Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sunday Miscellany: Pale Male, Great Egret Pond, Sandhill Cranes, and a Few Flaps

Photo courtesy of
It's wet out here, but at least cooler. Pale Male attempts a Great Horned Owl impersonation.

Photo Donegal Browne
Great Egret Pond

Photo Donegal Browne

Photo Donegal Browne
Note the female, bottom right.

Photo Donegal Browne
He eyeballs me. I get the message and don't get out of the car.

The Langer Sandhill Cranes forage at dusk.
Female left. Male right.

Photograph courtesy of
Girl does a few energetic test flaps of her wings. The pin feathers for her primaries are just coming into view.

And the first fledge is off the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia!

And lest anyone forgets-- Scientists use scientific discourse. And scientific discourse is civil impersonal intellectual discussion of findings in search of facts. Scientific discourse is never petty and remains within the bounds of science and on topic.

Donegal Browne

All the Divines Still at Home and the Miraculous Family on Fifth

Photograph by Rob Schmunk

Everybody is still a'nest at the Cathedral of St. John. No fledges today.

Rob took a grand shot today with all five of the Divines on the nest. That's Stormin' Norman on the right with wings spread. (He looks ever so much lighter feathered than his second year molt. Lighting?) Big Beautiful Isolde on Andrew's hand, checking something out , and the kids hanging out of harm's way and their parent's talons behind the head.

Photograph by Rob Schmunk

I had to include this photo. Look to the right side of Andrew's head. That, without a doubt, is the comedian of the group. For more go to http;//

Photo courtesy of
A classic. Girl watches the world go by in the shade of mom's wing and tail.

Photo courtesy of

Look! We have feet!

Just joshing.

Though do note how soft and unused these young feet are compared to their parent's hard working feet.

I've wondered if any mirroring was part of babyhood for a hawk with a sibling. The reason why I wondered this? An important part of courting in Red-tails depends on mirroring of movement as well as a kind of physical call and response with thrown prey.

I'm not sure what they are doing here. In some ways they appear to be looking at Girl's foot as if it just appeared unattached to anything else.

Remember young Red-tails have extremely active imaginations. For those who haven't seen it wait until they start killing inanimate objects. It is hilarious.

Also note that Boy is sitting flat on him bum with both legs stretched in front of him. This stage tends to be a bit comical live. It only happens for a short while. I assume by the time they start getting a real tail it just isn't all that comfy besides they'll be getting off haunches and walking like real birds by then.

Why am I calling them Girl and Boy? Scroll down to the next photo.

Photo courtesy of
Yes, one eyass is slightly younger than the other by a day or two, so that makes for a size difference but compare their beaks. Girl on the left, has a beak several times bigger than Boy's on the right. Different head shapes too. Females have a "hawkier" look, as Francois Portmann once aptly pointed out, than males, who tend to be rounder skulled somehow. The set of the eyes is different as well.

Photo courtesy of
The Stare. Remember Pale Male and Ginger Lima doing exactly this pose on the nest when they were courting? No question that females are the bosses of the nest in Red-tailed Hawk pairs.

There is a more than average difference in size for these two. And they are getting plenty to eat, note those crops so it isn't as if anyone is going hungry. Girl is shaped like her very large strong Mom and Boy shaped small and compact like his dapper Dad.

Photo courtesy of

Amazing split second moves here. Eyasses are wired to hit the nest when there is an incoming parent but also look how Ginger has tucked her left wing completely into a fold just in case somebody was slow in going flat.

Just the aerodynamics of nest entrances and exits are almost miraculously meticulous in Red-tails.

Today in particular I am once again reminded how blessed we are that these animals allow us to watch them go through their lives.

We owe them all the protection we can muster for that gift.

Do what you can.

Donegal Browne

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pale Male and Company, Plus rat bait in Central Park and Riverside.

Photo courtesy of
And then there were four, the entire family atop the nest.
Pale Pants from the trip to the nest, and the eyasses hawk eyes focused look at Mom and the meal to be.

Photo courtesy of

The Fifth Avenue Eyasses-Wouldn't you like to sleep that fully relaxed flat on your face in a pile of stick?

