Saturday, February 12, 2005


[Reporting on nest activity of 2/11]

Hello All,

Busy morning for the hawks. Lots of kite-ing in the
wind. Pale Male brought more twigs. Rik reported the
stashing of prey, including a mouse, by Pale Male
behind the first southwest angle of the lowest black
roof of the white structure atop the Green Awning
building. (In future to be called prey stash area
atop Green Awning Building.)

2:55PM Pale Male seen hunting pigeons near Bethesda

3:08 Lola perches on left of railing, third down,
northwest terrace of Ship shape building.

3:10 Pale Male perches Linda 6 with obviously bulging
3:15 Pale Male flies SW and circling
3:17 Lola kites with talons down
3:31 Pale Male and Lola do aerials with talons down
for about two minutes. Lola flies to southern most
chimney of Green Awning and perches, Pale Male flies
towards her, we think this may be the moment but
no...he banks off. For the next few minutes Lola
changes to a number of different perches.
3:41 Lola back to Chimney on Green Awning
3:42 Lola takes off
3:52 Pale Male and Lola circle up to 78th St.
4:39 Three hawks appear out of the south high and
circling. They travel to the north past the boat
4:45 Lola dives at the visitor sending him west with
her in soft pursuit.
4:46 Pale Male banks off and perches on Linda 2.
4:50 Lola returns down fifth Avenue and lands on
railing of prey stash area, disappearing around the
blind corner into prey stash area on Green Awning.
Lola reappears in a few minutes with what looks like
blood on right foot. Eating the stash? She takes off
and rides the wind disappearing behind buildings.
4:56 Lola perches Linda 1
4:57 Pale Male leaves Linda 2 flies N up fifth then S
then lands on nest site.
5:00 Pale Male and Lola both fly west. Lola towards
the Ramble. Pale Male breaks off and passes S over the
bench, then circles N and disappears.
5:02 all hawks out of sight
5:08 Lola comes from the south, Pale Male from the
north circling.
5:10 Lola perches on Linda 1, PM flies north tree line
of Fifth Ave.
5:15 Lola up goes south then north on Fifth. Visitor
hawk appears from west treeline
5:20 all hawks disappear into trees going northeast.
5:25 Three hawks circling around building whose top
has porthole and long oval windows near 78th and
5:30 Pale Male flies south, Visitor goes west with
Lola in faster pursuit than before.
Sorry no roost information.
Sunset was at 5:27PM Temperature 35F

Friday, February 11, 2005

Received the following very gracious response to my Christo letter...

2/11/05 -- Received the following very gracious response to my Christo letter, from one of the party-givers. This is the sort of opportunity for real dialogue I welcome.

I'm going to share your comments with everyone at my party and at a party I'm attending. And I've sent it to our environmental book group, with whom you met at the Harvard club (Wendy Paulson, etc. ).

The Gates are worth watching and evaluating after the fact. Until then.....

A preliminary sketch of the Christo Gates project. On Saturday it will be a reality.
2/10/05 -- I've been receiving various invitations from people, some of them friends, who live on Fifth Avenue and on Central Park West, to come to parties offering a view of Christo's The Gates. Here is the letter I am sending them. [I hope they remain friends!]

Dear XYZ

Sorry to have to decline your kind invitation. Though the Gates is an event that has captured many people's imagination, the Central Park nature and birdwatching community is pretty solidly unhappy about it.
I know the project is ephemeral, and it may certainly be a work of art, but in my estimation the Gates don't belong in Central Park.

Let me give you my reasons. First, it violates Vaux and Olmsted's powerful mandate, that the park be a peaceful refuge for city-dwellers, a place where people who don't have lovely country homes may go at any time to enjoy the beauties of nature. However aesthetically pleasing the Gates may prove to be, the project is certainly not a part of V & O's concept of rus in urbe.

