Saturday, March 09, 2013

Pale Male, Rosie and Bobby of Washington Square Park, Kestrel Nests, Francois Portmann, Franklin Institute Cam is UP, Isolde and the New Guy,

A beautiful photograph of the beautiful Pale Male perched on the roof of The Linda Building courtesy of

Washington Square Park Nest- I have confirmation that there is at least one egg, and possibly a second, in the nest of Bobby and Rosie. 

James O'Brien of the Origin of the Species blog,, is collecting the location of the Kestrel nests of NYC.  If you have had sightings, he'd like you to email him with the information, if you'd be so kind,  at  yojimbot at gmail dot com.  James has had an avid interest in the various falcons of NYC for many years.

Birds, Wildlife
Another example, and one I particularly love,  of photographer Francois Portmann's photographs of the waterfowl of Central Park.  If you've not checked it out yet, GO

And as the NYTimes will not be running a hawkcam at Washington Square this season, those who can't get enough hawk nest action in person can tune into The Franklin Institute cam in Philadelphia. It's up and running!, hawk-cam  And yes, there is a chat room plus a second camera position which catches all the action from the front when the eyasses are getting ready to fledge.

No word yet as to whether Mama and Papa of New York City will be nesting under the eye of NYCAudubon sponsored hawk cam this year.  Sometimes they do use the cam nest site and sometimes they don't.  When I find out I'll let you know.

2010- Isolde the formel of the Cathedral Nest of St. John the Divine stares into the nest bowl.

As many of you know, Isolde's previous mate, Storm'in Norman is believed to have perished in the hurricane but there have been reports that there is a New Guy in town.

 No news as to whether the nest site behind St. Andrew's elbow is being used this year.  The reason?   This nest is very deep and Isolde very private when she's in it.  

In previous seasons I've spent many, many any hour attempting to catch the top of her head or an eye gleaming between twigs to confirm that the nest was inhabited.  It takes grinding patience to confirm.  So far no one has gritted their teeth and camped out on the sidewalk long enough to spot her,  therefore it may be awhile before we know for sure.

As to Atlas and Andromeda's nest in Astoria Park, Queens, I've just whipped off an email to Jules Corkery, one of their chief watchers, for a status report.

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Friday, March 08, 2013


 Photo courtesy of
Pale Male with a meal for Octavia 

Long time Hawkwatcher Katherine Herzog, the uptown Fifth Avenue half of our recent spotting team in Central Park, shares her observations from the Hawk Bench for March 6th

 Hi Donna,

2:20pm - Spent only an hour at the Fifth Avenue nest but when I got to the boat pond (meeting up with other hawk watchers)....Octavia and Pale Male were both on the nest. Pale came and went several times but Octavia sat on the nest and then settled down into the deepest part of the nest disappearing completely from time to time and then poking her head up.  Then Pale Male flew back to the nest and he "tried out" the deepest part of the nest, sinking down until he disappeared completely as Octavia watched from the rim of the nest.

Total time I observed Octavia continuously on the nest was 45-minutes, but she was already on the nest when I got to the park.

Pale Male flew off north and though I didn't observe any feeding on the nest - when Octavia finally flew off south we noticed a very full crop.  We left at 3:30pm after being slammed by extremely strong winds.  And remember - this was just my hour's worth of observation!

Lincoln's picture posted on of Pale bringing more food to the nest late in the afternoon was great to see.  This is the most quality time I've seen them spend at the nest thus far and that's just (from my part) only occasional and intermittent observations.



 Many thanks for being our eyes in the field,  Katherine!

And for something completely different, in from Robin of Illinois, check out CATS CAN BE JERKS

Donegal Browne
Happy Hawking!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

FLASH! Reports Pale Male Taking a Pigeon to the 927 Nest Late Wednesday Evening< Is Octavia First Nighting on the Nest, and Clarification on the Nearly Simultaneous Copulation of Fifth Avenue and Plaza Pairs Plus Male Comparison In Differing Light reports that Pale Male carried a pigeon to the 927 Fifth Avenue nest late on Wednesday evening.  It is unknown whether Octavia was sitting the nest and possibly over nighting when Pale Male brought the food.  

As the time approaches for a formel to start sitting the nest, tiercels will often make a larder of the nest's edges .


