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More NC-17

The dark female and Pale Male continue to cement their relationship, as the photos below show. 

In the surprise that partners had switched yet again last week, I assumed that this new female was the Dec./Jan. mate based on my memory of how she looked.  I went back to old photographs tonight and video, and the hawks from the two periods are a close match.  But a perfect match?   I can't say for sure.

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Quieter Or Just Later

I arrived around 6 p.m. this evening to a quieter Fifth Avenue.  The two hawks mated twice, and Pale Male came to the nest a few times, but the general pace was much more relaxed.  It could have been the late hour or things might have been calmer today.  I'm not sure.


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Her Onlyness

The North Woods Eastern Screech-Owl seems to have settled down and is staying in her newly found cavity.  She was very quiet tonight only calling once.


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Fifth Avenue

The dark female and Pale Male frequently visited the nest and used various buildings to copulate on Sunday evening.  The mystery surrounding the Pale Female's disappearance continues to be the topic of conversation at the hawk bench.  I don't think we'll ever know what really happened.


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What's Love Got To Do With It?

The recent turn of events has some of my fellow hawk watchers and bloggers offering theories about what has happened on Fifth Avenue.  I don't think we'll every be able to fully explain the turn of events, so all theories are welcome.  I am however concerned about some premature conclusions that have been jumped to about what's been happening.  Two issues concern me.

First, did an egg get laid by the Pale Female?  With most females, a few days/nights are spent on the nest before they lay their eggs.  With her immaturity, the Pale Female may have not have known to spend time on the nest before laying an egg. But only spending one night on the nest makes it seem unlikely that she laid an egg.

I think it's important to ask if she was old enough to lay an egg.  Many first year nesters fail.  She seemed to have limited interest in the nest.  Could she have been too young to lay eggs, and once Pale Male realized, he invited another female to mate with him?  Survival of the species must surely trump any pair bonding.

Secondly, there has been a lot of conjecture about why the dark female didn't bond with Pale Male the first time she was with Pale Male.  Since few of the pundits, actually watched these hawks in the winter, they're jumping to the wrong conclusions based on a few Lincoln Karim photographs.  The dark female arrived early in the season before the days had started getting longer and hormones had fully kicked in.  More importantly, she already had a relationship with a brown tailed hawk.  I saw her take leftovers from the youngster three times, twice in Locust Grove and one on Pilgrim Hill.  Any theory about why bonding didn't happen the first time has to accommodate this third wheel.

Theories are welcome, but beware of any pundits (including me) who presents them as fact!

Saturday, was just like Friday.  Lots of copulations, nest re-building by both hawks and lots of activity.  Rarely did the hawks sit still for more than fifteen minutes.


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Surprise, Female Number 1 Returns?

On Friday, there was a different hawk on the nest, copulating with Pale Male and flying up and down Fifth Avenue.  The hawk looked like the female that first courted Pale Male earlier this season. 

This sudden changes come as a complete surprise, but it's what makes hawk watching fun.  Whenever we get too arrogant that we fully understand a species, nature shows us a new twist!


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Overnight Guest at 927 Fifth Avenue

The Pale Female of Fifth Avenue slept on the nest this evening. 

Before she slept, she sat on the nest and Pale Male presented the same pigeon to her about five times.  She was sitting too high on the nest to have laid eggs yet, but this should happen in a few days.

In addition to progress at Fifth Avenue, the Bloomingdale Village blog reports that both the Highbridge Park and St. John the Divine nests are active with brooding females.


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Getting Comfortable

The female continues to get used to the nest area.  She made two wonderful loops, hugging the building edges, and just skipping her normal perches.   Other than the two loops, it was a normal evening on Fifth Avenue.


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New Owl Roost

Yet another roosting location for the Eastern-Screech Owl.  This one seems "just right", although a few robins might disagree by the sound of them.


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Owl Photos from Thursday

I didn't have a chance to post these until today.  They are of the remaining Eastern Screech-Owl in the park.  She was calling non-stop again, although we only found her after fly out.  She's mixing up roosts yet again!

