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Last Minute Glimpse

The Washington Square fledgling waited until the very last minute to show itself tonight, about fifteen minutes after the father arrived.  The fledgling gave us just a brief glimpse just before dark. 

After it appeared up by a microwave repeater, it flew at least a half block to another building where we lost track of its location.  It clearly isn't a tentative flyer anymore.  Hopefully, this means it may be coming down to earth sometime soon.


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Is Formel A Cult Word?

I got lots of letters about my corrections to John Blakeman's F.A.Q. for the Washington Square nest.  Those supporting my position outweighed those against by about twenty to one.

One of the most interesting letters talked about how John had trained the chat room to only use technical terms while discussing hawks.  What's interesting is how the chat room uses these terms like a cult, insisting everyone use them.

In real life, not chat room life, many of the terms John Blakeman has taught are rarely, if ever used.  Even in scientific discussions many of these terms are not enforced.  Using tiercel rather than male is rare for example, but like a cult many in the chat room insist on using this term.  Those who don't use tiercel are thought of as being ignorant.

But what really bothers me is the use of an archaic term from the middle ages for a female hawk, formel.  This term hasn't been used for centuries, except by John Blakeman and his followers.

Google formel and you won't find anything about hawks for pages.  Google formel and hawk, and you will only find it where John Blakeman has been. 

Here is the modern etymology of the word, formel.

  • The term is listed as obsolete in the O.E.D, with the last quotation from the 17th century. 
  • On February 28th, 2008 John Blakeman declares there is no word for a female hawk like tiercel.  To quote from a letter he wrote to Marie Winn's which she posted on her blog, "Sadly, for the Red-tail and other similar hawks that were never used in classical falconry, there is no really fine, deliberate designation of a female. A good number of falconers and raptor biologists label a female Red-tail as a "hen." For me, that's a term that should be reserved for real hens, female adult chickens and other closely related species. For me, "hen" is not properly serious enough to be used for a female Red-tail. To me, they are never so diminutive as to be called a mere "hen.""
  • The next day, a librarian, Chris Karatnytsky writes Marie that there is a term for a female hawk used in Chaucer's allegorical dream poem, Parlement of Foules.
  • John Blakeman begins using this term when writing to Marie Winn and then uses it with chat users both at the Franklin Institute and Washington Square nests.
  • To this day, revival of the term formel escapes the notice of ornithologists world wide.

Higher not Lower

While most of us expected the Washington Square fledgling to be coming into the park soon that didn'tt happen today.  Instead, it was a block further east, on top of a building using some scaffolding as a jungle gym.  I wonder if this behavior takes the place of branching, for birds born on a building rather than a tree nest?

The fledgling was harassed by an American Kestrel and later the adult female came in to check on her.   The mother then roosted for the night on a fire escape a block even further east.

I only stayed until 9:10, but it looked like the fledgling was going to roost at the top of the building.


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Washington Square

The Washington Square fledgling has chosen a secluded spot atop rooftops on a set of low N.Y.U buildings to spend its first few days off the nest.  It seems like a perfect spot to get used to living off the nest.

At the Trump Parc nest, it took one of the fledglings a week to enter Central Park from its building perches on Central Park South and 58th Streets.  The Washington Square fledgling also doesn't seem to be in a rush.  It's parents also don't seem to be in a rush as they continue to feed the fledgling on the roofs.

I'll be on vacations for the first two weeks of July, so if you're depending on me for Washington Square news, I would advise finding alternative sources!

Sunday afternoon, I watched for hours and only got a one minute glimpse of the fledgling after 5 p.m.  Watching in real life, rather than on a webcam takes a lot more effort!


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Evening Feeding

I've been busy with the Washington Square fledge, so I haven't been able to get to Fifth Avenue for awhile.  They've really matured since I last saw them.

As usually happens just before dusk, the mother fed them.


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Tea Time

A late afternoon snack of Rock Pigeon for the fledgling at Washington Square.  Hawk watchers saw a feeding earlier in the day, as well.  All seems to be going well and I would suspect we will have the fledgling in the park in a few days.


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Parents Keeping Watch

I was in Washington Square Park for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon.  They fledgling had just been fed  before I arrived and was out of sight. 

However, the parents were doing a good job of keeping a close eye on her.  The father, also kept Kestrel watch and did a good job of being a decoy.  He had managed to keep the Kestrels far away from where the fledgling is located.


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Fledge Day At Washington Square

I was at work with the eyass fledged just before noon, but reports are she had a wonderful long flight to another N.Y.U. building. 

