At Fifth Avenue, we usually see three migrations after fledging. First its an exploration of nearby buildings, then the area south of the playground at 77th Street, and then Cedar Hill. We're in the second phase now with the fledglings beginning to play on the ground and explore the trees. It's a fun time to watch them.
When I arrived at the Fifth Avenue nest, four hawks were in view. Two fledglings on roofs of buildings two blocks south of the nest, Pale Male two floors below on a railing, and an eyass on the nest (despite reports of a fledge on Tuesday.)
One of the fledglings explored various perches on a water tank. One of the things a young hawk needs to practice is turning around on a branch or in this case a rod. It was charming to watch the young hawk learn.
Just before a brief rain shower, Octavia made her way to the nest and plucked what may have been a pigeon carcass before leaving the remaining eyass alone on the nest.
Once eyasses fledge it's a lot more work to go hawk watching. You have to find them. Or in reality, let them and the birds around them show you were they are.
Tonight, the first was found on a building on Fifth Avenue yelling for attention before going off to a tree. It seemed to have the hang of things. It got to watch its father catch a pigeon and pluck it's feathers below it.
The second fledgling was found on a building just south of the nest on a windows ledge. It looked a little bewildered, but its mother kept a eye on the youngster. Her arrival clued us to the location of this second fledgling.
And our third eyass is still on the nest.
Sometime around 4 p.m., while no one was looking one of the Fifth Avenue eyasses fledged to a building two blocks north. I arrived around 5 and got to see the first fledgling explore a terrace. I had to rush off to get ready for a dinner with friends, only to receive a text that a second fledge had occurred around 6:45. Let the fun begin!
Just like my last visit, Octavia was providing shade for the eyasses most of the time. However there was a brief feeding and we did get to see Pale Male deal with a pesky Northern Mockingbird on the Carlyle Hotel. The eyasses wings are now a solid color, while just a few days ago they were a mix of new feathers and downy fuzz.
Nests can be difficult to watch. Eyasses can be sleeping or too young to see, but today at the model boat pond the bench had lots of afternoon action. Active youngsters, still fluffy but large enough to see doing all kinds of things on the nest. If you haven't seen them yet, and are nearby, grab you binoculars and go!
The mother brought in some leaves today. Perfect for helping with a messy nest.
The opening shots of Pale Male and Octavia have them preched on the Carlyle Hotel's roof at 76th and Madison.
The new nest at the Beresford Apartments and the relocated nest at St. John the Divine both seem to have failed this year. We'll see if either pair tries to have a second clutch.
On the other hand, hawks have been seen with nesting material on The San Remo and a fire escape at 100th and Third Avenue. So, we could be in for some late surprises this year.
The Fifth Avenue nest now has three very visible eyasses. One's a bit of a bully and they can now move around the nest with ease.
Octavia must have some hungry youngsters on her hands. Every time I visit the nest, I get to see her feeding her three eyasses.
(There was a hatchling being fed on Sunday, April 26th. So, please be aware that the dates and ages of the eyasses being listed on the Palemale.com site for 2015 are incorrect.)
Although most of the 5th Avenue bench thought we had three eyasses, today was the first time I could see for sure. The video is a nice long feeding of all three youngsters. Enjoy the little ones. They'll be grown up before you know it!
(The second video is the same as the first, except is cropped differently. It will make it easier to see the eyasses on smartphones and other small screens.)
The Fifth Avenue eyasses are now visible during feedings. Pale Male was on the nest when I arrived, who was quickly replaced by Octavia, who fed the eyasses.
At this point, I can only see two little heads at any one time. However, based on feeding patterns, there is a good chance we have three eyasses in the nest. We should be able to figure it out how many for sure by this weekend.
I was hoping to see a little eyass head on Wednesday evening at Fifth Avenue, but they were still to small to see. I tried all of the angles I know of for a chance at a view without success!
Pale Male brought a squirrel to the nest during one of Octavia's feedings. Unlike Sunday, were she fed for only a brief period, she had lots of work to do now.
