Saturday, January 15, 2011

John Blakeman on the New Mate of Pale Male, First Day Lambs, Cat, Rabbit, Dove Tracks in Snow, Chris Crow, and a Kestrel

Photo by Francois Portmann
Pale Male's new mate in the Ramble.

Red-tailed Hawk expert John Blakeman talks about Pale Male's new mate and his prognosis for the 927 nest in the 2011 breeding season--


Francois Portmann's photograph of the new Pale Male consort on your website reveals that the new bird is a young adult. It has still rather yellow irises, which indicates that she's just in her second year. She was hatched in the spring of 2009 and is in her first adult year. Consequently, she has no nesting experience.

But all of this is exactly what I would have predicted. The new bird was a "floater," an unmated young adult looking for a mate and a territory. In this case, the new hawk has struck herself rich. She's been able to align herself with a premier tiercel, Pale Male himself, along with his now historic territory.

The new formel's (female) inexperience could raise questions. Will she be able to attend to all of what's required to hatch and fledge eyasses, even though she's never engaged in any of this? The answer leans toward "yes."

Many first-year formels, especially with experienced tiercels in established territories, are able to get all of their mothering duties together and bring off eyasses. There is a good possibility for eyasses this spring. But, in honesty, it's not assured, for two reasons. First is that inexperienced red-tail haggards, particularly when both are attempting parenthood for the first time, very commonly fail. They assemble a nest, but don't get it very well built or very well insulated. Then, if eggs hatch, they sometimes aren't able to find, kill, and bring back enough prey for the newly-hatched eyasses. For inexperienced young red-tail hawks, it often takes a season of failure, where the pair works out what really needs to happen for future successes. This is a normal part of red-tail biology, so if the 927 nest fails this year, I'll attribute it to the inexperience of the new formel.

But she's got Pale Male showing her how things should be done. He's been there and done it all so many times before.

All of that, of course, raises the question of the failures at the 927 nest since it was destroyed and then reconstructed on the new nest support structure. If Pale Male is so experienced, with so many earlier successes, what, then, were the exact causes of the continuing nest failures in recent years, with not a single hatched eyass? Frankly, neither I nor anyone else knows.

Early on, I contended that the new nest support structure allowed too much cold air under the nest and this artificially cooled the eggs. But I don't think that's been the case in the last year or two, where much more nest material has been added each spring; leaving only three probable failure causes: geriatric infertility on the part of Pale Male (which I continue to dismiss), infertility of the earlier formel, Lola, or lastly, some sort of poisoning (which I also discount, inasmuch as poisoning would present very revealing behavioral manifestations).

So, let's hope that it's the fault of the now departed Lola, bless her avian heart. Let's focus on the new mate. I think she has a fine chance of bringing eyasses back to the 927 nest, even though this will be her first, excited breeding attempt.

--John Blakeman

Thanks John, I can't wait to see what happens!

Next up--
Early today I received a text message saying that one of young Jenny Langer's sheep, she and they were featured in a previous post, had just had twin lambs. In fact Jenny, coached by her dad Bob, had had to assist the ewe in the delivery. I'd never seen one day old lambs before, so I shoveled my way out of the driveway, hopped into the car, and headed for the Langer Farm.

I found Jenny in the Langer kitchen, surrounded by dozens of containers of dozens of different kinds of cookies. Jenny's mom Mary is an amazing and prolific cook. As it turned out Mary wasn't around as she'd been sent off to Farm and Fleet, a store that caters to farmers and truckers, to get sheep milk and colostrum replacement formula. ( I have a feeling I'd be hard pressed to find either in Manhattan.) And Jenny's dad Bob was out spreading manure on their corn fields so we were in charge of checking on the lambs every hour.

Jenny and I pulled on our boots and extra layers and headed for the sheep shed.

