Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sam Says It's a Hatch as Do the Rest of This Evenings Hawk Bench Warmers!!!

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters
It was around 6PM and very wet when daughter Samantha arrived at the Bench. Already holding the Bench down in the rain, with the company of a couple of chubby NYC pigeons, and some begging squirrels were, from the left in deep discussion about the nest activity-- Stella, Katherine, Kenturian, and Margaret. Sam of course was there but behind the camera.

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters

About 6:25 Ginger, got up out of the nest and began tearing a piece of prey into small bits. She then put her head into the nest bowl.

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters

A slightly larger thumbnail.

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters
Then her beak would go to the prey and then back into the bowl with slight poking movements.

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters
There was consensus at The Bench. It's a HATCH!!!!

After 6 years of horrid disappointment, IT HAS FINALLY HAPPENED!!!

What a stunner.

Photograph courtesy of
In the meantime, once-again-dad Pale Male is over on the railing of the Oreo building being attacked by a Kestrel. He guards the territory, hunts all day, and what does he get? No respect, that's for sure. But it is all part of the job. He allows himself to be a target and keeps Kestrel interested in him as opposed to Mom and the kid(s).

Photograph by Samantha Browne-Walters
Every season for the last six years I've watched this nest for at least part of each season. In 2005 I watched it exclusively until finally Lola, after an extra month of sitting, ragged feathered and a brood patch gone purple from pressing against the underlying cradle spikes, she gave up the nest. Pale Male then tried to tempt her back with tasty tidbits and sat himself for long hours hoping she would return. Finally he too, gave up.

It was an emotional crusher.

After the destruction of the nest in 2004, the protesting in bitter cold, leading the revolt with Honk for Hawks on Fifth Avenue, world wide pressure on the condo board, panels of experts deciding how to build something for the nest to sit atop, and its installation. And Pale Male and Lola had taken to rebuilding their nest like a dream. The Model Boat Pond crammed with people waiting for a hatch that never came.

Would it have been better not to have insisted that they be allowed to nest on their old site? Something had gone wrong. Who were we humans to think we could do it better than the hawks did? If not able to use 927 would Pale Male and Lola have found a new nest site and there would have been a hatch like usual?

First the meddling of tearing down the nest was a travesty, but had we made it worse by settling for the carriage? As it was a different set up should we have said, don't bother and Pale Male and Lola would have found a new site and all would have been well?

Speaking of hawk watching despair, we had bitter years of it. It was physically painful but as time went by I knew I was still very sad about it but somehow we accepted that quite probably there would never be eyasses in Pale Male's nest again. We lived with it.

Then yesterday, when I was alerted that there might be a hatch on Pale Male's nest. I sat down and wept. Tears made of years pain, and now possible relief and happiness! Eureka! We might have done okay by Pale Male, the human trusting hawk, after all!

So what did go wrong? I've been thinking about this constantly since hope reared her lovely head on the 20th. I began comparing the breeding history of Pale Male and Lola with that of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. from 2005 on in my head.

It was late in the 2005 season when Pale Male and Lola gave up their nest. By then we knew that the Trump Parc nest of Charlotte and Junior had once again failed as well. Their eggs had blown off the nest, yet again.

Then there was a rumor that there was activity around the Trump Parc nest which most watchers discounted. It was too late for anything to happen and besides the nest site wasn't the least bit watcher friendly. Unless a hawk was standing near the edge of corbel on the Trump Parc there was nothing to see at all. Zip.

Whatever the case, I was miserable about Pale Male and Lola and even if there was the slightest chance something was happening on the Trump, I was going to go look.

I trundled back and forth in hot summer weather with a rolly bag full of equipment on the very south end of Central Park right up next to the wall looking for a spot that might give even a speck of better viewing of the nest. Eventually I set up and made myself keep my eyes glued to the corbel. Nothing could be seen of twigs or nesting materials. I waited. I waited for hours. Nothing. Then, it didn't take more than 5 seconds and if I'd glanced away I'd have missed it. A hawk came out from behind a building, landed on the corbel and another took off the corbel and disappeared behind an another building on the other side.

