Saturday, June 04, 2011

Pale Male's Swollen Foot, Eldest Takes First Position, and Pip Swallows It Whole

Pale Male's photograph courtesy of

I admit it. Since the episode of Violet of Washington Square Park's hugely swollen foot and leg, I find myself automatically scrutinizing Red-tail feet and tarsi.

I was looking at photos of gorgeous angelic Pale Male and eeeeeek! The tarsus and foot of his left appendage are swollen.
Not as bad as Violet's thank goodness but certainly bigger than the other side.

Double click the photo above for a larger version and look for yourself. It's his left leg but on the right as you look at the photograph.

My mind immediately flashed on the fact that this is the leg that when sometimes perched on the Linda building he stretches out in front of him with the toes curled in a "fist" and just sits that way for awhile.

Now I'd wondered about that foot before and its strange positioning. I mean he did look very relaxed while doing it. Now I wonder if it eased it somehow? Had I missed a chronic perhaps intermittent condition all this time? He wasn't just relaxing that leg in an odd position for most of the years I've watched him?

I don't know yet but I'm going to try and find out.

Photograph courtesy of Rob Schmunk, Bloomingdale Village blog.
But in the meantime, Rob Schmunk reports that the newest "Eldest" has taken up the Divine nest pre-fledge position for hopping and flapping.

Because of the configuration of the Divine nest site, the eyasses tend to find the best locations within the limited space up there for particular stages of development and as they've chosen well, those locations tend to be the same year after year. As Rob points out the youngest eyass in the group of three is still relegated to the rear area most of the time.

Middle Child will tend to be up near Eldest who is in the pre-fledge position on St. Andrew's hand watching him hop and flap. And may on occasion actually get a chance to use the spot herself when Eldest isn't using it, depending on how long Eldest remains on the nest.

Once Eldest fledges, Middle Child will have first dibs on The Hand, with Youngest looking on.

Eventually Youngest will be up there all by herself and she will not like it.


Because the main action of the parent's attention will have moved to the trees and to Morningside Park. Oh, Youngest will still be fed well and nurtured, but Isolde will be off the nest much more often than she has been previously, helping Norman with the two that have fledged already.

The last eyass on the nest often but not always makes a decision to fledge, not an accidental swept-off-by-the-wind-exit that may happen to the first eyass. After two have gone Youngest gets the picture that it can be done and if she wants to hang with the family again full time, making the leap is the way to get there fastest.

Oh, and why is the oldest eyass called the newest Eldest? Because when we started out watching the St. John the Divine Cathedral nest, one of the first nestings we watched had two eyasses and they were called Eldest and Youngest. It is interesting how hawk watching traditions concerning a certain nest start, work, and then just--continue.

The best hawk names often say something important about how to identify the holder of the name. With eyasses the names tend toward information about age or size. Unless, of course, like Pip of Washington Square there isn't an issue of telling one from another.

For more about this Divine threesome, click on Rob's link under the photograph above.

Eldest could go off any day now, or last another week and a half. One never does know.

Next up from Robin of Illinois-Pip is now at the stage where she will swallow things whole which rather surprised some watchers of the cam. And I mean a great portion of a whole squirrel for instance.

On occasion this may backfire and the item will be too large and lodge in her throat. Often with the eyass's beak pointed straight up with a portion of the prey sticking out of it.

I remember one instance in which Little of the Trump Parc nest, stood for the longest time after swallowing a complete and fully feathered pigeon wing, with his beak straight up with about 4 inches of a long primary feather jutting up. He was breathing fine, he just couldn't get it down.

It was the first time I'd observed the phenomena and I was horrified that Little would suffacater ore strangle or have so life threatening food mishap. But Charlotte just stood and watched him for what seemed like an eternity before grapping the primary and tugging the whole wing back out for him so he could put his head back into a normal position. Undaunted he immediately did it again.

