Frederic Lilien has generously made his film The Legend of Pale Male available to watch for free during the Covid-19 outbreak. Enjoy the film!
Pale Male and Octavia continue to show me how dull it is to watch a brooding nest. Not much happens when I'm there. I have hours of the same footage. But here's some more of the same!
It will be interesting to see if the eggs hatch this year. Low levels of rodenticides may led to infertility. If this year's eggs don't had, should we worry that Octavia has repeated the problems Lola had?
My daily social distancing walk took me around the southern areas of Central Park. I first caught up with the two hawks around Grand Army Plaza. One was on 9 West 57th and the other on a perch I just discovered, 520 Park Avenue (which is really 42 East 60th).
I then saw both of the San Remo hawks on the San Remo. The nest on The Majestic look big enough to stop an egg from rolling off, but it still isn't built properly.
Lastly, I saw and filmed Octavia leave the nest and Pale Male take over incubating duties. Sorry about the poor video, the wind was bouncing my camera around.
I found a good vantage point to watch Octavia incubate her eggs, off the beaten track so I can safely practice social distancing. Nothing much happened while I watched her for about an hour.
I caught up with the 927 Fifth Avenue nest as Octavia had returned and Pale Male was leaving the nest.
The background music is from an Accordion player, illegally using an amplifier to totally dominate the Model Boat Pond area. Sadly, the COVID-19 outbreak is being used by many, mostly affluent park users to flaunt the park regulations. There are hundreds of off leash dogs, bikes illegally on paths, dogs in the lakes and ponds, people jumping fences damaging the landscapes and motorized scooters in the park now. While I expected some break down of the social order due to COVID-19, I wasn't expecting it to start with the most affluent New Yorkers.
Just catching up with posts. This was from Sunday. Octavia can be seen on the 927 Fifth Avenue nest from Pilgrim Hill if you stand in exactly the right place.
Octavia has been sitting on the nest for at least the last few days. She's very hard to see when she's on the nest. I got some brief glimpses of her this afternoon.
On Monday afternoon, Pale Male was on the 927 Fifth Avenue nest and Octavia was on a building at 79th and Fifth Avenue. Pale Male did some rearranging of some sticks on the nest.
Central Park has been very quiet this winter. Birds number are low, and many of our standard winter species are hard to find. But three species of raptors, are consistently being seen, Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper's Hawks and Peregrine Falcons.
The park has a number of Cooper's Hawks, mostly juveniles spending the winter. On Friday, two were working the Evodia Field feeders. One of them caught a sparrow. While eating it, the other tried to steal the food without success.
On my way north, I ran into Pale Male sunning outside the Maintenance bathrooms. Central Park had no fledglings last year. The pair at 95th Street/CPW lost their young about two weeks after they hatched and the adult female died. Pale Male and Octavia, who were not seen copulating last year, did not have their eggs hatch. And the pair on the San Remo, laid eggs without a nest yet again.
So, it will be interesting to see what happens this year. There definitely are three adult pairs of hawks in the park, with possibly a forth (59th and Fifth Avenue) or fifth pair (north of Mount Sinai). After Valentine's Day, we should be seeing lots of copulation and nest building activity. Let's hope we have at least one successful pair this year. Keep an eye out for activity over the next eight weeks.
Further north, the lone Peregrine Falcon that has been on the El Dorado, was there yet again.
I had some nice encounters with Pale Male and Octavia over the last two days. Pale Male was on the "Linda Building" at 73rd and Fifth Avenue on Sunday, and both hawks were near the Ancient Playground just north of the Met on Monday. It was nice to see Octavia, who can be hard to find in the winter. The first four images are of Pale Male and the last four are of Octavia.
On Wednesday, Pale Male was on one of his favorite buildings at 73rd and Fifth Avenue. I has seen him at dusk further north on Monday and watched him catch a rat.
I caught up with Pale Male on Wednesday on one of his favorite window railings at 73rd Street and Fifth Avenue. The days have gotten short and soon he and Octavia will be working on the nest for next season. Last year, there were no reports of anyone seeing Pale Male and Octavia copulate and the eggs didn't hatch. Let's hope for a more productive 2020.