It was a pair doing a switch of a nest in a near blink of an eye. There had to be eggs up there! And there were. They'd double clutched. Two healthy eyasses, Big and Little, fledged off the Trump that summer of 2005.

In 2006 both nests failed, but a dog walker had seen a nest on the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The walker told hawk watchers. It was the nest of Isolde and Tristan.

In I think 2007, Junior and Charlotte moved to 888, a space that could not be seen from the ground. But Brett Odom could see it from his office and sometimes Lincoln Karim found a seat with a view in an adjacent building. We watched by proxy. That year they only had one egg hatch. And it was Ziggy, the fledgling that came down into Ziegfield Plaza and created a sensation during rush hour and then became entangled with many city departments with their many experts. But Isolde and Tristan came through with Big Sister and Little Brother. 927 failed again.

Then Charlotte and Junior failed year after year or didn't nest at all. One year, and egg was laid, but Charlotte was acting very odd (neurological issues?) and did not brood it. This year 2011, they've not been seen really and the hope is they nest in a spot we've not discovered. But upon thought, it appears to me that they had started having serious fertility problems.

In the meantime, the spikes that had so enpurpled Lola's brood patch and had been chilling the eggs were removed. How could they not have been, they were so close they were bruising her and were connected to exposed metal in the outside air. And still Lola and Pale Male failed. Was Pale too old? Had he become infertile? But we'd heard of hawks years older than Pale Male who were fertile to the end of their lives.

Now we know, Pale Male is not infertile. It was likely Lola who was infertile

Here is my hypotheses. As Pale Male and Lola had had a healthy clutch in 2004, but the eggs didn't hatch in 2005, it was the cradle not sudden infertility that caused the failure.

We now know that increasing low levels of rat poison in a hawk can cause infertility, accidents do occur due to neurological difficulties, and eventually death.

The more frequented portions of Central Park and hence areas with restaurants and food venders have more rat poison laid in them. Pale Male is perfectly capable of hunting rats which he does for mates who like them but personally he prefers avian meals. Lola seemed always to prefer mammals.

If we use the fertility decline of Charlotte and Junior as a rough gauge and compare it to Lola, by the time the cradle had been corrected, Lola was well into an infertility decline due to rat poison.

Ginger who is young and likely new to the park and it's insidious rat bait does not suffer from the problem as yet so she and Pale Male have been able to reproduce.

These are all hypotheses. But if eventually Pale Male and Ginger begin to have fertility issues, it may be because Ginger's system has reached the poison tipping point. Anecdotal to be sure, but if at all possible all hawks no matter how we think they died, even being hit by a car can be the result of neurological issues due to poison, should be tested for poison upon their deaths.

And as it is late in the season for dumb squirrels, and according to hawk watchers of long standing first food for eyasses on 927 brought by Pale Male is mammal. In this case, it was rat.

We must get the rat bait out of Pale Male and Ginger's territory before these long awaited eyasses are poisoned like those of the Riverside pair.

On that thought here is Pale Male news from ABC as of May 20th,

Donegal Browne
P.S. It's late on a very exciting day. More from contributors and the publishing of comments later yes, but coming soon. Time to tap dance!

Friday, May 20, 2011


2007- Pale Male takes out the garbage

I was just getting up from my computer to go to bed, when I thought I'd make one last peek into my mail box and discovered this email from hawk blog follower, Josh Edgars of Brooklyn-

Dear Ms. Browne,

I read on Urban Hawks [Bruce Yolton's blog. D.B.] there are three actions that tell people that eggs have hatched on a hawk nest: eating on the nest, walking around the edge of the bowl and staring into it, and feeding movements.

