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Riverside Nest In High Winds

I visited the nest after a brief rain and the passing of a cold front on Sunday afternoon and into the evening.  The winds made for shaky video and difficulty photographing the nest.

The eyasses mother only visited the nest two times and never stayed.  She left the eyasses to themselves, which is normal for this period of the nesting cycle.  The eyasses are starting to learn how to eat on their own.  They don't quite know how to rip the meat yet by holding it with their talons and grabbing, so they end up breaking off small pieces by picking up a large chunk and shaking.

The winds were so strong my video is very shaky.  Watch at your own risk!  After the video, among some of the photographs, I have included details of the eyasses' wing and tail feathers.  Watching them grow in gives you an idea of how they'll end up working.


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Becoming More Like Fledglings At Riverside

The eyasses at Riverside Park won't be ready to fledge for about 10 days, but with each passing day they give hints that they'll soon be ready.

Today, I saw them try and feed themselves for the first time.  They don't really have the "ripping the meat off the animal before eating" part down yet, but it's fun to see them trying.

The parents are also feeling more and more comfortable leaving them alone on the nest for extended periods of time.  The adults took a break from parenting and spent time on the Normandy Apartments towers in the morning.  They even copulated on the tower.  I guess like humans, they needed a romantic weekend getaway from the newborns.

If you own a copy of Sibley's Birding Basics, I would recommend re-reading the sections on feathers and tail structures while watching the eyasses grow up.  Watching how the feathers are growing in on the eyasses with the background of Sibley's text, really helps make everything make sense.


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What's For Dinner? Squirrel!

This evening I arrived to find the male arriving with a squirrel.  He paused in two branches before making his delivery, and had a Blue Jay swoop down on him a few times.

The mother than fed the eyasses, although they seemed to be trying to eat on their own.  After their feeding and with full crops, the eyasses quickly settled down and slept.

The eyasses are starting to get some orange on their chests.   Another sign they're growing up.


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Rainy Evening At Riverside

There was a light drizzle this evening.  The three eyasses spent most of their time snuggling together in light cool rain.  It was a very quite time on nest while I was there with not feedings and the eyasses only got up a few times for "bathroom breaks".


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Sleepy Eyasses At Riverside

An early evening at the Riverside nest was quiet as the eyasses spent most of the evening sleeping and the mother spent a good deal of time off the nest.  The father was seen briefly hunting around Riverside Drive and 79th Street across the highway.

The parents have been adding sticks and fresh greenery to the nest.  Given the number of flies seen around the nest, it must be fairly "ripe" right now.


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Riverside Q & A

Some Answers To Common Questions About The Riverside Nest

Q: When will the three eyasses (young hawks) fledge (leave the nest)?
A: Although the eyasses were first seen on April 30th, they looked a day or two old. So, the most likely hatched earlier, on April 28th.  The nesting period for Red-tailed Hawks is generally between 42 and 46 days.  This would put the likely fledge date somewhere between June 9th and June 13th.

Q: Once they fledge, what will happen?
A: The fledglings will fly off the nest, and fly from tree to tree.  They will also spend some time on the ground.  This is normal.  The fledglings don't start their life with lots of common sense.  Care should be given to give the fledglings as much room as possible.  Keep your distance and keep dogs on leash.

For the first few weeks, the fledglings will be easy to find as they beg for food.  The parents will feed them initially.  Over the summer the hawks will learn to hunt for themselves and at the end of the summer they'll leave "home".

In 2005, I followed a pair of hawks who nested on Central Park South on the Trump Parc building.  I published a book, Trump Parc Red-tailed Hawks, which can be viewed online. It gives a good picture of what's ahead for the eyasses.

Q: Should we worry about the safety of the hawks on the nest?
A: There isn't much to worry about.  These hawks know what they're doing.  We should do our best to avoid getting too close to the nest, avoid behaving like paparazzi and avoid making too much noise.  And of course, anything we can do to limit second generation rodenticide use around Riverside Park would be helpful.

If you're a photographer, do all you can to avoid interfering with the hawks.  Use a good telephoto, use a tripod rather than flash, and avoid getting too close to the hawks. 

Q: Should we worry about the safety of these eyasses once they fledge?
A: We shouldn't worry, but we should keep an eye on the young hawks from a safe distance.  As they move around it's important not to chase after them, but to slowly follow them.  I've seen too many young hawks "moved around" by over eager hawk watchers.

Young hawks have generally done well in the city, but they can get into trouble.  Accidents do happen and Frounce, a fatal, but generally treatable disease caught from pigeons is a widespread problem in New York.  The Urban Park Rangers have jurisdiction in the park and are trained to deal with raptors.  Call them if you see one of the hawks in trouble.  Young hawks do spend time on the ground, so be careful not to sound a false alarm.

It's important to remember that birds have a high mortality rate, up to 70% in their first year of life.  Keep your expectations low and you'll be a happy birder.

Q: Are these birds related to Pale Male and Lola, the media stars of Fifth Avenue?
A: It's very unlikely.  The parents are young, either three or four years old.  Since, Pale Male and Lola have not had a successful nest for the last five seasons, they can't be direct descendants.

Although media attention has been on Fifth Avenue, New York has numerous Red-tailed Hawks.  The number of hawks in New York City is over 100.  In Manhattan, I currently know of seven pairs.  Three of these had successful nests this year.  If you add up these hawks, their young and the know first year birds in Manhattan you have over 20 hawks.

Given the number of hawks in the city and the greater New York area, it is unlikely these hawks are descendants of Pale Male and Lola.

