Saturday, June 20, 2009

John Blakeman on Inverted Heads, and NYC Fledging Updates!!!

Last minute photo addition for comparison further down.
When you get down to the photos of the NYBG fledglings by Richard Fleisher, remember to come back up here and compare the two. These tree nested fledglings, having the advantage of a huge tree to branch in before fledgling are far more mature than their urban counterparts.

The rural eyasses, at least Primus and likely Secundus flew out and got back to the nest tree without landing in between after numerous days of branching. The parents not only brought food to the nest (as Thunder of Tulsa's parents did as well) but they seem to have stashed food in various less accessible parts of the tree tempting the eyasses to even further practice.

In comparison our urban eyasses now seem to me even more at risk than ever when grounded, as it appears after these observations that it is far less likely to happen in environments where Red-tails naturally evolved or have traditionally nested.

This photo that included Primus inverting her head, which we've seen young Red-tails rather inexplicably do a number of times, has brought remarks from Hawk expert John Blakeman. Welcome back, John.


You mentioned and had a photo of an eyass twisting its head upside down. This has nothing to do with defensiveness. We falconers see this commonly in our first-year red-tails, even in birds captured in passage, in September through November.

It's really cute (if a hunting red-tail can be cute). The birds only do it when they are completely at ease. They lose this behavior as they get older. It's very seldom seen in the second year.

It is a mystery why his head-twisting is done. But we falconers know that the hawks will do this only when they are feeling entirely at ease. An unmanned ("un-tamed") red-tail will seldom, if ever invert its head. Adults, manned or wild, seldom do this. It's a kid thing.

--John Blakeman

Photograph by Richard Fleisher

(Remember to compare the maturity level of the NYBG fledglings with the rural Ms.)

FROM CHRIS LYONS ONE OF THE CHIEF WATCHERS OF HAWKEYE AND ROSE WHILE THEY NESTED AT FORDHAM--(They are now nesting at the New York Botanic Garden...or at least Rose who is banded has been proven to be the same bird. Chris has been reserving his decision as to whether the male is indeed Hawkeye.)

Last Wednesday (6/10), all three eyasses were in the nest, but looked like they could fledge at any moment. I figured they'd all be out in a week, and they were--barely. As late as yesterday, Richard Fleisher saw one in the nest, but all three had fledged by early this afternoon, when I was there.

As has been typical of this little-monitored nest, nobody seems to have actually witnessed a fledging taking place, but maybe somebody did and failed to report it.

Rich Fleisher showed me a photo he'd taken of the adult male a few days back, when he had landed on the lawn in front of the Mertz Library, after getting buzzed by some nesting Robins. It's a pretty good close-up shot, with the male facing the camera--good enough for me to finally put aside any reservations I've had about concluding the male is Hawkeye. I now feel confident this is the same breeding pair I watched at Fordham for four years.

I never thought otherwise, but I wanted to be sure. The adult male found dead in the Botanical Garden during last year's Bronx-Westchester CBC was clearly some other bird.

Sorry I don't have any photos. Nothing much to photograph today, and last Wednesday the light was poor.

Chris Lyons

(Chris suggested that perhaps Richard Fleisher might supply some photos, which he did even before I asked.)

Photograph by Richard Fleisher

From Richard Fleisher longtime watcher of Hawkeye and Rose, now nesting at the New York Botanic Gardens