And this is what we found. I thought little ewe lamb, named Perky, for her amazing stability on her new legs and ability to trot right over to the teat, looked a bit like she'd been hit by a car. I stuck my hand in and rubbed her ears, they were a bit cold as she'd decided to sleep in the far corner away from the the heat lamp, but she roused and Jenny carried her over to the warm spot.

This is larger ram lamb, named Martin for having been born on Martin Luther King's Birthday. It appears that wildlife rehabilitator Cathy Horvath's theory that young male hawks get into and have more trouble than young female hawks holds true for sheep as well. Young Martin here took a long time to stand up and he's still not all that hot at eating.

In case you're wondering why this ewe always has hay all over her face, I was so I asked, her preferred method of eating is to bury her head in the hay barrel.

Ram Lamb on the left, with a good section of umbilical cord still hanging from his belly, appears to be smiling while Ewe Lamb is back to eating.

Speaking of eating, the ewe has an udder problem. Sheep have an udder with two teats. For some reason I had the idea that the udder as a whole manufactured milk which was dispensed by both teats. This turns out not to be the case. The udder is compartmentalized. One half creates milk for one teat, and the other half creates milk for the second teat. There's no cross over. The problem in this case is that one section of the udder is doing it's job and the other section isn't working. Which means only half the amount of milk is being created, only one teat works, and there are twin lambs. According to the vet, at maximum production the one teat that is working will only create 75% of the milk that each lamb needs. Hence Mary's trip to Farm and Fleet.

More on this later but now, a short tangent as I want to know about sheep tails.

Okay, have you ever heard the expression, "three shakes of lamb's tail" as a way to say something happened rapidly? Previous to this I've never seen what a shake of a lamb's tail looked like. It's actually quite odd. A lamb's tail, or a sheep's tail for that matter, is really quite limp. So it shakes from the base and the rest wiggles and curls round quickly but limply.

And the reason I'd not seen one though I had seen any number of sheep is because the tails are ordinarily docked. Why? I asked. And was told that as the tails just hang there limply and can't be lifted by the animal except from the base when defecating...well, you get the picture.

My question then becomes what do sheep tails look like in wild sheep. Why would an animal evolve who's tail will almost certainly be covered in excrement all the time?

Humans have "evolved" domestic sheep by selective breeding for what we're going to use them for . And my suspicion is that the tails of wild sheep and domesticated sheep are different in some way. Either a difference in structure or in the amount of wool on them could make a difference to the issue.

It turns out that although the ewe was in labor, for some reason, she wasn't pushing and she was bleating a good deal. It was decided that she was having trouble delivering . Therefore Bob told Jenny to pull her right arm out of her sweatshirt and coat. She did. She then put on a glove that went all the way up to her shoulder and inserted her arm into the ewe. While being directed by her dad as to what to feel for. Eventually she found a pair of rear hoofs and was told to pull. She did. She'd gotten the legs pulled out and then let go. Everyone then expected that the ewe would then push the lamb the rest of the way out. Nope. During the next contraction he popped back inside and she had to do it again.

Mom attempts to rouse Martin in hopes of getting him up and eating as he's a slow learner. Smaller Perky, alternatively, is making sure she gets her share and more.

The other ewes have come inside to see how things are going. They seem quite fond of watching the new babies.

The ram Sherman has been moved from his original pen in the shed to the Siberia of sheep pens much closer to the open door. Don't worry he's a big guy and he can take it. In fact he's only penned as rams, similar to bulls, aren't all that trustworthy and have actually been known to kill people in a snit. His previous pen had to be given to the ewe who was thought not ready to give birth yet , but being of another opinion on the matter, she delivered her lamb into a snow bank, two days earlier.

Speaking of Sherman, for whatever reason and I'm told he doesn't do it with anyone else, but when I speak to him, he cocks his head and appears to be listening intently.

Have you noticed how tiny Sherman's ears are? Look at the ewe above again. Those are a far more normal size for sheep ears. In fact the lamb's ears are bigger than Sherman's are.

