Enjoying Pale Male

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.

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Pocket Parks

New York City has lots of smaller parks.  The smallest are called Pocket Parks and are small areas next to large buildings which got a zoning variance in exchange for the park.  At any time in the year, these parks can contain an unusual bird or two.  They often have lingering birds staying over the winter.  They're always worth checking, if you are by one.  Today, I got to see a pair of Brown Thrashers in a pocket park just east of Sixth Avenue between 46th and 47th.

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Riverside Park Evening Grosbeak

I went up to Riverside Park today and had a very enjoyable time watching a sometimes cooperative and sometimes not so cooperative male Evening Grosbeak.  Common further upstate, this is a rare bird for Manhattan, but one I got to see a few weeks ago in Central Park.  I love watching any grosbeak eat.  They separate the food from the seeds or with grains the chafe. 

I'd also like to thank the many birders who came up to me and thanked me for bring up some of the ethical issues we're having in Manhattan.  It made me feel reassured that as a community we can minimize the impact we have on birds, and keep our generous sharing of information and images from being co-opted for the personal gain of others.  Birding is a lot of fun, and no one should get in the way of that joy.

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#nobirdcp

In most counties and states across America there is a bird alert system, generally based on an email listserv or yahoo group.  They're generally sponsored and monitored by a local birding group or the local Audubon Society. 

In New York City, there were and still are a variety of services which are a little difficult to use.  So, David Barrett, as an individual set up a wonderful Twitter based Manhattan Bird Alert as an alternative to some older systems.  David's Manhattan Bird Alert filled a void and was adopted by most Manhattan birders. I also enjoyed David re-posting some of my photos and videos.

But as David gained many followers on Twitter due to the notoriety of the vagrant escaped Mandarin Duck, something changed.  What had been great, over the last month has diverged from its original mission and

1) Started advertising T-Shirts.

2) Promoted commercial Owl Walks that point flashlights at owls and use excessive audio playback.  Owls are very easy to watch in New York City, so there is absolutely no need to resort to invasive methods of observation.

3) Reported owls with exact locations, which resulted in the over birding of some owls, especially a specific Northern Saw-whet Owl.  David's guidelines say post about any bird including all owls.  There needs to be some limits, just as there are on most alert systems.  At a minimum some rules on reporting exact locations of nesting birds, smaller owls and Snowy Owls.

4) Promoted the feeding of ducks on The Pond, which is against Park regulations, is unhealthy for the ducks and ends up supporting the rodent population.  If any duck on The Pond really needs to get fed, it is not a wild bird. It should be captured and put in an appropriate bird sanctuary.

So, for 2019 I think it is time to return to an alert systems that simply provides alerts, without any advertising or promotions, and which has a well thought out set of guidelines on what is appropriate to post. Ideally, the system should also require an opt-in to the posting guidelines before allowing users to post sightings.

Since it doesn't look like David is interested in going back to a simple alert system with some reasonable posting guidelines, I've stopped following the Manhattan Bird Alert and will no longer post using the #birdcp tag.

I'm sure the system will live on without me, but at least I won't feel like I'm participating in a site that uses my sightings or photography to promotes commercial products or unethical activity.  eBird already offers hourly email alerts, so I see no need to continue using David's system.

I know at least two folks who are talking about building alternative notification systems.   Please let me know when they're ready.  If possible, try to get your systems sponsored by NYC Audubon or any other birding group!  It would be really great if an organization with a long history of supporting conservation, could assist in setting posting standards.