When I was at the nest yesterday, Octavia seems to be high in the nest. This afternoon, Pale Male spent lots of time on the nest or nearby. Then this evening around 6:30 p.m., the hawk bench saw a feeding. It was brief, which would be normal for a newly hatched eyass, but it was clearly a feeding with Octavia ripping up meat, turning her head and gently giving the meat to the eyass. Together all of this means we had a hatch within the last day!
Nice to have the Fifth Avenue nest back on a regular schedule! Great News!
We should be able to see the eyasses next weekend. The feeding starts at about 8:00 on the video.
I thought I'd spend some time where it all began, Pale Male's nest on Fifth Avenue this afternoon. It was uneventful with Pale Male giving Octavia a break just before he went off to roost.
Octavia is an impatient hawk. She leaves the nest as soon as she sees Pale Male nearby. She doesn't wait for him land on the nest like other females in the city due. It's kind of funny, as though she's saying "I've been waiting, where have you been?"
He asks an excellent question. Could Pale Male actually be Pale Male II, or even the Pale Male III? It certainly is a question worth asking, and one that might have an unpopular answer.
Manhattan hawk watchers have seen hawks replace mates in under 24 hours. There were fast replacements of partners at both the St. John the Divine and Washington Square Park nests in recent years. So, a quick switch of hawks is certainly possible.
Most New York City nests, which are usually characterized as long-term monogamous triumphs, have actually had a good number of mate changes due to the mortality of partners. So, Corey's question is a good one. Could a look alike have replaced the original Pale Male? Maybe during the off-season, when a missing hawk would have gone unnoticed?
Corey brings up Pale Male’s unusually long lifespan, the ratio of his mates to himself (8:1), to cast doubt, then questions if Pale Male, who hasn’t been banded, really has enough unique plumage markers to determine if he’s the same bird that appeared in Central Park in 1991?
Corey also implied something I’ve always been concerned about, which is “Can those who believe in the myth of Pale Male also be good observers of him?”
So, could Corey be right? Maybe.
First let’s look at Pale Male’s plumage. Unfortunately, Corey quotes from Marie Winn’s book to find a description of how Pale Male looked in the “old days”. Marie loves to spin a good story, sometimes at the sake of accuracy. So I think it would be best not to use her anthropomorphically entitled Red-tails in Love, as scientific source material. If you want to compare the plumage of Pale Male, year over year, one can use the footage of Pale Male from Frederic Lilien’s 2004 Nature episode and compare it to photographs and footage from today. I believe the DVD is on Netflix! (But even doing this leave a huge gap for the first decade of Pale Male's life.)
(In the early nineties, Pale Male arrived and was lighter than the hawks in the guidebooks, so he was dubbed Pale Male by Marie Winn. However, Pale Male’s light color is not that unusual for a mid-Atlantic hawk. His light coloring is fairly common. It is part of the myth of Pale Male that his coloring is rare.)
Both from this older era and today, the plumage is very consistent to my eyes. Light scalloped feathers (with a oak leaf like patterns) on his lower breast and light head color, which is almost golden in the right light, are consistent in both periods. But even day-to-day, Pale Male has lots of different looks depending on the temperature or the lighting. He doesn’t have any truly unique field marks.
Secondly, the passing of so many mates is hard to explain, but how all of these hawks got into trouble isn’t just rat poison. Pale Male could just have some great luck. But other issues come into play too. New York City seems to have greater death by rodenticides in females, especially before nesting. There have been lots of necropsies where females bleed out via their ovaries. Could males have it easier in NYC?
Thirdly, we have Pale Male’s long life span. Pale Male should be living a long life, in one of the richest zip codes in America. He lives in a very safe area, with a great food supply.
So, is Corey right? He builds a good case, but it isn’t solid. Maybe enough evidence to win a civil trail, but certainly not enough to win a criminal case.
But I do know one thing, if this discussion upsets you, then you’re not someone who should be sitting on the jury. Maybe you’re too attached to the myth of Pale Male to judge fairly.
Update: Since I first posted this, I've run into some of the long term Pale Male followers in Central Park. Those that have followed him since 1992 when he arrived and 1993 when the nest was built on 5th Avenue. Although they don't have pictures online, they do have slides and prints that show what Pale Male looked like in the early days. Having talked to these unbiased observers of Pale Male, I now believe that we are viewing the same individual, not two. It would be great if one of them could collect some photos and put them online to put this question to rest.
