Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Astoria Park Nest of Athena and Atlas

Professional photographer and avid Hawkwatcher Francois Portmann and I had decided to go look at some hawks. He told me on the phone that Friday afternoon did not look like rain. Terrific except I decided we should go see the Astoria Park nest, which Francois warned me would not have good light in the afternoon. I have limited time in the city and decided to chance it. Boy, was Francois right. Just remember these aren't for a photo contest, they're for documentation. Right?
Jules Corkery, a chief watcher of these hawks, had told us that one could see into the nest from the pedestrian walkway. It takes a handy jog so you can look back at the nest. It is a terrific angle, but do bring your binoculars and your longer lenses.
I also post this long view because this nest is a tough one for fledglings. The nest with a parent on it is about mid frame on the pipe that runs along the bottom of the bridge.

The nest is on a corner with busy lanes of traffic to the front and side of the nest. Under the nest is also pavement. There are trees and one can hope that they are now close enough for a leap. There is absolutely no place for the eyasses to branch off this nest. They can't grip that big fat slippery drain pipe. The eyasses on this nest, tend to go off young and unable to gain altitude to get themselves off the ground. And unless they make it all the way across the traffic and playground there is next to nothing that will give them a leg up into the trees where their parents will be perched holding food to tempt them up.

2:26:07pm The light was bad but the timing excellent. A parent which I took to be Athena, by her behavior, though I'm certainly willing to be corrected as I've not seen these birds since last season, was feeding the eyasses.

Athena looks down and the biggest eyass does the same. Likely the smallest of the three has just taken a tidbit. I suspect that if she drops it, it becomes fair game for the larger sibling to make a grab for it. Mom is watching very carefully.

2:26:19pm Another bite for the teeny one.
She watches carefully once again.

2:27:49 Now what?
Feeding continues but I can't make out the species of dinner. Eventually things slow down and Athena sits the rim while the kids do a little wobbling around in the bowl.
2:53:06pm We head for ground level and a better view of Athena but a much worse view into the bowl of the nest. She's staring at something in the sky or high in a tree.
Then she stares down at the eyasses and stares back up at whatever it is that has caught her attention.
2:57:49 Up again.
And down again. After watching the rural hawks on County M in Wisconsin, I realized that Red-tailed Hawk moms don't like to leave the nest until everyone has settled down for a nap. All that movement could attract predators so that seems quite sensible on the parent's part and as it seems to be somewhat universal (Riverside Mom does it too.) And as hawks in different places seem to do exactly what Athena is doing as well, I've begun to think it may well be wired in.
And back to looking out in the same spot. Looking at the photographs I realized that likely she has watched Atlas arrive and perch with a good view of the nest. Therefore once the babies settle in she will take her break while Atlas takes over guard duty from a hidden location.

She stares into the bowl with focus. They still must be playing.

We look up beneath the nest, and there isn't much to see. Then like all careful Red-tails, Athena takes off while out of our sight line. She goes off the far edge of the nest, and flies under the bridge away from us.

3:03PM Nice greenery festoons the nest. Is it insect control as some surmise. Is it an attempt to make the nest look as if it were living vegetable matter? Or is it just the continuing urge to clip twigs and bring them to the nest? No I don't think they think about it in particular, I think they just do it. But in order for there to be something inside many Red-tails urging them to do it, there is or at least was an advantage in it somewhere along the line.
3:11:49pm Walking further beside the bridge we see her perched in the sun on a pipe rousing her feathers.
3:22pm No Athena has not shrunk nor is that a tree with leaves 2 feet in width. The tree is in the foreground and Athena is not.
3:40pm An adult lands on the nest. Is that Athena? I'm wondering if it isn't Atlas as this bird seems just a trifle smaller. No way to know for sure. And with the nest going into ever deeper shadow Francois and I head for the subway and home.
Donegal Browne
Today I did the Riverside Park Pair's Nest in Manhattan--they'll be coming up next!

