Friday, December 30, 2011

Remembering Violet of Washington Square Park's Nightly Vigils with Pip

During hawk season, I'm often in the field during daylight hours watching nests that have no cameras or nearly as many watchers to report events either for that matter therefore the time I spent with Violet and Pip was mostly after dark.

And Violet was illuminating.

Courtesy of NYTHawkCam
Once Pip became mobile she was sometimes very active during the night.

More active than when I'd watched sleeping hawk moms and their broods on other hawk cams. Pip had a tendency to wriggle away from Violet at times.

This particular evening Violet's foot had been very swollen and she appeared exhausted. Yes, she had slumped into sleep but instead of giving into weariness and not keeping tabs on this very active eyass, she clamped a wing down on her to make sure she didn't get herself into trouble and kept it there.

Courtesy of NYT HawkCam
I've watched a lot of nests from the ground and never seen a mother Red-tail preen an eyass. I'd asked other hawkwatchers if they had seen it. Nope. Of course most of them watched live not by camera.

Therefore just because no one I asked had seen something or heard something, didn't mean it didn't happen. But it didn't mean that it did either. Likely I hadn't talked to the right person yet.

The particular evening above when Pip was older, he kept waking up, scuttling around, wallowing, sticking his legs out, having a heck of a night. He looked really uncomfortable and ...well... itchy. Violet kept up with him always making sure she had body contact. And in this case it was body contact with her head.

If you look closely at him, above, you'll notice that there are dark spots in his white feathers. Those are his new "pin feathers" coming in. The dark sheaths are the beginnings of his darker fledgling feathers. Anyone who's had close contact with a bird knows that pin feathers drive them crazy. They're not only "itchy" but they are tender as well. A maddening combination. An adult bird will scratch them and then set to on them during a molt with their beak and break the sheath as soon as the tenderness allows. But a young bird hasn't the coordination so parents help out in some species. Hence my question as to what Red-tails did.

Courtesy of NYT HawkCam
Pip had another of his compulsive open eyed, leg kicking scrambles and Violet did it. She preened his feathers. He went limp, eyes closed and slept. And each time she went into a discomfort spasm, Violet did it again! And again she went limp and slept.

Proof, that some Red-tail mothers do do more than feed, warm, and protect as I'd always suspected. But I had never seen such a blatant example before.

Violet showed me clearly that some Red-tails, if not all, comfort and soothe their young.

In the end Violet was comforted by the Horvaths. If only they had been allowed to comfort her seven months earlier.

From Robin of Illinois--

From WINORR, Cathy and Bobby Horvath posted:
"We are going to have a plaque made in honor and memory of Violet . We would like to bring her back to her park and place her at the tree where we were able to finally get her . We will let everyone know once we get all the details settled . We want to thank everyone with all our hearts for the amazing support and kind words . It has been very helpful to us . We are so heartbroken from all of this and it is comforting to know you all cared so much for Violet and for us . Thank you again ,Cathy and Bobby."

One of the commenters at the WINORR Facebook page, suggested a (bronze) sculpture of Violet be placed, along with the plaque. When the Norfolk Botanical Gardens female/mother eagle was killed by a small plane last spring, while she had young eaglets in her nest, funds were donated for a large sculpture of her "from a former VET/wildlife rehabber, who started doing sculpture."

Thanks Robin, it is a beautiful idea.
Donegal Browne

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Violet the Indomitable Has Died

Photograph by Francois Portmann,

From Wildlife Rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath-
WINORR- Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation

We are extremely heart sick to have to announce to everyone that Violet has passed away . She came through the surgery very well . She woke up and was sitting up fluffing her feathers . All of a sudden she had a heart attack . The Vet did CPR on her for 20 minutes to no avail. Xrays showed that at some point after her right foot had deteriorated , her left femur was broken . We don't know how she ever survived for as long as she did . We are somewhat relieved that at least Violet wasn't suffering alone somewhere . She was warm, peaceful and had a full belly and pain medication .We just couldn't get her in time .

Donegal Browne