Saturday, February 26, 2005



Quick summary: On Dec 7 the 11-year-old nest was taken down.
On Dec. 23, the new "spike-holding-structure" was installed.
On February 26, in photo above -- a mere two months later-- the new nest is almost completed!

Pretty amazing.

P.S. 2/27/05 --Today's the last day of The Gates. Bye bye Christo.


via Jack Meyer:
Today, Red--winged Blackbirds heard at Bow Bridge singing their spring Conk-a--la-ree! [or, alternately, Honk-at Ma-rie!] song,

Yesterday, heard at the Evodia Field feeding station, the Chickadee breeding song: Fee-bee! [Note, many people hear this song and think they have heard a Phoebe. It's good to remember, if you hear a Fee-bee song at your feeders, that Phoebes are not feeder birds. Chickadees are.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Devoted in New Mexico

Hi Marie,
I was so taken by today's picture of Pale Male, I wrote to Lincoln also to share my feelings. To me this shot expresses the quintessential "otherness" of all birds, but especially hawks. P.M. is all hawk here: the picture is the essence of everything John Blakeman has been trying to get us to understand about hawks. They really are "other," not mammalian at all.

Linda Most

Photo by [who else?} LINCOLN KARIM

2/25/05 -- Last night I received a frantic e-mail from a reader in New Mexico, who had seen this close-up photo of Pale Male's beak on Lincoln's website Here is her letter, which came with the subject line "SOMETHING IS STUCK IN PALE MALE'S BEAK", followed by Lincoln's answer to her query.

Dear Marie,

Lincoln's picture of Pale Male today (dated Feb. 19th, 05) shows that there seems to be a metal piece of jewelry or a fish hook or something lodged in Pale Male's beak and it even seems to have split the beak up to the top of his nose. I also noticed this in the picture from Lincoln a couple of days ago. I'm concerned.

Devoted in New Mexico

Here is Lincoln's reply, that arrived by e-mail a few minutes after I sent it. I sent the reply along to "Devoted" right away. Hope she feel's better!

No, it's parts of pigeon (food) stuck to his beak...Lincoln

2/25/05 --- A reader of this web site, Marilyn Fifer, sent John Blakeman some reports about various recent raptor matters, among them, the red-footed falcon appearance on Martha's Vinyard last summer, the Bald Eagle re-introduction effort at Inwood Park last year, and an incident of red-tail-peregrine-falcon interaction and predation. He sent me a copy of his response to her. It is below:


I'm familiar with the red-footed falcon incident on Martha's vineyard. Just plainly weird -- including the inordinate efforts of "listers" to try and count the specimen. Amazing what storm winds blow in.

I was not aware of the NYC bald eagle restoration project. The population of BEs is exploding everywhere. We have over a 100 nests and over 300 bald eagles in Ohio. What's been discovered as the limiting factor, one that may keep the birds from nesting on or near Manhattan, is the availability of large nest trees. If those aren't there, the birds simply can't and won't nest.

They will, however, become remarkably tolerant of human disturbance. We had a pair here nest in someone's back yard, produced three eaglets, all of which dropped down on to the backyard trampoline and began jumping up and down on it. We have photos to prove.

And any peregrine that wants to kill a red-tail, probably can, if the hawk is struck up in the air. The peregrine moves like a powerful fighter plane. The red-tail like a muscular bomber. But a red-tail will absolutely attempt to steal a falcon eyass on the nest. Easy pickings if the parent falcons aren't around to defend.

Thanks much.


John A. Blakeman

Thursday, February 24, 2005


[From the caretaker of the "Swarovski Scope", donated by that company to the Central Park Hawkwatchers during the recent Hawk Nest Crisis.]

Wednesday , Feb 23 - As young and old visiters enjoyed looking through the
scope at the new nest today, a RedTailed Hawk suddenly appeared diving
straight toward us with it wings pulled in against its body - as the RedTail got
about 20 ft away, a white bird came from behind us at maybe 10 ft over our heads -
the RTH and the other bird almost collided 14 ft over the Model Boat Pond.