If this happens to Pip, Violet will allow the stuck prey to stay stuck for some minutes before dragging it out of her throat. There is a lesson to be learned here after all. Some eyasses will just swallow whatever it was whole immediately a second time, upon its removal like Little did. If Pip does this, Violet will then let it stay stuck for a longer period. Eventually pulling it back out, but also eventually the eyass will learn what "too big" to swallow is-- before leaving the nest. Off the nest she won't have the aid of a parent immediately to hand, so it is an important lesson to be learned before taking the big leap.

Watch a feeding in which Pip swallows "it" whole.

John Blakeman answers many questions about Red-tailed Hawks, in case you missed a chapter here and there. Well worth the read for the new watcher and a refresher for those who may be a bit rusty...

Donegal Browne

Friday, June 03, 2011

Do Red-tails Drink? Violet of Washington Square, Home Depot Duck, and Being Passionate

Photograph courtesy of
It's hot up there! Pale Male pants after a trip to the nest. But he and Ginger Lima can fly down and get a nice cool drink from any of Central Park's numerous bodies of water. What about little Alpha who is stuck up there on 927 with the sun glaring down on her?

Photograph courtesy of
No water for her. In fact a reader inquired about how the little guys get water in this hot weather. Actually they don't get water.

The first nest of eyasses I watched when I first started watching New York City's urban hawks, was the second clutch of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr., on the Trump Parc nest. Those eyasses were even later in the season than these, I believe. There was a drought that summer and it was excruciatingly hot just watching them, let alone being up on that concrete corbel with no shade whatsoever.

I was anxious about the eyasses, stranded in the sun, no water...

I went home and started looking at the Red-tailed Hawk literature online. It turns out back in 2005, in the published materials which included information on the Red-tails that nest in Alaska to those that nested on cliffs in arid areas, no one had ever seen a Red-tailed Hawk drink. (Well no scientist, who'd published had anyway.) It said right there in black and white that no one knew if Red-tailed Hawks drank, or even bathed for that matter.

How weird. Well, prairie dogs don't drink, maybe Red-tails didn't either.
(The reason you never give a prairie dog a potato chip.)

So the next day, sitting on the Hawk Bench, I asked Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love if she knew if they drank. She said, "Ask Anne Shanahan". Anne Shanahan?

It turns out that Anne Shanahan and her camera walked past the Hawk Bench every day but she never stopped. Too shy?

Whatever the case, the next time Marie saw Anne she pointed her out and I trotted after her and asked my question. Actually I'm pretty shy myself so in order for me to do it, I really wanted to know the answer to my question.

It turned out that Anne knew many things that folks who spent much of their time on the Bench didn't know. She walked the Ramble and knew where Pale Male cached food for Lola. She knew the places that Lola ate it. She knew where they took the garbage to throw it away.
AND she knew if they drank or not. In fact she had documenting photographs that yes they did drink and they took bathes too, thank you very much.

Not having realized previous to that time how difficult it is to watch rural hawks. No human habituation for them. They're a big GONE. And not having put together that in Central Park there are literally hundreds of sets of eyes most days watching every move that the hawks, or owls , or warblers make. I suddenly realized that that some of the urban hawk watchers with their constant attention, and proximity, knew a whole lot more about Red-tail behavior in the "wild" than likely anyone else in the world. Certainly more than the scientists who'd published knew.


It was a revelation.

The next day Anne brought me a series of photographs of Pale Male drinking at Azalea Pond. Yup, he was drinking alright. Leans forward, comes back up beak dripping. That certainly answered that question.

But what about the eyasses and water? This one was in the literature. In fact the literature for all altricial birds. It's not like the parents can fly down and bring a Slurpy back for them. No money and no equipment for carrying water, right? Not quite true, eyasses get all the "water" they need when the parents bring prey to the nest and feed them.

Though the parent Red-tails weren't like Prairie Dogs, the eyasses were. They get the moisture they need from their food.