My second reservation about this project has to do with its commercial aspects. What the Christos end up doing with the large sums of money the Gates is generating and will generate [including T-shirt stands throughout the park] is their choice. It is still a commercial venture, not a public project with public oversight, and as such should not take over and dominate a public park. The Gates has taken over Central Park for almost a month now, and will be doing so for quite some time after the orange flags are down.

There is a third reason that I mention diffidently, since there's no way of proving its validity. Central Park is a haven for many wild creatures, not only our celebrated red-tailed hawks. There are many other resident and migrant birds [Woodcock migration begins at the beginning of February], as well as the various mammals, amphibians, and invertebrates that find respite in the park. I don't know what effect this spectacular introduction of metal gates with orange flags will have on these creatures, but even though the Christos have not installed the gates in the two major woodland areas, I can't help thinking the project will have some impact on wildlife. It doesn't seem likely that the impact will be a favorable one. For example, the three pairs of resident Central Park hawks hunt mainly around the park's meadows, not in the woodlands. Will a sea of orange flags surrounding their habitual hunting areas make it easier to spot small rodents on the ground? I wouldn't think so.

Warm regards,

PS I'm sending this same letter to several people on the park's periphery who have invited me to view the Gates from their windows.


Now you can see why the building at 73rd and 5th is called the LION BUILDING. [You can only see the lion heads with binoculars. Of course Lincoln's super-scope makes it crystal clear.]


Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 (2:00 to 4:00pm, then 4:30 to 5:00pm): Both Pale Male and Lola visiting the nest and nearby buildings before I arrived, but light hawk activity from 2:30 to 4:00pm. However, when I returned from the Boathouse at 4:30 saw an exhilerating aerial courtship ballet...soaring and circling around each other which lasted several minutes...then they flew to the nest and stayed there for about 10 minutes. They were very active in the nest. They may have copulated at the nest but unfortunately cannot confirm since I could not get a good enough view. PaleMale then flew to Linda and Lola to a tree on near the 72nd Street Transverse.
By the way a "gate" was put up exactly where Lincoln puts his wonderful mega-Meade telescope. Estella spoke with the Gates assemblers and asked them to remove or relocate the gate. They come back and took down the offending Gate and carted it away. Way to go Estella!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A note from Patricia, the person with the troublesome redtail near her feeder

2/10/05 A note from Patricia, the person with the troublesome redtail near her feeder
A note from a reader offering more advice about the problem:

Hi Marie,
I just read your posting of my letter to John on your website and would like to correct your impression of my letter. I was not trying to drive the RT or any other Hawk away from the area permanately, just not to have it as a long term resident in the area.

Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to John regarding what has transpired here.

Hi John,
I tried your advice about going out when I observed the RT in the tree and as I approached it would take flight. This was continued for 2 days and on the third day no RT was seen all day. On the 4th day the RT returned but did not stay for over an hour and the activity has markedley increased by the ground dwellers. I dont wish to drive the RT off entirely and can live with ocassional visits which seem to be the case now. As a side note on the second day a Sharped Shinned hawk was observed hunting in the area but left after about an hour and I assume it made a catch. I will keep monitoring the situation and keep you informed. Thanks again for your help and I hope the RT and other hawks and I can all enjoy the area as it greens up.

And more advice


Patricia may also find the following advice from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology useful (

"At some point you can expect a visit from a hawk, usually a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk. At first you'll probably welcome the close-up view but if your hawk stays around and scares your feeder birds away, what can you do? The best solution is to take your feeders down for a few days. The hawk will get hungry and move on. "

The Lab's Project FeederWatch site has lots of information about birds and birdfeeding:

And their "All About Birds" site can't be beat for identification, birding how-to, attracting birds, etc.:


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


2/9/05 -- JOHN BLAKEMAN ANSWERS SOMEONE WITH A DIFFERENT PROBLEM and added since this morning, a CODA.

Last December we worked so hard to bring our redtail pair back to its usual place. And so when I received the letter you are about to read, from Patricia Varner in Troy, NY, I was taken aback. Someone trying to GET RID of a Red-tailed hawk! However I promised to forward her letter to John Blakeman and I did...with a little trepidation.