I ended up seeing her later in the day.  She's ended up in a safe place, and I would suspect she will take her time getting to the park.

Her exact location was posted in some blog posts, and I would recommend that individuals and the media be a little vague in reporting her location from now one.  Now that she's in public places, she is at risk from people who might accidentally harass her or worse.

At other New York City nests, many hawks watchers privately share fledgling locations with people they know and are careful not to post specifics in public forums, chat rooms, blogs or websites.  It's a good practice and one I hope will be followed in Washington Square.


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Rain, Kestrels and Then Calm

I arrived just as a rainstorm broke loose.  The eyass was flapping like crazy.  The most excited I've seen.  Unfortunately, my equipment was in my bag staying dry.

After the storm the eyass just relaxed until nightfall.  The only excitement was a set of attacks on one of the parents by an American Kestrel.  No harm done but the Kestrel must have made thirty passes at the parent.


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Summer Arrives

The eyass at Washington Square jaunts across the ledge seemed to be more like flights than jumps today.  It was quieter than yesterday evening.  The parents were only seen late in the evening, just before dark.

Not much else to report. When watching the video, keep an eye out for another mystery photographer up in the executive suite of NYU.


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American Kestrels Around Washington Square

Based on recent rescues of fledglings, it's clear there are two American Kestrel families near Washington Square.  One to the Northwest and one to the Southwest.  Both groups tested territorial limits with the Washington Square Hawks this evening.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

The eyass continues to jump and show off.  But still shows no signs of leaving the nest.  Like many urban eyasses, this one may take its time and fledge later than normal. 


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The blur is an American Kestrel dive bombing.

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Hawk Behavior vs. Hard Science

I was watching the eyass on the Washington Square nest and a women joined me.  We started discussing the fledge date and I said the fledge window had started.  She retorted, "She won't fledge yet, her tail is too short."

I wanted to scream! Yes, an eyass usually waits to fledge until it is mature enough, which is best measured by the length of its tail.  However, eyasses fledge too early for their own good all the time.  This time of year, hawks fledging too early keep many a rehabber busy.

So, could all the hawk watching newbies, please remember that when it comes to hawk behavior each bird is different.  Some fledge early, some late.  Some like to beg for food, others are quiet.  Some become independent quickly, others take time to become independent. 

This variation between nests, based on the individual parents behavior, site logistics, and the individual fledglings is what make urban hawk watching fascinating.  I'm looking forward to years of following the Washington Square hawks and learning how the parents and their children adapt to a heavily populated urban park.


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Violet and an American Kestrel from Waverly Place defend territories.


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Brief Moments of Excitement

Except for Violet chasing off an American Kestrel and some very brief moments of Pip's flapping and jumping, it was a dull afternoon and evening in Washington Square.  The fledge window has opened, although I'm guessing June 21st as the fledge date.


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All Gone

Tonight a few lucky hawk watchers got to see the third and last eyass on the nest, fledge from the St. John the Divine nest.  I even recorded it!  (On the video, it's at about 4 minutes.) The fledge happened late in the evening, around 7:30 p.m.

This is the second early evening fledge in recent years at St. John.


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Five At Riverside

Everyone was expecting the Riverside Church Peregrine Falcons to have fledged by now, but they were still all there when I visited on Thursday.  I was very surprised to see five youngsters still at the scrape!

(It received an email late tonight that one of the falcons fledged after I left.  So, two species of Raptors had fledges on the same day just block apart.)

With the Riverside Church Peregrine Falcon parents have fledglings, expect a few territorial disputes between the St. John the Divine Red-tailed Hawk parents.


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Short Film

I couldn't figure what video I should edit out tonight, so here's a short film of this evening at Fifth Avenue.  If you have the bandwidth, choose 720p and go full screen.


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2 Down, 1 To Go

St. John the Divine has two fledglings.  One most likely went off the nest late Sunday and one on Monday morning.  When I was there one was on the southern side of the Cathedral and the other on a fence just north of One Morningside Drive near the guard station.  Both looked great, although the one on the Cathedral looked a lot more confident than its sibling.  The fledglings are in very safe locations away on the Cathedral campus, which is a quiet enclave.


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Washington Square on Sunday

On a rather gray day, it was fun to be in Washington Square Park.  The eyass was very active and both parents were on the nest together.  Afterwards the male ended up being harassed by two Northern Mockingbirds.  In the late evening, both parents were on the scaffolding on the east side of the park.