She appeared to be eating buds at the top of a tree for a few mintues.  It's hard to know if she's eating the buds or insects on the buds.


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Pale Male Eats Dinner

Tonight, shortly after I arrived in the park, Pale Male caught a pigeon and proceeded to eat it in a tree to the north of the building that stores the boats at the Model Boat Pond.

After he was done eating, he wanted to share his catch with his new mate, but had difficulties finding her.  Finally, she arrived but it was unclear if she took the food.

She ended up on a building railing, and flew into a sliding glass door.  She did so at an angle, so I don't think she was going after her reflection but instead was confused by the light at twilight.  She appeared to be uninjured.

At the end of the evening, Pale Male was on the nest and then flew off to roost in a tree to the northwest.


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Eastern Screech-Owl Pellet

I got to spend a relaxed evening with the park's Eastern Screech-Owl this evening.  She was very relaxed and flew out to a low tree trunk only ten feet from me this evening.  I try not to get that close, but if she comes to me, I'll take advantage of it!

She was also quiet.  Her spring hormones must have subsided, as she is no longer calling and calling.  Her "Only"ness, as one of my readers described her recent situation, is troubling for all of us who know why she is alone. She is the soul survivor of the misguided and politically motivated, reintroduction program called Project X

Tonight, she regurgitated a pellet, which had the partial remains of a white footed mouse.


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Riverside Nest

I finally got down to the Riverside Park nest today.  Daylight Saving Time, sure helps make it easier to bird watch after work.

The female is already sitting on the nest, and I got to watch the male arrive and allow her to take a dinner break.  After this pair's bad luck over the last few years, I hope this year goes smoothly.

The nest is the same as last year's and is along the river around 81st Street.


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NC-17

Saturday on Fifth Avenue was full of excitment.  The "bench" counted at least eight copulations, of which I saw four.  It's a fun time to down at the Model Boat Pond.  The copulations occured all over the place, with the pair putting on quite a show.

Lola would usually have been brooding by this time of year.  The late start might end up helping this year.  If the nest cradle was causing problems with heat loss, any later start date would be welcome.


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One Long-eared Owl Continues

At least one Long-eared Owls continues to be in the park.  It was sleeping when I arrived, ignoring the young adults smoking pot on the nearby hill!

I ran into a longtime friend and a photographer who I had never met before.  I helped them find the owl, since it was difficult to locate. 

The "new to birding" photographer asked me questions about camera equipment non-stop.  I didn't have the heart to say, "It's not the equipment stupid" but wanted to.  If you want to be a birding photographer, don't worry about your equipment. Getting a good kit together is easy.

Today, most birding photography is rather soulless.  Most photographers are obsessed with the perfect details in the perfect light.  These photographs are like yearbook pictures, perfectly boring.

Captivating pictures tell you something about the bird's behavior or environment.  To do that, you've got be part birder, part naturalist and lastly a photographer.

So, if you want to ask me questions, don't ask me about hardware.  Ask me about when the light is good, what I'm discovering about the bird's behavior today, what moment I'm trying to capture, etc.  If you don't study the bird and figure out what's special about it, how can you take a great picture of it?


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Pale Male vs. Pale Female

Some field marks to tell these two hawks apart...

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Two broken primary wing tips on Pale Male's left wing.  Hers are all fine.  (This mark will only last until he molts this summer.)

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Pale Male has a solid red tail with all feathers in place and in good shape.  His tail is red, black terminal band, some red then white.  Her tail which seems to be less covered by terials and primaries than Pale Male, is much lighter, with a bright white shaft showing, a broken feather on the far left, and a damaged feather also on the left.  The tail is white/light red, then a weak red, a black terminal band then white.

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Pale Male has a light throat, and the female's is dark.  While both have similar markings on their flanks, her belly's marks are noticeably darker with larger splotches of color.


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They were perched together at dusk.