Saturday, June 27, 2015


And we're picking up where we left off yesterday, to the days when the Sheep Meadow eyasses were learning to flap.  Flapping being the first step in their current stage of life, fledgling and extended flight.

Mom has been feeding the eyasses when something grabs her attention.  I don't see anything but her eyes can see far further with clarity than a humans can.

Now she delicately feeds one of the eyasses that is in the bowl of nest.
 Now Rim Eyass appears  to be looking at whatever Mom was looking at earlier.
 Second eyass obviously tired of being scrunched down in the bowl attempts to pull herself out.

 And who or what are those feet on the right?
And here we have the possible genesis of even more human habituated hawks even than the level at which their parents are habituated to people.

Most of  the urban nests, being on buildings, have more distance between the watchers and the hawks than this one does.  That is if you  don't count the humans that may be glimpsed through the glass of windows hard upon nests. 
One and Two watch Three being fed.
 Maybe Three will drop some.
                              Mom takes a moment.
Then she eats the leftovers. It's a case of waste not, want not but it also gets rid of the "garbage".  I've seen Pale Male cleaning up after the sitting female has finished by swallowing an entire feathered pigeon wing whole.  
Mom turns back to look.  Note she has a beak full of feathers.  She may just be doing further cleaning of a pigeon or she may be eating some of the feathers as well.
Now that her crop is nicely filled and hunger no longer an issue. It's playtime and being an eyass she appears ready for anything.

            And then a very strange thing happens.   She licks her mother.  Honest.  Let me crop it down further.
          The eyass is licking her mother.  ???  Who knew?


                           Eyass is thinking something. 

                   Then the little pink tongue comes out again.                                    

                                            Now what?
  And the eyass licks Mom again.  I have never seen this happen before.
 I keep thinking that the eyass is going to nip her but not so far.  It's just licking. I never would have guessed.
Now the eyass tongue is looking kind of strange....saliva with sun shining through it perhaps?

Wait.  Do Hawks salivate?  

My African Grey Parrot does not.

According to the Ornithology Review Questions I just accessed, yes, hawks do salivate.   Salivation is triggered by eating so their mouths aren't actually wet all the time.  

It's posited that a constantly wet beak wouldn't stay healthy.

Perhaps salivation is also triggered by licking?

Oh, also note in the photograph above that Mom's head has gone up.  It appears something has attracted her attention.

This photograph was taken one second later than the previous one above.  Eyass's mouth is now mostly closed and Mom is about to take off.  
                             Mom takes off to the west.
Then if  the eyass head tilt is any indication Mom then eases somewhat to the north.
 12 seconds later Mom (Please, these hawks need names.  Every hawk has a personality, and Mom is woefully generic.) lands and calls something in the Red-tail enfamilial language .
    And she's up!  What an image of a Valkyrie she is.  There we go!  Lets call her Valkyrie until something else is chosen.  
                       She looks down with anticipation.
                                Sinks down for an even closer look.
                                                  Then zip, straight up!
                                   And zip, straight down.
    This is what she is so excited about!   And just what is that? 
It is her pale-ish mate doing acrobatic flying with prey in his talons.  And what does she do?
     Valkyrie flings herself up into the air, talons first.                    Pretty spectacular actually!
Her consort lands on the crooked branch with prey.

 But what is the prey?  I'm very open to suggestions.  It appears to possibly have a furry tail, though perhaps it is just dirty?  Or perhaps it isn't a tail at all.  Naked appendages of at least four digits?
                               He looks toward Valkyrie.
                  Then begins to prep the prey for eating.
                                         Fur or feathers?
                                      Here she comes.                

Valkyrie flies over next to her mighty hunter and ...okay the mate will be Hunter for the moment.

...and lands next  to him.  He's holding his ground.
 They take a moment looking at each other.
 And as I can only see one of Valkyrie's feet I'm kind of assuming she's attempting to grab the prey from Hunter.
 Still much more to go so I better break down  and post Part II  and get into Part III.  

D.B.  ....Happy Hawking...

Friday, June 26, 2015


 Sheep Meadow Dad on duty watching the nest.

With so many New York City Red-tailed hawks and so little time to observe, chronicle, and blog their activities every day, some great stuff gets left in the archives unseen.  So in honor of the fledging of the Sheep Meadow Three, hawkwatcher Brenda Alty reports all three have made the leap to the ground and back up again, a flashback to the days when the little guys had just begun to learn flapping and were visited by an illegal  dog.  The Sheep Meadow is one of the few places in Central Park where dogs are not allowed.  Conceivably one of the selling points of this particular nest site.

So.... it is a little after 1PM on a Saturday.  A beautiful day and the Sheep Meadow is packed with people, picnicking,  playing Frisbee, playing catch, sunbathing, flirting, watching hawks...welcome to New York.

