Fifth Avenue on Memorial Day was fairly quiet except for a few helocopters that flew right over the nest as part of Fleet Week celebrations. It caused Lima to do a small flight over the Model Boat Pond. It will be interesting to see how she reacts to some of the larger parades coming up!
The eyasses at Riverside Park are doing well and should be fledging soon. Thanks to all of the people who supported the single mother. Up to now things have been doing very well, considering the death of the father.
I arrived late on Sunday to find Lima sheltering her eyasses from the sun. As the sun set, a cool breeze blew, and the action began. Pale Male flew by the nest but didn't land. After a few minutes of waiting Lima, she left the nest. Reports are she may have caught a squirrel a few blocks north of the nest. While she was eating, Pale Male visited the nest and preened his young. Lima then returned, Pale Male left and a feeding began.
With a spotting scope, you can easily see the eyasses during feedings. Now is a great time to watch this nest in person!
When you have a large lens on a tripod, everyone wants to ask you questions for some reason. Today, I was interrupted about fifty times while photographing the nest, despite wearing a N.Y.F.D. T-shirt which has the slogan "Keep Back 200 Feet" on it. It amazes me how the sight of a working photographer, doesn't make people think that they should be careful not to interrupt, but has them lose all impulse control and ask loudly "Who are you photographing? Is it someone important?"
What was interesting was how the interrupting individuals, with only "NY Post" knowledge of the nest, kept trying to impress their friends and me with their knowledge (or in most cases their lack of knowledge) of the nest. They would talk about celebrities who have moved away long ago, or would claim the nest had eagles or falcons. It was amazing how many people just couldn't take a few minutes to look through the spotting scopes that were set up and experience the nest first hand, and get an update of what's happening this year.
However something wonderful made up for all of the interruptions on Saturday. The old timers of the "hawk bench" were so excited to be observing new things again. (They were also remembering old times, departed friends and the old habits of Pale Male too. But the new observations were what was making everyone happy.)
One of the joys of watching hawks in an urban area is how easy it is to make observations. In a rural area, a hawk would never let you too close. But in New York City, with hawks out in the open and acclimated to humans, we get to see their secrets.
Lima, who may be a first time mother, certainly isn't Lola. The post-cradle nest has eyasses for the first time. The hatching time is weeks later than normal. All of these changes are making the 2011 season something special.
One observation that was shared with me was how Lima doesn't seem to be that thrilled with Pale Male hanging around the nest. If he lingers too long on the north side of the nest, she sometimes comes over and gives him a little hip bump to move him along. It doesn't seem as though she's communicating get lost, but more a message that she has things under control, damn it! Great observation, members of the bench!
So, here's some advice. If you want to fit in at the "hawk bench", don't worry about what was. Worry about what's new. Three out of four of the hawks are just that this year.
It does look like the number of eyasses this year is two. They both can be seen eating together in the video.
Friday, I had a great afternoon watching the Fifth Avenue nest. An eyass kept playing peak-a-boo, delighting the hawk bench, while it hide under its mother's tail.
Since I started watching hawks after the last successful Fifth Avenue nest, I was thrilled to finally see a baby on the nest. It was great to finally experience, what I had only read about in Red-tails in Love.
Two eyasses were seen today, and the talk of the bench was, "Is it two or three kids?" We'll know in a few days.
I arrived at the Fifth Avenue nest late this evening and only got to see the tail end of a feeding. I understand lucky individuals got to see glimpses of an eyass, Wednesday and Thursday. I hope to shoot some images of a youngster this weekend.
Although the eyass at Washington Square still sleeps a great deal, the young bird is now fairly easy to watch from the park. I don't follow the chat rooms of the webcam, but I understand there is a lot of needless worrying.
Relax folks and enjoy the view. As the juvenile feathers grow in, watch how they appear. If you use a diagram like the one in Sibley's Birding Basics, you can watch each group of feathers grow in and really understand how everything works.
Watch the mother feel more and more comfortable leaving the eyass alone. Observe how the mother begins to encourage the eyass to feed itself. Watch the mother show her white patch on her head, to trigger the father to release food he's brought. Watch the eyass begin to practice wing flapping and jumping. Observe and learn and don't worry.
It looks like there are two eyasses in the nest at St. John the Divine. Both seem to be fairly active, and it's now more likely than not to see at least one on a quick visit.
