiculously large nostrils. I took these pics before it flew away. After looking at the photos on my PC and comparing them to the book as well as online photos, my suspicions were correct. It was a turkey vulture. Pardon my New Yorkese, but holy s^%$#!

Do you know if there has EVER been a turkey vulture at the NYBG?

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
I'm sure there have been Turkey Vultures in the NYBG in the past as they do migrate through the NYC area. Now and again while sitting on the Hawk Bench we see Pale Male "ushering" a Turkey Vulture out of his and Lola's territory.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Pat's shot of a Great Egret, Ardea alba, at the NYBG.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Pat asked if I knew what this was? It looks to me like an Oriole nest. Anyone else what to take a stab at it?
From Ohio Red-tail Expert John Blakeman upon hearing about Junior and Charlotte's probable nest failure--

This is very common in single-egg nests. If only a single egg can be laid, the pair is already stressed for food or other resources. The egg may have been undernourished and incompletely developed in its descent down the fallopian tube, or there could have been lethal incubation difficulties.

Again, single-egg nesting attempts are usually failures.

--John Blakeman
I asked John Blakeman if the ban on feeding pigeons in the Park might have had some bearing on Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte's behavior due to the lack of pigeons as prey.


A paucity of vulnerable pigeons following a pigeon-feeding ban could be a major, tipping factor.

Frankly, the red-tail nesting situation this year on Manhattan Island is just about what I would have always presumed it could be at its best. Red-tails aren't such happy or typical denizens of urban canyons of pavement and buildings. The entire urban ecosystem is so different from any of the other places they so successfully occupy in North America. The Arizona desert is really far more favorable for red-tails than the urban canyons of Manhattan.

So, I'm believing that this year is a typical one, where most of the NYC red-tails are barely hanging on in their reproductive efforts. Remember, these NYC birds are all refugees -- a well-considered word -- from normal wild and rural areas. These aberrant hawks have elected to take refuge in The City because the countryside is jam-packed with red-tails and there are very few open territories for young adults to occupy and raise a family.

Like a lot of former human refugees in New York, the red-tailed hawks are still struggling to learn how to persist and thrive in this alien environment. A few pairs, Pale Male and his consorts in former years, have achieved degrees of reproductive success. Still, New York City is a tough place to create and raise a family of red-tailed hawks, as this year's pairs are revealing.

It's clear that red-tails will continue to live on Manhattan and generally in Greater Gotham. But plainly it's unrealistic to expect nesting to go as well there as it does out in normal wild or rural areas. Red-tailed hawks have been learning to live in wild, rural areas since the Pleistocene, since the last glacial ice melted away in Ontario. That's some 10,000 years or so. The birds have been in Manhattan for a mere two decades or so in NYC. They haven't entirely learned how to play the life game yet that so-foreign environment.

But as a biologist, it sure is exciting to see how the hawks are learning to do this. And that includes watching them fail, a crucial part of the natural processes of adaptation and selection.

--John Blakeman

And to add to our environmental woes the Grey Wolf has been taken off the Endangered Species List, but there is something we can do
Just in from Jeff Kollbrunner of


As we discussed, the link to the Defenders of Wildlife petition regarding the recent removal of the gray wolf from federal endangered species protection in the Northern Rockies is at the end of this email. This petition is one part in the effort to overturn this recent ruling and restore the gray wolf's federal protection status. Under this new ruling up to 2/3rds of the existing wolf population could be killed in the Northern Rockies as far as I understand.

As you are aware wolves in the wild are instrumental to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Wolves are the essential part to restore the ecology through the trophic cascade. Wolves provide a positive impact on the entire ecosystem, some examples are bear populations increase, songbirds return, smaller trees grow, ground aeration is increased for better water absorption and cooler stream temperatures are restored increasing and restoring fish populations all by having wolves in the environment.

Many years of manpower hours and effort has been dedicated by many restoring and researching wolves. Significant tax payer dollars have also been invested in these programs and this ruling will have a significant impact on all the progress that has been made to date.

Link to the petition: (The link is long and therefore will not fit into the blog space without breaking in the middle, if it doesn't work for you, copy and paste entire into your address bar. D.B.)

All the best, Jeff


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CHARLOTTE AND THE EGG, Another Urban Red-tailed Hawk Nest Failure?

Photograph by Brett Odom
Tuesday, April 28, 2009-Charlotte and (left) the egg.
Hey Donna.
Here is a photo I took today. What is your opinion? That looks like it is still an egg to me on the left. Whatever it is, Charlotte never sat on it and she was off the nest for the majority of the day.

Brett Odom
Hi Brett,
The egg still looks like an egg to me too. And as Charlotte isn't sitting on it, it doesn't bode well. I can't think of a positive scenario in which Charlotte wouldn't be either brooding or incubating at this point in the process.
I realize that you can't have your eyes glued to the nest all day as you are at work but did you happen to see Pale Male Jr. at all? Any switches? And food brought to the nest?
Was it particularly hot in NYC today?
Donegal Browne

Monday Micellany--Manhattan Red-tail Update, Baby Squirrels, a Baby Giraffe, GHO video, and Piliated Woodpeckers

Photograph by Dave Treybig , Piliated Woodpeckers

Dear Donna:

I hear a characteristic "Kack, kack, kack" somewhere in the front yard, and investigated. Margot and I have seen Piliated Woodpeckers around infrequently since moving here from the Texas Gulf Coast. But these were sounds that were relatively close to the house. Recently we observed the birds engaged in building up their health prior to nesting activities.

I walked to the front door, slowly opened it, and thrilled to find in our front yard, using short stumps as a source of art and ant larvae. I managed to get a few photos of these elusive to photograph (for me). and I though might enjoy the spectacle of these magnificent birds.

