Thursday, April 21, 2005

Blakeman Voices Concern

In Red-Tails in Love I described the anxiety-ridden days of April and May, 1993 and 1994, when we sat and waited at the hawk bench for eggs to hatch. And they never did. It was a terrible time.

For the past three days the memory of our experience in those early years has been painfully vivid in my mind. Now in 2005, after all our travails in December, after the nest removal, the protests, the restoration of the spikes by 927 Fifth Ave, now, after the stick-by-stick rebuilding of their 12th floor aerie by Pale Male and Lola in February, after the lovemaking on TV antennas and rooftops up and down Fifth Avenue, after the month and some days of nest sitting and nest exchanges, finally, sometime at the end of last week or the beginning of this one the time had come. The eggs should have hatched. Time for chicks. We even saw signs of hatching in Lola's position on the nest [higher] and in her wing motions as she mantled the nest.

But the necessary and unmistakable proof of hatching -- the feeding of chicks by the parent- hasn't happened. No feeding. Every day we watch -- we watch like hawks -- but it still hasn't happened.

I kept postponing and postponing writing Blakeman, not wanting to admit my concerns even to myself.
I finally broke down and sent him the following letter:

I must mention that I'm getting uneasy about the fact that there has been no observed feeding at the nest. What are your thoughts? You can be sure we'll all be eagerly awaiting your response. There's a general air of suppressed anxiety at the hawk bench as each day goes by.

I hoped against hope that his reply would be reassuring. Unfortunately it was not:

I, too, am sharing a bit of concern. The well-described mantling behaviors that have been posted would seem to indicate that eggs have hatched, but there should have been some consequent feeding behaviors by now. It's too early to render a failure verdict, but the next day or so should be definitive.

Had the eggs cooled and the embryos died, the parents would still be incubating. They don't count days. They just sit until the eggs hatch, or they get tired of sitting, usually after 35-40 days or so. So it appears there was a hatch. Why there is no feeding behaviors is a bit ominous. But the little eyasses can go a day or so without food.
We can only wait to see what develops.


John A. Blakeman

Dear readers,
Our story could still have a happy ending. But we're beginning to harden ourselves for a different outcome.