The large white bird veered sharply to the right as the RedTail, spread for
an impact, feet forward, wings and tail very wide, recovered composure and flew
back out of sight. The white bird was a Gull and the RedTail's dive did not
look like a hunt but rather a defensive maneuver. We were all, stunned, happy
and confounded.

Right after that both PaleMale and Lola were visible for a good while in
today's very clear blue sky when a third raptor flew up Fifth Avenue, passing in
front of the nest building. This intruder was about the size of a Crow, had
sharply tappered wings, a tight narrow tail and rapid wing beats - it was a Peregrine
Falcon! Within seconds it was surrounded - Lola high above to the right
and PaleMale diving at it from the left - with each pass the RedTails preserved
their own energy and made no direct contact but stayed on opposite sides of
the Peregrine, flying at it, forcing it to evade them and eventually fly south
again from where it came.

__ Kentaurian __

[But only for a few days more]

I received the following letter from my friend Josie in Cos Cob, CT. Since I started out almost entirely opposed to The Gates, I am bound to say that I have come around to agreeing with Josie's argument almost completely. The "people" aspect of the Gates has won me over. Just as the letter says, the project has brought great numbers of people into the park, many of whom had never been there before. My own observation of the great crowds proceeding at a tranquil pace under the Gates is that they are enjoying greatly the experience of being together and in the park, and a part of some sort of "happening" Those of us who have been "parkies" for a long time don't need something like the Gates to make us happy. We fell in love with the park and its wildlife long ago. But if it takes thousands of orange shower curtains to make this experience accessible to many others, I say , as my old friend Charles Kennedy always used to exclaim: Halleluja.

Beineke's article makes some good points. The Conservancy does, indeed, deserve a great deal of credit for its magnificent restoration of the park. And. as an example of persistence and perseverence, the Christos do set an example. I personally believe that persistence and perseverence are much more important, in any artistic endeavor, than talent.

This is not to say that I find The Gates to be a successful artistic endeavor. I find the orange color unattractive [especially in Central Park in the winter] and the texture of the fabric repellent. All that talk about the shimmering , billowing beauty of the saffron etc. makes me mildly ill. But each to his own...

In any event, the beginning of the end of the Gates is approaching. Sunday, February 27th is the official closing of the "exhibit" . [And, I might mention, that date will also mark the end of any discussion of this project on this website.]

Unfortunately, February 27th will not be the day that Central Park will be free of the Gates. I understand that the Gates will not be completely dismantled until March 15th.

Here is Josie's letter and Beinecke's article:

Hi Marie,
I thought I would add this piece below to the ecological Gates debate. I personally have found that the over arching spirit that has gone into creating this happening has been so great: People have been discovering for the first time what a park can mean to their lives -with friends and family and visitors and have been taking the time to stroll and drink in the remarkable array of landscapes, albeit many artificially created ones, but woodlands and mature trees and no straight lines, and grand panoramic meadows and lawns and all in the middle of winter and a near full moon sparkling over the whole. Well I just think we are very lucky to have had the chance to drink this all in together and meet and greet our visitors.

Faith, Hope and the Environmental Way | Main | Bringing the US into the 21st Century »
February 15, 2005
Creation and Re-Creation

Frances Beinecke

The Gates

New York has come alive with the arrival of the Gates, Christo and Jeanne Claude’s incredible art installation that drapes all of Central Park. We spent much of Saturday and Sunday in the park, as my eldest daughter, a young artist, was on the installation crew. We stood on a rock outcropping at the northern end, watching my daughter’s team release the saffron colored fabric from the cocoons on their 100 gates. And then the park was encased with orange, billowing fabric along every pathway, stunning. It is a happening, no question about it. People from all over, smiling, chatting, enjoying the art, enjoying the park.