All three NYBG chicks have fledged. First one went Monday, second on Tuesday and third today. I am attaching a large number of jpegs (all have been reduced in size). I will send in two files. All but three are of the fledglings, the rest are Hawkeye after he went after a Robins nest located near the library building.
Richard Fleisher
(So far only two have been posted, above. All will appear when I get a glitch out of my system.)
Many thanks Rich!
An update from Jules Corkery, long time and main watcher of Athena and Atlas at the Triborough Bridge nest--
Hi All,
Early this morning we saw one of the triborough bridge babies venture out onto the metal pipe only to wobble a little and get himself back onto the nest. All three babies were fat and comfy this morning looking out onto their world.We went back around 12:15 this afternoon and parks staff were scrambling to get a box in which to put one of the little guys who moments earlier had flown off the nest. He glided north across Hoyt Avenue North - into the trees that surround a small section of paved area that people use as a volley ball court. (A few years ago one of the fledges landed in the same area and spent a few days hanging out of the 2 rows of fencing that separate the pavement area from the row of backyards on the next street.) The wind was blowing east and it's lucky that he didn't glide any further east as he might have landed on21st Street!There was a volley ball game happening and the only person to notice any of the chaos was a young boy of about 10 years old. Fortunately,the little fledge got himself to the ground and was nicely situated Ianthe strip of land between the two fences - it's about 5 feet wide and50 feet long and overgrown with grass and weeds. However, he was very close to 21st Street and if the volleyball players had realized he was there they could have easily spooked him out into traffic.So, the little guy was boxed up, put in the truck, and the rangers were called. We witnessed this from a fair distance away as we didn't want to add to the bird's distress and because of this we never got a close look at him. What we could see was that he was definitely upright and alert. I also called Park's central headquarters just to make sure that in all the confusion they actually got a call.
I understand that the Horvaths will be taking him in for a while. Good luck, you guys! It looks like the construction of the new fencing around the deep end of Astoria Pool is completed. I would recommend releasing the fledge in the same area in which last year's fledges were released. This area remains a relatively quiet part of the park, has high tree cover,and is accessible to the high diving board (or should I say high dining board). Max, the District 1 Manager of Queens Parks & Rec, is on vacation right now so I'm not sure who could tell us if there are other plans for construction at that end of the pool. Regardless, Atlas and Athena will be glad to get their little one back in the care as soon as can be.
Many thanks Jules!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday--FLEDGE DAY!!!!

5:55 PM
Primus, lower, and Secundus, higher, at play. And look at that. Primus is doing the old upside down head trick we've seen in fledglings before. Is it a defensive tactic?

5:56:02 Primus looks east while Secundus looks down and considers leaping onto Primus while she's not looking.

AND wonder of wonders, welcome a new hawkwatcher to the scene, Kim Gilmour. And just in the nick of time too, as more eyes are sorely needed at this site.

It turns out that Kim has been watching the nest for awhile now, quietly, from across the road and over a bit from her husbands shop. Her husband had stopped by a number of times to check out the nest through the scope, but Kim is a little on the shy side so she hadn't come...but today she did. And without a doubt her timing couldn't have been better! Her help was invaluable today. Keep reading and you'll see why.

5:56:39 PM Secundus makes for the perching branch while Primus pretends not to be looking.

5:58:17PM Primus is climbing up behind Secundus. Secundus steps onto the horizontal-ish branch.

Kim yells, "He's going! Look! LOOK!!!" And, WOO HOO!, sure enough, going from the shade of the tree into the sunlight flies Secundus. (Though at the time neither of us was sure which one it was.

6:00:09 PM
Still flapping, with regular beats, loosing a bit of altitude but still looking good!

6:00:15 PM
In typical fledgling fashion Secundus doesn't really have the fold wings, put feet forward of body, and grip sequence down. Smash into the branches she goes. (Yes I'm beginning to think that Secundus might be female too. Look at her in the first photograph of this post.) That was a 13 second maiden voyage.

6:29PM Still there.

6:36PM The light craft we've seen periodically in the sky appears yet again. Perhaps he wonders what we are doing? Actually wouldn't it be lovely to have his cell number? That way when the youngsters get scarce he could help us search from up top. (He's got a great view and no matter where he went he wouldn't be trespassing.)

6:50PM Secundus has moved though the mob that is after him has moved right along with him. Hard to see isn't she?

Here's less area to glean through. He's slightly above center and near a trunk pretending to be invisible

6:53PM Primus has moved from the nest area down to the left, east, side of the tree where she and Primus frequent sometimes at the end of the day and does a little pre-roost preening.


And Mom? Still hunting. She's not done yet by any means and neither is Dad. The fledglings still must be fed for yet awhile, taught to hunt, and weaned. In about six weeks they should be somewhat self-sufficient. They'll continue to return to the tree and be in the immediate area, and then as days pass they'll become harder and harder to find. Until one day when we realize that they have gone on and we must let these young hawks and this hawk season go.

We don't forget them. We wish them well, and hope, that one day we will see each other again. And then we will wait with anticipation for January to come round when again pairs of Red-tails take to the sky and "fall in love" for the first time or one more time-- with each other.

And here is my about-to-be fledgling, Samantha. This week stepping faster through the stages to make the leap from the nest herself. College chosen, it's back to high school prom. A hop and flap but back to the safe familiar branch.