I'm almost sure that I've seen photographs of the first two things on your blogs when there haven't been chicks on the nest. Has it been your experience that these things are proof positive there are chicks?

Thank you for your answer in advance.

Josh Edgars

Hi Josh,

Great to hear from you again.

I'm not disputing Bruce's experiences in any way, but from my personal experience with failed nests on 927 and the Trump Parc nest of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr., the first two behaviors are either hormone or time span triggered and always occur around the time the hatch should occur, but may not have. Only the third, feeding movements, as far as I know, is actual proof there has been a hatch, beyond the sight of a white fluffy head of course.

Look up at the 2007 photo at the top of this post. Lola has finished eating her meal on the nest and Pale Male is now about to take the garbage and dispose of it. There was no hatch that year.

2007- Lola stares into the bowl.

In 2005 or 2006, a hatch was thought to have occurred to high excitement, falsely, because of staring-into-the-bowl behavior.

After watching Isolde stare into the bowl one year with slight movements of her head as if she were watching movement of some kind in the nest bowl, I thought that perhaps staring with slight movement on the part of the watcher might be proof of a hatch. But later I watched Lola do the same thing with a finale of a quick move and a beak snap. I then realized she'd been watching a pesky fly in the bowl and she'd nabbed it when it took flight.

In this year's case Marie Winn has observed what she believes are possible feeding movements. That's the gold standard of proof if repeated. Tomorrow will tell the tale.

If there is a hatch, the feeding movements will be repeated in numerous different and specific sessions and hawk watching fans of Pale Male all over the world will be bursting into tears of happiness, laughing for joy, or dancing in the streets because finally, finally after all these years of travail and guilt and disappointment there will once again be eyasses on the nest at 927 Fifth Avenue.

(There have been a number of posts today so scroll down to make sure you have seen them all.)
Donegal Browne

Thursday, May 19, 2011

FLASH!!!! HATCH ON FIFTH AVENUE? And Battle of the Bath Part 3

April 2011, Photo courtesy of

Have they done it ?

On Thursday, Marie Winn of mariewinnnaturenews, and the author of Red-tails in Love, heard from Rik Davis, who spends his days at the Hawk Bench, that there might be a hatch on Pale Male's nest.

WHAT? Can it be true? Wouldn't it be wonderful!

Marie took to her heels and headed for the park.
For the latest report click her link above.

Though things are yet to be confirmed Marie saw what she took to be feeding behavior. And Marie, after watching this nest for many years, would be hard to fool. She has seen feeding behavior for many years.

The only thing I can think of that might fool us all, and no one has ever seen it happen that I know of, is if Ginger Lima had the hormonal urge to feed and being a new mom, she was feeding nothing. Though Red-tail literature says that a new mom is cued to feed initially by the sound of an eyass begging for food, so if correct that throws the feeding nothing possibility out the window.

Marie said she would try to give me a call from the Bench with news tomorrow.

This evening, I called my daughter Sam, who is conveniently back in NYC from college, and asked her (okay, I admit it, told her) to hotfoot herself down to the Bench Friday. Sam, though just a kid in 2004, was a diehard protester for the return of Pale Male's nest.

The news will have spread by Friday and the Clan of Pale Male will have gathered.

I can't wait for tomorrow!

In the meantime, as getting to tomorrow is a nail biter, it is time for TA DA, the third installment of 2011's Battle of the Bath.

You may remember that Red-breasted Grosbeak got tired of waiting on the stick pile for a chance at a bath. Starling, Grackle, and Red-winged Blackbird were taking forever so he did a surprise stealth attack from below the bowl. Shocking Starling so much he completely embarrassed himself. Eventually Grosbeak stared everyone out of the bath but Starling, he had his reputation to think of after all, and that's where this segment picks up.

Grosbeak leans in.

He pops in with a "smile" and Starling stops wallowing and stares.

FINE! He goes back to wallowing.

Grosbeak starts bathing.

Starling turns and looks offensive, and Grosbeak's posture reeks, just try it buddy. I'll leap on your face.