I was interested that Jeanne Claude and Christo first proposed this project in 1979, when the City and the Park were so different than they are now. The Park was in a serious state of disrepair and neglect. The grass was eroded, the ball fields were unplayable, the bridges and architectural features were a mess, and the Park was thought to be unsafe. While the Park went through a total rebirth over the past 25 years, Christo and Jeanne Claude persisted, redesigning and re-pitching the project to every Mayor until Mayor Bloomberg approved it. A tale of persistence and restoration combined.

Restoration is so fundamental to our future these days. We have so altered major ecosystems across the country and across the world through vast engineering projects that have made these ecosystems dysfunctional and unrecognizable. But the good news is that there are many, many efforts going on to plan restorations and get them funded. Some of these projects are vast in scale. The Everglades restoration project will give new direction to the Corps of engineers, which will be spending billions of dollars in an effort to restore the river of grass which they so successfully destroyed in their prior engineering endeavors. Across the country, NRDC has also been working for 10 years on restoring flows, and fish, to the San Joaquin, California’s second largest river.

Christo and Jeanne Claude understand scale. Who could imagine a project for the entire park? That’s what we all need to be, big thinkers: thinking the impossible and then having the persistence to see it through. Just walking through the Gates expands the mind on what’s possible.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Jack Meyer writes in his daily report, among a list of species sighted: Red-tailed Hawk (Pale Male & Lola, copulating, 7.40 AM.)

At 8 a.m, the Early Birders saw Pale Male or Lola on the nest, working on twig arrangement. [Couldn't tell which hawk it was, since only the rear part of the bird was showing.]

On our walk this sunny, relatively mild morning we heard the persistent spring songs of Cardinals, Titmice and Red-winged Blackbirds. And for me, the final reward for rising early: from my west-facing window at 6:00 a.m., the sight of a luminous full moon setting over New Jersey.

This was sent to me by Eleanor Tauber, one of the Early Birders. As with the Somerville Gates, I think that being the inspiration for greatness bestows greatness on the Christos!

"The Crackers" 2005

Gift to the City — is it Art or for the Birds? "The Crackers" is as much a public happening as it is a tasty snack, defying the domino theory. Peanut butter or cheddar cheese. They poured their hearts and souls into the project for over 26 minutes. It required three dozen crackers and spanned over nearly 23 inches along a footbridge in the park at a cost (borne exclusively by the artists) of $2.50. Is it art? You decide. The installation was completed with no permits or bureaucracy, and fed to the ducks after about a half hour. "The Crackers" is entirely for profit,

2/23/05-- Susan Keiser responds emphatically to the Caplow attack on the Gates [See below]

I think Mr. Caplow's analysis is alarming because it offers the kind of detailed engineering numbers and data that impress most of us nonscientific types. But he has done his analysis totally out of context. To actually make a fair environmental case against the "Gates," wouldn't one have to do a similar analysis of all other art or entertainment projects or activities in New York and then compare cost–benefit ratios? And maybe even figure out how much pollution is already in the park area and whether the "Gates" represents a significant increase. I also think it's unfair to assume that the artists are lying about recycling all of the materials, which is what they say they are going to do, just because they specifically mention it in some of their notes about each individual part and not in others. Shouldn't one first ask them for more information about their recycling program? There is a questions icon on their website.

The mink analogy sounds good, but is it really appropriate? Many of us don’t wear fur because of the way ranched minks get treated when they are alive and how they are slaughtered rather than what happens to them after they’re dead. And mink ranches are just a symbol of the inhumanity of numerous animal-related industries. Many of us are vegetarians for similar reasons as people who avoid fur.

While I accept that humans are carnivores, persons who eat pork are either callous or in denial about how industrial pig farms work. And forget the poor chickens, both those grown for meat and eggs; they are treated even worse. Cattle have destroyed the vast grasslands of the Midwest, virtually an entire ecosystem, and deer are more numerous now than at anytime in the history of the continent. We have driven out all their natural predators except for us, and then refuse fulfill our responsibility to keep their numbers down because Bambi is too cute to kill. The result is an overpopulation of deer, who denude woodlands of anything but nonnative plants and threaten some of the most beautiful natives with extinction. And in particularly hard winters, they themselves suffer slow starvation. It has always struck me as a bit insane that we are willing to destroy two ecosystems rather than switch from eating beef to venison.