Mom tries to get Martin to get up and eat again. But it's time for Mom to get the shots that may help get the other side of her udder going.
Bob and Jenny hold the ewe in the corner of the stall and Bob digs though the wool down to skin for the inter-muscular injection. Perky true to her name is not to be left out and has scampered over to watch the proceedings.

Being next to mom is important no matter what.

Ram Lamb is a bit confused as to where the udder is located.

Mom takes a rest next to Ram Lamb. She's had rather a hard day herself, delivering twins with hoofs after all.

Mom nudges Martin into place. She does seem to be paying attention to who's eating and who's not.

Mom keeps a sharp eye on Jenny as she attempts to cut the floppy edges off Ram Lambs coat so they don't catch on anything.

All in all, everyone is doing pretty well.

The Annoyed kitten.
In actuality he probably isn't annoyed all the time, he just looks it. He has extra thick hair on his forehead and somehow that makes him appear annoyed or that is Jenny's supposition anyway.

I figure it's time for me to head out before it gets so dark that I loose my way trying to get home. Besides I want to get back to the house and check out some of the tracks in the snow.

Domestic house cat tracks. A walking Cat often steps onto the spot it has previously stepped, overlaying the previous print. Making the tracks appear as a single file line of prints.

Note the overlap of two different feet . Also note there are no claw prints for obvious reasons. Kitty feet have retractable claws.

Rabbit tracks. if it looks like slightly off kilter exclamation points, you've got bunny tracks.

Bisecting rabbit and cat tracks.

And last but not least, Mourning Dove tracks in the snow.

Christopher Crow takes off from the bird bath and heads for the goodie stump.

Just beyond the new pole is a small bird and that bird is a Kestrel. I see them so infrequently that I pulled over into a snow bank, while the other traffic zipped by and tried to get his photograph. This guy was wary and before I got anywhere near him he was off the wire and heading into the woods. Considering the crash in the Kestrel population outside cities, wariness is perhaps the reason that he's still around.

Donna Browne

The New Mate Of Pale Male

Photo by Francois Portmann
Pale Male's new girl in Central Park's Ramble, near the bird feeders.
Can you say fierce?

Photo by Francois Portmann
Evidently the time has come for a clean sweep of the natal territory in preparation for breeding season. Every winter, Central Park, particularly the Ramble near the feeders nearly regardless of territorial boundaries, becomes a neutral zone of Red-tailed Hawk feasting due to the deep prey base. But now as the days lengthen and the critical photoperiod increases, hormones begin to cascade in preparation for breeding and those invisible territorial boundary lines begin to harden again.

Photo by Francois Portmann
On Thursday hawkwatcher and professional photographer Francois Portmann was in the Ramble observing Pale Male and his new girl as they went about the business of running the now seen to be intruding young Red-tailed Hawks out of their kingdom.

Note New Girl's puffed feathers exaggerating her size, though she's no teeny thing in the first place, and her ruff standing on end. Scary!

By the way, I'm currently calling this hawk New Girl as a kind of short hand, an interim name, as "the new mate of Pale Male, tiercel of the 927 Fifth Avenue nest" is a bit on the bulky side. One of these days, I'm assuming, as often happens a name will appear and we'll all think, that's it!

Photo by Francois Portmann
Francois caught sight of a band on one of the juveniles, conceivably the one above on the left or the one simultaneously being ousted by Pale Male down the way, things happen fast this time of year. I first scrounged around the net looking for who or where the band may have come from without much success. Then I emailed wonderful rehabber Bobby Horvath asking if he might have any ideas.

Being we've only got 7 7 and a C below them, he said it's tough to tell, though conceivably it could be a DEC band, we need all the digits to make sure. Francois is on it.

Photo by Francois Portmann
This is one of my favorite shots from the day. Feet and ankles neatly and balletically pressed together, a powder of snow drifts in the air...

Photo by Francois Portmann
Her wings breaking at the wrist, feet spread in perching position, she looks down gauging the distance...