Suddenly Grosbeak stops short and Starling turns toward the park. If you look closely it rather looks like Starling is wearing a gorilla mask on the back of his head.

Grosbeak continues his focus towards the house.

Then Grosbeak turns away and goes further toward the far edge of the bowl.

WAAAAAAA! Guess who? It's Grosbeak's mate with her own surprise stealth attack and goodness-- where did Starling go?

This ends Part 3. To be continued...

Donegal Browne
P.S. By the way, the food that was delivered by Pale Male to the nest earlier in the day, and from which his mate was feeding, was a rat. The rat poison boxes have not been removed from Pale Male's territory this year.

Pale Male of Fifth Ave., Rose and Vince at Fordham, Violet and Pip at NYU

Photo courtesy of
Don't let that fluffy little head and those big round eyes fool you. Pale Male is surveying his kingdom and nobody with wings stands a chance if they invade his airspace.

Photo by Richard Fleisher All rights reserved
The Fordham nest of Rose, in photo, and Vince.

And update from Rich Fleisher, one of the chief watchers of the Fordham Red-tailed Hawk Nest. No white fuzzy heads yet but Rich, a seasoned hawk watcher, has reason to believe there is a hatch.

Donna, I wanted to update you on the Fordham nest. Keep in mind that what follows is speculative since the nest is on the ledge of one of the buildings and we have no view into the nest. My strong suspicion is that we have chicks (at least two possibly three). I base this conclusion from watching Rose. First, she is sitting high along the edge of the nest where a few weeks ago she was barely visible sitting much lower in the nest. Second, she can be seen clearly shredding food and lowering her head as if to feed. Given the different directions she faces is why I assume that we have multiple eyasses. I have taken recent pictures and as soon as I get a chance to process them I will send some along as well as positing on my Flickr site. I will keep you updated. If I am write we should see some signs of the eyasses sometime in the next week or so. Rich Richard Fleisher Professor

And an update on the next mystery question that is asked after feeding behavior is observed. Just how many eyasses are up there? The Fordham nest is the only nest in which we have observed a hatch of four eyasses in the city. Though the fourth eyass appeared to have died almost immediately after hatching.

This nest is also special in that it is the only nest in which fledglings regularly go back and forth from the nest, to the trees, to other buildings and then back to the nest. Sometimes several times a day. This behavior is far more similar to fledglings that come from rural nests than to the rest of the urban nests perched on buildings, where most often, once off the nest the fledglings ordinarily do not return to their hatching site as it is too difficult to get there with their rudimentary flight abilities.

More from Rich--


Follow-up to my email of the other day updating the status of the Fordham nest. Still no little white heads but I continue to be convinced of multiple hatchings. I have gotten around to finally positing onto my
flickr site photos and videos that I shot this week. In the video that has both Rose and Vince it is interesting to explicitly compare how much bigger she is. Note that in the video Rose is on the left and further back and yet strikes me as a much larger bird.

I will keep you up-dated.


Just looked at the videos. Very nice! I'm thinking you may well have a multiple hatch also. In 3254, is Rose mantling to shade an eyass or has she spread her wings to cool herself? Or do you know? :-) It appears to me that Vince is giving the bowl on his side of the nest, the I'm-watching-one-of-my-offspring looks. And if Rose is mantling somebody on the other side that obviously a multiple. But perhaps she's just hot. You're right. Rose is a big girl isn't she? I never noticed this disparity in size with Hawkeye. Perhaps Vince is in the tiercel mode of Pale Male, Pale Male Jr and Tristan--Small, blindingly fast, and very clever.

And on to Violet and wee Pip at the Washington Square nest located on a window ledge of the NYU Library.

Photo captures made with thanks to Livestream
Pip rustles around under Violet who very shakily attempts to go over on her side. Her damaged leg must be the one that is currently propping her up so Pip has more room to move. Then like all good Red-tailed Hawk Mom's she checks the perimeter just in case there might be a marauder out there. First she looks towards Washington square.

