When hawks are sitting on eggs, not much happens. If you're lucky you'll be watching when the female wants to take a brief break from her egg sitting duties. But only if you're lucky.
Tonight, I had no such luck at Washington Square Park! Bobby was on One Fifth Avenue briefly, and Rosie was on the nest. Her head is slightly visible to the left of black window frame and her tail feathers peak out on the right. She didn't even get up to stretch while I was at the park!
Based on the behavior of Rosie and Bobby tonight, we may have an egg in the Washington Square nest. Rosie was sitting on the nest when I arrived, took a slight break, returned to the nest and quickly left with some food.
Then Bobby copulated with her, as she was still eating and he relieved her on the nest, as she continued her meal. Then they switched places and he eat the leftovers.
Rosie continues to overnight on the nest, and the pair continues to copulate and work on the nest. However, we don't have Rosie sitting during the day yet. This means we're all set, but the eggs haven't arrived just yet.
So, the Washington Square hawk watcher are all keeping an eye out for behavior changes. It looks like this year Pale Male and Octavia uptown may have beaten Rosie and Bobbie for the first eggs!
It was a beautiful day in Washington Square Park on Saturday, with warmer weather and plenty of sunshine. The hawks made lots of nest visits, with the hawks bringing paper and twigs to tidy up. They copulated on the Silver Building. Both hawks soared and soared above the park as if to celibrate the warm day.
Tonight at dusk both hawks were in Washington Square, one on the nest and one on buildings on the west side of the park. The one on the buildings, took off after an American Kestrel and returned.
The hawks then went over to Silver and copulated, with one of them roosting on the building for the night. Looks like we'll have Rosie over-nighting on the nest soon.
I got confirmation on Wednesday, that my interpretation of the Parks Department and Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting regulations, that tripods may be used without a permit in all city parks, was correct. So, I'll be able to continue in filming in Washington Square Park.
I am still concerned about the ambiguity of the Parks Department's regulations and their website pages surounding photography. Every photographer I know with a large telephoto lens has been hassled at least once by a Parks Department employee without cause. I have to decide if I want to collect enough documentation to prove that what I experienced last Sunday was the norm for photographers in city parks, and pursue the matter futher.
But for now the good news is that I'm safe to photograph Rosie and Bobby in the park again.
Around 2:45 p.m. on Sunday, I was asked to stop filming in Washington Square Park by a New York City Parks Enforcement Patrol Officer. He said I could not use a tripod in Washington Square. Not one to argue with any law enforcement officer, I left the park, having just missed filming Rosie and Bobby copulate.
Here is the letter I'll be sending to Liam Kavanagh, Acting Commissioner, Department of Parks & Recreation, The City of New York:
Department of Parks & Recreation
The City of New York
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065
I'm sorry to report that on March 2, 2014 between 2 and 3 p.m., a Parks Enforcement Patrol Officer, C. Cassiano insisted that I stop filming a pair of Red-tailed Hawks in Washington Square Park, because I was using a tripod.
Before we get to the legal issues of your officer infringing on my 1st Amendment Rights, I should introduce myself. I’m D. Bruce Yolton, a Vice-President at Macmillan Publishers, and a long time bird and hawk watcher in New York City parks. I’ve worked over the years with many members of the Parks Department, especially the Urban Park Rangers.
I’m also an active blogger, with a very popular Urban Hawks (urbanhawks.com) blog. To create the content for this blog, I’ve used a tripod in city parks, almost every other day for over nine years. I’ve done so in the presence of almost the entire staff of the Urban Park rangers, and numerous Parks Department employees.
So, let’s get on to the legal issues. I find it incredibly ironic that Officer Cassiano decided to tell me I couldn’t use a tripod in Washington Square Park, because I was one of the many individuals who helped influence the current policies of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting, MOFTB.