Evolution is a wonderfully handy thing.

Courtesy of NYU
When last I checked in on Violet and Pip, Violet had actually tucked her head and was having what looked like peaceful hawk sleep. I'm hoping that now she isn't having to crouch so often over Pip that at least a little of the swelling will go down on her bad foot.

Home Depot Duck

In from Jackie of Oklahoma,

BANGOR, Maine -- Aisle one: light bulbs. Aisle two: plumbing supplies. Aisle three: duck.

A mother duck opted to move out of her swamp residence and nestle her home -- eggs and all -- among the gardening supplies inside a Maine Home Depot store.

Instead of escorting the duck off the premises, Home Depot employees have been taking care of the bird and trying to give her some peace of mind.

Read more:

And for those who didn't catch the following link on mariewinnsnaturenews Here is a second chance in case you, like me, have been accused of being too "passionate". Vindication at last.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Ginger Lima Takes a Break, Downed Eagle's Nest, and MTA Peregrines

Photo courtesy of
Ginger Lima on a break from the nest puts on the brakes, looking like a sculptured archangel, and lands on the railing.

Photo courtesy of
She lands tidily. What a gorgeous hawk. Pale Male has taken a beautiful mate.

Robin of Illinois says--I hadn't stopped to think how HUGE eagles' nests are....a very big job putting even some of the old nest into the new nest. That is a HUMONGOUS basket they made for the nest!
One of the on-line newspapers said that they had so much interest in the story, they will do a follow up in a day or two.

More complete story, with some photos of the rescue. I hadn't stopped to think how HUGE eagles' nests are....a very big job putting even some of the old nest into the new nest. That is a HUMONGOUS basket they made for the nest!

One of the on-line newspapers said that they had so much interest in the story, they will do a follow up in a day or two.

Their nest downed in a storm, the eaglets were unharmed, so they were taken to rehab overnight, and a new nest was quickly human-built in a sturdier tree, the old nest put in the new nest as lining, and a local tree service donated its time and equipment to bolt the new, sturdier nest, the tree, and lifted the eaglets to their new home.

DuPage County, IL

Two bald eaglets and their parents have a new, sturdier home today in place of the one destroyed in Sunday’s storms.

That nest in a skinny pine tree on the western edge of the Mooseheart campus came crashing down when a branch broke. The eaglets, who were in it at the time, were not injured by the 85-foot fall.

But their lives were nonetheless in danger. Birds of prey such as the bald eagles typically do not feed their young on the ground. The eaglets, at 6 weeks old, haven’t yet learned to fly. They were likely to starve to death or become somebody else’s dinner.

But eagle-eyed eagle watchers from the Kane County Audubon Society noticed on Monday the nest was gone, and alerted Mooseheart’s security office, who called in experts — the rehabilitators from Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The Flint Creek crew took the eaglets to their Barrington site Monday for an examination, feeding and overnight stay.

They knew, however, that the longer the babies were gone, the less likely the family would be reunified. “We were afraid if it took us too long to build the nest, they (the parents) might give up and leave,” said Dawn Keller, executive director of Flint Creek.

So Tuesday morning, Keller placed one of the eaglets on the ground under the tree, hoping Mom and Pop Eagle would see at least one of their babies was still alive. Mooseheart security workers, the rehabilitators and eagle aficionados quickly built a new nest, out of vinyl-coated hardware cloth and metal electrical conduit.

Then it was time for the aerial work by Brian Ziegler, operations manager of The Care of Trees. He used a bucket truck to lift the new nest 63 feet up, into a sturdier tree, then working from a harness, secured it with I-bolts and steel cable. Meanwhile, the older eagles swooped and soared around, a good sign.

Ziegler lined the nest with the remains of the old one.

Finally, it was Keller’s turn to go up — first to inspect the nest, then to carry the eaglets (one male, one female, weighing 4 and 7 pounds apiece) one at a time to their new home, while helpers on the ground kept an eye out for attacks by the parents. There were none.