Then at the window. Pip wriggles some more. Violet once again shakily readjusts her body.

And as all birds do, even young ones, Pip peeks an eye open to look around before going limply back to sleep for a short amount of time before the next look.

Longtime NYC hawk blog reader and contributor Mai Stewart, has gleaned more comments from the CityRoom blog concerning Violet--


New York, NY

May 17th, 2011

5:55 pm

It sounds like the people that the DEC sent in were not anywhere near as experienced as Horvath in rehabilitating hawks. It is such a shame that NYU did not allow Horvath to capture Violet so he could remove the identification tag and put her back in the nest with her baby. I worry about what is going to happen to her.

our wildlife is precious


May 17th, 2011

3:51 pm

Violet can barely put any weight on her right/ damaged/ badly swollen foot. She clearly cannot hunt.
What's going to happen after this eyass fledges in 6 weeks or so, assuming her foot/leg have not deteriorated
[further] and Violet has lived that long? What is her life going to be like, especially if she can't hunt for herself?
Once the eyass fledges, Violet will spend almost no time on the nest. How will it be possible to capture her and remove the band then, if she survives the next 6 weeks?
Shame on DEC. Violet deserves better!

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Did Pale Male's 1995 Mate Get That Injury on Her Foot. Blakeman and Karim

hotograph courtesy of Ann Shanahan
Red arrow Lincoln Karim, for his thoughts click here,

For John Blakeman's, yellow arrow, take on what caused the wound, see below

The photograph on showing a banded Red-tail with a spot of blood in fact shows that the band was NOT improperly fitted. And there is no way the blood was caused by the band.

I’ve banded dozens of wild raptors, and this photo shows conclusively that the band was perfectly fitted. Look closely at the photo. On the left side of the leg, where the band wraps back around, on the lower edge, there is a dark shadow along that edge band. That shadow exists because there is a gap between the band and the leg, creating the shadow here.

There is no band-caused swelling. The bird has bumped something during a kill, a very common experience for these predators. Wild Red-tails commonly have bumps and bruises such as this. Notice that the bump is small and localized on the front of the tarsus, resulting from an impact from prey or an object encountered during a kill. The lesion does not expand around the entire leg, as it would if the band were too tight.

This is false evidence against the use of bands on raptors. The band here had absolutely nothing to do with the bruise.

And of course, this very bird went on a number of successful years after this photo was taken. The band was irrelevant.

–John Blakeman

Donegal Browne

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Violet's Band Information Plus Vi Makes a Good Save and Doesn't Fall on the Eyass

Violet's band has been read and it turns out that she is 5 years old and was banded in the Delaware Water Gap.

As female Red-tails can conceivably lay fertile eggs at two, though three might be more usual, Violet could well be a 2nd or 3rd time Mom this go round.
She likely isn't a new mom after all unless she's never been able to find a mate and a territory in past years.

Personally from watching her, I think she has had previous experience.

Yesterday I was watching Violet feed Solo the eyass, but I came in late so I'm not sure of what the meal consisted of.

After steady feeding, Solo has had enough and faded down into the nest.

She had a few minutes rest. Eating is rather a strenuous business for a little hawk.

Then as often happens after a meal, and a very short rest, it is time to toddle. Time to work on balance and getting up off her haunches. As I'm sure most of you have noticed a bird's "knee joints" bend in the reverse direction to ours. Therefore a young bird is folded forward at first. In order to get upright they have to muscle up, balance, and move their feet.

Flop! Sometimes it just doesn't work.

Notice how she is using her wing to help her become upright.

Now the feet part.

Wing movement for balance will eventually turn into flapping practice.

Violet attempts to lift her swollen foot but the twig wants to come with her foot. It jiggles the nest and Solo looks over.

