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.
The eyasses will become fledglings any day now. As we watch and wait for the big event(s), we get to watch eyasses that are now looking angelic after a "ugly duckling" stage, get ready for their big day(s).
On the video from this evening, you can see one of the eyasses jump at the window, around 6:40. As you can see from a section of the video and some of the photographs, the hawk is trying to land on the edge of a picture frame on the other side of the glass. For a species that is used to branching from tree branch to tree branch around a tree nest before fledgling, the lack of branches must be confusing and frustrating to an eyass being raised on a window ledge.
I spent about six hours in Washington Square Park on Monday. The eyasses are close to fledging and it was a lot of fun to watch them and answer questions from passerbys.
Both parents visited the nest. While many folks look to the age and maturity of the fledglings to figure out the fledge date, we shouldn't forget the parents involvment in the process. By placing food on nearby buildings and reducing feedings on the nest, the parents can help by encouraging the eyasses to fly for the first time.
Now is the time to come to the park and watch the action in person!
The Washington Square Park hawks could fledge any day now. They look a little young still, with tails a bit too short and a little bit of head down, but we're close.
The eyasses were using the window ledge as a runway this evening and were very active. I can't wait to see what the NYU buildings and then the park are like with three youngsters around!
(On the webcam you can see one of the hawks jump up at the window. I believe the eyass thinks it can land on the top of a picture frame on the other side of the window pane. You can see the top of the frame on the second photograph.)
Today while watching a feeding, a nice gentleman came up to me to watch and said "those hawks are why we have rats in Washington Square Park". I was taken aback at first but realized it was a chance to educate him about rats in the park.
I told him that the rodent population issues in the park were more complicated than simply a ban on poisons. It's too simplistic to say the rats are there because the use of poisons have been restricted. I informed him that snare traps can be just as effective as poisons when used properly and managed.
I went on to say that I thought the real cause of the rat problem in the park was the failure of the parks department to take preventative measures to control the rodent population. The park simply encourages them due to:
It's important for the hawk watching community to prevent a backlash against the restrictions on poisons in the park. We'll need to work with the new Washington Square Park Conservancy to educate them about the complexity of this issue.
It will also mean a reduction of animal feeding in the park which would be very unpopular with the pigeon and squirrel constituencies. This may be the hardest battle.
(...and before anyone says it. A family of hawks will never control the rodent population of Greenwich Village.)
Sometimes a visit to Washington Square has lots of dull moments, but this evening there were visits by Bobby to the park, Rosie going off to eat, and lots of feedings. Plus it was a very nice day, sunny and in the sixties.
The Kestrel was back giving Bobby a hard time. I suspect both pairs of raptors have nestlings.