Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cardiac the Stray Kitten and Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot

This is Cardiac the stray kitten.
This is Quicksilver the African Grey deciding to go over on the bed near Cardiac the Stray Kitten.  Note the feathers standing up.  Note Cardiac's focus.
Cardiac made a slight jerk forward.  Quicksilver made an almost simultaneous slight jerk forward in response.  Cardiac desisted and to prove who was boss, Silver strutted behind her with his feathers puffed out looking LARGE.
Silver gambols back and they stare at each other.  As you see, Cardiac is smaller than Silver, which won't be the case for long.  Currently he could take her nose off, if she jumped him.  She only has milk teeth and her nails though needle like wouldn't do much damage but  as they could be coated with the bacteria from her mouth which can cause deadly infections in avian species, we want to develop a kind of no touching mutual respect between the two.

Interestingly Silver did not resort to his usual trick which he uses to  cow grown cats.  He walks up to them (flying would set off their hunting reflex) and makes a long drawn out angry meow an inch from their faces. The cats look both horrified and completely confused.  They retreat to go think about it.  Works every time.

Having given Cardiac the first lesson in parrot/kitten detente manners, Silver looks at me and says calmly, "Want up."
I put him on top of his cage where he helps himself to some Nutri-berries.
Being a kitten, Cardiac hasn't much of  an attention span for nothing happening.  She therefore rolls over and waggles her paws at me.  Which as she's exposed her genitals, we'll talk about the conflicting sexing of this kitten.  Given two kittens of opposite sexes, I can sex them.  When faced with a single kitten I don't feel completely competent.  Therefore I asked a former farm girl who said that she was female.  I then asked a former Humane Society worker who pronounced her male--  then a former farm boy, who said female.  I myself am leaning toward female.  She goes to the vet for her first visit tomorrow for the final proclamation.

 In the meantime, here is a overexposed and enlarged picture of the area in question.  Any kitten sexing mavins out there?

Why is kitten named Cardiac?  

At times the white spot on her chest can look rather like a heart.  And naming her Cupid just seemed completely vapid.  

Of course the spot can also look like a fancy chicken- beak left, or alternately a running sheepdog who has just bitten through an electrical cord.

I'm still somewhat open to suggestions.

Back to our inter-species situation--I'd left the room to go eat some lunch and was just picking up my plate to take it to the sink when I heard something fall to the floor in the bedroom.  I rushed in,  plate and all.

Silver was standing on the dresser having just shoved a bottle of hand lotion off the edge.  Cardiac was no where to be seen. My hope was Silver hadn't beaned her with the bottle. (Some of you will remember him sliding a drinking glass off the kitchen counter as an aerial bombardment aimed at Chekhov the Cat.)  I sat the plate down on the bed and started looking.  Under the bed, no.  In the bathroom, no...back to the bedroom...
What should I  find but Cardiac and Silver in a stand-off over the remnants of  my lunchNote Silver's expression. 
 Silver is now giving the cat one of his specie's "slitty eyed looks" which usually mean he's about to get aggressive.  He's bullied many a person out of their kornkurls at lunch with that look.  It is not working on kitten, though she is keeping an eye on him.
Horrified he watches Cardiac's tongue progress across the plate.
Silver walks over with purpose, crowds the camera, and says,"Mine!"  We have a small discussion about shoving things off of furniture.  

He isn't impressed and goes for a roll of paper towels on the other side of the bed and begins to tear them up with his beak.  An episode of misplaced aggression.  

Silver really would like to bite the kitten (or me) but he's been told she's a baby and in his favor when she cries, he does repeat in a very sweet voice, "It's okay.  It's okay."  

But that was before she appropriated the lunch plate.

Then it happens!
 The activity has attracted the cat away from the plate.

Silver walks up close to me again.
Silver then walks away and the kitten has begun to play.
 And Silver walks back over to me and says, "Want up".

What actually went on here?
  Donegal Browne

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Karen Asks, "Is this some kind of Sapsucker and what is he doing?"

 Long time blog reader Karen Anne Kolling of Rhode Island snapped these pictures of a visitor to the The Gonzo Deck, sent them on, and asked,

"Is this a sapsucker of some kind?  I wondered why the deck railing was getting a little shredded :-) Sorry for the photo quality, I have translucent decals on the windows, supposedly highly visible to birds in their vision range."

Well Karen, I'd say you have a male Red-bellied Woodpecker.  

Yes I know, his belly doesn't look the least red, but if he were a bird skin and you turned his tummy just the right way in the right light, you might see a bit of a blush.  This is what comes of naming species from their skins as opposed to naming them from obvious characteristics in life.