A response to Robin of Illinois’s letter to Parks Commissioner Adrien Benepe concerning rat poison in Central Park--

Note my [Robin's, D.B.]underlined and bolded lines in the last paragraph.

I did not write this man. I wrote to Benepe; so Benepe, apparently, has washed his hands of the issue and has passed it along to this person's in-box.

Dear ---:

The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation has forwarded your correspondence regarding the use of pesticides in Central Park .

The single most effective measure that the Central Park Conservancy uses to control rats is aggressive garbage control, including strict sanitation practices which significantly reduce the need for baiting. In addition to keeping all of our landscapes as clean as possible during the day, we have dedicated staff at night whose job it is to empty trash receptacles after 4:00 pm. We utilize rat-proof trash receptacles in heavily trafficked areas, and we are implementing greener practices which will reduce the amount of trash inside the Park.

When a decision is made to put out limited bait, it is premised on the fact there is an actual infestation of rodents. Rats pose a risk to public health and safety. They contaminate food, damage structures and property, and transmit parasites and diseases to other animals and humans. Protecting Central Park's wildlife is of paramount importance, and our rodent control program utilizes best management practices that reflect this.

The Conservancy uses rat bait that poses the least potential for secondary kill. We take appropriate measures to minimize the risk to hawks, other predatory birds, and wildlife through the careful use of secured, limited-access bait boxes that contain no more than 3 ounces of rodenticide. Activated bait boxes are constantly monitored to be sure that they are intact. Staff does not bait in areas where hawks and birds feed during nesting and fledgling season, from approximately late-March to October. Throughout the Park, 70% of what appear to be regular bait boxes are actually population monitoring stations that contain a non-poisonous lure.

The amount of rat bait applied in the Park has significantly and continually declined in the last decade. During the same time period, we have received no reports that any hawks or other raptors have been poisoned in Central Park by the active ingredient used in our limited baiting program. We have been witnessing a diversification of wildlife attributable to our finely-tuned program: chipmunks are returning to the Park as a direct result of the reduction in the competing rat population, and we have received reports that there has been an increase in the numbers of white-footed mice. Establishing, maintaining, and protecting a healthy balance of wildlife in one of the busiest urban parks in the world is immensely challenging, and it will always be one of the goals in all of our endeavors.

For matters concerning Central Park , you may get in touch directly with the Central Park Conservancy. Please do not hesitate to call or email Caroline Greenleaf in our Operations Department, who is the Conservancy's Manager of Community Relations, 212-628-1036, ext. 26, or


Neil Calvanese

VP for Operations

Central Park Conservancy

That said there are at least four hawks who suddenly disappeared from Central Park, having not been elsewhere and who's remains have never been found: Lola, Charlotte, Pale Male Jr. and Pale Beauty. According to, parks employees were told not to tell anyone if a dead hawk was found therefore necropsy would not be performed. None of this has been confirmed by me.

In the meantime Bruce Yolton, has had his meeting with the powers that be over in Riverside Park, he reports--

I was in Riverside Park tonight, not only to visit the hawks but to discuss outstanding hawk safety issues with John Herrold, Riverside Park's Administrator.
John Herrold had news of the necropsy results and it looks as though the second generation poison brodifacoum was the cause of death, and not bromodiolone which was used near the Boat Basin Café. This would point to buildings along Riverside Park which use brodifacoum rather than the park itself. (Changing poisoning habits outside the park will be much more difficult than influencing park policy, I'm afraid.)
Mr. Herrold talked about how concerned and knowledgeable his staff was about the hawks. It was good to hear that Riverside Park had the hawks on their radar.
Mr. Herrold did a great job of listening. We spoke of improving relations between Riverside Park Hawk watchers and the park, possibly having a meeting every March to allow hawk watchers to express concerns for the upcoming season and to meet his staff. Knowing names and faces before a crisis goes a long way.

We also talked about the dumpsters and I learned that the inappropriate dumpster has been removed, dumpsters with lids brought in for the Boat Basin Café, and plans are underway to purchase a solar powered compactor for the marina. So, this issue seems to be close to resolution.