Q: What is the history of this pair?
A. This pair first appeared in Riverside Park in late 2007.  They established a nest that winter over the northbound entrance ramp to the highway around 80th Street.  They had three eyasses in 2008, who tragically died due to secondary rodenticide poisoning. Each eyass tested positive for two types of anti-coagulant rodenticides, brodifacoum and bromodiolone. 

Both of these poisons were recently restricted for over-the-counter sale by the EPA.  However, they are still available for use by certified pesticide applicators.

The EPA's records show that rat poison has been detected in a range of animal carcasses - mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, squirrels, deer and 27 species of birds. Few states actively track the cause of wildlife deaths, but in California, residue of the rodent poisons has been found in 27 of 32 kit fox carcasses. The small fox is an endangered species. In New York the poisons were found in 43 of 53 great horned owls and 45 of 78 red-tailed hawks.

These poisons are unfortunately still used outdoors by licensed exterminators in New York City.

In 2008, after the deaths of the eyasses, the hawks built a nest where the current one stands today.  This initial nest fell down over the winter.  After toying with a nest at 93rd Street, they returned to the boat basin, rebuilt their nest and are now are raising three eyasses.

Q: What about the mother's beak?
A: The mother's beak, which broke earlier this year, is fully recovered.

Q: Do they have names?
A: These birds are wild animals, not pets.  Personally, I feel naming wild animals just leads to anthropomorphizing the animal's behavior.  But you're welcome to call them whatever you want.  Whatever happens, I'll still be calling the adults, Adult Riverside Female and Adult Riverside Male.


Growing Up Fast At Riverside

After almost a week away from the Riverside nest, I returned to find much larger eyasses.  They've stopped "crawling" using their small wings and can now stand up and walk normally.  They're also losing much of their downy feathers and are starting to get their brown feathers.

The number of hawk watchers has also increased over the last week.  If you come and watch the Riverside nest, please come without any preconceived notions about the nest.  This is a unique pair of parents, in a unique location.  It isn't Fifth Avenue and these hawks are not the offspring of Pale Male.


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Yosemite Photographs and Birds

These photographs are way off topic for this blog, but Yosemite was too beautiful not to share!   Birds included a Western Tanager, Bullock's Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Steller's Jay, White-headed Woodpecker and a Black-headed Grosbeak.

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Other Parents In NYC

The Spring migration will be winding down soon and bird watchers attentions will turn to nesting parents in Central Park and their offspring.  We already have plenty of babies, including ducklings, goslings and baby Robins. 

Here are some baby and nest pictures from the north of the park.  Despite the "Geese Police", a pair of geese has four goslings on the southern section of the Reservoir.  The nests are of a Gray Catbird and an American Robin near the Wildflower Meadow.

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Windy Sunday At Riverside

After the morning rains, it was a windy afternoon at the Riverside nest.  The winds really pick up as you get near the Hudson.  The eyasses were fed a hearty meal while I was there and the father made a few passes to see what was going on.

I'll be away on vacation until Memorial Day.  It will be interesting to see how much they will grow in the week I'm away.


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Riverside Nest On Friday

I visited the RIverside Park nest after work on Friday, and found three active eyasses with their mother on a nearby branch.  She went on and off the nest a few times and fed them twice.  The nest was visited by the male once.

The video is about eight minutes long and features various angles of the nest and a few shots of the mother perched above the highway.

The young hawks are starting to show the first signs of getting their new feathers.  If you want to see fuzzy eyasses, make sure you visit this weekend.


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Fishing Green Heron

While at The Oven (an U shaped cove of The Lake in Central Park), I saw a Green Heron stop on a branch while moving from the Lake to the Azalea Pond.  It had a stick, so it might be thinking of nesting around the Azalea Pond area.

When I caught up with the bird at the Azalea Pond, it was fishing.  The video shows five catches.

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Scarlet Tanager

A Scarlet Tanager, a bird usually seen high overhead, was at a reasonable height on the Point at The Lake in Central Park today.  It was my first good look at one, although I've seen at least twenty in the past few years!

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Sunday in the Ramble

After visiting the Riverside nest, I spent a few hours in the Ramble in Central Park.  Birds were not abundant, but there some nice discoveries including a Prothonotary Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Green Heron.

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Riverside On Mother's Day

Last year, Mother's Day was the day we confirmed the deaths of the three 2008 eyasses.  The cause ended up being secondary poisoning by rodenticides.  It was on everyone's mind this Mother's Day.

This Mother's Day, we had healthy eyasses and a mother adding greenery to the nest.  It must need some freshening up with three babies.  It will be interesting to see if she also starts to add a guard rail.

The father flew by a few times while I was there and perched near the nest as I was leaving.  The mother was very cooperative and posed for Mother's Day photos with her young.

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Savannah Sparrow

Along with the Indigo Bunting in the grass on Saturday was a Savannah Sparrow.  This is the last of the common Central Park sparrows that has alluded me, so I was happy to finally be able to add it to my Central Park list.

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Indigo Bunting

On Saturday, three Indigo Bunting's were sighted at 79th Street, just west of the East Drive.  One Indigo Bunting was very cooperative, spending a great deal of time in the grass with a Savannah Sparrow.

It enjoyed being able to watch the Indigo Bunting eat grass seed.  It's lower mandible (lower half of the bill) is twice as wide as the upper mandible and it can husk grass seed without skipping a beat. It was great to have such a long look at the bird.

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RFK Bridge and Unisphere Nests

I made a quick trip out to the RFK Bridge and the Unisphere on Friday.  The RFK female was feeding young, but they didn't pop up into sight, so I stuck out again in my attempt to get a glimpse at them.

The female at the Unisphere was sitting on the nest.  It was impossible to tell if she was still sitting on eggs or had hatchlings.  The nest is recessed into an I beam, which makes it a great hiding place for youngsters.

I'll be checking back up on these nests in a few weeks.

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