Astoria Park

I took a visit to Queens to check out a nest on the Triborough (RFK) Bridge.  It's been on the bridge for some time, although one year the nest was on the opposite side of the bridge.  Like so many nests in New York City, it had a parent die from poisoning.

Astoria is a nice quiet neighborhood full of friendly people.  Sometimes I get burnt out answering scores of questions from hawk watchers in Manhattan, and Astoria makes a wonderfully relaxed trip.   The nest is near the next to the last stop of the N train, which is a quick trip from where I live in Manhattan.

This year the nest has three eyasses, which seem to be about a month old.


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Four Dead Hawks

Within the last few weeks there have been four dead Red-tailed Hawks found on the Upper West Side: three in Central Park, and one in Riverside Park.  The hawks were:

  • A juvenile that was in the North Woods of Central Park
  • Lima, Pale Male's mate of a year
  • An older hawk in the SE corner of Central Park
  • The female of the Boat Basin nest in Riverside Park

While necropsy results are still pending, the likelihood that rodenticides were the cause of death is an urban reality.

As hawks have made a comeback in New York City over the last twenty years, we're seeing the issues hawks face living in the Big Apple.

I know from personal experience that we have lots of allies in this effort, including the Parks Department, the Central Park Conservancy, the Department of Health, NYC Audubon, and others.  While we figure out how to turn our anger over these deaths into action, we need to be careful not to attack our allies. 

This is an incredibly complex issue.  A few hundreds raptors in New York City aren't going to limit the rat populations.  Controlling rat infestations utilizing methods that have the least potential for negative impact on wildlife is going to take years of incremental change.  We'll need the help of all our allies as we tackle long term issues, such as improving sanitation and reducing poison usage.

It isn't publicized enough, but behind the scenes, there are many people working to protect raptors in the city.  So, rather than attacking our friends over these deaths, we should approach the Riverside and Central Park staff, not with the question "Why did you kill our hawks?", but with the questions "How can I help you protect our hawks?  And what support do you need from me?"


Madison Square Park

A young hawk has been hanging around Madison Square Park since early October.  I've heard reports and been sent a few pictures, but today was the first time I saw the youngster in person. 

(I only had a point and shoot camera with me, so the pictures aren't that great.)  It's most likely a migrant from further north and not a hawk from Manhattan, but you never know!

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San Francisco

I'm on vacation in San Francisco.  My hotel is on Nob Hill.  In the mid-afternoon I saw some pigeons in flight out my window and wondered if there was a hawk nearby.  It turns out there were two Red-tailed Hawks, an adult and an immature bird.

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Young Red-tailed Hawk

There was a young Red-tailed Hawk flying between 100th and 111th Street along Fifth Avenue this afternoon. It was impossible to tell if it was a migrant or a hawk that was born on a nearby nest this spring.


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Christmas Bird Count Weekend

The annual Central Park Christmas Bird Count was on Sunday.  It's a great event that brings together the Urban Park Rangers, the Parks Department, Audubon NYC and lots of amateur birders to take a census of the birds wintering in the park.

After a series of bad weather counts with snow, rain or bitterly cold temperatures, this count had enjoyable, if chilly weather.

The day before, I looked for the two unusual birds that have been around, the Varied Thrush and a young Red-Headed Woodpecker (which at this age, has yet to get a red head.)  Along the way I had nice looks at a Cooper's hawk.

On Sunday, I joined the Northeast team.  Highlights for me were a Carolina Wren and young Red-tailed Hawk at Mount Sinai Hospital.  After our counting was done, our team saw a Merlin in the Northwest team's area, I saw a young Red-tail being harrased by Pale Male at 63rd and Fifth, and at dusk I watched the park's surviving Eastern Screech-Owl's fly out.

The count had 62 species of birds, including birds from the count week.  There are lots of birds in Central Park, even in the winter!  The count had 11 Red-tailed Hawks, 9 Cooper's Hawks, 2 Merlins, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1 Peregrine Falcon, and 1 Eastern Screech-Owl.


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A Little Wet At Riverside

I arrived at Riverside on Sunday after a thunderstorm to find a wet family of hawks.  The father was on a street light drying off and the mother was feeding two eyasses.

The other known Red-tailed Hawk second clutches in the city, Inwood Hill and Astoria/RFK Bridge, both fledged over the last few days.  A fledgling was seen in Inwood Hill by Jessica Ancker (via the Inwoodbirdwatchers Yahoo Group) and Peter Richter has pictures of the fledglings in Astoria on his Queens Raptors blog.


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RFK Bridge

Before I went on vacation, I went by and saw the freshly hatched eyasses nesting on the Astoria side of the RFK Bridge.  I finally got back to see how they were doing on Saturday.  The two of them looked great.

They look healthy and very grown up.  Their tails need to grow in before they'll be flying off, but they'll be leaving the nest soon.


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Astoria Nest

I got my first glimpse of a RFK Bridge nest eyass this evening.  From the feeding behavior of the mother, there are at least two eyasses. My guess is two, but it's too early to tell for sure.  It's a strange season, when a new eyass is seen the same day as a fledge!


