I attended the 2012 Florida Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festive in Titusville this weekend. It was an extremely well run event and I had a great time. On Saturday morning, I got up at 4:30 a.m. to see a group of three Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.
Due to habitat loss, the population of this bird is about 1% of its original size. The population of this bird is limited to about 6,000 breeding groups, or about 14,000 birds in the Southeast United States.
The Washington Square pair was perched together when I arrived at the park today. There was enough snow to be beautiful, but not enough to cause any major transportation issues.
Booby, the male, did some hunting and just missed catching a pigeon. I missed capturing the moment, but you should see a great picture on Roger Paw's blog.
Rosie visited the nest and at some point both hawks appeared to go east of Broadway.
At nightfall, Rosie went north leaving the east side of One Fifth Avenue, and going between the Brevoort and Brevoort East apartment buildings (a complex that takes up the entire block bounded by 8th, 9th, Fifth and University.) She's gone this way before. What's hard to tell is if she is swinging into a protected courtyard in the center of The Brevoort to roost, or if she continues to the gardens of the Brownstones a block or two north.
Bobby roosted in what has become his favorite place these last few weeks, on the south side of the park.
Bobby and Rosie continue to act more like a fully mated pair with each passing day. This afternoon, Rosie shared food with Bobby and also visited the nest. Hopefully, we'll see the hawks copulate soon as the days grow longer.
The new female in Washington Square, whose nickname is Rosie, was very active this afternoon, while Bobby mostly watched from a London Plane tree. Rosie is like so many young Red-tails. She flies around going after anything she sees in the park before she settles down and makes a good kill.
Bobby, being older, has already learned to relax and take his time while hunting. He caught a rodent, just after sunset, with only a patient ten minute wait on a branch.
Besides both of them hunting this afternoon. Rosie brought a branch to the nest and Bobby joined her, but was harassed and nearly hit by a Peregrine Falcon. (For those who are worried about the Peregrines, we saw this behavior for years at St. John the Divine. Although it was a hassle for the Red-tails, nothing every happened to them.)
I arrived in the park around 3:30 p.m. to find the new girl eating a rat on a tree in the fenced in SW portion of the park. She eat about half of the rodent, and then flew around the park and to the north of the park up past Eighth Street. She soon returned and made a brief visit to the nest.
Bobby appeared and the new girl tried out perches on a number of air conditioners on buildings on the west side of the park. But at dusk we lost track of them, and didn't find them in any of the known roost sites.
Hawk watching is great fun but recently there has been a lot of negativity on some hawk watching blogs and chat rooms in New York City. I usually let these things go, but these spats are distracting us from the real raptor issues in New York City -- protecting nest sites, limiting rodenticide usage and supporting local rehabbers.
New York has real issues right now. For example, in Riverside Park the local community is putting pressure on park management to greatly increase rodenticide usage in the park. The park's management would like to control the rodents while protecting the hawks by focusing on improving sanitation rather than putting out poisons. However it doesn't have funding to replace its wire trash cans throughout the park with rodent resistant models. Believe it or not, replacing the trash cans would cost over $100,000!
Is the hawk watching community doing anything to support Riverside Park management? A few are writing letters of support, but that's about it. Instead bloggers and chat room users are arguing about hawk names, tree management policies, bird banding, false I.D.s and making provocative statements.
Please don't squabble over issues that don't matter. It's more than a waste of time and energy. It prevents us from addressing the real issues and reduces our credibility as a lobbying group.
Over the last few months these false issues have included:
What hawk watcher should call the new female at Washington Square. It doesn't matter! Wild animals don't have names. We're just giving them nick names so we can talk about them. If one person uses one name and someone else uses another, who cares?
Better yet, why doesn't someone take a leadership role and auction off rights to name her? Maybe an individual or a chat room could raise some money for the trash cans in Riverside Park!
Attacks on banding. Bands have been placed on birds for decades, and have provided important information to scientists helping conservation efforts. The issue with Violet's band is still unclear. It was an isolated issue that could easily have been a complication due to an injury rather than the placement of a band that was too small. There is no reason to personally attack regulators of bird banding. It just poisons any possible partnership that might be needed in the future.
Central Park staff have been attacked for removing trees after three large storms. Central Park has bedrock very close to ground level. It creates situations where 100 year old trees may only have roots 8 feet deep. This problem requires the park to remove trees which look healthy, but have become a risk to human life. There is no hidden agenda needing a FOIL request. This is appropriate tree management, which at times can include removing older trees, and replanting.
False I.D.s. Over the last few months, bloggers who live outside of New York City, have been looking at photographs and saying things like "Oh, that hawk in Washington Square looks like that hawk in Tompkins Square Park." This might increase blog traffic, but it just confuses people, and frustrates those that watch the hawks in person.
So, if you care about hawks, please keep to the real issues which primarily are protecting nest sites, limiting rodenticide usage and supporting local rehabbers!