Pondove, originally a Washington Square Park Hawk Watcher and a monitor of the NYTimes Hawk Chat room, sent me this email for clarification on the information gathered on this past weekend concerning Pale Male, Octavia, Downtown Male and Downtown Female by longtime hawkwatchers, Stella Hamilton (Downtown) and Katherine Herzog (Uptown)

Hi Donegal, 

 I am not 100% clear on this...were there TWO teams (I guess so because you said "about the same time")? So   the Plaza hawk is not Octavia if Octavia was copulating with Pale Male, right? They are certain, correct? 


Hello Pon,

Yes, we are certain.   Kat reported the copulation of Pale and Octavia uptown at 78th Street.

Stella reported the copulation of Downtown Male and Downtown Female almost simultaneously down south.  There are definitely two full pairs of Red-tails, one uptown and one downtown.

So it isn't as if anyone is missing a mate. That is absolutely certain.  Also Stella saw two hawks twigging downtown while Octavia and Pale Male were both in view uptown by Kat. It is a certainty.

But it also appears that Octavia and Downtown Male may be copulating as well on the side as it were, as they appear to be friendly with each other.  Unless of course there is a third female that has that black spot on her tail feather like the one Octavia has.

The next thing to track down is to see if DT Male appears to be chummy with "Octavia", not his mate nor the real Octavia downtown when the real Octavia is positively ID'd uptown.  It would be a rather huge coincidence  to have two slightly or completely without a sub-terminal band  females with a similar black spot on a tail feather but stranger things have happened in unbanded field sightings before.  Though I am currently leaning heavily in the direction that Octavia is practicing polyandry.

We do know that Octavia is seen flying downtown by Kat and then suddenly she is spotted by Stella in the South hawks  territory.  I find it unusual that Downtown Male's mate doesn't take O on for this behavior.  

 Perhaps they're related in some way and know each other. :)

I'm wondering if Downtown Male may have been the one who grabbed Octavia's pigeon due to John Blakeman's take that it could be an example of  sexual behavior between intimates and not serious beak and talon dangerous.

 Pale Male  was certainly serious about it, though he would be, that's HIS game with O if anyone is going to play it with her  if it were sexual bonding behavior.  And if it was thievery that's just way not happening in Pale Male's living room either.

Hope this helps. 

Next up the coloration difference of hawks in different lights generally and that of Pale Male and the Downtown Male specifically.

Scroll up to the top photo on this post and  see Lincoln Karim's photograph of Pale Male taking the pigeon to the nest late this evening.  Pale Male appear almost grayish and the contrast between head and back looks slight.
And here is one of my photos of Pale Male on the nest in the glare of a sunny day when the light is golden in late afternoon.  Note the huge difference in coloration between the same hawk in different light.

Next for your consideration, Stella Hamilton's photographs of Downtown Male on a very overcast day pushing 6PM, and the first one below back lit besides.  He looks quite dark.  

By the way straight on facially, he looks so very much like Pale Male.
Here is Downtown Male backed by a building a minute later.  Stella reports he is slightly darker than Pale Male with less contrast between the color of his head and that of his back.

I hope that this comparison clarifies some issues and helps with identification as well.  

Then arrives the million dollar question--

If Octavia is over nighting for the first time tonight and we do know that she and Pale Male were seen copulating today-- when was the last time Downtown Male and "Octavia" were seen being chummy.  Because there is then be the query as to when the first egg was laid and whether there might be some question of  the paternity for that egg.

Some season we're having and it's just the beginning.
And last but not least sharp eyed Sally of Kentucky pointed out to me that Pale Male now has a slight feather aberration that might aid in his identification for those who do not know him very well.  

Pale has broken a tip off his 4th primary Lt wing :)  Hard to see live but it might be useful in photos 


Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne  
Scroll down for the earlier post of the day if you've not seen it yet.

Copulation Location Criteria, and Span of Time Plus Where do ducks "do it"?

 Photo courtesy

Pale Male and Octavia copulate on a favored light fixture on The Essex.  No matter the mate, she often chooses that particular spot to present herself to Pale Male.

Which gets me thinking about Red-tailed Hawk criteria.  They definitely have criteria for nest building as we've discussed before.

What would be the criteria for the spots chosen for copulation?

I would think that having the hawks protected from the rear might be advantageous.  In this case by the building.

But the male would still need a route to fly to the female without any undue obstructions.

Though the female will perch at the ready in a place with a somewhat obscured view, I would  think part of the male's responsibility would be to make sure there were no intruders to which they would be vulnerable for the limited time Red-tail copulation lasts.