And Sheep Meadow Dad is in charge of the three eyasses. 

I'd just taken a picture of Dad when I hear scratching on the tree next to be, a matter of feet from where Dad and the nest are located.  I look up.
 Oh dear!  There is a squirrel nest right next to the Red-tailed Hawk nest.
 Are these young squirrels playing...
 Or is that Mom trying to keep a mature brood inside and out of sight? It looks more like play.  Gulp.  Then I look up to see what Dad Sheep Meadow is doing.
He seems to be looking at the squirrels. Then I remember a concept that we haven't talking about it some years on the blog.  The no kill zone around a Red-tailed Hawk nest.  I'd been seeing two Mourning Doves which sat quite close to the Trump Park Nest of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, as well as two doves who liked to sit on one of the railings of the Woody building on Fifth Avenue which is also near the nest.  

John Blakeman, the Red-Tailed Hawk expert, explained that there is a no kill zone around  Red-tailed Hawk Nests.  They don't kill anything within a certain invisible zone around the nest.  

Think about it.  It does make sense.  The rate of speed in which a Red-tail makes a kill is instinctual.  They may have considered various possible ways to go about it beforehand or at times prey just pops them into kill mode and they go for it.  It at least appears to be faster than thought.  Zap.  You're dead.  That would be a very bad thing to happen around a nest full of eyasses.  So buried in their DNA is an off switch which precludes that automatic kill response on and near nests.

Perhaps these squirrels are safe.  That is until they cross the invisible line where the kill factor comes into play.
When I look back at Dad he's back to nest watch.
The eyasses are getting active.
About then, Tahj one of the youngest of the hawk watchers, he's 14 or so and about to enter high school, comes over and asks if I know about the Peregrines nesting on the building way over there.  He points...there.  The two buildings that look kind of alike?  The one on the left.  See the little spot.  I didn't.  As it turns out I was looking at the wrong part of the building.
 But when I just brought the photos up, I do see it.  Thanks Tahj!
 See the Peregrine sitting on the "roof" of the bottom left set of multiple windows?
 In the meantime Dad is watching things or the same thing in the sky as it moves.  It could be Mrs. Sheep Meadow.  It could be other birds flying by.
 It could be prey.
 It could be people playing volleyball.
 It could be Mom.
1:47PM And now it is very likely his progeny in the nest.

I decide it is time to get over to Pale Male and Octavia's nest.

And if you missed what I saw that day over at 927 with Octavia and Pale Male here's the link.

Octavia Gives the Eyasses an Unbelievable Flying Lesson

At 6:08PM   After watching all the spectacular flying over at 927 I decide to make it an early night as I have over 600 pictures to go through to put up the blog.  I start walking west and as usual decide to stop in for a second look with the Sheep Meadow family.  Then I notice the pigeons foraging in the grass...
 The pigeons, Columba livia, do of course occasionally forage in the grass but when you see a whole flock eating as fast as they can as obviously food is everywhere in the grass you look up.  Because above them...
...will be an American Elm Tree.  Central Park is the only place in the world where you can see lots of American Elm Trees.  Outside the Park you more than likely will never see any.  Why?  Because when Dutch Elm Disease struck, New Yorkers decided  they didn't want to loose their American Elm Trees so the money rolled in and they pumped gallons and gallons of  anti-Dutch Elm Disease liquid into the ground and saved the trees.
See all those little round seeds?  During the season thousands upon thousands of them are eaten by many different species of birds and animals.  And important wildlife food resource which as disappeared from most of the world.

(Please forgive the underlining.  Periodically Blogger just decides it wants to underline and there is nothing I can do about it. Shrug.)

Before long I'm back to the Sheep Meadow...
...and Mom is standing on the nest.  Is it time for a feeding perhaps?  What luck!
Seems whenever I shift, she shifts to keep the eyasses out of my view as much as possible.  Understandable.
Two eyasses peer at me while the third gets a bite.
     Is that an eyass talon just left of Mom's leg?
Mom gives me a look.  I'm not close as I'm using a long lens but I decide to switch positions.
                This angle isn't exactly optimum.
Nor this one.

                                Three white heads!
                See the eyass standing on the right?
                   Mom is a rather dark faced Redtail.
Look how the eyasses back feathers blend with the colors of the nesting materials.
Anyone up to taking a guess as to the prey in question.  It is late in the day and the fur appears grey.  I'm currently tentatively guessing it is a rat.
       Careful bite placement....                                       
Yummy!  And just in case it drops out the next guy is in position.
What are Mom and eyass looking at?  

I keep almost calling this formel Isolde.  It is just that she is a dark formel with large eyes.  It isn't Isolde. 

And on that note as it is 5AM, I'm going to bed. 
More to come, we haven't even gotten to the dog yet.... DB