Violet pulls a few times and eventually her toes release from the twig.
Now she can reach the tidbit that Solo dropped. Clean up and lunch at the same time.

After food and exercise Solo will very rapidly fade off into sleep.

Vi steps into the fish line. When she goes to take another step her foot is caught so she is brought up short. And unable to grip very well with the right foot she over balances.

And begins to fall into the bowl of the nest and little sleeping Solo. She whips her wings out for balance and manages to avert the moment.

Startled, Solo's head pops up. The movement also seems to have freed Violet from the fishing line. Enough altitude was gained to slip it off perhaps?

Violet checks Solo and checks for any stray bits of food that need to be cleaned up.

Then she settles down on Solo and broods.

Violet seems to have done everything that a Red-tail should in order for all her eggs to hatch when it comes to attentive nest sitting. How old is Bobby? Was he a little "off" while copulating perhaps ? Or was it the cold Spring? Or a nest that was only a first season nest and by next season will be fuller, more robust and better insulated. Nesting materials are at a premium in the city.

Let's hope that Violet's band is removed soon and that she and Bobby will come back to this window ledge year after year just as Pale Male and his mates have returned to the nest on 927 Fifth Avenue for decades.

Besides, though the view of this nest from the ground isn't nearly as good as the one of the Fifth Avenue nest, the view from the hawk cam of the nest itself is spectacular. Many thanks to NYU and The New York Times. Keep in mind that though we can see the nest very well, half the action of the hawk pair is occurring off the nest. Where is Bobby? What is he hunting? Are there intruders he must chase away? Where are they disposing of the garbage?

And it is those things that can be seen from the ground. So if you are close enough, some day pull yourself away from the Hawk Cam and go see what the other half is doing. Besides you'll meet some of your fellow hawk watchers, glean information about what happened before you got there, and have a grand time.

Trust me.

Next up from the NY Times comments section, a Kindergarten Teacher/Certified Rehabber who has treated restricted circulation problems in raptors, talks about what her class thinks about all this and what her rehab experiences tells her about Violet's foot--
Ms. Keller's Kindergarten Class
Socorro, New Mexico
May 12th, 2011
2:42 PM

We have been viewing Violet and her nest since last Thursday and we are very concerned for Violet and her baby. This morning, after discussing yesterday's news update with the students, they had an opportunity to write about Violet and their wishes for her and her family. The students had many sentiments on the topic. I wish I could include their responses and illustrations. The overall consensus was that Violet have the band removed and be returned to her family in the wild.
My personal response -
As a certified and permitted wildlife rehabilitator, I have treated a number of cases of restricted circulation in raptors and waterfowl. There does not appear to be an infection in the leg and the tissue color is normal in the foot. Yes, the band needs to be removed before the injury progresses but by the looks of the leg, once the band is removed, normal circulation will be restored and the swelling will subside within a few days. Violet should not have to be treated past the band removal and should be able to return to her nest immediately.
As for the eyas, motherly instinct is astounding in wildlife! It is an incorrect assumption to say the mother and chick couldn't be kept together if further treatment were necessary. It is regular practice to use unreleasable adult raptors to foster orphan and injured nestlings in wildlife facilities to avoid human imprinting. These raptors are accepting young that are completely foreign to them. Another point to make about the "lifetime in captivity" judgment- imprinting is a complicated process and occurs in stages as the animal is development ready. For example, a raptor will not imprint on humans as a mate unless they are nearing sexual maturity and their only exposure at this point is humans.

If something were to happen to Violet, there are numerous options for raising the eyas free of imprinting and with the skills necessary to return to the wild as a viable member of its species.
From the mouths of babes, "Remove the band and let Violet live free in the wild with her family!"

New York city hawk watcher Mitch Nusbaum sent in a heads up. The New York Times Pay Wall has gone up and he suggests watching the hawk cam on the NYU site if necessary. But there might be ways of getting around the Pay Wall if you're on a limited budget.
See the link below.

Donegal Browne