In 2006-8, in response to litigation supported by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the MOFTB was asked to create clear guidelines to separate the 1st Amendment protected uses of photography in the city which did not require a permit, with those that needed a permit from the MOFTB. As part of this process, MOFTB first proposed a set of onerous regulations and made them available for public comment.
The proposed regulations included a requirement that any use of a tripod for more than ten minutes required a permit and that one had to apply for the permit for each tripod use. One could not register as a nature photographer and get a multi-use permit under the guidelines. This effectively meant the end to raptor photography in New York City, because who know in advance where a bird would be! There would be no way to apply for a permit.
So, I like many others participated in the public comment period. My comments even ended up in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/04/nyregion/04filmmakers.html), after the MOFTB agreed to revise the regulations.
The crux of the legal issue is how do you regulate commercial film production and still protect 1st Amendment rights? It was wisely decided that a photographer who could hand carry his equipment, was clearly covered by the 1st Amendment, and it was reasonable to require a permit when the amount of equipment was more substantial than one person could hand carry.
The approved MOFTB regulations (http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/content/section-9-02-processing-permit-applications), in § 9-02, define hand-held devices as follows:
“’Hand-held devices’ shall mean (i) film, still or television cameras, videocameras, or other equipment which are held in the photographer’s or filmmaker’s hand carried at all times with the photographer or filmmaker during the course of filming, or (ii) tripods used to support film, still television cameras or videocameras. Hand-held devices shall not include cables or any items or equipment not carried by the photographer or filmmaker at all times during the course of photography, filming or transmission.”
So, let’s back to the matter of Officer Cassiano and his insistence that tripods can’t be used without a permit in Washington Square Park.
Officer Cassiano sited the following parks regulation,
§1-05 Regulated Uses
e. Unauthorized commercial cinematic productions
2. Filming or photography not requiring a permit.
Any person or entity engaging in filming or photography in a park, where such activity does not require a permit under the permit requirement rules of MOFTB, may engage in such activity without obtaining a permit from that Office.
In addition, any person or entity engaging in filming or photography involving only the use of handheld devices (as defined in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of §9-02 of the MOFTB permit rules) that takes place in an area under the Department's jurisdiction that is not a sidewalk, pathway, street, or walkway of a bridge need not obtain a MOFTB permit. Nothing herein shall be deemed to relieve such person or entity of the obligation to obtain a permit from the Department if such activity involves conduct otherwise requiring a permit pursuant to any other rule of the Department.
I can understand the officer’s confusion. How would he know that “handheld devices” (as defined in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of § 9-02 of the MOFTB permit rules)”, included tripods? He wouldn’t given the poor wording of Parks Department’s regulation, especially since the phrase “handheld devices” has a completely different meaning in 2014, then it did when the MOFTB regulation was drafted in 2007.
However, the whole point of the NYCLU litigation was to ensure that the citizens of New York City could go about documenting the city free of harassment by knowing exactly when and when they didn’t need a permit. And if they needed a permit, the permitting process was fair, permits were easy to apply for and the process was appropriately transparent.
So, we can go in two directions…
The Parks Department can acknowledge to me:
In addition, the Park’s legal department may want to consider a revision of the language of the “§1-05 Regulated Uses” section regarding “Unauthorized commercial cinematic productions” to clarify the language which caused the confusion. It should explicitly include language that tripod usage is permitted, and clear up language about locations, which I believe oversteps the MOFTB regulations.
Furthermore, your legal department might also want to revise the unconstitutional language about Film Shoot Requests, which is overly broad, at http://www.nycgovparks.org/permits/film-shoot-request. No Federal judge would allow you to have a sentence that says, “To film or photograph in New York City parks, you must first receive clearance from the administrative authority of that park before submitting the appropriate application with the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting at www.nyc.gov/film.”
Or, I can ask the NYCLU to confirm that the Parks Department is in violation of City’s 2007 settlement, and ask this matter be taken to Federal court.