On Saturday afternoon, two hawks spent at least an hour circling around Central Park West north of 80th Street. Then one landed on the roof of the Beresford Apartments' SE Tower, while the other landed on the SW Tower. It wasn't clear if it was Octavia and Pale Male or another pair of hawks. They certainly were not in the standard perches.
However, on Sunday afternoon, it was clear Pale Male was in the oval window of the SE Tower, and Octavia was perched just below the oval window of the NE Tower.
Had I just misidentified the hawks on Saturday, or was Pale Male protecting the building after interlopers landed on the building the day before?
On Labor Day, Octavia, Pale Male's current mate was perched on the north side of 2 East 70th Street. The location gave her a good view up Fifth Avenue.
I always thought 72nd Street was the "line in the sand" between the 5th Avenue and the Sheep Meadow pair, but the borders are turning out to be more complicated. Octavia is regularly south of 72nd Street, and the Sheep Meadow fledglings regularly go north of 72nd Street on either side of Bethesda Fountain.
It's ironic, given that I'm Red/Green Colorblind, that my two good birds of the day on Saturday were a Red-tailed Hawk and Green Heron.
The Red-tailed Hawk was the same bird I saw Friday. It was again perched on a window railing of 2 East 70th Street.
The Green Heron was in a shallow area of the The Pond north of Gapstow bridge. These mudflat areas are import to wading birds, but they're constantly being removed by the Central Park Conservancy. The original landscaping of the park had water bodies with clean sculpted edges, which removed the transitional areas of marsh and mud needed by many birds. Luckily, natural erosion does a great job of bringing these mudflats back!
At about 6:56 on the video is a great shot of the Green Heron "licking its lips".
Starting in late July, hawk watching in New York City becomes much harder. Fledglings, who had been yelling for food, are now quiet having learned to hunt. Warm weather has the hawks relaxing and staying put, making them harder to spot. And everyone, young and old have dispersed to wider and wider areas. Gone are those nice spots the families came to for meals together at regular hours!
So on Saturday, I had my first hawk free day of the summer. I didn't pick up a single hawk on a trip through Central Park.
This Sunday, I did find two hawks however. Pale Male up at 86th and Fifth Avenue, and one of the Sheep Meadow fledglings at The Mall.
I got to see one of the fledglings for over two hours around the Obelisk (sometimes referred to Cleopatra's Needle), west of the Met. This was fun since there were lots of good looks at the bird.
However, the mystery of the day was a large adult Red-tailed Hawk, who wasn't Pale Male or Ocativa, who showed up nearby. This coupled with the rescue of a young hawk around the tennis courts at 96th Street last week had hawk watchers wondering.
Could the young hawk could have been from an unknown nest of the pair that tired to nest along CPW these last two years? And could the adult hawk we saw be the parent of this youngster, investigating the cries from Pale Male and Ocatavia's children, in case they were the parent's missing fledgling?
I don't think we'll ever know but it makes a great story!
Update: It looks like the youngster that was picked up at the tennis courts is most likely one of the Cathedral fledglings, which makes sense given their exposure to Frounce. So, this extra adult's appearance may have not explanation.
I got to see all of the Fifth Avenue fledglings on Sunday. One was west of the Met, and two were around the Cedar Hill area.
The two near Cedar Hill had a little tussle over some food with both of them ending up on a lawn.
All of the hawks looked well feed and the one who had been closing its right eye frequently yesterday was back to normal. All of them also seem to have mastered flying and soaring. They aren't hunters yet, but they're no longer newbies either.
After visiting the Sheep Meadow fledglings, it was off to see the Fifth Avenue fledglings. They were around Cedar Hill and nearby locations. Pale Male and Octavia flew overhead, but I ran into Pale Male much further north near the South Gate House of the Reservoir and the Met roof.
I saw all of the fledglings. One fledgling was closing its right eye a great deal. It was hard to tell if this was normal/minor or if something more serious was going on. I'm sure the hawk watchers at Fifth Avenue will be keeping track of this fledgling, just in case.