In high heeled shoes that Barbie would wear, and so they hold their own whiff of childhood, she pauses, toe poised for a walk through a very real puddle from a broken NYC hydrant. She leans back, holds on, and wears a look not a little like a young Red-tail who's tempted---but no...not yet.

No matter, the foreknowledge that it will come, like death, the moment of fledging is always a surprise.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday-- Secundus at Sunset

Primus seems to be below Secundus but I can't spot her.

He disappears into the foliage above.

Good Night Secundus.
Wednesday is on the way.
(And so is Wednesday's Update...a big one.)
Donegal Browne

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Red-wing Blackbird MENACE!!!!

Angry bird
From Robin of Illinois--
Dive-Bombing Bird Becomes SF Attraction
SAN FRANCISCO -- A territorial blackbird that has been dive-bombing pedestrians for weeks is continuing to attract a crowd in downtown SanFrancisco.

Dozens of people spent their lunch breaks at the corner of California and Front streets watching the blackbird, nicknamed "Swoops" by a local blogger,attack passersby.Catherine Phillips, 32, who works nearby, was startled by what felt like a pebble dropping on her head.When the crowd burst into laughter, she realized what had happened and laughed herself."I was wondering what everyone was staring at," she said. "It's just a little reminder not to walk by her nest.

"It's the Financial District's version of the Bush Man at Fisherman's Wharf,who hides behind a fake bush and jumps out to startle pedestrians. But in the bird's case, most passersby know what to expect.

Bart Robinson, 34, who also works in the neighborhood, thought he would try his luck and walk down Swoops' stretch of sidewalk. Swoops wasn't having it. Robinson had called his mother in Utah and was on the phone with her during the attack.

"It's kind of like a thrill ride you go through and you hope that he gets you," Robinson said. "It's exhilarating."The bird presides over the sidewalk from a metal awning outside City National Bank and seems particularly intolerant of balding men and those with short, dark hair.

Debora Vrana, spokeswoman for City National Bank, said the bird has not impacted the bank except that "several of our employees have been swooped."Vrana said it "doesn't seem like a vicious bird, just protective."The attacks started a few weeks ago, said Andy Azadnia and Josh Johnson,whose female coworker at a nearby Wachovia Bank had been targeted."She was probably one of the first ever," Johnson said. "Now, two weeks later the bird is famous."

Indeed, the bird has made national and international headlines, with a paper in the U.K. Claiming it is "terrorizing" workers. Video of the attacks has been on CNN.

The attacks inspired a blog which nicknamed the bird and provides frequent updates and pictures. At one point this afternoon the crowd watched with bated breath as Swoops eyed an elderly woman in a green pantsuit who walked down the sidewalk with a cane, seemingly oblivious to the situation.She was not attacked.

"That is amazing," one man said. "She made it through the whole thing."Vicky Guldbech, a captain with San Francisco Animal Care and Control, said the swooping behavior is "what blackbirds do every year at this time, but we've never focused on one particular one like we are this year."

Guldbech cautioned against people who might try to harass or incite the bird"We would be concerned about that type of behavior," she said. "We would encourage people to call animal control if that's happening, illegal to harass or harm these animals."


I'm not completely sure if this is an adult or one of the fledglings. Someone pulled up to ask what I was looking at...

...and the top of the pole was empty. An adult RT was flying the far treeline.

First one way, than the other. Either to more easily acquire elevation or as a decoy to cover for their progeny?

BECAUSE??? Enter Mr. Red-winged Blackbird in the cornfield-- And he not only has an overabundance of testostorone but I think he has fledglings of his own to protect and care for.

Speaking of progeny, suddenly one of the young hawks crash lands in the uppermost branches. Crash, flap...flap...flap. He/she is on the top of the tree far right.
Mr. RWB goes for the struggling lander---

And an adult M soars in to fly interference for the fledgling.

Exuberant with his "success", Mr. RWB has a celebratory flight and heads back to his patch of cornfield.

He isn't eating, he's just walking a circuit, looking butch.

The Crash Lander has managed to make it to the nest. Though not without being buzzed by Mr. RWB a few , more times on the way.

He's back in the cornfield strutting his stuff.

Now to a pond not far away. Golly, look at the Red-winged Blackbird go.

He heads for the Egrets across the water and the two big guys flee from the little guy.

The Egrets choose the better part of valor and take to their big white wings.
In the meantime two pair of Canada Geese and their just about grown goslings, quite the crew, take to the water and look on.
Donegal Browne