Since my equipment, a tripod/camera/600mm lens, fully meets § 9-02 of the MOFTB regulations concerning “handheld equipment”, and thus is in compliance with the Parks Department “§1-05 Regulated Uses” section regarding “Unauthorized commercial cinematic productions”, I will continue to use a tripod when I photograph in all city parks.
If I continue to be harassed by PEP officers in any city park for using a tripod, I will not hesitate to take the Parks Department to Federal court, for infringing on my 1st Amendment rights.
Thank you for your attention in this matter,
D. Bruce Yolton
CC: Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director
Christopher Dunn, NYCLU Associate Legal Director
Robert Reeves, NYC Parks Department, Inspector, Parks Enforcement Patrol
Alessandro Olivieri, NYC Parks Department, General Counsel/Records Access Appeals Officer
Sunset is now late enough that I can run down to Washington Square after work. Tonight I got to see some string brought to the nest but then some string removed. Both hawks were on the nest, but they quickly made a trip south of the Bobst Library. I found them again minutes later at a favorite roost site.
Last year this pair nested in early March, so regardless of the weather, we might have eggs soon.
(I've received a few emails about the status of the NYU Hawkcam. I have no idea. Last year NYU was kind enough to continue the camera feed started by the New York Times. It will be up to Dr. Sexton and the NYU Public Relations department, if it is to be set up again this year.)
I arrived at Washington Square with some good luck today. I had one in sight even before I got to the park. Then I had them either Bobby or Rosie in sight until sunset. They shared food on the Law School and spent a great deal of time on 3rd Street. They showed me some perches I hadn't seen before, and gave the slip at sunset. I couldn't find them at any of the known roosts.
Tonight, I had the pleasure of watching Rosie and Bobby go to roost on a fire escape a few blocks from the nest. I have visited the park a few times this month and not found the hawks, so it was nice this night to watch them for over an hour. After striking out a few times, it was good to have a home run.
First let me thank, Mary Kostus, who did the legwork to figure out the providence of the band by contacting the USGS Banding Laboratory. (I also contacted the USGS, but my request failed to be accepted by their servers!)
Here is the letter she received from Laurence M. Schafer, the bander.
This is indeed one of our bands. USDA Wildlife Services assists many airports around the country reduce wildlife hazards. Some of the programs include substantial efforts to reduce hazards from raptors. In general, raptors tend to be the 5th-7th most commonly struck group of birds and can cause significant damage when struck (not to mention the terminal impact to the bird). Most airfields struggle to manage the habitat in and around the airfield to be as unattractive to wildlife as possible, but nothing is perfect. Airfields often tend to be perfect areas for raptors (large open spaces, short grass that makes it easier to spot prey, and lots of perches dispersed throughout). They do not respond favorably to harassment methods and effective/appropriate pesticides are frequently prohibited/discouraged by other agencies. Trapping/translocation gives us a non-lethal option to reducing birdstrikes and protecting raptors at the same time. As was noted in the blog, these birds do not have the typical aluminum federal band. About 10% of these birds tend to return and a fair number do end up as birdstrikes. In the event of an engine ingestion, we do not want to introduce additional pieces of metal that could further damage the motors. That’s why we use the plastic color bands instead.
This bird was trapped at Teterboro on 13 July 2013 and released in Millstone (about 45 miles southwest of the airfield) later that day. Thanks for taking the time to track down the info on this bird and let us know that all is well with it.
Laurence M. Schafer
USDA Wildlife Services
Staff Wildlife Biologist and Airport Coordinator, WA/AK
So, we now have the facts about the banding and what happened on July 13th thanks to Mr. Schafer's report.
(Sadly, I was wrong about the reason for the plastic band. It wasn't for quick identification but to minimize engine damage in case the bird returned to the airport and had a collision.)
The bird was seen with its band in Washington Square Park from August 5th through August 17th. That's over three weeks later. (It may have arrived earlier and the bird/band went unnoticed.)
