Friday, December 31, 2010


Now Carol for all intents and purposes has her back turned toward me but I can still see the gleam of her left eye. Which means she can still see me. It's a little thing but awfully important to a bird to have wonderful peripheral vision.

Look at Carol on the right. Crows tend to have expressions of clever intelligence but Carol's look, I assume due to her fluffed feathers in this photograph, looks quite sweet.

Look at male House Sparrow's extremely sharp little toenails. If he were hawk sized we'd be tempted to call them talons.

In winter, the House Sparrows not infrequently seat themselves in a female section and a male section.

I particularly like this little thing. Look carefully at Junco's mouth. I thought at first that the little point midway between the two sections of his beak was the point on a seed but after scrutinizing it, that's the tip of Junco's little pink tongue.

House Finches always look sleep deprived. See the bags under this guy's eyes? I suspect that the "bags" are more apparent because they've few feathers around their eyes in the bag area.

And here's a little opening in the fence row. Where does it go? Why is it there? If one pays attention there are a million possible adventures waiting to happen.

Donegal Browne

P.S. Lola has yet to be sighted again.

P.P.S. My daughter Sam just called, yes, at 3:30 in the morning and told me I had to see the Transformer Owl on YouTube. Well folks, I think you have to see it too. And no it isn't a little thing, well the owl isn't huge, but the transformation is! Go for it. Here's the link-- (You may have to copy and paste. Lately the links just don't turn into links on the blog for some reason.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

John Blakeman--Where is Pale Male's mate Lola? Plus Where the 27 year 9 month old, Old Gal Banded Was Banded, Press Release from the Raptor Trust

Photo by Donna Browne
Lola stands on the nest earlier this year.

W H E R E I S L O L A ?

I have received a number of emails from readers who asked how concerned they should be about Lola as Lincoln Karim of has noted several times of late on his blog that he hasn't seen Lola.

December 18th was the last likely sighting, with Lola atop her favorite winter perch, the grate of a chimney on the Oreo Building. As it is now December 30th, this has begun to worry some readers.

Long time reader and urban hawk follower Mai wrote--


Recently, Lincoln has mentioned on his website that he hasn't seen Lola in a while -- do you think this should be cause for concern? They do seem to have always been seen together most of the time in the past.

Thanks for any thoughts you may have about this,


Ohio Prairie and Red-tailed Hawk Man, John Blakeman weighs in with his opinion--

I, too, have been watching Lola's absence, and yes, I have a measure of concern.

There are only two possibilities. The more favorable one would be that the bird decided to head South for the winter, as many Red-tails do.

The other is that she's dead, from poison in food, or some injury.

The greater probability is the latter. The bird spent the last two or three winters in Central Park, and did well. She's experienced and has no hunger motivations to leave for warmer climes for the winter. But it's still not impossible. She might have lofted high up on a warm thermal (but there haven't been any of these since November) and loosely joined some other Red-tails migrating down from Quebec, upstate New York, or New England. There's a small chance that she's somewhere in the South, asking the question, "Didn't I come down here for some moderate winter weather? Last time I'm doing this, as this is as cold and snowy as NYC." If she's in the South, she picked a bad year to fly there.

But if she did, she'll be seen in February or March, or even in late January.

But I think the far greater possibility is that she's somehow met her demise; again, either by poisoning from a tainted rat, or some wing injury after bouncing off a wire. Red-tails occasionally electrocute themselves by touching opposite wings against hot electrical wires when landing or taking off from utility poles.

If such is the case, if Lola is no more, a new formel (female) will show up when the days start to discernibly lengthen, even as early as mid-January. There is a giant population of "floaters," young, un-mated adults eager to step into an established territory such as Pale Male's.

The resulting pair-bonding, between Pale Male and new mate, can happen in hours, if not just in a day or two. With that, a new mate might appear in January, and except for a different feather pattern, could appear to be Lola once again.


John A. Blakeman

Everybody keep your fingers crossed and hope that Lola has just decided to hang out in the Hallet Sanctuary where no one is likely to have seen her.