If you're looking for information about the nest, refer to my first blog post about the nest, Discovering the St. John the Divine Nest from 2006. The nest location and mother are the same as from that year. Unfortunately the original male died a few years ago, so we have a new male.
Update: Robert Schmunk reports on Wednesday, that it turns out there are three eyases on the nest. One is less developed than the other two, and thus harder to see.
The Riverside Park pair of Red-tailed Hawk eyasses is really close to fledgling. I wouldn't be surprised if one is off the nest by Memorial Day. Today they did lots of wing flapping and branching. Their tails look a little too short and some feathers haven't grown in on their heads, but otherwise they look pretty close to being ready for their first flights.
The Urban Park rangers have been doing a great job of helping the single parent mother feed the eyasses, by putting out food. I think this made a major difference for the outcome of this nest. The Rangers have also put up posters with simple do's and don't about how to respect the hawks. The posters remind dog owners to keep their dogs on leash.
There aren't enough Urban Park Rangers or Parks Enforcement Police to enforce the leash laws in Riverside Park, so it is helpful if the hawk watching community talks to owners of dogs who have their dogs off leash. This doesn't have to be an adversarial discussion. Last year, the mother would swoop over any loose dog that was chasing squirrels the week before they fledged. So, the issue is not only a hawk safety issue but also a dog safety issue.
I was hoping for a glimpse at a 5th Avenue eyass today, but they're still too small. I suspect this Memorial Day weekend will be a better time to visit.
I received some comments about the previous years nest failures. It was suggested that in addition to the possibility of Lola being infertile over the last few years, it still could have been the cradle. The hypothesis being that after all these years the nest was finally built up high enough to prevent drafts/heat loss from the metal cradle. While this is a possibility, there have been a number of successful fire escape and air conditioner nests in the New York City area over the last few years. Since most of these nests worked their first year, and were similar to the cradle, I would place my bets on Lola being the problem. The nest isn't that much higher than last year, and the biggest variable that changed was Lola being replaced by another mate.
In my post two days ago about signs that show a nest has hatched, I forgot about another way hawk watchers know there are eyasses on the nest. The eyasses "slice", or in layman's terms defecate. I recorded this twice on Sunday afternoon, so absolutely, positively the nest has hatched.
I started hawk watching after the Fifth Avenue nest had been taken down, so this will be my first real Fifth Avenue season. It will be fun to observe the nest that started serious hawk watching in New York City.
The hatch vindicates Marie Winn, the Park's Department and NYC Audubon for their compromise with the co-op to put up the nest cradle. When the nest failed to produce offspring, everyone's conjecture was it was most likely the cradle, and possibly Pale Male's advanced age, but very few suggested it might have been Lola. So, to Marie Winn, the Park's Department and NYC Audubon a very, belated thank you.
While I was away on vacation, I received a note from someone who had additional information about the Washington Square nest and they informed me that I was too harsh on the NYS DEC team that visited the nest on the Thursday before last.
In my comments about the operation, I was trying to be critical of the NYS DEC's approach to high profile situations, which I feel lack transparency, have a tendency to include credentialed but inexperienced experts and fails to involve/educate local rehabbers.
My statement inappropriately implied that the assembled team on that Thursday was not professional. The team did include a number of highly experienced experts, some of whom had extensive rehabilitation experience. To anyone whose reputation I might have slighted through a poor choice of words, please accept my apologies. The conservative action taken that day has turned out to be an appropriate choice.
When a Red-tailed Hawk nest hatches, long before the eyasses are visible to observers a few behavior changes take place.
- The mother will eat on the nest rather than flying off to a nearby location to eat
- Both parents will spend time waking around the edge of the nest looking down into the nest
- The mother will tear up small pieces of food and appear to be feeding young
I received reports that all three changes appeared to take place today on Fifth Avenue. It's too early to know for sure if the nest has hatched but all signs are positive.
I'm still on vacation but will be back on Sunday to make a first hand report.
This female Red-tailed hawk at Washington Square had problems last Friday when she was caught in some string. At that time, it was also clear that she had problems with the bird band on her right leg.
It was determined that she was having problems with her foot. Athough the band might not have been the cause of her problem, it clearly wasn't helping her recovery. (In the last week, pictures were collected and the circulation problems seem to have existed for at least six months with this female.)
Today, the N.Y.S. DEC had a number of experts at N.Y.U. who spent time an hour on the roof without any of the necessary equipment to assist the female, if that was warranted. So, it seems preordained that nothing was going to be done today.