What remains unclear is if NJ 30 was a Washington Square fledgling. Many facts support the idea that it was:
I'll leave it up to the reader to decide if we have enough evidence to declare NJ 30 a Washington Square fledgling and not a vagrant first year hawk passing through the park. I know I have too much of a bias to make a clear call!
This week there has been a banded Red-tailed Hawk fledgling in Washington Square Park. I have photographs of it from August 5th (when I missed that it had a band), and other blogers have pictures of the bird from later in the week.
It has an unusual I.D. band. Rather than being a silver band, it is an auxiliary marker that we normally see on Peregrine Falcons or rarer birds in this area. It has large numbers and is color coded to allow researchers to read the numbers in the field using a spotting scope.
The number is NJ 30 on a dark colored band with a yellow line running around the band. NJ is above the line in small yellow letters and the 30 is in large vertical yellow type below the line, repeated twice on the band.
This banded bird is a mystery. Is it an early migrant who has already left home and has ended up in the park? Or is it one of the fledglings who might have gotten banded on a short adventure away from home? Banding programs exist as close as the Meadowlands in New Jersey, which is only ten miles away, so this is a possibility.
For more information about bird banding in the United States, visit the Federal Bird Banding Laboratory website of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the USGS. Under the menu, About Banding, you'll find information about standard bands and auxiliary markers.
Banders only have to report their band usage yearly, so it might take some time to figure this puzzle out.
Update 8/14/13: Follow up by members of the WSP Hawk watching community has solved part of this riddle. The band NJ 30 was placed on the bird at Teterboro Airport, Tererboro NJ on July 13th as part of a Bird Air Strike Research project. Teterboro is the "celebrity airport" for NYC, where many small corporate jets land. It is about 9 miles away from Washington Square Park.
Although the bird was banded at Teterboro, it was released in Central New Jersey about 60 miles away from the airport. It may or may not be a Washington Square Park fledgling. Either way, this young bird certainly has had an adventure very early in life!
It seems 2 Fifth Avneue has become the late evening hang out for the fledglings. Tonight a fledgling was on top of the scafolding on the west side of the building. It was a different bird from the other night. It had a full crop, so it must have just eaten.
Update 8-10-12: This bird was the banded one seen this week in the park. Looking though my video, I found a frame with the NJ 30 band from 8-5-12.
I have been very busy at the office, so I haven't had much time to get out and hawk watch over the last two weeks. On Saturday, I finally was able to get out and do a little bit of hawk watching in Washington Square Park.
On a hot afternoon, the park was crowded so the hawks I saw were staying up high. Two fledglings were on the Judson Church cross and Rosie was on 1 Fifth Avenue and the southern Silver building flagpole.
I took a few days off of hawk watching to catch my breath after watching lots of new fledglings. Tonight, after my break, I got to see all three of the Washington Square fledglings together only a few feet apart from each other. It was great to see them all, but many of the identifiers I've been using to tell them apart have changed over the last week! So, I'm at a loss to tell you, who's who!
The Washington Square fledglings were easy to find this evening. I got to see them one at a time, however. I think I saw all three, but at the very least saw two.
One flew from a dorm roof all the way to One Fifth Avenue. It was a long flight and a good vertical gain. These hawks are a lot more confident than their first few days off the nest.
I can't wait for them to begin to play in the park!
While I only saw two fledglings this evening, lots of hawk watchers got to see all three. One spent most of the day on the North East side of the park and others on the buildings south of the Silver building.
I got to see two fledglings and the parents. It was fun because one made some long flights including one near the nest onto the top of the library. I'm always amazed by how quickly the fledglings adapt to their life in the city.
I saw at least two and possibly three fledglings at Washington Square tonight. One was glued to a window ledge and looked a little warn out from its fledgling on Sunday.