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Break In The Rain

Although it rained most of the afternoon, there was a nice break after 5:30.  There was a feeding and later Lima had an annoying Northern Mockingbird try to get her off her perch.  Everyone continues to look healthy.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case further uptown.  The nest at CCNY has had the adult female die of Frounce, and an youngster who fell out the nest a few weeks ago died of a combination of internal injuries from the fall and Frounce.  The second nestling, was found having prematurely fledged, under-weight and with Frounce, luckily in the early stage.

The Horvaths will be nursing the youngster back to health and if all goes well find wild family to return it to.  One of the recent discoveries by rehabbers is that a young fledgling placed into another territory will instantly be adopted by the new parents.


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Fluffy But Big

The eyasses at Fifth Avenue have gotten very big.  So, much so that for a moment I thought adults were on the nest, when it was only the mother and an eyass! Tonight's highlight was when the mother was eating, one of the eyasses moved right up to the mother and stole a bite!


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Divine Trinity

The three angels at St. John the Divine are very close to using their wings to fly.  I spent a delightful Friday afternoon watching them.  Although at first only one was viable, quickly all three became active and in view.  There was lots of flapping, hopping and jumping.

The next time I visit, I expect one of them may already have fledged!


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Riverside Park Fledglings

I was in Riverside Park tonight, not only to visit the hawks but to discuss outstanding hawk safety issues with John Herrold, Riverside Park's Administrator.

John Herrold had news of the necropsy results and it looks as though the second generation poison brodifacoum was the cause of death, and not bromodiolone which was used near the Boat Basin Café.  This would point to buildings along Riverside Park which use brodifacoum rather than the park itself.  (Changing poisoning habits outside the park will be much more difficult than influencing park policy, I'm afraid.)

Mr. Herrold talked about how concerned and knowledgeable his staff was about the hawks. It was good to hear that Riverside Park had the hawks on their radar.

Mr. Herrold did a great job of listening.   We spoke of improving relations between Riverside Park Hawk watchers and the park, possibly having a meeting every March to allow hawk watchers to express concerns for the upcoming season and to meet his staff.  Knowing names and faces before a crisis goes a long way.

We also talked about the dumpsters and I learned that the inappropriate dumpster has been removed, dumpsters with lids brought in for the Boat Basin Café, and plans are underway to purchase a solar powered compactor for the marina.  So, this issue seems to be close to resolution.

We also talked about poisons in the park.  Here he feels, that except for poisons placed near the dumpsters, which believes was done in error, the park has been greatly improving its approach to rat management. He believes that over the last five years serious efforts have been made to reduce rodenticide use, by introducing traps, limit garbage, etc.

I asked if he could evaluate the period poisons prohibited around a nests to possibly have them start when nesting begins and also to evaluate the use of underground application of loose poisons rather than using bait boxes.  He said he would look into it.

So, it looks like a positive dialog has begun.

The fledglings looked great.  Both are being well feed by their mother and one even played on the ground today.  So far, so good.


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Washington Square Opens Construction Zone 2

Today morning in Washington Square Park, a group of online hawk camera watchers and chat users met to extend their cyber life into real life.

It's a good thing too.  Once this youngster fledges, everyone will need to know each other. It's a lot more work, but a lot more fun to track a fledgling in person.  The Washington Square hawk watchers are internet savvy, so I wouldn't be surprised if this fledgling's location is reported via twitter rather than email or phone calls.

Many of the web cam watchers were making their first visit to the nest.  It was fun to watch the excitement of everyone when Bobby perched on One Fifth Avenue, or when both parents circled high above 11th Street to escort an intruder away.

The eastern portion of the park, which has been under construction is now open.  I took advantage of the newly opened space to look for perches on buildings too difficult to see while the eastern section of the park was closed.  My search ended up being very rewarding.  I found a location where one hawk was eating and later some scaffolding where both parents were perched twenty feet apart.


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Wonderful Evening

I arrived at the nest late on Saturday, to find a hawk bench full of wonderfully excited hawk watchers.  The nest has eyasses again, and all of the old memories seemed to be coming back.  These fond memories and some new ones from this year are making wonderful stories for tourists and locals.

Stella Hamilton has a new scope, something she promised to herself she would buy if Pale Male had kids again.  Rik Davis, also had his two scopes.  Between them and a huge group of "regulars", the hawk bench became a friendly place where scores of viewers experienced the simple joy of seeing an eyass for the first time and were captivated.

This is the magic of Pale Male.