Below you will find Patricia's letter, and Blakeman's perfect response. Boy do I admire that guy! And I did end up sympathizing with Patricia when I clicked on the URL she provides and saw her beautiful backyard.

Here is my problem. I live outside the City of Troy NY. just NE of Albany and have a backyard garden and habitat along side a river with a variety of wild life in residence. About the end of December 04 I observed a hawk in the trees out back and welcomed it as a visitor. This was the first RT to be seen here but I have had many visits by a shaprshinned hawk which came and went and has returned numerous times but never stayed long. As I observed the RT it has retuned every day and perched in an area of about 500 yards around the garden and remains there from sun up to dusk moving around on ocassion. I have observed it is not interested in the numerous pigeons that come to feed (aprox 31) but is focused on the squirrels and other ground dwellers and has turned what was an active area into one of limited activity. I would not be upset if the RT was a visitor but it seems to be constantly here. I would like to know if there is anything I can do legaly to discourage the RT from being around all the time. I feel cheated as i feed all the wildlife and enjoyed seeing them scamper and play which has ceased with the RT in the trees so close. To get a better idea of the area please go to my webshots page at and see the variety and location I am talking about.
Thanks in advance for your time.


Marie Winn kindly forwarded your email to me. I hope I can be of help.

First, as a professional landscape designer (specializing in native prairies and savannas), I note the quality of your garden. Very nice work.

I wish I had some good news regarding the red-tail. Unfortunately, I do not. As you know, red-tails are protected along with most other birds, so they can't be shot at or trapped. You are certainly free to walk out under the hawk's tree and try to cause it to decide to perch elsewhere. That, of course, could get tiresome, and there's no telling how long it would take for the bird to learn that it's not welcome. In just two or three rousings it might decide to perch and hunt elsewhere. On the other hand, it could easily learn that you won't spend any great part of the day out there and it might come right back an hour after you leave. Red-tails are exceedingly smart hunters. They can be very hard to fool.

You have certainly gone to great lengths to provide food and habitat for the animals you feed, and their dispersal upon the appearance of a red-tailed hawk is certainly not a part of your wildlife feeding plan. But the wild red-tail sees things differently, as only a wild animal can. It sees the cavorting squirrels as very available food sources, sitting on the ground ready for taking. Unless concentrated by human feeding, squirrels in the wild seldom come together on the ground in multiple numbers. In the wild, the red-tail has to pick its prey very carefully. But at your feeding station, the hawk's food has been concentrated. The hawk is just as much a valued wild animal as the squirrels, and it has discovered a new source of food, the congregated squirrels. The laws of nature apply to all animals, not just the ones we personally prefer.

I wish I had a solution or better news, but wild red-tails will do what they are genetically programmed to do, search for and take food. When the snow melts and voles (meadow mice) are more easily seen, the hawk is more likely to spend her time peering out over meadows for these prey animals. Until then, the squirrels are simply very enticing.

I frequently get similar complaints from people whose bird feeders attract Cooper's hawks. They kill song birds at feeders rather profligately. They only eat song birds, and they find cardinals and mourning doves at feeders easy pickings.

Nature is filled with predators. The red-tail is one of them. I wish I were able to solve your problem, but I can't.

My best wishes, nonetheless.


John A. Blakeman

Before I posted this correspondence I asked Patricia Varner if it would be all right to include her letter and her name. She sent the following response, which may serve as a coda to the little drama you have just read.