November is a great time to watch hawks in Central Park. Migrants are coming through, both adults and juveniles and resident Red-tailed adults are more visible as the trees loose their leaves. Here's a group of images taken over the last two weeks, from the south end to the north.
Pale Male was perched east of the Maintenance Building in the Ramble for most of the afternoon in Central Park on Saturday before going off to roost via a tree on Cedar Hill. He's been hunting rodents, where he was perched, on earlier days this month.
Octavia, the female of the 927 Fifth Avenue nest was on the "Woody" building one block north of the nest late on Friday afternoon. (Woody Alan no longer lives in the Woody building, by the way.) Octavia was in to rush to leave, but eventually left and perched on a window railing at 70th and Fifth Avenue, which faces north and overlooks The Frick Collection's garden.
Pale Male was on the "Linda Building" at 73rd and then his nest on Sunday afternoon. This year was unusual in that Pale Male and Octavia weren't seen copulating in the spring by any of the regular hawk watchers. Their nest failed this year, too. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.
This evening I was lucky enough to find Pale Male and watch him explore the East Pinetum of Central Park. He caught a pigeon and after a few flights, ended up eating it for about 3o minutes before being interrupted by an aggressive Gray Squirrel, which forced him to move to another tree.
(There are some pompous and misogynistic birders on Twitter and Facebook who have recently decided to immediately respond to the posting of any photograph or video of Pale Male, especially those taken by a women, with comments like "It can't still be Pale Male, it must be one of his offspring."
The comments are based on the belief that a Red-tailed hawk can't be older than around 30 years. However, the statements offer no proof that Pale Male has been replaced by another hawk, and generally have a tone that implies that the female photographer isn't a "real birder", but a "hawk watcher inclined to anthropomorphize". While many hawk nests go through numerous changes of mates, generally unnoticed by observers, for the 14 years I've watched Pale Male he remains the same bird with exactly the same habits and perches.
I missed his early days in the park. There are only a handful of birders who have followed Pale Male since he arrived in the park. I know most of them and they all are convinced Pale Male is still the original bird that arrived years ago.
I also find it incredible that these folks say that Pale Male might have be replaced by one of his offspring. Natal dispersal is incredibly far for Red-tailed Hawks, up to 1,000 miles. And what hawk is going to mate with its mother? When the time comes for 927 Fifth Avenue to get a new male, it won't be one of Pale Male's offspring. Anyone who thinks otherwise clearly doesn't understand raptor biology.
So, if you really believe Pale Male is Pale Male II, offer some hard proof. Otherwise, don't insult the many wonderful female photographers in the park every time they label a photograph of the adult male from the 927 Fifth Avenue nest, Pale Male.)
Although I hope I'm wrong, I can't get the math to work out for Pale Male and Octavia.
Octavia started sitting on the nest on March 17th. When you calculate a hatch date, you start with 28-35 days for incubation, add a few days just in case the female starts sitting before laying eggs, and add a week more since the eggs can take a week to lay, and if only the last one hatches it will be later. That's at worst case, 35 plus 14 days, or May 5th. Today is May 15th.
The "regulars" who follow Pale Male and Octavia year round didn't see them copulate this season.
So, the nest most likely won't hatch.
When Lola was infertile, she would sit for a long time on the nest before giving up each year. I think we're seeing the same thing with Octavia this year.
Two Red-tailed Hawks, other than Pale Male and Ocatvia, flew over the Fifth Avenue nest on Saturday evening causing both Octavia and Pale Male to leave the nest. Usually we only see a single intruder, usually a single juvenile or adult hawk enter the territory. Two adult hawks together seems unusual for this time year. While it was impossible to know, it could have been the San Remo pair investigating how their neighbors are doing.
The video has Pale Male on the nest and then leaving, Octavia returning, and then Octavia settling down. Estimates are that this nest is due to hatch sometime this week. No feedings have been seen yet, although Pale Male has brought a small mouse to the nest, which may be a positive sign.