Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Afternoon with the Divines-Isolde and Norman plus the Starling, the Robin and the Scrum of Sparrows

Find the Red-tailed Hawk.

When I arrived at the Cathedral, Mitch Nusbaum was staring at something with his binoculars. It took me a few minutes but I found the hawk--possibly Isolde, as there had just been a switch and then later another, then hours looking at a tail peeking through the twigs.

There's the hawk.


Find St. Andrew and the nest.

Looking carefully where St. Andrew's finger is pointing. A dark spot that may be a wing tip.

See it?

See it now? We watched it and watched it and then some folks dropped by for a look through the scope. There was a shuffle, likely a switch but I missed it with the camera or the scope. Then I heard the sound of sparrows fighting, looked up and there in the twigs was a female surrounded by a scrum of male sparrows. The courting ritual of House Sparrows is one big free for all with the males vying with each other and getting so excited they mob the female.
This female fled under a car loosing most of her pursuers but not all.

She's fighting back.

Still surrounded.

Then she gets her back to a tire and gives them what for.

Now she's got the crowd down to two.

Oops here come some more.

She attacks and all but two, who are busy displaying take off.

Stand off.

A car goes by.

The male turns tail.

She runs one out the front.

She's run them both out and then they stand looking at her--she is obviously not in a receptive mood.

Back to St. Andrew.

Ahhh, we've switched a possible wing tip for the definite tip of a tail.

Which stays in relatively the same position for quite a while.

I look across the street, both a Starling and a Robin have something to eat.

Starling finishes his and stares a Robin eating.

Starling then runs over and pecks at Robin with that long sharp yellow beak.

Starling then steals Robin's food and eats it.

Tail is still there in pretty much the same spot.

Then tail shifts.

And begins going quickly up and down. It could be feeding behavior or it could be the adult hawk working back and forth attempting to shove a twig further into the nest.
Still moving! ???
And then nothing. No tail feathers. No wing tip. The wind is blowing and it's getting awfully nippy. The street lights come on and with that note, I head for the subway.
Donegal Browne

Friday, April 16, 2010

Red-tailed Hawk Updates--The Late Athena of Astoria, Mama and Papa in Briarwood, Rose and Vince, and Isolde at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

The late Athena feeding her eyasses, May 2009

Wildlife rehabilitator Cathy Horvath, with an update on Athena's necropsy--

Hello everyone,

We just got a call from the DEC about the necropsy of Athena . It seems that she did not pass by getting hit by a car like the doctor that examined her had thought. She was poisoned by eating a rodent. Again.

I couldn't believe it, but all the testing that was done so far points to poison. There is one more test that they would like to do with the liver , but it is a very expensive test and they have to hold off for a while. They will be sending us the findings that they have so far, then we will post them to everyone . This is too to0 sad. So everyone please keep happy thoughts in your hearts that Athena's eggs hatch . Thank you to everyone for all the help and effort it took to gather her eggs up. It will be an amazing thing if they hatch !


Cathy and Bobby

Thank you Cathy. I kept wondering what had occurred that caused Athena to be hit by a car after avoiding them all these years. And as it turns out, she hadn't lost her awareness of motor vehicles, but rather once again it is likely rat poison that has caused the passing of another of New York City's much watched and loved Red-tailed Hawks.

I still have my finger's crossed that we'll get a little miracle of a hatch from she and Atlas' eggs.

From Jeff Kollbrunner, long time watcher of Mama and Papa in Queens--

Hey Donna,

Here are some images of the nest, two are when Mama was still sitting on eggs taken on 4/5. The other two images were taken on 4/12 when I could see two of the nestlings at about 3-4 days of age with Mama.

Best, Jeff

As the first hawk progeny in Manhattan came from Pale Male, who is obviously pale as are some of his fledglings, we've always wondered where the darker hawks who mated with the pale ones came from. When I looked at this photo of Mama, it made me think of Isolde. There is something similar about their eyes. And as Mama and Papa have been in business for at least 16 years, it is possible that they have supplied some of those mates.

The other day, when I got Jeff's update that there were actually three eyasses on the Briarwood nest, I asked how often Mama and Papa produce three eyasses. Here is his response.-


Mama and Papa typically have two eggs/nestlings on a fairly regular basis. The anomalies are as follows, they produced one egg/nestling on two separate occasions (seasons) and that was when there was human interference with those nests and they had to rebuild and have second clutch. Last year they had two nestlings and one perished in the nest at about two weeks and the second nestling successfully fledged. However, they have produced three eggs/nestlings more of late, this years nest and two years ago all three successfully fledged.

All the best, Jeff

That is a sweet hawk expression if I ever saw one.

Some thoughts on Rose and Vince of Fordham from Pat Gonzalez our contributor who keeps her eyes peeled at the New York Botanical Garden--

I saw Rose and Vince at the Garden two weeks ago flying above the museum building. But sadly, I've never seen them sitting on the nest there.

They both have been working on the nest at Fordham and mating at the NYBG, (Look at my youtube video. That day, I saw them mate three times.)

With this in mind, could Vince possibly be sterile?


It may be that Vince just isn't quite old enough to be highly fertile and therefore no eggs were produced. I'd hate to call him sterile exactly, as that seems to be insinuating a more permanent condition. Though technically that could be the temporary case as he is still very young. Perhaps a possible immature sperm count would be a good way to put it.

Next up the nest at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Photo by Mitchell Nusbaum
Hawkwatcher and astronomy buff Mitch Nusbaum's comment-Around 3:00PM, Thursday, a hawk, who I assume to be Isolde was visible from this spot. What could she be doing? (I do think it is Isolde. D. B.)