We also talked about poisons in the park. Here he feels, that except for poisons placed near the dumpsters, which believes was done in error, the park has been greatly improving its approach to rat management. He believes that over the last five years serious efforts have been made to reduce rodenticide use, by introducing traps, limit garbage, etc.

I asked if he could evaluate the period poisons prohibited around a nests to possibly have them start when nesting begins and also to evaluate the use of underground application of loose poisons rather than using bait boxes. He said he would look into it.

So, it looks like a positive dialog has begun.
The fledglings looked great. Both are being well feed by their mother and one even played on the ground today. So far, so good.

More to come on these matters.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Iconic Pale Male, What's All that HEAD Touching? The Divinves Haven't flown the coop quite yet.

photo courtesy of

Pale Male looks 5 years younger than he did last year at this time. Though working every daylight minute he is back in the mode of what his body is telling him he should do. When there were no hatches , he looked very concerned all the time. Something was wrong and he didn't know what. I think he suffered from a great deal of stress through those six barren years. And stress debilitates. He didn't look nearly as good thenas he does not.

Pale Male as an adult has all the facial characteristics of a juvenile. The big round eyes, the soft rounded head are the constant characteristics of the "cute" of young animals which keeps us taking care of them. Keeps us vigilantly alert to their welfare. And I think those characteristics are partially why we love Pale Male.

photo courtesy of

Now the nest thing up. What is all this touching of heads. I'm sorry, I've never seen a formel and a eyass do that. and I;ve watched a lot of nests. There appears to be affection in touching.

And we come down and voila! who else is doing it. The touchy face or perhaps a pressure against the other. That didn't happen between Lola and PaleMale. Or Tristan and Isolde, nob did I see Hawkeye and Rose do it, though i haven't observed them nearly as much
photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of
I'd also been told that Red-tails did not preen their young. That isn't true they do. Observe.

Photo courtesy of
The Swallows maul Pale Male. One is being cheeky enough to ride on his back while pecking at him. Just one more thing in Pale Male's day.

Photo courtesy of
Dusk , April 7, 2011. Look at Pale's left foot, on the right from your view. See the markss Below see the zoom.

It appears that there are bite marks on PM's foot and ankle does it not? Lincoln Karim of does say that Pale Male was hunting rats at this moment.

Photo courtesy of

Then a month later I realize that Pale Male's foot and tarsus appear swollen.

Crop of previous photograph. There appears to be dark healed spots. Is the swelling from trauma or from infection? Though I admit Pale looks in fine fettle, bright eyed and hunting like a banshee. Take a close look. Those are some very hard working feet and have been for many years. Is Pale left footed and that is the foot that goes for the head of the squirrel or rat? As most humans are right handed, so are most African Grey Parrots left footed for instance. Perhaps Red-tailed hawks tend toward being left footed as well.

Thanks to Sally of Kentucky and Karen Anne Kolling of RI for their help in researching photographs and their scrutiny for bits on PM's feet

And from boffo bird photographer, Francois Portmann--

Hey Donna,
First peregrine fledges of 2011 in manhattan At 55 water street: Greetings francois

Photograph by Rob Schmunk

Initially when Rob and the other watchers had been observing for awhile, they began to wonder if someone had fledged while no one was looking. But eventually the second eyass and then the third eyass appeared. IT HASN'T HAPPENED YET! ANY DAY NOW!