Hi Marie,
Yes you may use my name and letter either in full or paraphrased and as for a picture you may download anyone you wish from my webshots site. For your information I am trying what he suggested and going out into the garden and the hawk leaves. Today it flew to the other side of the river and perched only to be harrased by a small flock of crows which hang out in the area forcing it to leave the area entirely. I did return several hours later and I just walked to the tree area and it left. I must admit I find this magnificent bird a wonder to see. John also sent me another letter explaining why the hawk was not attacking the pigeons. Will close for now if there is anything else you need from me don't hesitate to ask.
Birdingly Yours,

Report from the Bench 2/9/2005

Report from the Bench 2/9/2005

According to the AM crew, it was a very busy morning
for work on the nest. Both hawks made multiple trips
with twigs. Including numerous short trips to the
small tree on the top terrace of Woody.
1:37PM Lola was perched on the antenna of the Oreo.
Light rain begins.
2:40 Pale Male arrived and perched on the 3rd railing
down on the left of Green Shade building.
3:00 Sun came out.
3:03 Pale Male flew south.
3:04 Lola flew south.
3:15-3:23 Sharp-shinned hawk in tree above bench and
bench environs.
4:13 Sharp-shinned pair did small circles with each
other for 9 minutes over the southern section of Model
Boat Pond.
Christo uprights complete on westside of boat pond,
circumference of Pilgrim Hill and paths.
(Jean reports three Red-tails sitting in trees south
of Turtle Pond, none PM or L.)
5:48 Twelve paired Mallards flew over the bench,
landed on the ice of the Model Boat Pond and padded
around in the twilight. (?)
6:10PM Pale Male had not returned to the pin oak at
the foot of Pilgrim Hill nor had Lola returned to the
oak adjacent to light pole 159, their preferred roosts
since 2/3.
Best, Donna

Tuesday, February 08, 2005



Mon, Feb 7th--2:30 to 4:30pm--Observed Pale Male and Lola at the nest, both separately and together...flying in with twigs. Lola spending more time on the nest fastidiously rearranging the twig structure to suit her requirements. They were on many of the surrounding buildings often sitting close together but no mating activity that I or the Hawk Regulars who had been there from early a.m. saw to report. But, Valentine's Day is just around the corner!
Leaving at 4:30pm, a lovely immature Cooper's Hawk (almost identical to the Sharp-Shinned except the Cooper's is a bit larger and has rounded tail feathers) flew to a London Plane tree near the Hans C. Anderson sculpture clutching some small prey in his/her talons.

Katherine Herzog

Sunday, February 06, 2005




Yesterday (Sat) Pale Male delivered some twigs to the nest after circling the pond two or three times. He then sat on the nest for between 5 and 10 minutes. Then the most incredible thing happened....he jumped off the nest and soared low across the pond, like a jet plane, wings back and went after some pigeons in the small grassy area behind the benches. He was no more than 5 feet above our heads. A spectacular aerial show. Somehow the pigeons all got away and Pale Male landed in a nearby tree empty handed. It must have taken about 5 or 6 seconds from beginning to end. What a thrill to have seen that.

Bob Brooks

Map Courtesy of
and sent with annotations based on my info by Karen Anne KollingRED-TAILED HAWK TERRITORIES IN CENTRAL PARK

2/6/05 -- Get out your magnifying glasses. The lettering on this map of Central Park may be hard to read.

Each yellow rectangle on the map indicates a Red-tailed Hawk nest. Going from North to South, they are:
1. At the Harlem Meer and 110th St., a possible, but unconfirmed hawk pair.

2. The North Meadow pair: Last year, in a tree at the SE end of the North Meadow, this pair hatched three young, all of which fledged successfully.

3. Pale Male and Lola [Our celebrities]

4. The Hecksher Ballfield Pair. [The male has a light-colored head and is often called Pale Male Jr] This pair made an unsuccessful nesting attempt in a tree at the northwest end of the Heckshire Ballfield. They are almost certainly the same pair that has been trying to nest on a high ledge of a building on Central Park South for the last two or three years. Last year they were observed in territorial battles with a pair of Peregrine Falcons that are often seen at one of the high towers of the Sherry Netherland Hotel on Fifth Ave. and 59th St. [Though the falcons are consistently seen in the same location, year after year, no nest has ever been found]. The falcon encounters probably encouraged the redtail pair to move a bit north and west, into the park.