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Difficult News

Last Thursday, a Morningside Park dog walker, Stephen Jarossy, saw a Red-tailed Hawk with wing problems in the park.  He went home to drop off his dog and get a cardboard box, but when he returned he could not rediscover the injured hawk.

He emailed me on Friday, but I got it too late to help him during the day.  When I received it that evening, I forwarded it to the Urban Park Rangers, who sent two rangers to look for the injured hawk on Saturday.  Bobby Horvath, the rehabber who confirmed with Stephen that he did indeed see an injured hawk. Two avid St. John the Divine hawk watchers and bloggers, James O'Brien (yojimbot.blogspot.com) and Robert Schmunk (bloomingdalevillage.blogspot.com), also searched the park for the hawk over the weekend.

On Sunday, it became clear that the male hawk of the Cathedral pair was missing.  On Monday, Robert saw two adult hawks on the Cathedral, but couldn't I.D. them.  On Wednesday, he could.  There was a new, much darker male, next to the adult female of the Cathedral pair.

This confirmed for us that something catastrophic had happened to the female's old mate.  It was unclear if he had died or had been taken into someone's care.  Hopefully, he is with a rehabber, although calls to local facilities have not given us any good news.  Birds have a high mortality rate, and chances are that the male has died, although we all hope to be proven wrong.

Tonight, I got up to the park to watch the adult female go to sleep in one of her favorite roost trees.  No sign of her new suitor.

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Sunday Riverside Park Hawk Pictures

Sunday was similar to Saturday up at Riverside Park.  Nest building followed by a late lunch of Rock Pigeon.  This pair might be the most accessible pair in the city.  They don't seem shy of people and like to eat on the ground or in low branches.

The smaller of the hawks caught lunch, ate most of it, but then gave up the rest after begging by its mate.  As with yesterday's pictures, there are some graphic eating images at the end of this post. Proceed at your own risk.

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Possible Seventh Manhattan Red-tailed Hawk Nest

Earlier this winter, when there was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in Tompkins Square Park, I received a tip that there was a hawk nest at Houston and the East River Drive.  It seemed like a logical spot, so now that nesting season has begun I went down to take a look.

While walking east down Houston Street towards the river, I saw a Red-tail with a twig flying down Houston Street being followed down the street by it's mate.  It landed on an air conditioner cage on the top floor of a local school, two blocks from the river.  Two air conditioner cages had twigs, so it look like the pair hasn't quite decided what to do yet.  We'll know in a few weeks.  Imagine the potential education the elementary school class may receive!

After working on the nest, both hawks perched on the Lillian Wald Settlement, a building run by the NYC Housing Authority.

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Sixth Manhattan Red-tailed Nest

Leslie Day (fieldguidenyc.com) alerted the hawk watching community of a sixth Manhattan Red-tailed Hawk nest this week.  Located along the northbound west 79th Street on ramp to the West Side Highway, the nest is easily visible from Riverside Park.

When I arrived both hawks were gathering twigs, bringing then to the nest, and rearranging them.  They had lots of energy and were very industrious.  After an hour, the nest building stopped and one of the hawks caught and devoured a Rock Pigeon. Some rather graphic pictures at the end, so skip this post if they will bother you.

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Ring-necked Ducks

Thanks to a posting by Jack Meyer, pointing out Ardith Bondi's discovery, I knew to be on the lookout for three Ring-necked Ducks.  I found them sleeping on the Reservoir.  They woke up after something startled a large group of gulls. This was a new species for my Central Park list.

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Female

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Male

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Both the male and the female could roll over 90 degrees to preen.  When they did so, they didn't look like the pictures in the field guides!  Birders beware.

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St. John's, Riverside and 888 Seventh Avenue Updates

The Cathedral of St. John as started a waterproofing project and put up scaffolding all around the nest.  While the work will be away from the nest, it is close by.  The timing of this project couldn't be worse, with egg laying in mid-March and hatching in April.  It will be interesting to watch this situation develop.  I'm afraid that the hawks might end up attaching workers if they get too close to an active nest later in the Spring.

James O'Brien has more photographs of the St. John's scaffolding, as well as news of similar repairs on Riverside Church on his blog.

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I've also gotten news of the 888 Seventh Avenue nest from Brett Odom, who has a view of the nest from his office.

"I just wanted to let you know that while I have not witnessed any copulation activities between Junior and Charlotte.  I can confirm that they have greatly increased their visits to the 888 7th Ave. nest site.  Until the last several days I could go weeks between sightings, but recently I have seen them visit the nest several times a day."


Florida Trip - Assorted Photographs

The last set of photographs from my late December Florida trip.

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Brown Pelican at dawn

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Great Blue Heron

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Black Skimmer

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American Oystercatcher

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Great Egret

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Great Egret with blowfish

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Great Egret with blowfish

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Great Egret with blowfish

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White Ibis

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White Ibis

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Snowy Egret

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Snowy Egret

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Belted Kingfisher

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Belted Kingfisher


Caution, Breeding Owls

As many of you know, I love watching owls in Central Park, but I avoid reporting about them during the breeding season in order to help protect them for having crowds descend upon them.  I seems that with owls, people end up loving them to death.

Eastern Screech-Owls, which were re-introduced to Central Park in the last eight years, have been breeding especially early with fledge dates in late-March.  This means the owls have been laying eggs in January.

I observed three pairs of Eastern Screech-Owls copulating in late December 2007 and early January 2008, so I would suspect we are in the breeding season now.

Over the last few nights, I have been watching an owl in the northern section of the park.  It has been flying off into a wooded area each night.  Tonight, I quietly followed it without success into the woods with a fellow owl watcher.

I then heard repeated owl calls.  Walking along the path, we found two men playing owl tapes with a boom box.   They had come from upstate New York to see the Scott's Oriole, and had come uptown from Union Square to see the Yellow-breasted Chat that has been at the Conservatory Garden.  Having missed the Chat, they thought it would be a good idea to play Screech-Owl tapes.

They did so without knowing any of the territory limits of the owls, didn't know if the owls were breeding, or know the condition of the owls.  They just thought it would be fun to see some owls by playing tapes which make a male owl believe an intruder is near.

While playing tapes may or may not stress a bird, during breeding season it will distract a male from his primary task of hunting for his mate while she sits on eggs.

My friend and I asked them to turn the tape off, explained the early breeding situation of the park and cautioned them against using tapes in Central Park this time of year.  They were polite and apologetic but I couldn't help wonder why anyone would play tapes without first studying an area.

Is the need to check a box more important than a bird's welfare?


Looking Good

I made a brief visit to the newly refurbished 5th Avenue nest of Pale Male and Lola on Saturday.  Everything seemed like normal on a mid-winter day.  Lola and Pale Male are now spending much more time near the nest and are protecting the neighborhood.  While I was there, they chased off a juvenile Red-tail and an Accipiter pair.

Both Pale Male and Lola visited the nest.  Lola settled down into the nest and was impossible to see.  I think she can now settle in a little deeper.

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Pale Male doing an inspection...

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...during a brief five minute visit.

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Lola, I think, landing on a building a few blocks north of the nest site.

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Pale Male on his favorite 960 Fifth Avenue window.

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Pale Male on the "Linda" building, which is about two blocks south of the nest on 5th Avenue.

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Pale Male above and Lola below over 5th Avenue around 78th Street.

James Lewis, who has been keeping track of the dates of Pale Male's yearly nest activities, has the first event, first copulation as anywhere between 1/26 and 3/5.  So keep an eye out for the first signs of Spring!