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St. John's Big Kids

I haven't had time to go up to St. John the Divine much this season, and was shocked to see how much the three youngsters (yes, there are three) have grown.  They look great.  While I enjoyed the single fledgling last year, it will be great if Morningside Park has three fledglings flying around later this month.


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Riverside Park Park Has Fledged

The first eyass fledged on Wednesday according to veteran hawk watchers at Riverside Park.  The other eyass also appears to have fledged on Thursday.  Last year the parents, continued to feed the fledglings for a week on the nest, so the youngsters continued to sleep in the nest after they fledged.  This year, this no rush attitude continues.  Although both birds are reported to have fledged, one was hanging out in the nest on Friday.

While there is much joy over the fledging, there is still concern over the father's poisoning by over application of poisons south of the Boat Basin earlier this year.  Although there have been positive discussions, I don't think we've cracked the bureaucracy of the Parks Department yet.

Balancing hawk safety and rat control is difficult but three major areas of concern have yet to be addressed by park administrators.

  1. Proper sanitation is the first priority in preventing rats.  If you don't feed them, you won't have them.  The dumpster at the Boat Basin is a breeding ground for rats.  It is a large dumpster designed for yard waste and not garbage and is sitting in a pile of mud most days.  The rats have a field day (or should we say field night) feasting on the garbage here.  The dumpster has a gate opening at the back with a two inch gap.  The rats just run in and out of the dumpster all night.
    While everyone acknowledges the problem and the need to build a proper waste transfer area with a compactor, the Park administrators are claiming a lack of funds.  There must be enough income from the café rent to siphon off a small portion to fix this deplorable situation.  If not, why isn't this a priority for the Riverside Park Fund?

  2. The current Parks Department policy is to restrict poisoning during the period of time starting from when eggs hatch until the fledglings disperse in the late summer.  I believe the experiences both at Riverside and in Astoria Park warrant a review of this policy and an extension of the restrictions to start a month earlier when the mother begins sitting on eggs.  We've had too many poisoning of nesting parents in city parks recently.

  3. A commitment from Parks to evaluate and consider banning their practice of the underground baiting of rat borrows using second generation anticoagulant poisons.  I believe this practice is contrary the recommendations of the EPA, who advises the poisons always be placed within 50 feet of buildings, and in bait stations, unless used against gophers or voles in agricultural settings, where it may be used underground.
    Underground baiting allows rats to ingest extremely large doses of poisons before they get sick or die resulting extremely toxic rats. 
    There is no proof that using baiting stations properly deployed, which are much safer for non-targeted animals, children and pets, are any less effective than loose, underground applications of poisons.

Until we get a positive commitment from Parks to address theses three areas, I don't think we should celebrate.  If you are interested in writing, here are some key contacts:

John Herrold, Park Administrator,  [email protected]
Robert Weigel, Chairman, Riverside Park Fund, [email protected]
William T. Castro, Manhattan Parks Commissioner, [email protected]

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Continue reading "Riverside Park Park Has Fledged" »


Quiet Zones in Central Park

In the June 2nd, New York Times there was an editorial entitled, Quiet? In New York City?.  This editorial claimed that the declaration of the Bethesda Fountain area as a Quiet Zone and enforcement of this regulation, was somehow a class war between rich people and poor musicians.

Anyone who birds in the Ramble knows that last year the noise from Bethesda Fountain made birding by ear impossible during the spring and summer. I would encourage all birders to write The New York Times' Editorial Department and tell the Times that the quiet zone regulations are very sensible and are supported by those individuals who appreciate the restorative properties of the natural areas of the park.

This isn't about cracking down on a few "poor, struggling, musicians", but is about regulating the park intelligently so that it can be enjoyed by the widest number of people, some of whom enjoy the sounds of nature over the sounds of man.


Just Right

The Fifth Avenue nest is at a perfect stage.  The eyasses are still fluffy, but are big enough to see.  They're active but still gets lots of attention from their parents.  If you haven't made a trip, try to get to the Model Boat Pond this weekend!


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Washington Square In June

The first day of June was very hot and humid in New York City.  Washington Square was quieter than normal, especially with the fountain under reconstruction.

The lone eyass in the nest looks to be doing just fine.  It seems to be comfortable moving to different locations on the window ledge.  The mother spent most of the time I was in the square perched on a window one over to the east from the nest.

If you look closely, you'll see someone taking small peeks at the mother and the eyass.

The music in the park this evening was Jazz and Opera.


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