“He did such a beautiful job,” Keller said of Ziegler. The tree-care company donates its services to Flint Creek for such projects. But this is the first time Flint Creek has built such a large nest, because it is the first time it has helped eagles.

“Eagles’ nests in the Chicago area aren’t that common,” Keller said.

The Flint Creek crew will check to make sure the parents are taking care of the eaglets. If not, they will retrieve the eaglets and raise them with a surrogate. “We should know very soon afterward,” Keller said.

The eagles became celebrities last year, the first they raised a family in the old nest. They built the nest in the summer of 2009. The nest is near Randall Road.

The Kane County Sheriff’s Office had to remind motorists last year that they couldn’t park their cars along Randall to get out and watch the birds, nor could they hop the fence to get a closer look. While it may look like a forest preserve, it’s private property, owned by Moose International. The fraternity runs Mooseheart, a residential school, there.

Even though the operation took all day, the volunteers’ interest didn’t waver. Even when their part — building the nest — was over, they hung around several hours, until they knew the eaglets were home. For Moose member Ron Dickenson of Batavia, a few hours was nothing.

I’ve been chasing these eagles for six years,” he said.

Photograph courtesy of the MTA
Nine Peregrines hatched on MTA Bridges--

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pale Male Gets to Tend the Nest, the Divines, and Good News for Pale Male and Ginger Lima From 927 Fifth Avenue

Photo courtesy of

As Central Park Hawkwatcher, Kathering Herzog mentioned, Ginger Lima is so attentive to the eyasses that Pale Male hasn't had much of a chance to tend the nest. In fact at times, Pale Male barely has a chance to catch his breath after a flight up with prey before Ginger is eying him to vacate the premises.

Pale Male does very much like to have his private tending time with eggs and eyasses. It was hot up there today and Ginger Lima decided to take a break.

Pale Male looks at the eyeasses and can hardly wait to sit on them.

Photo courtesy of

Unfortuanately for Pale, it is hot up there and the eyasses appear not to want to be sat upon at the moment.

Photo courtesy of

But being a dad of long experience, Pale Male bows to their wishes and backs off. Besides you can tell he loves just watching them at close range anyway.

Photo courtesy of
Rob Schmunk managed to catch all three of the young Divines, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine nest in view at the same time. In this shot not all are showing their faces but there are more images of the fiesty threesome on his site.

Though she's taking care of three eyasses, Isolde is looking in fine fettle and doesn't appear as worn out with the trials of three eyasses and herself beyond St. Andrew's elbow as she has in past seasons by this point.

And the Good News from 927--
Sandy Fiebelkorn, a contact from NYC Audubon, has received the news that in deference to Pale Male and Ginger Lima's late hatch this season, the building will be putting off all window washing and facade work on 927 until August, after the eyasses fledge.

NYC hawk watcher, Mitch Nusbaum managed to sight an uncommon Merlin today by hearing the call and then locating it's perch.

And don't forget to email or snail mail the Honorable Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of NYC Parks, about the removal of rat bait boxes and the banning of stuffing burrows with poison in Pale Male and the other resident hawks territories! Addresses at the end of the next post down.

Happy hawking!

Donegal Browne

Sunday, May 29, 2011

For the Red-tailed Hawks of NYC, Any Meal Could Be Their Last (Part 2 now incorporated into the original post.)

Photo courtesy of
All it takes is one bad rat. And seven years of hope will have come to nothing.

Photo courtesy of

(It may be a bit of a slog through details for some but do persevere to the end where you'll find important ways to help our urban hawks and ourselves.)

For the non-urban among you, this is a "bait box". A euphemistic term referring to a receptacle which contains rather nasty poison. It doesn't just poison rats you know. The contents are a deadly poison to just about any creature with blood.