Next up, I contacted the Raptor Trust in regards to a question from readers as to where the Old Gal had been banded geographically. Dr. Soucy had mentioned many birds were banded at his banding station on the Kittatinny Ridge during an interview but it wasn't crystal clear as to whether the Old Gal was one of them. I asked. Yes, she was.

And where and what is the Kittatinny Ridge?

According to the National Raptor Migration Corridor Project--"

"The Kittatinny Ridge and Raptor Corridor in northern New Jersey is a major, inland, autumn raptor (and other bird) migration flight-line and corridor within the Appalachian raptor migration flyway..."

Also see below the Press Release from The Raptor Trust concerning the Old Gal. And in case you were wondering, according to the release, she is not receiving visitors.


A wild red-tailed hawk with a remarkable story is currently being treated at The Raptor Trust, an avian rehabilitation center in Millington, NJ. The hawk was recovered on a New York highway in November wearing a numbered aluminum band on its leg. The band reveals that, at 27 years and 9 months of age, the birdis the oldest living wild red-tailed hawk ever recorded in North America.

Recovered on a highway near Monroe, NY, the hawk was first taken to New York rehabilitator Suzie Gilbert in November. The red tail, most likely a female given her large size, was weak and starving, and apparently had been trying to make a meal on road kill. Gilbert stabilized and fed the banded hawk—and began the process of tracking her remarkable history—and then transferred the bird to The Raptor Trust for additional care.

What Gilbert discovered about the bird’s history made it especially fitting that the hawk would be transferred to The Raptor Trust. The band it wears was first issued almost 30 years ago to Raptor Trust founder and master bird bander Len Soucy. In the early 1980’s, Soucy helped to establish a hawk banding station along the Kittatinny Ridge to contribute to research on migratory raptors. According to bird banding records, the red-tailed hawk was banded in October of 1983 by Dick Carroll, an apprentice bander working under Soucy’s federal license. At the time, her brown striped tail feathers would have marked her as an immature “passage bird” making her first fall migration at 6 or 7 months of age.Coincidentally, 1983 is also the year that Soucy and his wife Diane founded The Raptor Trust as a nonprofit rehabilitation center for injured& orphaned wild birds.

At The Raptor Trust, the red tail has been successfully treated for a respiratory infection and a minor wing fracture, and is now recuperating in an outdoor aviary.As with all birds being rehabilitated at The Raptor Trust, the red tail is not accessible to the public. Visitors to the Trust are, however, welcomed to view the nearly 50 non-releasable resident hawks and owls for which the center provides a permanent home. Located at 1390 White Bridge Road in Millington, NJ, The Raptor Trust is open 365 days a year to welcome visitors and to receive injured and orphaned wild birds for care.

Staff at The Raptor Trust will continue to care for the venerable red tail through the winter, and pending her full recovery, they hope to release their remarkable patient this coming spring.

Donegal Browne

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Langer Farm Sheep Faces, and Showing Off Intelligent Species

This is Sherman. Sherman is a ram and I don't know, but the last time I saw a ram he seemed a lot smaller than Sherman here. Sherman is the size of an extremely muscular shortish horse.

Interestingly his nose appears much shorter than the girls do. A sex related trait or a Sherman related trait? I don't know haven't seen enough rams lately to be competent on the issue.

But first, why all of a sudden are we talking sheep? Yesterday I went out to the Langer Farm of Mary and Bob Langer. Mary makes all kinds of incredible edible Christmas goodies so I had to go try some. It was a culinary experience, homemade caramels, fudge, turtles, peanut butter cups, Italian pressed cookies, cashew cookies, Russian tea cakes-you get the idea. It was worth getting lost both getting there and getting back home. And they had an Eagle sighting on their property not long ago.

But what about the sheep? Daughter Jenny is in 4H. For those of you unfamiliar with 4H, it's a sort of club for kids, mostly rural ones, of all ages, where you can do anything from putting on a play to, yes, raising sheep. Jenny is raising sheep. Then the sheep go off to be shown at the County Fair and if good enough, the State Fair. There are prizes and it's quite a big deal.

So after eating myself into a near diabetic coma (that's a joke) we went out to the barn to see the sheep. It struck me that sheep, which rather seem kind of interchangeably the same, really aren't. And just like any other animal that you pay close attention to, they have facial expressions along with their different faces.