Digression Alert!  

"Treading", to use the archaic term,  in the avian specie we most regularly see, is rapid by mammal standards-- often less than 15 seconds. 

This makes evolutionary sense as the pair isn't at their most alert against possible attack during these interludes.  They are vulnerable during copulation.

Why is it then, in African Grey Parrots for example, copulation between pairs can last comparable periods of time to that in humans?    

What is the evolutionary advantage in lengthy copulation for some species and not in others? 

I would posit in some species it has to do with building stronger pair bonds

Hawks go through a lengthy courtship which tests their abilities of flight and of hunting acuityThe coordinated moves of courtship give them time to learn the physical cues their partner displays in flight and changes in flight patterns which will be very important in coordinating defense of the nest later on.

And as only the pair holds the territory they must be ready at any given moment to hold that territory.  They can't be off spooning when a concerted attack to take over the nest site occurs. 

What characteristics do humans and African Greys have in common?  

Both species have a tendency to live near their own kind.  Therefore there are other cooperating members of the species who will be "holding the fort" while the pair is entranced with each other for lengthier periods of time?

Both species are intelligent and can talk.  Could bonding in both species be linked in some ways to finding pair synchronicity through speech and coordinated movement during lengthy copulation

My,  my, my.

More thoughts on that later... 

In the meantime....what about DUCKS?

Birds, WildlifePhoto courtesy of Francois Portmann   Mallard Copulation
 Of course, ducks do it in the water. 
Amazing wildlife photographer Francois Portmann took stunning photographs of Central Park waterfowl in February. 

 Do check them out.  
You will be very glad you did.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Pale Male, The Franklin Institute Hawks, Blakeman's Zephyr, Octavia and The Intruder

Courtesy of
 Pale Male goes into a dive, Monday.  For those who haven't seen him in action, Pale Male is lightening fast and truly remarkable in flight.

BIG NEWS FROM THE FRANKLIN  INSTITUTE HAWKS, PHILADELPHIA...note the evergreen boughs.  It looks like the choice has been made.

Photo courtesy of Scott Kemper
"This has been a week of stunning developments at the Franklin Institute nest since the hawks finally came to their senses and returned to the best nest site in Philadelphia.  The nest grows visibly each day..."

Thanks to Robin of Illinois for the heads up!

The Zephyr Report
 Ohio Hawk Expert, John Blakeman has spotted Zephyr, his former falconry hawk,  twice in trees nearby his home recently.

 Photo courtesy of

Remember the earlier food fight this week among Octavia, an "intruder", and Pale Male? 

John Blakeman wrote, " I'd presume these to be a mated pair. If not, it's still a spring-time sexual behavior thing, where food is exchanged or shared, to determine social position and alignments. No physical harm ever occurs to the hawks."

My question, If Octavia is having a dalliance with the Downtown male as has been suspected and possibly proved, might "the intruder" have been Downtown Male trying for the sexual behavior concerning food that Mr. Blakeman is talking about but Pale Male was having none of it and reinforcing his position as Octavia's mate?

We're possibly in a whole new spectrum of behavior we've not knowingly seen before. 

Stay tuned.

Donegal Browne 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Pale Male is Still the Monarch of Central Park and Every Inch a Gentleman, Plus Downtown Copulation

 Photo courtesy of
Octavia fights to retain her pigeon meal from an intruder in full view of the watchers at the Hawk Bench.

(Sorry dear readers that this is going up so late, I was scanning and editing the vintage photos for a friend's book, which is due very soon to his publisher!)

It was a very exciting afternoon for those who were out in the  field today, and yes, our Uptown/Downtown Team was back in the  traces yet again too.

Katherine Herzog, our uptown contributor, was on the spot when the big Fifth Avenue Food Fight took place and it was one of the most exciting interchanges that has been seen in a good while according to the veterans at the Hawk Bench.

Octavia had a pigeon of which she was going to make a meal when an intruder Red-tail appeared and attempted to take it away from her.   And the spectacular aerial display began! 

Talons flashed up, there were swoops and lots of mid-air bumping.  The fabulous Keeeee cry of red-tails rang over the Model Boat Pond once again. 

 The intruder did manage to take the meal from Octavia but then it was Pale Male to the rescue with the Big O in support.