In fact I've seen "professional exterminators" just throw it around on the ground. Little bright blue shaped pieces which look like they might just taste of blue popsicles.

40,000 children a year end up eating rat poison (They aren't counting the pets, birds, wildlife that are poisoned and die.), so the EPA figures the second generation poisons should be kept away from children unless placed by a pro. No residential use.

A place like a New York City Park, probably has more children and pets per square foot, than any normal place of residence. But these poisons are placed it in our parks.

First there is the poison in bait boxes. All poison should be removed from the hawk's territories well before the hormonal surge in male hawks which urges them to give gifts to their mates which often include rats.

The more hormonal the males are the more their judgement is impaired. We've seen it season after season. (Sorry guys.)

Not only should the poison be removed from bait boxes but the boxes themselves should be taken away so they are not inadvertently refilled due to a miscommunication between those who work for the money raising Central Park Conservancy and the NYC Parks department which attempts a balance between the needs of wildlife in the parks and what others see as a "need" of people who won't use proper sanitation and look for a quick fix.

Second the placing of poison in burrows should be outlawed. It poisons the ground. It poisons ground water. It looks tasty and tempts children and dogs to poison themselves and hawks to be poisoned by needlessly toxic rats.

Burrow stuffing is dangerous overkill for rats that causes the death of other wildlife without any question. A rat in a burrow can eat away on poison for days before it dies making it a very toxic rat which could kill a hawk taking a single bite.

Whereas the rat had it's death sentence from the first bite, it just takes days for it to die either way.

But even less toxic rats aren't OKAY.

Though small amounts of poison in a rat that a raptor eats may not kill a hawk outright, it can cause it to become infertile (Lola?) and suffer neurological damage which can cause a hawk to make "mistakes" which lead to death.

All urban hawks found dead should be tested for poisoning no matter what we believe the overt cause of death was. Even if we've just seen her hit by a car. That flight judgement mistake may have been made due to neurological damage caused by low toxicity rats.

Time after time it has been proven, poison doesn't really control rats at all? Rats have developed reproductive stratifies that defy extermination measures like poisons. So why is it we keep trying to find more and more toxic substances in which to kill Brown Rats?

Photo courtesy of
Because of slovenly humans that's why!

(See previous posts that include information about the drastic reproductive step up that occurs in rats when a sizable portion of a colony is exterminated. The only thing that controls rats is a lack of food. When food is very limited they eat each other. Now isn't that handy, natural, and causes no reproductive step up until food increases again. Speaking of food?)

Riverside Park--Dumpsters for lawn waste, filled instead with food garbage to overflowing, uncovered, and with sprung rat friendly seams. A reproductive bonanza for the Brown Rat. Just one of the many many issues that have made Riverside Park such a productive habitat for Rattus norvegicus.

According to research studies, despite what the extermination companies would lead people to believe, the only real way to control rats is sanitation, sanitation, sanitation.

And the above photo is not an example of it.

And because poison is cheap and being clean obviously too much trouble for some concessionaires....guess what happens to our lasting shame as humans?

Photo courtesy of
May, 2008--Two of the three Riverside Park eyasses who within days would disappear with their sibling below the edge of the nest never to be seen alive again. They were inadvertently fed a tainted rat by their parents. All three, dead of rat poison.

Photo by Donegal Browne
May, 2008--Riverside Dad an extremely skilled rat hunter, tireless collector of nesting materials, prodigious provider, attentive father, and affectionate mate brings a rat to Riverside Mom who is sitting eggs on the nest.

April, 2011--Just last month, Riverside Dad's body was found in the park. He died of rat poison, leaving Riverside Mom with two freshly hatched eyasses, only days old and still in need of her constant presence to warm them, during this exceedingly cold wet Spring.

And poison rat bait was still extant in the area very near the nest.