Photo by Francois Portmann
...her feet touch, taloned toes close and knees lock. Her eyes are back up, alert, after that briefest of glances down, surveying the area for more interlopers.

Photo by Francois Portmann
Speaking of interlopers--Is there another juvenile to be chased beyond Francois' shoulder or she considering taking his head off.

Photo by Francois Portmann
Oh dear!

Photo by Francois Portmann

Evidently Francois was deemed acceptable as he kept his head and was able to send on his photos.

Just look at her!

Pale Male's new mate is very dark and very beautiful. Obviously a good huntress, see her plump crop and from this angle she reminds me a little of Lola. But then Pale always does go for the Lookers.

And why not, he's awfully handsome himself and does have the best Red-tail address in the world.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pale Male's New Girl, Red-tailed Hawk Smashes Into NY Times Atrium , Does Valkyrie Need a Nest Nook?, Bopping Ibis, Plus Doorstep and Friend

Photo by Francois Portmann,
A younger brown-tailed Valkyrie hangs out at the construction site in Tompkins Square.

Note that Valkyrie has lighter and darker areas on her head. Francois Portmann reports she still has these. And as Pale Male's new girl doesn't, Valkyrie will likely still be resident in Tompkins Square Park. That is until a male attracts her, who might steal her away to another area.

Now if Valkyrie had a nifty possible nest site around Thompkins Square Park she just might attract a male and stay put, much to the delight of the many who already watch her.

In 2008 a different female with a mate attempted to build a nest in a tree in Tompkins Square Park. Which according to report didn't work because every time the hawks weren't in the immediate vicinity the squirrels dismantled it.

It appears that there wasn't a building that fitted the criteria for those hawks for a building nest, or perhaps there just isn't a spot even remotely acceptable for any hawk pair.

Which put me in mind of hawk specialist John Blakeman's, 2006 design for a Nest Nook, a nest bowl attachment, which could be fitted to either a wall or a ledge of an urban building overlooking a green space. There was some talk about a possible tree model as well.
Check it out-

This was just a beginning thought back in 2006, now not only do we have some birds who could put one to good use in a neighborhood which might be amenable, but we know more about the needs of urban fledglings so perhaps it 's time to expand the concept. I'm hoping that John Blakeman has time to upgrade his initial thoughts.

My suggestions include a "runway" connected to either side of the Nest Nook bowl for the fledglings to exercise, run, and flap on, plus perhaps some horizontal perches above to "branch" on. The runway could be wood topped with pigeon spikes anchored to it . These would allow the adults to add more twigs which would stay in place because of the pigeon spikes. Also because wind and the cooling of the eggs might be an issue, more protection surrounding and under the bowl itself.

What do you think? Any other suggestions?

Red-tailed Hawk Smashes Into Glass of the New York Times Building Atrium

The Raptors NYC Group was once again called into action by a call to NYC Audubon--

An Update from Wildlife in Need Of Rescue and Rehabilitation's Bobby Horvath--

This afternoon we received a call from Glenn Philips that he was notified of a situation that a hawk was injured inside the NY Times Building in Manhattan at W. 41 st. It was inside the atrium standing in a ground floor garden apparently stunned .

After a few calls we were able to get Peter Richter to leave work early (thank you to his understanding boss ) . I was concerned that if it regained its composure before anyone got to it it would be extremely difficult to catch since it was described to me as 5 stories tall and wide open where he was.

In many rescue situations any animal may gather all its remaining strength to elude capture fearing for its life and too often have gone on guaranteed "downed" birds who miraculously fly away as I get near holding my net. If its fully flighted and not injured there’s no harm done but the opposite case where an injured bird manages to get some lift or over a fence or to a garage or building rooftop may mean a slow death if necessary medical care is unable to be given.

In this case it was luckily in time and Peter does have some bites and scratches for his efforts but we appreciate his dedication. Thanks again Peter. It is again a juvenile male attesting to Cathy's possible discovery of her silly males getting in trouble syndrome may have some merits.