THREE ODD BIRD MOMENTs TODAY-NONE WITH PHOTOGRAPHS THIS IS THE USE-YOUR-IMAGINATION PORTION OF THE BLOG. Suddenly today, there are Grackles with fledglings all over the back yard. It's become a Grackle Nursery with begging brownish fledglings doing what fledglings do---chasing their parents around waggling their wings and insistently begging, something that has not occurred here before en masse. I was observing a parent and fledge Grackle on the feeding floor. The parent spooked and flew up onto the electrical wire at the back of the land. Youngster froze, then looked around, saw parent on the wire and flew wings pumping straight at him like a dart, knocking Dad smack off the wire. Bird parents are really quite patient and forgiving about these incidents. Later, I opened the front door and there was a brightly colored bright eyed skeletal Robin skippity hoppity around the yard eating. You just don't see skeletal Robins. The look plumb even when they're dead. I'm thinking that possibly Skeletal Robin got shut into someones garage or other out building for a span of time without food and is now out and making up for lost time. And the third strange moment was while I was driving about 2 blocks from my house, and there lying beside the road at an intersection was a dead crow. It is very very rare to have road killed Crows because they tend to forage in threes or family groups and particularly near roads there is a sentinel crow watching from a high point to alert the other crows about oncoming traffic and other dangers. Perhaps this Crow wasn't foraging in the area but rather flying from one spot to another with food for a nestling, was a bit low, and was clipped by speeding car. The area is within Christopher, Carol, and Junior Crow's territory.

Donegal Browne

Monday, June 06, 2011

A Visit to the Edgerton Bald Eagle Nest

When I first looked up a parent, Mom(?), was feeding. She took one look at me and dived off the back of the nest. Note left eyass looking down after her.

Then Left pants and Right spreads her wings to cool herself. The temperature is in the mid 90's and the humidity is extremely high. Plus, remember we're in the middle of a marsh besides. And now that we're into warm weather add mosquitoes.

Suddenly a parent comes swooping into the dead tree to the east. Actually making kind of a production of it. I assume, the ruckus is get me to focus on the parent instead of the eaglets. The call is the squeaky click they often make. It is quite faint from this distance. There has to be something more to the eagle call which the pathetic hearing of humans just doesn't register.

Then the click squeak call varies slightly and it looks just like Dad is telling the eaglets something very important.

Then off Dad goes to the east but Left is looking west. Right may be preening. Note that neither eaglet went into begging mode when the parent appeared even though a feeding may have been interrupted by my arrival.

Remember the County M Red-tailed Hawks? For the longest time I never heard the young beg, because the parents wouldn't feed while I was there. So what did begging get the eyasses? Nada. So why beat your beak? They saw me and didn't make any noise.

As things progressed the parents would feed if I was inside the car, but the begging would stop when I got out. Begging is the the first thing an urban eyass does when a parent comes into view a mile away.

Therefore I'm guessing that the same thing is happening with this raptor family as happened with the Ms.

I'm not the only person who watches this family and remember I'm not close at all. John the gentleman who works the fields around the marsh also drives down to a half mile or so from the nest and watches for short spans of time. So the
eaglets have learned begging does you no good when a human is around.

Left was the one being fed when I arrived. Right has found a snack over in Left's area and eats it. Right will get her major portion when I leave, no doubt.

More panting and preening.

I notice when there isn't a parent in view that the eaglets tend to face opposite directions rather like a Red-tail pair does when perched closely to each other.

Left may have been begging here or just panting while looking up. I'm too far away to hear anything.

Parent must be coming.

Mom lands and looks out from behind the leafy branch and may be telling me something.

Then she's back behind the leaves, stock still.

And she's off up right.

The eaglets pant some more.

Mom's back more instructions to me.

She hides.

And keeps hiding though she may well be watching me through the leaves with a raptors grand eyesight.

Another piece of her mind.

Long stare out.....

Shift. Long stare... beat, beat, beat, beat

Now back the other direction. I can't see a mature eagle but it appears to be flying back and forth if the eaglet's heads are any hint.


And forth.

HEY! Not sure who did what but there was a glaring moment, then...

Never mind.

They wait.

They wait some more and pant.


Right continues to look for stray snacks.

What's that?


Now Left looks my way, though likely not at me. More likely is that there is a parent behind me. Oh yeah. I turn around and look, look up, sideways? Just to make sure nobody is on the way to take may head off.


Another possible snack?

I only stayed about 30 minutes as I didn't want to disturb them too much.

No hopping and flapping on this nest yet, well at least none in this kind of weather.

If there is a video at the end. It is the parent on the dead tree taking off. It is an amazing swish of wings.

Here is a video of the eagle parent on the dead tree taking off. I never get used to the size of their wings.

Donegal Browne

More tomorrow on Pale Male, the NYC Peregrines, the City Hawks and the like.