Riverside Dad's family initially survived on the many cached prey animals he stockpiled before his death. When these were exhausted, a food delivery system was worked out through talented wildlife rehabilitator, Bobby Horvath, concerned local hawk watchers and the NYC Parks Department, in which freshly thawed frozen quail and rats were left on the ground near the nest for easy access by Riverside Mom to feed the orphaned eyasses.

An employee of the fundraising non-profit of Riverside Park, attempted to remove the food provided for the family, saying that Red-tailed Hawks didn't "belong here". It is believed he was corrected by Adrian Benepe, the Commissioner of NYC Parks.

Photo by Donna Browne
Big, beautiful, and experienced Athena of the Astoria Park Triborough Bridge Nest, mate of Atlas, mother and willing foster mother to many, left behind a clutch of eggs on which her mate Atlas sat for many long hours watching for her return. She could not come back. She suffered, too ill to fly, and bled from the mouth.

Famished, Atlas finally left the nest to hunt, the clutch was retrieved by humans and artificial incubation attempted. There was no hatch. Many died not just one.

Athena, dead of rat poison.

Photo by Donna Browne

Multi-skilled hunter, fast, human friendly, ever vigilant and clever Hawkeye of Fordham, mate of Rose for many years, benevolent father and hefty provider for a nest full of healthy eyasses year after year after year. Found gravely ill and grounded on the Fordham Campus with Rose desperately attempting to protect him.

Hawkeye, dead of rat poison.

These are the hawks of name we know for certain were sickened and killed by rat poison. Poison that was deemed "necessary" due to indifference and lack of proper sanitation in humans.

Among the missing, and possibly poisoned, who's fates we do not know other than one day they were with us and the next, never seen again, are Pale Male's former mate Lola, and the southern Central Park pair, of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.

These hawks were loved, and are deeply missed.

Human sloth and disrespect caused their suffering and untimely deaths.

It's time we humans who are not indifferent, to make our concerns known, in a civilized manner to Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of NYC Parks. He has always been sympathetic to the hawks of our city.

In fact last season he had the poison removed from all Manhattan Hawk territories during breeding season. He may have received a backlash from that so we need to give him some leverage with the number of our communications and the strength of our real concerns for the hawks in order to get the ban reinstated ASAP.

And from hawk watcher Katherine Herzog. who has been on the poison problem--

The concessions/Central Park Conservancy sometimes act on their own....Mr. Benepe should be made aware that there are rat bait stations - at least 12 around the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe and the parking lot where the trash dumpsters are parked - and more right under Pale Male's nest near the small concession adjacent to the model boat building.

You can fill out the on-line form, which limits you to 150-words:

Better yet if you're up to it, snail mail is much more effective..... so get out your stationary and a stamp and start writing. It is more of an effort and therefore is taken more seriously by those who receive it.

Honorable Adrian Benepe
Commissioner or Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal
Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
NY, NY 10065

And for those of you who may have visited NYC and seen Pale Male's nest or plan to do so bringing tourist dollars into the city. Or those whose children follow the lives of the Fifth Avenue Hawks and have now become concerned as you now you know there are at least a dozen bait boxes in the immediate vicinity of the Fifth Avenue nest, if that is such a good idea as the animals could die a dreadful death from poisoning at any time.


Poison out, sanitation in!!!

Alert liked minded friends and relatives.

Put it on your facebook page. Twitter it. Post on other blogs!

After the first day on this blog the generic address won't bring this blog up directly first so be sure to get the precise blog address once another post goes up when you send it to people.

Ask for support in the comments sections of Hawk and Eagle Cams and leave the specific blog address. Or write your own plea and post Mr. Benepe's address. Don't forget the comments sections and the chat rooms of the New York Times City Room Blog and others like it.

Currently Washington Square Park is the only park in hawk territory without poison, and as that park is small even those hawks are still in danger as Bobby will have to hunt the streets in which there will have been poison set in the buildings and alleys.

Have another idea that will help? Share it! Hit the "contact me" button or post in the comments section.


Donegal Browne