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Tompkins Square Park, Not Yet

I keep going to Tompkins Square Park hoping the female will overnight on the nest and show signs she's starting to lay eggs.  But instead I get a couple who is loving courtship and shows no sign of nesting.  At this rate, other hawks may have eyasses before this female lays eggs!


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2014 Manhattan Score Card Update 2

Hawks

Not much has changed this week. 

The major news is that NYU will not be providing a web feed this year from the Washington Square Park nest. NYU took over after the New York Times stopped sponsoring the camera last year, but choose not to continue this year. 

While NYU may not be continuing the camera, their commitment to the hawks is still very strong.  Last year, when the fledglings were on the street, NYU's Public Safety team was very protective of them.  This support of the hawks will continue.


Tompkins Square Park

I was hoping the Tompkins Square Park pair would start nesting soon, but they continue to act like a young couple.  They're building the nest up a little higher and copulating a great deal, but seem to be in no rush to start having a family.

I guess that's not too bad.  While the old guard is quietly sitting on nests, this pair gives me something to watch!


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West End/Riverside

The Riverside hawks are back at the same location as last year, a building on West End Avenue.  The nest looks good.  While I was there today, the hawks were looking at the nest and seemed to be saying "its just right" and ready to go.  But they don't look to be nesting just yet.


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Fifth Avenue

Octavia and Pale Male have eggs and this means a limited about of action at the nest site.  Octavia gets a few breaks during the day, rolls her eggs and changes positions.  But you can watch the nest for an hour and see next to nothing.  This was the case when I visited the nest on Saturday.


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American Woodcock

American Woodcocks have been in Central Park for about the last week.  I caught up with one on Saturday.  They're very well camouflaged, worm eating birds with a silly walk and mating ritual. 

The bird was doing a good job of hiding, but we did get some glimpses!


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Tompkins Square Park

Later in the afternoon, the Tompkins Square Park provided the opposite experience from the Washington Square Park nest.  The hawks who copulated three times in less than an hour and the colorful characters of the park, who also were observing the hawks, made the sound track not safe for work.

Newly established nests have a tendency to lay eggs later than older nests.  So, no one should worry that this nest is a few weeks behind the more established nests in Central Park or Washington Square. 


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Slow Day In Washington Square

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!


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2014 Manhattan Score Card Update 1

Hawks

Glenn Alvarez has confirmed that the Highbridge/Swindler's Cove is where it was last year and that a hawk was sitting on the nest when he visited the nest

There are multiple reports of hawks on El Doroado Apartments.  These hawks have also been seen carrying twigs.

The Morningside Hawks blog confirms the J.Hood Wright Park nest is brooding.

There is no NYU/Washington Square webcam news to report.  NYU has not let anyone know if they will be setting up a camera this year.


El Dorado

After posting my scorecard for the year, I got an email that hawks were again being spotted on the El Dorado with nesting materials.  I spotted one Red-tail on the El Dorado this evening, but didn't see its mate.  Hopefully this year will turn out better than last year when construction workers destroyed the nest just as the female was laying eggs.


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More Tompkins Square Park

Although the late afternoon was quiet, before dusk there was lots of activity at Tompkins Square Park.  It had the usual, copulation, rat hunting and nest visits.  But the surprise of the day was the night time roosting location of the male.  He choose a tree on the west side of Avenue A.  He choose the noisiest place to roost in the neighborhood.  Amazing.


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Tompkins Square Park Is Fun

I had some of the best hawk watching in ages on Saturday afternoon in Tompkins Square Park.  The young couple is so full of energy it was great fun to be with them.  High winds limited the ability to get clean video, but who cares.  This is a fantastic couple who can't sit still!


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Exchanges Have Started At Washington Square 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.



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Nest Sitting At Fifth Avenue

Octavia, Pale Male's mate has been sitting on the Fifth Avenue nest since Sunday.  A female Red-tailed Hawk can sit on the nest for a few days before laying an egg, so I can't say for sure an egg has already been laid.  But Ocatavia certainly looks to have started the process for the season.


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Holding Pattern In Washington Square

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!


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Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park after years of hosting juvenile hawks, finally looks to have its own pair of adults who have built a nice nest on top of an air conditioning unit at 9th Street and Avenue B.  I had gone to visit last weekend but didn't take any photographs as the hawks were inactive. 

Today, I found two very active hawks.  They copulated three times and flew around the park multiple times.  The nest reminds me of the nest we had a number of years ago on Houston and Avenue D.

This pair is very, very easy to watch.  This should be a fun year for the residents who live near the park.

I've begun using a Blackmagic Production Camera, which shoots in Ultra HD (four times the resolution of HD.)  If you watch this video in full screen mode, you should have a great viewing viewing experience.


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Lots Of Nest Visits In WSP

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.


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All Systems Go

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.


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Tripods In City Parks

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.


Upsetting Day

Screen-Shot-2014-03-03-at-12.56.52-AM

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:

Liam Kavanagh
Acting Commissioner
Department of Parks & Recreation
The City of New York
The Arsenal
Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065

Commissioner,

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:

  • that the Parks Department does not restrict the use of tripods in city parks
  • that the PEP officer acted improperly
  • that the staff of Washington Square will be trained about what photograph and film activity is and is not permitted in the park without a permit, especially what the phrase “handheld devices” means in regard to photography regulations.

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


Fifth Avenue

Pale Male and Octavia continue to get their nest ready and were seen copulating today, so eggs can't be too far off.  If they behave like last year, I suspect eggs will be laid in the second half of March.


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