This all may seem a bit off track, but I think it raises crucial questions of proportion and contextual thinking, which is what I believe is missing from the “ecological” discussions of the “Gates” I’ve read so far.

When the project is removed, we have been promised that it will leave no visible signs that it was ever there—no holes in the ground, no broken branches, and, because of J-C and Christo’s maintenance force, no litter. Because they used all their own money, we have not had to look at donor’s names or corporate logos plastered everywhere, which is becoming exceedingly rare in the public sphere. And because they paid everyone who worked on the project, no one was exploited (even those who wanted to volunteer). John Blakeman has told us that it will not endanger the hawks, an assurance that I think logic dictates applies to other park animals.

While I am not a botanists, as a horticulturist I can’t imagine how it could hurt any of the plants, which tend to be even more adaptable to constrained environments than animals. Central Park is a rare gem, but not all gems are incredibly fragile, not diamonds and not the park’s “ecosystem.” To be honest, complaints that the “Gates” have interfered with people’s routines seem shortsighted and a little selfish, given the transitory nature of the installation. And romanticizing nature other than in poetry or some other form of art can be dangerous, as it often leads us into making poor decisions about conserving it, such as allowing the deer to destroy northeastern woodlands.

That the “Gates” is an insult to the park is certainly a valid opinion, but it is only one of many, and certainly not a reason for banning the project. As for complaints that the J-C and Christo’s drawings emphasize the project and not the park or city, they just leave me mystified. If one wants a drawing, photo, print, or painting of the park, there are thousands to choose from. These are drawings of the project, and as such, the project is and should be the primary image. As for the color of the fabric, some people may not like it, but it really is the color of saffron. If you look at the photos on the Christo site at full scale, you’ll notice that the curtains are bright orange when the sun passes through a single layer and a red orange when there are two layers—at the hems and where the wind has created folds. And when you look up into direct sunlight they become more golden. This combination of hues is exactly like that of the parts of Crocus sativus from which we get saffron, only as it appears in the plant, not in saffron-spiced rice. It literally takes thousands of crocuses to make a single ounce of spice. For people looking for a message, the fact that the “Gates” are the color of the living form of a highly prized and valuable seasoning, and that the artists make a point of mentioning the color whenever they mention the fabric, together make me think about the relationship between nature and human beings and how we make decisions about “natural resources.” For someone else, it may just be an ugly color with unpleasant associations. Both are just opinions.

Gwen Willows sends in the following article and writes: "You may have read this in yesterday NY Times. (I am from El Sobrante, California, visit your and Lincoln's sites every day, and thank you for them!)"

Seeing Orange

Published: February 20, 2005

THE exhibit that began last weekend in Central Park is many things to many people. For me and my beagle, Hazel, with whom I share a daily walk to work through the park, "The Gates" is just a distraction. What she wants to know is, where have all the squirrels gone? What I want to know is, from the standpoint of industrial ecology, how can Christo and Jeanne-Claude justify the environmental impact of this project?

On their Web site, the artists, with apparent pride, declare that "The Gates" has required 10½ million pounds of steel, 60 miles of vinyl tubing and one million square feet of nylon fabric, plus thousands upon thousands of steel plates, bolts and nuts to hold the whole thing together. The plastic tubes and fabric are described as "recyclable," but no mention is made of the fate of the steel.

According to the United States Department of Energy, the steel industry in this country consumes about 18 million B.T.U.'s of raw energy to produce one ton of steel. If the cast steel in "The Gates" is typical American steel, then making it has required 97 billion B.T.U.'s, an amount equivalent to the entire annual energy consumption - including that used to run cars, furnaces, air conditioners and home appliances - of nearly 500 New York state residents.