He is very dark , almost chocolate brown and in good shape except for some blood over his cere where he most likely crashed and a possible wrist injury but doesn't appear anything is broken so a little rest should do the trick.

Cathy gives everything a little pain med for these type cases and put him in a quiet warm spot to rest .

Also today we got in a juvenile red shouldered hawk from Seagate , Brooklyn that somebody found 2 days ago and has had in their bathroom till they found us. It also looks in good shape and was probably a collision of some type but nobody knows anything more.

For the New York Times stories and video, click the links--

And one of the aforementioned saviors, Peter Richter's blog is--

In from New York City's W.A. Walters
| January 11, 2011
Observatory: Bony Wings That Went 'Pow! Smack! Whomp!'
Researchers said an extinct, flightless bird that came from Jamaica and belonged to
the ibis family used its wings as a powerful club.

It is snowing once again, but Doorstep Dove and Friend were out for their evening warm-up before roosting again this evening.

Doorstep gives me a binoc look.
Friend has taken to standing in the warm water during their pre-roost sojourn on the bath. The New York City pigeons do the same thing when I bring warm water onto the terrace. I used to wonder if it wouldn't make their feet too cold when they got out as they'd be wet. Evidently it isn't a problem as they keep doing it.

It's getting darker, it's almost time for their exit.

Friend leaves first as usual. Doorstep takes a minute or two by herself and then she's off to sleep.

Plus Pale Male's new girl was sighted again yesterday, 1/12, interacting with the Monarch of Central Park.
Scroll down further for previous new girl updates.

Donna Browne

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where is Pale Male's New Girl?

Photo by Francois Portmann,
A younger Valkyrie, before her red tail, of Tompkins Square Park does a little showing off for the crowd.

It was suggested by a reader that Pale Male's new girl who is so very dark, might be Valkyrie (or Dominatrix as she's now sometimes called downtown) who is also dark and has spent her time down in Tompkins Square Park for several years now.

I contacted Francois who said he'd look into it.

Then I received an email from birdwatcher and pro photographer Francois Portmann saying in part--

I saw Valkyrie/ Dominatrix yesterday at Tompkins Square Park, so that settles it, she’s NOT PMs new girl.


Good, I thought, that takes care of that question and went on to my next email, and another question from another reader of the blog about whether Pale Male's new girl had a red tail or not.

I'd remembered checking that early on and it appeared to me that she did, even though I was having to decide from the bottom as opposed to the top which is a much more saturated orange.

But, I thought, one can make mistakes when it's 4 in the morning, perhaps I should just go re-confirm my decision on that and went to check Lincoln's photos on .


As far as I can tell, on the posts of 1/10 and 1/11, the photos of hawks that aren't Pale Male are photos of yearling hawks who's tails have yet to turn red and are brown and barred. Also note that Lincoln never says in the captions for those days that the other hawk or hawks on the posts for 1/10 and 1/11 are Pale Male's new girl.

After re-checking the tail of the hawk Pale Male was courting on 1/05 through 1/09, I still saw it as red.

Therefore we haven't completely nixed Valkyrie for the post of Pale Male's new girl though her juvenile feathers are lighter than the bird Pale Male was courting--adult plumage does differ.

As Valkyrie, or any other female with a red tail, (I'm open to being corrected on this; go take a look.) appears to be in Lincoln's published photographic record of the 10th or the 11th, whichever the day as Francois was writing a few minutes after midnight, it doesn't conflict with Francois' sighting of Valkyrie downtown. Though it is a very unlikely chance that she is the new girl, Valkyrie/Dominatrix is still in the running.