Friday, May 15, 2009

One of the young Ms takes a flying leap off the rim of the nest into the bowl. But what I didn't realize the other day when I published this, is that--

It was an intentional flying leap onto a sibling.
That's a young hawk for you

Robin of Illinois sends in an Eagle rescue story with a Wildlife Officer with a sense of humor--

Baby Bald Eagle Stuck In Fence Rescued
Eagle Recuperating At Treasure Coast Wildlife CenterPALM CITY, Fla. --

A baby bald eagle got a second shot at life after rescuers found it with its head stuck in a fence.

The person who saved the female eagle, a wildlife officer, said it was scarier than tangling with analligator.

The eagle was found two weeks ago, stuck between a fence and a ditch.Officer Kyle Patterson, of Florida Fish and Wildlife, was called to the scene.

"I had no clue what I was getting myself into, really," Patterson said.

Patterson said he has snagged his share of alligators, but he said facingdown a 2-foot-tall eagle was scarier. "With a gator, all you Gotta worry about it his mouth," Patterson said. "Eagles, you Gotta worry about their feet and their wings and beaks and a lot of stuff you Gotta control with them."

Patterson and his lieutenant blocked the eagle and gently placed a box overits head. Then, he was able to carefully pick it up.

"She actually grabbed my finger with her claws, but I was able -- since I had welding gloves on --I could get my hand out," Patterson said.

Officials brought the bird to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center. "The eagle is suffering from critical starvation," said Dan Martinelli, of the TreasureCoast Wildlife Center. "It has completely burned off all of its muscle mass and that lack of muscle tissue means it can't fly."

The eagle is eating now,although it still can't fly. Patterson got his first look at it since therescue on Wednesday.

"I don't think she really likes me anymore," he said.

The eagle is no longer an endangered species, but it is protected under several federal and state rules. Officials said they hope the baby will be nursed back to health and released back into the wild.

And from Jackie Dover of the Tulsa Hawk Forum who sent in the news about the Hornsby Eaglet--

In reading some posts about the Hornby accident, I ran across a quotation by Henry Beston that you may already familiar with----

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

The more I thought about it, the more light it seemed to offer on the emotions roiling about such sad occurrences as this. I think there is something in there that I need to consider, if I'm going to keep watching these natural dramas.

I found that Beston had written a book (source of the quote?). So I ordered the book from Amazon.
The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

I'd never seen the complete quote above, only the section speaking of animals being of other nations so I very much appreciate seeing the whole progression of the idea. I can't wait for Jackie to tell us how the book is.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009



I took the attached photos around 5:40 PM yesterday (May 12th). There are DEFINITELY two little bundles of joy in the nest. The nest is a lot deeper than it looks! I also got some GREAT video which I posted on youtube.

The man talking in the background is an older, retired gentleman named Dino. He is known as the birdman of the NYBG. The hawk flew right OVER us after it leapt off the building. I took it as a reminder that she could CLEARLY see us. : )

Please pass this on to the folks on the blog.

I'll be breaking out the cigars now. : )

Pat Gonzalez


Guess what Pat?
Because of Rose's postures I've just spent an hour scrutinizing your photos looking for a third eyass, but was having trouble pinpointing a third, when what should appear in my email box but an note from Chris Lyons.

From Chris lyons, one of the chief watchers of Hawkeye and Rost at Fordham--

I managed to get there this afternoon. There are definitely three eyasses--I was the first to spot them all, but several other observers shortly confirmed it, including Richard Fleisher once he arrived.
The male, unfortunately, did not put in an appearance while we were there. Still think he's Hawkeye, but it's not 100% confirmed yet. Rich isn't sure either, though he agrees they are very similar, and has been operating under the assumption it's the same pair, because of the location of the nest (it's a very reasonable assumption, but it'd still be nice to know).
It's definitely Rose, though--Rich even got a photo that shows the band on her leg. So that's 16 successful hatches over six breeding seasons. I'll keep trying to definitely ascertain the male's identity over the next few weeks.


This is one of the postures that made me feel sure she was looking at a third eyass.

This is a very typical Mom or Dad Hawk looking-down-at-an-eyass stance. But one is further right and the other left so I was niggled that there must be another.


Thank goodness you just emailed. I have been looking at Pat Gonzalez's photos for over an hour and I was sure there was a third eyass because of the way that Rose was looking down but couldn't really prove it from the photos. It was driving me crazy. Thank you!

I also wondered what the status of Hawkeye/Not Hawkeye was. Thanks for that update as well.