Energy for the steel industry is supplied in roughly equal thirds by coal, natural gas and electricity from the grid. Based on generally accepted rates of carbon dioxide emissions for these three sources, it appears that making steel for "The Gates" churned out 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the combined output of about 1,600 average American cars for a year (carbon dioxide is viewed by most scientists as a threat to the global climate system). We would have to plant more than 200 acres of trees and grow them for 10 years to remove this carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Central Park has an area of about 800 acres, but only part of this has trees; and the mature trees that dominate the park do not absorb carbon dioxide effectively, so we cannot look to the park to clean up the mess.

In terms of sheer mass, the amount of plastic in "The Gates" is dwarfed by the steel, but emissions of carbon dioxide, dioxins and other toxins from plastics manufacturing are also a concern. The plastic chosen for the supports, polyvinyl chloride, or P.V.C., is an increasingly controversial material that releases dioxins and other carcinogens to the air and water during manufacture (and possibly afterward). Polyvinyl chloride has been singled out as "the poison plastic" by Greenpeace and other environmental groups. We now have 60 miles of it in the park. Clearly, the squirrels were not consulted on this choice.

If the plastic used in "The Gates" is in fact recycled (Greenpeace warns of the "false promise" of polyvinyl chloride recycling, noting that only 1 percent gets recycled), some credit might be allowed, but at best this credit would account for only a fraction of the energy used and emissions produced. Nearly all steel is "recyclable," but the recycling rate (around 70 percent nationwide) is already accounted for in the energy intensity calculations above. More fundamentally, one cannot dismiss responsibility for the use of a primary material simply by claiming that this material could be reused. That's like claiming that no mink were harmed in making your fur coat, because you might donate it to good will someday.

This is an unenlightened view of ecology. Why could the artists not have chosen a 100 percent postconsumer material, or better yet, a biologically derived material, to begin with? Such a choice would have reduced toxic emissions from the material itself, although we would still be left with the diesel trucks and propane forklifts scuttling to and from the park to carry this enormous mass in and out.

It has also been loudly declared that the artists are paying for all of this out of their own pockets, through the sale of spinoff drawings and paintings to art collectors. These drawings can be viewed on the artists' Web site, and all share a pattern of coloration in which the city and the park, the buildings, the trees, the grass, are devoid of life, while the "The Gates" are portrayed in vivid color - the only objects of apparent interest to the artist. The setting could have just as easily been any other city, or no city at all, and little would change in the paintings. These depictions of a lifeless New York City are supposedly financing the materials, manpower and energy required to bring us "The Gates," but there is no mention of any fee paid for the pollution of the air and water, to say nothing of the threat to Hazel's squirrels.

The choice of such an unfortunate orange hue - "saffron" to the artists, but to the rest of us more evocative of sanitation trucks, prison uniforms or road pylons - becomes clear: this is the color of hazard and danger. Hazel and I have chosen to interpret the whole business as an ecological warning sign.

Ted Caplow, an environmental engineer, is the executive director of Fish Navy, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable technology

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Yet another contrarian speaking up: My View of ‘The Gates’

photo by Lincoln Karim

Someone referred to me as a "Contrarian" in my attitude towards the Gates. Is this another Gates Contrarian?

Yet another contrarian speaking up:

My View of ‘The Gates’

by Evelyn Fitzgerald, Landscape Designer, New York

I went to visit ‘The Gates’ today in our beloved Park. It felt like it was judgement day after the end of the world, as though the place I had known was gone. We were mindlessly following each other in long lines, cheerful, well dressed, well travelled folks congratulating ourselves for creating a park more beautiful than God could mak
e. Owls, hawks and falcons, among other wild creatures, watched us from the tree branches, blending into their surroundings so that we never saw them above us.

We were on our way to the gates of heaven to be judged on all that we had accomplished, not realizing yet that we had failed. We had neglected to take care of the living world, or to learn the design processes which shape its complex built structures such as trees, dams, nests, hives, reefs, etc. Self-renewal, time, change, suitability to the eco-system and adaptation are factors that drive their design. But instead we built gigantic, monolithic, obvious, static structures. With what techniques? . . . By pouring vinyl into molds repeatedly producing identical objects in quick succession that can be put together by workers who are not availed any skills, mastery or contribution in the construction of what they make.