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pale Male Courts the New Girl with Gusto, Red-tail on Red-tail Intrusions of Nests, and the Norfolk Eagle Cam

Pale Male and Lola in 2007

Pale Male has made his choice of a new mate as Lola has not reappeared. At this time of year the biological reproductive imperative takes over and he is courting the new formel he has chosen with great gusto and acrobatic flying. Check out the latest photographs at Lincoln Karim's--

The new girl is a very dark headed and backed hawk with a very dense dark belly band. There will likely not be much problem telling them apart.

I do hope those are not words I live to regret. Sometimes it isn't as easy as it may seem initially to tell two Red-tails apart but here the differences are almost spectacular.

As Lincoln had mentioned that he thought that Pale Male's new choice looked similar to Charlotte, Pale Male Junior's mate, I wondered if their eyass of 2007, Ziggy, might actually be dark enough and the right age to be Pale Male's new mate.

Remember Ziggy, who came down into the Ziegfield Plaza and caused such a hullabaloo amongst, rush hour pedestrians, the police, the park service, a homeless guy and eventually renowned rehabber Bobby Horvath thank goodness, as she stood grounded on the sidewalk?

I found a photo of Ziggy, and unless she has darkened appreciably with age, she isn't nearly dark enough. Pale Male Jr., who's coloration takes after his likely father, Pale Male, is...well...pale. And he is her father after all.

Karen Anne Kolling of Rhode Island had a question about whether Red-tails have the same sort of Red-tail on Red-tail Intrusions onto the the nest that Peregrines do--
Karen Anne said...

For awhile I was reading some peregrine websites. There have been some nasty battles, even to the death, when a peregrine is away temporarily from his or her mate, and another "moves in" and then the first returns. Does that happen with redtails?


Not that I've seen or heard about.

With Pale Male and Lola or any of the other Red-tailed nests I've watched, I have never seen an intruder actually set a toe on their nest. The pairs are on the job and keeping an eye on the mate’s location in the park plus the territory and the park located mate keeps an eye on the territory and mate on the nest as well.

Before the eggs are laid, some visitors are rather gently herded from the territory, whilst others have both Pale Male and Lola seriously hurtling at them at which time they beat a hasty retreat.

After the eggs are laid, gentle herding becomes a thing of the past.

Once I saw Pale Male signal Lola by flying back and forth in front of the nest as he wanted her to come back to the nest, then he flew off and took care of the problem himself. There are times where Lola will take off like a rocket from the nest after an intruder and PM will hot wing in and stand over the eggs.

Very occasionally when there are eggs they will both go after the intruder or intruders. The eggs are left for very brief amount of time.

I can't confirm their exact criteria for who takes on which intruders but it appears that Pale Male takes on the males and Lola takes on the larger females as she is larger. There have been cases in which the territory was entered by a pair of Red-tails. It appears in that case that they take quick turns fighting them off, with one adult on the nest a straddle the eggs.

On one occasion, Lola was on the eggs and Pale Male was on the nest doing a check in when a Red-tailed Hawk suddenly appeared on the edge of the roof of 927. Pale Male saw the hawk, flew up, landed about 2 feet from the visitor on the roof. Pale then just turned toward the second hawk, puffed himself up in a menacing stance and glared. The visitor then looked completely startled and flew off as fast as his wings could carry him. Pale didn’t even bother to chase him .

From Eaglecam alerting Jackie Dover of Tulsa

Hi, Donegal:

The Norfolk [VA] Botanical Garden eagle pair have built a new nest, about 125 feet from the old one. The eagle cam has been moved to the new site and is currently being tested before going live once again. A summary of this activity can be found at this link (Dec. 30 entry):

For some gorgeous photos of the eagle pair at the new nest, see the blog by Reese Lukei, of the Center for Conservation Biology:


For more information about these eagles and the camera--

Best wishes,

Jackie Dover

And from NYC Birdwatcher and astronomy buff Mitch Nusbaum--

A photo stream which has a good example of the notch in a Sharp-shinned Hawk's tail. The notch is often noted by birders as a field mark to tell this hawk from the similar Cooper's Hawk.

Donegal Browne