2018 Manhattan Nest Update 18

Good News and Bad News:

  1. No fledgling has been sighted at Inwood Hill Park yet.  So, it is unclear if the nest was sucessfull this year.
  2. At 96th and Lexington, one fledgling got trapped in the school construction site and was taken to rehab.  It may have Frounce.  Its siblings may also be infected.
  3. All of the Washington Square Park hawks have fledged safely.
  4. The outcome of the 310 West 72nd Street fledge is unclear.  I've heard unconfirmed reports that one died after fledging but also a confirmed report that one went to the Wild Bird Fund before being transferred to The Raptor Trust.
  5. I heard second hand that there may have been a nest on a fire escape along 122nd Street this year.  I would appreciate any information on this nest.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 17

Updates:

  1. 310 West 72nd Street nest has fledged.  Reports are that one bird was found on the ground, sent to the Wild Bird Fund, checked out fine and will be returned to the area.
  2. Inwood Hill Park and Randalls Island nests must have fledged, but I haven't heard any news yet.
  3. Both of Pale Male and Octavia's Fifth Avenue eyasses have fledged safely.
  4. The Washington Square Park nest should fledge any day now.
  5. 96th Street is doing fine with one active fledgling and two who are still spending most of their time on the nest.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 16

Updates:

  1. All of the Grant's Tomb eyasses have fledged.  WINORR is working to capture them since they are without parents.  One was captured on Monday, and one today.  This leaves just one to get to safety.
  2. Another hawk joined its sibling at 96th on the fire escape above the Starbucks.  Both returned to the nest by noon.  A rehabilitator examined the hawk that was limping and found nothing unusual with the bird.  It still has a slight limp, but is fine.  The mother is only delivering food to the nest and it looks like she's in no rush for them to fledge properly.  One of the hawks looks a lot younger than its siblings, so she may be encouraging them to wait and fledge together.
  3. The first of Pale Male and Octavia's brood fledged sometime before 3 p.m. today.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 15

Good News and Bad News

  1. One of the eyasses at 96th and Lexington Avenue fledged to the "shed" (the scaffolding with a deck for workman) on the building north of the nest early this morning.
  2. A hawk at the Grant's Tomb nest was involved in an auto accident.  There is concern about the eyasses.  I understand local hawk watchers are keeping an eye on the situation.

The Grant's Tomb hawk is being treated at the Wild Bird Fund.  It may also have been exposed to rodenticides (rat poison) and is receiving prophylactic treatment. 

Testing of raptors over the last twenty years by N.Y. State has show that many hawk "accidents", were not really accidents at all.  The hawks got into trouble because they were weakened by rodenticides.

Update: The Morningside Hawks has a good update on the Grant's Tomb hawks here.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 14

Updates:

  1. The 310 West 72nd Street nest has three eyasses.  I had originally thought there were only two.
  2. I've received sad news that the adult male of the 96th and Lexington nest who had been picked up and sent to the Wild Bird Fund and then to a surgeon had to be euthanized.  The mother, who seemed to be courting a new male, appears to be a single mother again.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 13

We can add two more eyasses for Manhattan now that we can see the youngsters at Tompkins Square Park.  This brings us to a confirmed number of 18 eyasses for the season.  As always, I'm sure we've missed a nest or two.  We must be missing a nest or two this year in Harlem and The Heights.

We'll soon be seeing lots of eyasses leave their nests over the next three weeks.  I suspect we'll see some fledges late this week.  Hawk watchers who've been stuck on a bench for two and a half months are going to get lots of exercise soon!

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 10

Updates:

  1. The 72nd Street Nest on the West side has two eyasses.
  2. A hawk was picked up at 97th and Lexington, and was most likely the father of the 96th and Lexington pair.  The mother is continuing to look after the three eyasses.
  3. An adult hawk was recovered near the nest on Central Park West.  While the female continues to incubate the eggs, it is unlikely the eggs will be hatch.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 9

Since the last update:

  1. A third eyass has been seen at 96th Street.
  2. The 72nd and West End nest has hatched.
  3. Inwood Hill Park's nest has hatched and one eyass has been seen (although there may be more).
  4. Activity at St. John the Divine nest suggests that the nest may have failed.

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2018 Manhattan Nest Update 5

It looks like the J. Hood Wright Park and CCNY/Shepard Hall nests are both inactive this year.  I visited J. Hood Wright Park earlier in the week and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk perched on Haven Avenue on the west side of the park, so the nest may be in a new location this year.  At CCNY, I didn't see any activity.  The CCNY pair may have relocated to the radio tower they used a few years ago.  Let's hope we hear some good news about either pair, later in the season.

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