By the way, everything sticks to them, as you'll notice as we go along.

Here are a couple of young ewes and they appear pretty similar. But look closely, their noses are different in length and breadth and their ears are set differently. Compare with Sherman, in the lead shot.

My apologies to the ewes, there were quite a number of them so I couldn't learn all their names in the short time I was there. I'd call this a sweet faced sheep. Also this is a pregnant sheep. Look at her abdomen. Looks kind of lumpy doesn't it? There are one if not two lambs in there and they'll be coming out very soon. Exactly when of course as with all mammal females, is always up in the air.

This is what happens if you're covered in wool which is full of lanolin which increases the sticking factor of foreign objects, and you've just pulled your head out of a manger full of hay.

And this is two month old Boo. ( He was born a few days before Halloween, hence the name.) I want to know what those bright white tufts are around his eyes. Is it part of the cuteness endowed on all baby mammals? Whatever the case you have to admit he is kind of cute and we're humans. He'd be exceedingly cute to his mother who is obviously a sheep.

All baby mammals have a kind of consistent "cute face" according to research. The Awww Factor. Why? The "cuteness" is an evolutionary advantage which helps keep exhausted, harassed, overworked, fed up parents caring for their young. Who therefore live and then breed causing even more cute babies to be born to harass and exhaust their parents and live through the experience.

This is Jenny and one of the pregnant ewes. She's doing a vaginal exam to feel if there is any cervical effacement and dilation. There's another big clue as to when a ewe will go into labor-- an examination of her udder. If there is "milk", she'll go into labor in six to eight hours.

Which brings the thought to mind that this colostrum test and time factor must not work in humans otherwise you'd think somebody would mention it so you'd have plenty of time to pack your suitcase for the hospital.

Photo by Samantha Browne-Walters

My daughter Samantha and I often talk about the intelligence of different species including our own.

Well as most of you have likely heard, 20 inches of snow fell in Manhattan. Any snowfall at all in NYC let alone enough to collect in significant amounts is rather rare. Well Sam was out earlier and saw a man shoveling the sidewalk in front of his shop and piling the snow on top of a taxi that happened to be parked at the curb. Now the question is--

1. Does this show lack of intelligence?
2. Is it intentional bad manners?
3. Or was the person just oblivious? (Though this kind of oblivion does rather lean toward lack of reasoning power doesn't it?)


I want one.

Being that Crows are some of my favorite birds and a display of their intelligence might conceivably change people's minds about the species being messy vermin that should be destroyed, it could be a good teaching tool.

I don't support making any wild species "serve us" in significant ways as they then will likely become "captives of use". Their wild status, their lives with their extended families and flocks would be disrupted and that isn't the point. Human respect for wild creatures is the point.

Humans have used captive pigeons for centuries to aid their endeavors and look at the reputation they have. We don't respect animal servants in many cases particularly if they can make it on their own in what we feel is "our" environment.

But if Crows happened upon coins in their daily foraging I see nothing wrong with them paying for their own peanuts and showing under-observant-egocentric-humans what they can do.

Donna Browne


Photo by Donna Browne
Merry Christmas from Pale Male and Lola,

Photo by Donna Browne
...from Survivor of the Cathedral nest,

Photo by Donna Browne
...the backyard Cooper's Hawk, the House Sparrows in the twig and snow igloo,

...the gorgeous Common Milkweed,

Photo by Donna Browne ...the belligerent Cardinal,

...belly band-less Grove,

Photo by James O'Brien
...all wildlife rehabilitators, especially Bobby and Cathy Horvath,

Photo courtesy of Tufts University
and the Boston Train Station Cooper's Hawk.

Photo by Brett Odom
Merry Christmas from Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte,

Photo by Donegal Browne
...the Rainbow Drive Black-capped Chickadees,

...the chemical company Sandhills,

Photo by Bobby Horvath
...the Allen Park nesting Red-tailed Hawks,

and Louie the tool using Amazon Parrot.