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RFK Bridge

Earlier this spring, the Astoria female died due to poisoning while she was sitting on her nest.  Within a few days, the male found a new mate and they laid a fresh set of eggs.

While we can't see the hatchlings yet, based on the behavior of the mother, it looks like they have hatched.  We'll know how many there are in a few days.


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Unisphere Duo

The two surviving eyasses at the Unisphere in Corona Flushing Meadows Park are doing well.  They look ready to fledge.  For information about what happened earlier this season, see Peter Richer's Queens Raptor blog.


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Christmas Bird Count

The annual Christmas Bird Count was held in Central Park.  The snow storm had tapered off just in time for a nice morning in the park. 

Counting in fresh snow was good exercise, although it kept the count numbers down. I birded the Northwest.  Highlights included a female Wood Duck and a Great Blue Heron (most likely the same bird Jack Meyer saw earlier in the week on the Lake).  Our group had two raptor species, a Cooper's Hawk and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks.

An unusual species for the count was a Turkey Vulture, with multiple fly overs the park.  Speculation was that heavy snow forced the vultures south.  The Riverside Park count even had a Bald Eagle.  So the weather was a mixed blessing.

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Red-tails, Cooper's and Screech-Owls

I walked up from the mid-70s to the North Woods to look for Screech-Owls and came along some interesting diversions along the way.  On a building at 89th Street and Central Park West was a Red-tailed Hawk.  This section of the park, west of the Reservoir, usually has a Red-tailed guest during the winter.  To my surprise there were two Red-tailed Hawks, something I'm not used to seeing here.

Then while waiting for it to get dark, a Cooper's Hawk dove into the Loch.  It caught a squirrel and ate it.  It's the first time I've seen a Cooper's Hawk with a squirrel.

Lastly, I was able to see and hear both of the North Woods resident Eastern Screech-Owls.  They've switched roosts, so we felt lucky to find them.

On the way out of the park, I saw that the Lasker Pool is now the Lasker Rink!  Another sign of the changing seasons.

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Youngster in the Ramble

I went out in a break in the rain on Saturday to see if their was any sign of the Great-Horned Owl that had been spotted on two separate days in Central Park over the last week.  I didn't find the owl, but did find this 1st year Red-tailed Hawk.  It was right next to a cove on the Lake called the Oven.

Pictures include the bird eating a squirrel.  If that doesn't interest you skip this post.

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RFK Bridge Nest

The three eyasses looked great on my Saturday visit to the nest.  The nest is on a drain pipe on the Astoria, Queens side of the bridge.  On my visit I didn't see the parents, but I also didn't stay long.  It's not uncommon for a nest to be left unattended for long periods once the eyasses get close to fledging.


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Unisphere Nest in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens

Earlier this week arrived news from Bobby Horvath, the rehabilitator on Long Island, that an eyass had fallen out of the Unisphere.  The bird was taken to the Queens Zoo across the highway, checked out just fine, and ended up with in the Horvath's care.

The Unisphere nest has a history of having eyasses and fledglings in trouble.  The Unisphere's metal construction makes it difficult for a bird to "branch" and there have been birds that fall out of the nest prematurely in previous years.  The park itself is a problem for new fledglings, as it doesn't have very many quiet areas for the parents to lure them to.

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Photo: Bobby Horvath

The Hovarths continues to perform a great service for birds and wildlife in New York City.  If you're a NYC Raptor lover, I can think of no better donation then to help their organization.  If you’d like to make a monetary donation, checks can be made out to “Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation” and sent to:

WINORR, Inc.
202 N. Wyoming Avenue
North Massapequa, NY 11758

Since I hadn't been out to the nest since earlier in the season, I went out on Saturday to see how things had progressed at the nest.

When I arrived a parent was on the New York State Pavilion Towers and a visible eyass on the nest.  About fifteen minutes later, I saw a wing tip briefly from an I-beam of the Unisphere, three sections over from the nest.  So, the nest must have started three chicks, two still on the Unisphere and one now with the Horvaths.

Sunday Update: A second eyass fledged prematurely at the Unisphere and it is also now in the care of the Horvaths.


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RFK Bridge and Unisphere Nests

I made a quick trip out to the RFK Bridge and the Unisphere on Friday.  The RFK female was feeding young, but they didn't pop up into sight, so I stuck out again in my attempt to get a glimpse at them.

The female at the Unisphere was sitting on the nest.  It was impossible to tell if she was still sitting on eggs or had hatchlings.  The nest is recessed into an I beam, which makes it a great hiding place for youngsters.

I'll be checking back up on these nests in a few weeks.

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Astoria Park - RFK Bridge Nest

I spend early Sunday afternoon and late Monday evening looking for the eyasses (chicks) at the Astoria Park - RFK Bridge (formerly Triborough Bridge) nest without success.  It's clear by the parents behavior, that they're no longer sitting on eggs, but have hatchlings, but I didn't see them.  I must have missed the feeding each time I went, and if the eyasses are sleeping, they would be too low to see them.

In any event, I do have some nice pictures of the nest and the parents.

Sunday
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Monday
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