Different formels have different styles and Isolde very seldom spends much time perched on the lip of the nest unless there has been a hatch. Though neither Mitch nor Rob Schmunk, , (click the link for Rob's latest post), last I heard, have seen the poking motions of feeding. Isolde may be waiting for an eyass to make its way fully out of the shell or the eyass is unencumbered but has not started to beg as yet. They ordinarily don't start begging immediately.

I'm back in NYC though currently it is the 40's and raining actively. I'll try to get over and check on the Cathedral nest tomorrow, Saturday.

Donegal Browne

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Red-tail Updates- Rose and Vince in the Bronx, Mama and Papa in Briarwood, Queens


How many nuts can I fit into my mouth at once --

I think I'll eat this one right now –


Earlier this year the Fordham Hawks, Rose and her new mate which I've taken
to calling Vince, were busy rebuilding the old nest on Collins Hall. The
new nest is much larger and deeper than the old one. Through February I would see both of them around the nest carrying twigs from neighboring
trees and placing them on the nest and I was very confident that we would again see nesting activity. I was very much looking forward to watching another year of hatchlings turn into fledglings. At this point, however, I am quite disappointed to report that I no longer see any activity around the nest. I see absolutely no signs that Rose has begun sitting on eggs and my recollection of prior cycles is that by this time she should have laid several eggs. I still see the Hawks on campus sitting on some of their favorite roosting sites but no sign of nest activity. Should the situation change I will write and let you know but for now we have to assume that for this year the Fordham nest will not be an active site.

Richard Fleisher
Professor and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies
Political Science Department

Hi Rich,

Thanks for the update. I was hoping they'd nest at Fordham this year too. It seems safer somehow. I haven't heard a word about anyone seeing them at the NYBG nest spot lately either. Perhaps Vince is a touch young and still a bit sexually immature? Pale Male did eventually copulate as a brown-tail, but I've been told that at first he attempted to copulate with his mate's head.

Which brings one of my questions to mind about youthful males, I wonder how a male Red-tail "knows" to bring a female on the nest food? One would think it was innate but Norman up at the Cathedral nest still doesn't seem to have gotten it. It appears that Isolde still has to get off and hunt for herself at least part of the time. Norman does sit dutifully on the eggs while she is gone at least.

Thanks again,


Hello all,

I visited the nest of Mama and Papa today and have an update to report. When I arrived Mama was sitting on the rim of the nest so I had a clear view of the entire nest bowl and low and behold there are three hatchlings in the nest. The third hatchling must have been well under Mama and hidden from view this past Monday when I counted two in the nest.

All the best,

Alright! Jeff, how often do Mama and Papa do three?

Mama and Papa have been being observed by the Kollbrunners for 16 years.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Red-tailed Hawks, Bluebirds, and a Northern Flicker, plus Mama and Papa Have a Hatch

See the Red-tailed Hawk? That white breast does stand out. Likely the hawk is one of the Steams.

This tree is across the street from Threshermen's Park.

We stare at each other.

And we stare some more. She's waiting for me to look away before she'll fly out. I'm stopped in the road and her chance comes when I see a car bearing down on me from behind and have to look away to make a quick car adjustment to the verge before I get smacked.

When I catch sight of her again she's swooped down and is flapping for the next area of trees and brush beside the field.

She curves over and I know she's heading for the cover to the right.

Still flapping.

Then her wings go into a glide position. She glides deftly behind the brush and magically she's gone.

Finally the first day since the last storm when there is no haze or rain and I have enough light to get a definitive photo of the Ms nest from last season. It appears derelict.

Compare it with a photograph taken last May in the full swing of a hatch. The Ms have moved and we don't know to where. Yet. They have been absent from hunting the Oak Tree's field and the power poles by the tracks. Several times previously I'd caught them heading for Mud Lake or the ravine in the subdivision. If all else fails by the time I get back from NYC there may be begging going on that might just give them away, unless they are so far onto private property that we aren't able to hear them.

The Bluebirds have returned again.

And my surprise of the day--a female Northern Flicker. The first I'd seen here in several years. They used to be far more common but the Starlings have co-opted their nesting cavities so have become rarer.

She would pause, stock still whether sun-bathing or waiting for the insects to settle I don't know.

Then her head would go down and go after insects--the greater part of which would be beetles and ants--Flicker favorites. I wonder if they eat Japanese Beetles if so we could certainly use thousands more of her kind and they all would have plenty to eat.

She hears the camera and gives me a look but doesn't flush off.

But rather goes back to her job and her dinner.

Another look...
And more foraging. She stayed all day perhaps she'll remain this year and find a mate. Ten years ago there were always Flickers for the summer.

A fascinating find from Robin of Illinois--

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An acrobatic display of passion proved too much for a pair of eagles engaged in a mating dance over Alaska's Prince William Sound.
The female bird is recovering from an injured wing and other injuries sustained when the couple slammed beak-first into a hard snowbank in what her rescuers believe was an aerial courting ritual gone awry.



I've been able to confirm my thoughts of this past Saturday that our Briarwood hawk pair Mama and Papa had a hatch. I was able to confirm today that there are two healthy youngsters in the nest. I will be posting images Tuesday of the little ones that are now approximately 3-4 days old, most likely they hatched between 4/8 and 4/9. As far as I know, it appears once again this year that Mama and Papa may have the first hatch of the known Red-tailed Hawk nests in NYC.

Can't wait to hear about good news to be reported from the rest of our Red-tailed hawk nest watchers from around the city.

Best to all,



And a little something I ran across also from the NYTimes,
THE POWER OF MUSHROOMS-Psilocybin the depression fighter?

Donegal Browne