Above on the roof we saw a fledgling a few times. Looking at the photographs, it looks like we saw two birds. In some photos I see a bird with almost no line under its eye. In other photos, a bird with a pronounced eye line. At least it seemed that way, but because of the rain I could have been confused by seeing a wet and then dry bird. So, I'm not certain,
As we watch them more closely we'll find more and more ways to tell them apart reliably. Until then, I can tell you that I saw at least two fledglings today for sure.
Sunday was four stories:
An exciting day to say the least. Time constraints prevent me from writing the full narrative, but I wanted to post the video and photographs as soon as possible.
Another bird took flight for the first time early this morning. I'll be in the park this afternoon and will give live reports if possible. Follow me on Livestream, new.livestream.com/urbanhawks for notifications of broadcasts.
Update: Third also fledged. There was some drama, but everyone is fine as of Sunday night.
Except for the fledgling begging for food, it was a quiet day in Washington Square. The fledgling moved back and forth across building on Waverly Street. Just as I got there mid-afternoon, it was on the Silver Building and flew to 1 Fifth Avenue, about a block away. It was a nice strong flight.
In the first week, we see the fledglings play king of the mountain on the buildings trying to get to a the high point. This might be what's happening here. The parents were aware of the fledgling but didn't feed it from what I could see. They might be trying to lure it back to the park.
The eyasses still on the nest were being attended to by the parents, and when I went to look at them around 6 p.m. Rosie was just delivering a small rodent.
It was a good day to relax. We might have some excitement on Sunday.
The fledge day at Washington Square (May 31st) started out simply with the oldest eyass fledgling from the nest (1) to a window ledge four windows east (2) around 10:30 a.m. When I arrived at Noon and for most of the afternoon the fledgling was relaxed and looked like it would be staying put for the day. The mother visited briefly, but spent much more time on the nest with the two eyasses remaining there.
But at 4:45 p.m. the fledgling made a trip north. I suspect the fledgling wanted to land on the building the parents cache food, but the fledgling ended up on a Public Safety van on Washington Place and then slid down to the street (3). Understandably confused on its first day off the nest, it stayed in the street for a long time before moving over to the sidewalk. It tried to get inside the Silver building, then walked ten feet before jumping onto the Public Safety van. After a few attempts it got from the windshield to the top of the roof. By now, we're at about 5:15 p.m.
At first two experienced hawk watchers (chat room handles Roger Paw and JumpFlapper2) directed traffic, but by now the emergency box (blanket, gloves, box) had been retrieved. Public Safety officers controlled onlookers, and an Urban Park Ranger, as well as folks from the chat room had arrived to keep watch. Fledge days seem to bring out the best in folks and this day was no exception. It's days like this that make me proud to be a New Yorker.
In a rural setting, a newly fledged bird would get off the ground by jumping to a bush and gaining height slowly from branch to branch of smaller trees to mature trees. In Greenwich Village, this means window ledges, scaffolding, and on this day a UPS truck.
From the van, the fledgling moved across the street to some scaffolding (4) and made its way to the top of a UPS van, moved briefly across the street to the Brown Building and then back south to the shed (NYC term for the area at the top of scaffolding) and windows ledges above where it had been (5). Quick thinking Public Safety officers closed all of the open windows on the second floor to make sure the fledging didn't try to hide inside the building. (There may have been an additional back and forth between buildings, but things happened so quickly I can't remember.)
The fledgling stayed put for a long while, occationally jumping up to lips and ledges on the stone work, and missing more often than not. The youngster was learning on its first day. What's too small, what's too wide, etc.
By now we're at about 6:40 p.m. and it's back to the Brown Building (6). Here the bird sits on a window sill for the longest time before discovering a narrow ledge around the building. Around the building the bird goes with Chemistry students taking camera phone pictures from inside.
The ledge wraps around the building, so we move from Washington Place to Greene Street (7). At the end of the ledge, the fledgling jumps on a support for a flag pole. By now it's 8:10 p.m. and the fledgling flies across the street gaining about ten feet (8). Then it's across the street to a fourth floor window sill, where the hawk roosts for the night (9), 9 p.m.