Unless there are no Piliated Woodpeckers around, why would people feel motivated to use poisons and poisoned ant traps to reduce the number of ants?. Using the birds as a natural process for any eradication seems to be a more environmentally friendly mechanism to control ants, if any ants seem to be a pest.

Attached is a shot of two piliated woodpecker on the same pine stump. The shot was taken immediately after opening the front door, as was shot through glass. Still, all in all, I thought some might be interested in these interestingly colored wild creatures "looking like masked bandits."

Dave and Margot Treybig

Thank you Dave, for sharing your sighting. I wish I had those birds in my front yard. And as to ant poison, and the more natural way, these guys, of ridding oneself of an overabundance of ants--I couldn't have said it better.

As many of you know, Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte's egg is due to hatch. Brett Odom the only Hawkwatcher who can actually see into
the nest enclosure hoped for a hatch over the weekend before his trip out of town--

I'm really hoping that we have a hatch when I return. I hate that I'm away during the hatch window. I'm pretty sure that on Thursday Charlotte was still sitting on an egg. I saw a white blob, but since it wasn't moving I'm assuming it was an egg.

After the terrible NYC hawk season last year and another nest failure with Pale Male and Lola this year, I'm not feeling very confident with Chalotte and Junior. But I'm hoping they prove me wrong.

Do you know if anyone has been able to confirm where Hawkeye/Rose and Isolde/Norman moved to?

One of my friends that lives on 85th and Columbus had a hawk land on his terrace. I'm guessing this is the Riverside pair, but perhaps it could be one of the cathedral hawks.

On another note, I'm visiting with my mom in MS and she moved into a new house last year. Behind her is a hay field surrounded by a stand of pine trees. When I was walking my dog early this morning a saw a red-tail fly into one of the pine trees. I didn't think about it, but it is actually a prime spot for a nest. I'm sure the hay field is home to hundreds of voles. I might try to walk around in the pine trees and search for a nest today or tomorrow if the poison ivy isn't too bad.

Brett B. Odom

Thank you Brett. We all have our fingers crossed. I'm dearly hoping that they'll be a little white fluffy head across the street from your office when you return.
As to Isolde and Norman, Cathedral Hawkwatcher Winkie sent in an email with her take on the situation. Find it further down.

Regarding Hawkeye and Rose, formally of Fordham, it still isn't clear whether they are the hawks that are now nesting in the New York Botanical Gardens on a similar structure to that used by them previously. Or if only one is there with a new mate, or if it is a different pair altogether.

I was hoping that perhaps thoughts that Isolde and Norman had abandoned their nest site at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine might have been similar to those of last season. Last March I heard that they had abandoned the nest behind the elbow of St. Andrew. When I returned to NYC from Wisconsin in early April, 2008, I staked out the site and watched for hours. I looked from every angle, I waited and I waited. Nothing.

Then just as I was about to give up, I thought I saw some movement. And after waiting some more, I was rewarded with a look at the top of Isolde's head. Due to all the activity around the nest she had just been staying deep in the nest, only coming up for infrequent very fast switchs with Norman. I was hoping that the same thing might have happened this season. That Isolde was just staying deep and therefore the nest seemed abandoned unless you stuck it out watching for hours. But then I received the following email from hawkwatcher Winkie, a regular observer of this nest.

Hi Donna,

I wish I had something interesting to report, but nada it is. Since early courting, I have rarely seen either Norman or Isolde. My husband thinks he sees the female across 125th st, sometimes near to the CUNY campus.

I saw Norman late in the afternoon several weeks back. He was circling Morningside Park and headed toward Marcus Garvey Park about sundown. Never to be seen on the heights again.

I also have not looked on the other side (close and school) of the cathedral for a nest. There just has not been enough activity around the cathedral to warrant a better look. There is so much more people activity than last year.

The work is still going on the roof of the cathedral. The public is now settling into the towers (Avalon Palace,or something like that). Robert has been more devoted in his search and I don't think has seen anything either. James has an occasional report of one them over 125th st. So far as can be determined they do not have a nest this year. I will let you know if there is anything that is reportable.


A beautiful find from Robin of Illinois--

Most babies measuring 5ft. would be considered big, but newborn giraffe, Margaret, at Chester Zoo , UK is seen as unusually small for her species. HOW SWEET!! She is one of the smallest giraffes ever born at Chester Zoo but pint-sized Margaret will soon be an animal to look up to.

Little Margaret, who is the first female Rothschild giraffe born at the zoo, is being hand-reared by her dedicated keepers. The first calf for six-year-old mum Fay, Margaret, who was born two weeks early, tipped the scales at just 34 kilos and is a mere 5ft tall.

Tim Rowlands, team leader of the Giraffes section, said: 'Margaret is potentially one of the smallest giraffe calves we have ever seen. Fay isn't the largest of giraffes and Margaret was also early which might go some way to explaining her size. 'Margaret was having difficulty suckling so our keeping team are now hand-rearing her'..

Longtime reader and contributor Diane D’arcy has some suggested reading for Pat Gonzalez about Great Horned Owls--

Hi Donna:
Well, as to the owl, Pat should read Bernard Heinrich's book One man's Owl. I believe it is out of print but can be gotten at any good library. They are fearsome birds.

Diane D’arcy

From GHO watcher Pat Gonzalez—
I’ve added some more photos as well as music to my owl video.

It is that time of year again--baby squirrel season. And wildlife rehabilitator Carol Vinzant has her hands full as usual. Meet Garfield and Hayes--
Garfield is probably two weeks younger than Hayes and he started out a lot skinnier. He’s growing a lot, but Hayes is still the big brother. Here he is stealing the bottle.