It's unfortunate. This week was the perfect time to remove the band. The mother didn't need to keep eggs warm, the eyass was small enough it could not be frightened off the nest, and the mother would attack anyone coming near the nest, so it would be fairly easy to catch her. Any other time of the year, it will be very difficult to catch her.
So, the window to remove her band and make her life more comfortable is almost gone. I hate it when protecting your goverment job trumps being humane.
Someone should open the bathroom window near the nest, and as she defends the nest, catch her. Then remove the band and return her to her nest. I don't understand why this action is not being taken. If she doesn't let herself get caught, no harm, and if she can easily be caught her tight band can be removed.
In the pictures below, you can see that Bobby has two missing secondary feathers on his right wing. This is a great temporary field mark to tell him apart from Violet. It will go away this summer when he molts and gains new feathers.
Tonight was a delightful evening in Washington Square. Bobby was present most of the evening and Violet took a break from the nest.
The New York Times reports that Chris Nadereski and a vet from the Bronx Zoo will be on hand tomorrow afternoon to remove Violet's band. We'll see how they do. Both of these individuals aren't normally doing rehabilitation work with Red-tailed Hawks in New York City.
In general, the N.Y.S. D.E.C. chooses folks who have excellent curriculum vitae when the press is involved, rather than experienced but less credentialed individuals. Those who know the true details of the coyote Hal's death will understand what I'm talking about.
Update: No action was taken on Thursday. I have no details. I would suggest keeping an eye on the New York Times blog. Although her leg doesn't seem normal, she is no longer knuckling her talons. This is a good sign.
Although one had to be patient Tuesday night, two eyasses were visible at the St. John the Divine nest. They should be easier to see with each passing day. The mother spent most of the evening off the nest, either on the Archangel Gabriel or on St. Luke's Hospital.
The eyasses at Riverside Park are in that awkward stage where their flight feathers are starting to grow in. It's a good time to watch then, as you can figure out how wing and tail feathers work as they grow in.
The mother continues to hold her own, and is being supported by an Urban Park Ranger who is helping by leaving rodents near the nest.
Hawk watchers on Fifth Avenue have limited expectations about the nest being successful this year. After years of Pale Male and Lola having fertility problems, there are small hopes that Lima (Lincoln Karim's name for the new female, that seems to be the now generally recognized name for the Dark Female/Ginger) might have better luck with Pale Male.
The hatch window starts around May 10th and will continue for about ten days. Don't expect much news if things continue to go wrong, but expect one hell of a party if there is a hatch.
I shot a long video of the Washingtion Square nest on Friday, after I got news the hatching. With all of the concerns about Violet's leg, I didn't have a chance to edit it or post it. Here it is. It doesn't have audio.
Bobby Horvath, a respected wildlife rehabilitator, visited the NYU Library on Saturday. He was met by NYU administrators and they worked on site logistics, legal issues, etc.
There is some good news about the windows, they can be unlocked and opened. There are two windows on the nest's ledge. The left hand window, where the nest is located, swings out so it can't be used. Luckily, the other window which connects to a bathroom, opens in. This should allow Bobby Horvath to lean out and see the nest. If all goes well, the female will stay put or charge him rather than fly off the nest, which should make it fairly easy to capture her with a net. So, mission impossible may be possible after all.
Bobby Horvath and his wife, Cathy plan on returning to the library mid-week to cut whatever cord is still left on Violet's foot and remove her ill fitting band. They will also quickly examine her foot, apply topical cream, and administer to her an oral anti-inflammatory.
Update: 5-10-11, The N.Y.S. D.E.C. has gotten involved and has asked that nothing be done at this time, just wait and monitor. The D.E.C. regulates rehabilitators in the state and their recommendations must be followed. So, wait and monitor is all that can happen at this time.
Bobby Horvath also learned the mystery of the hatch dates. The NYU staff, not knowing that hawks can sit up to a week before laying an egg, gave everyone the date she started sitting, rather than the actual date of when the first egg was laid. So this explains the confusion over the hatch dates.
As you can see in the video and photographs, Bobby the male Red-tailed Hawk may give Bobby Horvath a hard time during the capture of Violet, the female.
(I understand the Horvath's home phone has been ringing off the hook, even at odd hours. Unless you're a licensed rehabilitator in New York State, I doubt you have much to contribute. Please let the Horvath's have some peace and quiet, so they can be rested when they attempt the rescue.)