Merry Christmas from Astoria's Andromeda and Atlas,

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
...from Tulsa's Kay and Jay,

...the Cowbirds and Chipping Sparrows,

plus the Cox Road Turkey Flock.

Merry Christmas from Doorstep Dove and Friend, from their favorite snuggle spot,

...from their 2010 fledglings,

Photo by Donna Browne
...the Clever Crow,

and the Bird Bath Drinking Cat.

Merry Christmas from the Drew University Parking Lot Ducklings,

Photo by Donna Browne
...Wisconsin's Hooded Mergansers,

...the copulating Blackwaters,

Photo John Blakeman
...the trampoline using Bald Eagles,

...the field gleaning aerodynamically regimented Gulls,

Photo by Donegal Browne
...the momentarily grounded fledgling bat,

Photo by Francois Portmann
...the Mallard Hen in the Central Park planter,

photo by Francois Portmann
...the One Fifth tiercel,

and the Goody Stump flock of Crows,

Photo courtesy of The Legend Of Pale Male
Merry Christmas from the Hawkwatchers of New York City,

Comparison photo collage by Francois Portmann
...the Houston Street Female,

photo by Donna Browne
...the world's ingenious Gray Squirrels,

photo by Donna Browne
...all the urban rats that feed urban eyasses,

...Janesville Wisconsin's Rock and Jane Bald Eagle,

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
plus Kay and Jay of Tulsa and their fledgling Kat

Merry Christmas from the Storr's Lake Red-tails, J.B. and Issy,

...Jolly Bunny,

...the clever Wisconsin Juncos,

Photo by Eddie Yu
...the juvenile Bald Eagles,

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
and all the juvenile Red-tailed Hawks who winter in New York City.

Photo by Donegal Browne
A Very Merry Christmas from the Mall Planter Mallard Hen and her ducklings,

...Mama, Papa, and their fledgling who managed to return to the nest,

and the migrating Sandhill Cranes.

Photo by Donegal Browne
Merry Christmas from Mr. and Mrs. M,

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
....the mystery farm duck drake and his new mate,

Photo by Donna Browne
...the wing tip kissing Canada Goose pair,

Photo by Nicola Cetorelli
...Isolde and Norman's fire escape cold wind refuges,

and all the daring ducks in all the boroughs of New York City,

Merry Christmas from the adaptable feral Rock Pigeon,

...Wisconsin's pole disputing Red-tailed Hawks,

Photo by Francois Portmann
...the ground breaking Queen's Ravens and their nestlings,

plus Reggie the Madison Avenue Bluebird.

Photo by Donna Browne
Merry Christmas from the rehydrating Christopher Crow,

Photo by Richard Fleisher
...the Great-horned Owls at the New York Botanical Garden,

...all the roadside Red-tailed Hawks,

and Rocky Raccoon and Pyewackit.

Photo by Richard Fleisher
Merry Christmas from Rose and Vince of the Fordham Nest,
(Do Rose and Vince look alike or what? Good thing she has a band or when Vince's eyes go completely dark they could be very tough to tell apart when seen separately. )

...Samantha Browne-Walters and the baby Starling,

Photo by Francois Portmann
and Samantha Raven's Cooper's Hawk buddy.

Photo by Carol Studebaker
Merry Christmas from Quicksilver, me, and the tree we were in,

photo by Donna Browne
...all parrots who yearn to drive cars,

...Jewel of the Emerald Grove Road Red-tailed Hawks,

....the horribly perturbed House Sparrow hen,

...and beautiful Isolde.

Merry Christmas from The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Blue Peacock,

...Steam, the Cox Road Red-tailed Hawk,

...the 2010 juveniles of Jamie and Claire Sandhill Crane at Thresherman's Park,

Photo by Roger Brown
...the northern Wisconsin synchronized Tom Turkeys,

...the twig envy-ing Robin,

Photo by Francois Portmann
Merry Christmas from the Unisphere Red-tails,

.... from the Walmart Red-tail and the wing riding Red-wings.

Photo by Francois Portmann
Merry Christmas from the Yellow-crowned Night Herons

Photo courtesy of Yana Paskova of the New York Times
And a very special Happy New Year from nearly 28 year Old Gal!