Central Park has Red-bellies, one of which used to catch peanuts on the wing in his beak on a daily basis.  I watched him a lot.  And just once in the right angle of sun, I saw a slightly rosy flash off his abdomen.

And what might our guy be doing to your railing?

First off one might suspect an infestation of insects  but your railing doesn't look much like an insect haven and as you ask if he's a Sapsucker, and you say your railing is beginning to look shredded,  I suspect that he mut appear to be making holes, or at least attempting to make crevices of some kind with his beak.

Tis the season for "hatching".  I don't know if you get them at your place, but Nuthatches cache seeds by poking them into small crevices and "hatching", hammering,  them in with their beaks.  

Some Woodpeckers also create cavities and then stash seeds in them as well, for later winter use when things get slim.

When you get a chance go out and take a close look at the cracks in the railing and let us know.

Then of course their is the mystery option.  I've  read that in certain cases woodpeckers busily whack away on houses or other man fashioned wood and even after stringent observation the observers never do figure  out why they're doing it.

Other than... they just want to.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The "Generations" of Pale Male Watchers

Photograph courtesy of

Happy Fall Back DayRemember your clocks!
This evening I opened my email box and found a note from a newer hawkwatcher who had been credited with a hawk observation by a longtime New York City hawkwatcher and blog contributor who had sent me a NYC Hawk Update that I'd previously received and published.

Proper credit being not only customary for published observations whenever possible, but to give credit where credit is due when passed along by a second respected hawkwatcher and published is an expectation. An expected and in reality ironclad necessity for any observation which would get you into very hot water in the past if you neglected to give the original observer their proper due. 

 In fact in the first and second generations of hawkwatchers to neglect giving credit for any sighting in which the observer is known,  is a rather horrid case of extremely poor birding manners. 

But times and mores seem to have changed with the entrance of the Third Generation Hawkwatchers.  

Let me clarify.   

The First Generation of NYC Hawkwatchers are known as The Regulars.  Their adventures with Pale Male,  his first mates, their nests,  and the birds of Central Parkl.  They are chronicled in Marie Winn's marvelous book, Red-tails in Love

The Second Generation of NYC Hawkwatchers arrived to help get Pale Male and Lola's nest site returned to them through protest or whatever might work, and then stayed to watch what happened next.  Myself included. 

 A few of us also took up the print chronicling torch first lit by Marie Winn.   

The Second Generation was nicknamed the Pale Male Irregulars, after Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars who were the younger set in those adventures.

Many of the third great influx, the Third Generation  of watchers, came into hawkwatching by way of the Washington Square Park Hawks and the NYTimes HawkCamMany of these seem to prefer anonymity and have an expectation that sightings without  a person's name attached should be taken with the same validity as an observation in which a person puts their name on the line as proof of their veracity. 

It really is quite fascinating. 

Below is the email I received from the Third Generation hawkwatcher,  which brought this anomaly between generations to my attention.

Please remove my name from your blog.   Just a suggestion,  perhaps not use anyone's name under they specifically tell you they want their names published.

(Name withheld, D.B)

No problem.  Your name has been removed and I'll edit contributor's emails which include your name in the future as per your request.

Regarding your suggestion--

Here's why it has been traditional and important to watchers, for writers to include observer's names in the NYC nature blogs.

 Marie Winn was the original New York City Hawk story writer and bloggist and beyond all the other work she's published, she wrote a nature column for the Wall Street Journal.  And as you know, legitimate print wants, if at all possible, names to be used so information can be verified by others.   Therefore her blog was and is, in that style.

As Marie was the original, and we follow in her courteous footsteps, most of the second generation of hawk bloggists have attempted to follow her lead in giving named credit.

That's the top layer.

The second layer is that, as we also know,  some people's observations, because they are better observers or just more experienced than others, are more reliable. 

Therefore readers absolutely wanted to know who claimed the sighting so they could decide for themselves whether or not to believe it.  Even now when most everyone carries a camera, many photos could have been taken at another time or place and claimed through mischance or fraud as a current sighting.

And last but not least certain sightings particularly of fledgings, or whether a deep nest has been abandoned or is active take many hours, days, or even weeks to procure and those watchers deserve credit for their patience, perseverance, and for generously sharing that information with other watchers as opposed to keeping it without sharing "in their pocket", as a few have been known to do in the past.


In the end, for most of us, it is all done for the love of the hawks.  The more we share, the more people are moved to love  and protect them.

Happy hawking!
Donegal Browne