Ever the gentleman, Pale Male after spectacular flying and clever tactics, which brought many an exclamation from the ground, managed to retrieve Octavia's meal.  Which he then presented back to her.

Kat also reports that Pale Male and Octavia copulated at 78th St. this afternoon, and Stella reported that at just about the same time, the Downtown Pair was copulating as well.

Therefore with the confusing copulation in earlier days it was clear today that whatever is going on it isn't because someone somewhere was missing a mate, today's activities brought that thought to rest as everyone was seen "doing it" at about the same time.

At about 4:25pm (Eastern Time) Stella Hamilton called just as she sighted a Red-tailed Hawk flying downtown on Fifth Avenue.  The unidentified hawk then proceeded to fly back up Fifth Avenue. 
 Also in view were two hawks downtown, one on the Sherry Netherland gargoyle, preening , the Sherry Netherland was where the Downtown pair had copulated,  and there was another hawk on the roof of The Plaza near the flagpole.

Eventually the pair flew west toward The Essex and disappeared.

At about 4:40pm Katherine Herzog reported that Pale Male had been sitting on the Linda Building but then took off for the Ramble.

Where was O?  Was she the one flying down and than back up Fifth Avenue?  And if so, why?

Plus just who was the intruder who snatched O's pigeon?  

More to come as it happens!

 Happy Hawking! 
 Donegal Browne



Sunday, March 03, 2013

Stella Hamilton and Katherine Hezog Take Up the Challenge, FLASH-Nest Building on The Crown Building, and Octavia Flies Downtown and Uptown!

Octavia on February 24, 2013, courtesy of

Note the terminal black band of a mature Red-tailed Hawk  from this view is very scant to invisible on OctaviaAccording to hawkwatcher Stella Hamilton she is pretty much without one.  Octavia is often identified by the black spot on her second tail feather from the right, barring the coincidence of another hawk frequenting Central Park with the same spot in which case we'd all have blown it.

Yesterday I'd emailed Stella suggesting that it could be very enlightening if  she and another hawkwatcher, possibly Katherine Herzog split their  hawk watching area for today into  two sections, one each.  One person should take the uptown, 927 Fifth Avenue beat, and the other, the downtown Plaza area. 

All times Eastern

3:19 PStella calls from her downtown view near the Plaza.  FLASHThere are a pair of Red-tail Hawks taking twigs in and out from behind a decorative structure on The Crown Building which is a block from The Plaza.  This is a new location altogether for nest building.

3:45PM Kat reports Pale Male and Octavia are hanging out at the Fifth Avenue nest just like a well bonded pair would at this time of year.  She then reports a single Red-tail flies downtown on Fifth Avenue.

3:48PM Stella reports the appearance of Octavia downtown and the appearance of  a male RTH who seems slightly darker than Pale Male with less of an obvious difference between head and back coloration than Pale Male has.  This male does have the black band on his tail as does Pale Male, while Octavia's tail band is sketchy.

4:23PM Stella has lost sight of Octavia, but another hawk with a visible black band on the red tail, has flown to a perch on The Plaza near the flagpole. 

4:34PM Stella reports a hawk coming down Fifth Avenue to The Pond area.   Stella calls Kat to see if  perhaps Octavia or Pale Male may have just flown down Fifth, the Hawk Bench is empty and Kat  is on her way home. DRAT!  Red-tail who had perched there earlier is still on The Plaza appearing to hunt.

4:38PM Stella takes two pictures of The Crown Building.

Photo courtesy of Stella Hamilton
 The facade in which earlier Stella observed a pair of Red-tails taking twigs in and out from behind this architectural element.

 5:15PM  If a Red-tail pair chooses this site, it will be extremely tough to view from the ground.  Though the round window center frame would possibly be a marvelous spot if a hawkwatcher could get themselves up there.
 5:46PM  From Stella--"This is the downtown Plaza male. He sat there on top of a tree at the entrance of Central Park Zoo trying to hunt... "

 5:49PM  Note the black tail band, which Pale Male also has.

From Stella,  " [Downtown Male]... then decided to fly toward the Plaza hotel where he sat on the roof below the western flagpole. He sat there for 2 minutes then decided to fly westward toward the Time Warner building. I had no more visual of the female or any other hawk at that time. It was getting dark."

Many thanks to Stella Hamilton and Katherine Herzog!

Stella says she will be back in the field tomorrow!

"Curiouser and  curiouser", said Alice...

Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne