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 However, the statements offer no proof that Pale Male has been replaced by another hawk, and generally have a tone that implies that the female photographer isn't a "real birder", but a "hawk watcher inclined to anthropomorphize".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.
I made two visits to Fifth Avenue today. Once in the morning, where things seemed to be like they had for the last few weeks with both hawks escorting out intruders and making brief visits to the nest. But when I visited this evening, things had changed. Octavia clearly had started brooding. She was sitting tight on the nest for the first time this season!
American Woodcocks have been migrating through New York City this past week. I caught up with one on Saturday in the Ramble of Central Park. It was doing it's best to stay hidden, which it did an excellent job of doing!
Hawk watchers at Fifth Avenue got to see many nest visits, watch Pale Male chase off a juvenile Red-tail and share food with Octavia over the last few days. We all are looking forward to the 2019 nesting season.
I didn't get much of a chance to watch Pale Male and Octavia that much this weekend. On Saturday, I caught both of them on the Carlyle Hotel. On Sunday, I found Pale Male in a tree by the Boathouse parking lot.
What I found strange this weekend was listening to multiple tour guides and folks claiming to be "locals" who seemed stuck in the 2004/2005 period. They gave lectures to tourists about Pale Male and Lola, talked about celebrities who haven't lived on Fifth Avenue for years, asked if the nest was "new" because they knew the old one had been taken down, and other nonsense.
The entire time frame of the nest being taken down, including the protests, and the installation of the nest cradle lasted only a few weeks. That was over fourteen years ago. Folks, it's time to put away your old copies of Marie Winn's books and Frederic Lilien's DVDs and catch up to the present! A lot has happened in fourteen years!
Not much has changed over the last few days with Pale Male and Octavia. The nest is being visited in the afternoons and both Octavia and Pale Male are spending time in the afternoon near the Met.
Nest visits by Pale Male and Octavia have been difficult to witness these last few days. These images are from the last few days. With the exception of two Peregrine Falcons, who harrased Pale Male one afternoon, it has been a quiet few days.
The hawk watchers on Fifth Avenue have been expecting to see Pale Male and Octavia begin to copulate as it's after Valentine's Day, but there have been no reports yet. I been seeing a nest visit around 2 p.m. and then various random sightings over the past week or so, which is what I saw today.
This afternoon was relatively quiet on Fifth Avenue. The pair flew together and chased off a Coopers Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk. But there wasn't a late day visit to the nest. We did get to see some nice views of Octavia, who at first glance like Pale Male in the golden light of dusk.
I only got to see one visit to the nest by Octavia and then got to see Pale Male on a balcony a few blocks north of the nest building tonight. But it was nice to see both of them even though there wasn't much action.
While I haven't seen Pale Male and Octavia copulate this season, they've been spending time together, both have been working on the nest, and chasing out intruders into their territory. It's so nice for another year of hawk nesting to begin once again.
The week of Valentine's Day is the unofficial start of hawk watching season in New York City. Hawks who have been doing minor nest refurbishment since January, now start to copulate and getting ready for egg laying in mid to late late March. I gave a talk on Pale Male last year and thought it might be helpful to share some of the slides as a primer on what is going to happen over the next six months.
I encourage anyone who hasn't watched a Red-tailed Hawk nest to do so this year. It's incredibly enjoyable. The "hawk bench", were the best viewing is from, is just next to the Hans Christian Andersen statue on the west side of the Model Boat Pond. And if you aren't near the Fifth Avenue nest, there are many alternative nests to choose from in New York, as well as may other locations throughout the country.
Monday's hawk watching wasn't that successful. I only had a brief glimpse of Octavia, Pale Male's mate on the Carlyle Hotel in the afternoon.