Anyone gotten a look at the male's eyes yet with any precision? The reason I ask was there was a shot of an RT on the NYBG site that had light eyes but it wasn't really clear if that bird was actually the male of the nest. It so it would have made him too young to be Hawkeye.


Next up--While waiting interminable amount of time for the bus to Port Authority from La Guardia Airport, I looked up and there was a pretty little hen pigeon working on her nest above the bus dispatcher's cubicle.

Thank goodness for urban pigeons for so many reasons.

Her Blue Bar mate appears and gives me a look. She's peering through the twigs of the nest while scooting some nesting material to a new position.

I found this position rather creative.

Blue Bar appears with a leaf and lays it on top of her.

Then he flies off. In the world of concrete airports any vegetative material must be flown from rather far away.

She sits up and flips a leaf over the edge.

She watches it go. Originally cliff nesters in barren areas, these birds can get away with limited material and successfully nest anyway. These feral pigeons ancestors have been domesticated for thousands of years.

Blue Bar arrives with more material--near his left foot.

She pulls it in and starts fitting it.

Another leaf falls. Blue Bar watches it go. The ledge is very narrow but they likely will make it work.

If you keep laying on it, it can't fall out.

Impressive coloring.

She settles in.

Shifts a little.

And falls asleep as my bus pulls up.
Contributor Karen Anne Kolling sends this news our way--
From the Derby UK peregrine blog:
Photo by Colin Pass, his caption:
No, I have not seen a white feral pigeon, honest.
Sad Eagle news from Jackie Dover of the Tulsa Hawk Forum

You may have already learned of today's incident with the bald eagles at Hornby Island, British Columbia. But if not, here's my post about it on the Tulsa Hawk Forum this afternoon:"A sad and freakish turn of events at the Hornby Bald Eagles' nest today. One of the eaglets--"Echo"-- somehow became stuck to or entangled in the belly feathers of a parent, and eventually fell to its death when the parent flew off the nest.
Here is a video of the event, though be advised that it is hard to watch.
Here are a couple of statements by prominent folks involved (see Hancock Wildlife Forum):
By Doug Carrick (who found the eaglet oound):
At 10:30 this morning I looked under the eagle tree and found Echo lying on the ground. I picked him up. He was soft and warm but absolutely still - no signs of life.Just when we realized that Echo was managing very well in dealing with his big sister and was getting his share of the food, this totally unexpected tragedy occurred. We are all upset.
It reminds us how tenuous life is, especially in the wild. We will miss little Echo but still have Hope.----------------By David Hancock:"What a sad day. Our followers and Doug have really said it all. The few calls I have just had were tear laced and provoked the same in me.
Sure hard -- bloody impossible actually -- to be an un-compassionate and objective scientist under these circumstances.This is of course a very unusual accident. In fact this is such an unusual twist of fate that I have never heard of it happening just like this before. Here where we have so many viewers, such good opportunity for observation and analysis by replaying the archival cams, and yet no clear answers.
How in fact did this accident occur? In the past there are examples of adults bringing string (binder twine left in the fields kills hundreds of raptors annually this way), small fish net pieces attached to a fish entangle the young, and there is even suspicion of a broken egg in the nest acting as a binder or glue to fix feathers to chicks and cause a similar tragedy. But none of this seems to be at play here.
So what is a logical explanation?My best guess at this point or suspicion is that either chick excavated (pooped!) while it was under mom. This excrement stuck her underbelly and possibly underwing covets -- a few long trailing feathers -- together and poor Echo had the misfortune of getting entangled in them. Certainly the excrement can be a strong binding agent. I have seen captive reared chicks stuck firmly to the nest with excrement. However, to have seen her fly off with the chick and then return safely with the chick still attached seemed a miracle in the making.
The downside was of course that the timing for the chick or mom still did not permit the separation. Life in the wild is not easy and we are constantly reminded in our viewing opportunities of this. The miracle seems more that some survive. I hope for some heavy rains so mom gets her belly feathers cleaned. Maybe others examining the footage will detect something I have missed in my quick replay and we will have a slightly more complete explanation.
Best regards,
Jackie Dover
KJRH Tulsa Hawk Forum