We take pride in our ‘creative’ achievement while overhead, the hawks Pale Male and Lola persistently build their new nest based on what know-how? . . . On technology transmitted over time in ways we don’t comprehend, as we fail to see it, choosing to celebrate ‘The Gates’ instead.

Michael Popowski, of Bayonne, New Jersey, who took this great picture, writes about The Gates:

Central Park is beautiful all year round and the Gates take away from Central Park's natural setting; creating a construction zone illusion. However, in specific area's of the park the project works, in other areas it does not work. Overall a bit overdone and over the top!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Many new items below including FOUR new letters from John Blakeman

2/21/05 --Many new items below including FOUR new letters from John Blakeman



Here are my requested thoughts from your very interesting post.

First, don't anyone apologize or diminish any of their own thoughts or explanations on this. I may be some kind of red-tail “expert,” but everyone should question, or at least remain open, about most of what I contend. If I had time, or were writing a book on the matter, I'd delineate what I perceive to be “fact,“ as opposed to my evidence-based prognostications. Most of what I post is pretty sound material (in my mind and experience), and I would be able to defend those notions with abundant evidence. Other thoughts are just those, mere thoughts.

I'm taking the liberty here to lay out all of my thoughts publicly, allowing everyone to follow the development of my personal explanations for the Central Park red-tailed hawk saga. In strict science, all of this should remain obscured, to be revealed only upon the publication of a paper. But here, we are carrying on a must delightful public discourse, and all thoughts should be out on this expanding table of ideas. Again, don't anyone be reluctant to offer his or her thoughts and observations.

I still contend that most of the red-tails fledged at 927 Park Ave never attained adulthood. Why do I believe that? Because that’s the case with every studied population of immature red-tails. The banding data overwhelmingly support this, and I've watched any number of mid-summer red-tails get pushed out of their natal territories in July and August. I've trapped these birds for banding, and they are extremely weak, approaching starvation.

The following explanation would be far too long to entirely describe, but let me just touch on the survival challenges that must be met by a young red-tail who, for the first time, is no longer being fed by mom and pop. The first challenge for a youngster first on her own is to actually find food. Yes, red-tails have remarkable eyesight. Innately, they can focus and peer telescopically with great resolution. That’s all fine. But they actually have no innate or instinctive capabilities to actually find where food exists. They have to learn where and when mice, voles, rats, and other potential prey can be both seen and captured. This can take weeks to learn.

Next, the inexperienced hawks have to learn how to capture the prey. This might seem to be the least of their problems, given their strong talons and wings. But no one more than falconers knows how clumsy and inexpert immature summer red-tails can be in actually grabbing food. The hawk has all the equipment, the talons, the strong legs, the powerful wings, and telescopic eyes.. But until all of these are perfectly coordinated, hunting efforts are profoundly inept. I've seen this awkwardness in many summer-trapped falconry hawks. Many of these, I'm sure, would have starved had I not trapped them and started to train them to hunt successfully on their own. While in this falconry training, I provided the food they could not capture on their own.

Lastly, a kicked-out August or September young red-tail has to also find a vacant habitat where it can perch, hunt, and roost. In August and September, adults don't want any young birds in their territories because for the first time all summer, prey becomes harder to find. But late summer, there aren't anymore young robins, rabbits, or other abundant, easy-to-catch prey. In May and June, the days are long (lots of hours to hunt), and vulnerable prey are abundant. None of that’s the case in August and September, when the majority of young red-tails perish.

So, I still firmly believe that the majority of the eyasses sired by Pale Male never attained adulthood. They never lived long enough to molt out a red tail in their second summers.

But right here, I'd better inject an alternate explanation about the possibility that the pale-headed red-tails seen in Central Park might be 927 progeny. Elsewhere, I elaborated on why these birds are not likely to be so, based upon general red-tail biology and evolutionary tendencies. I still think this is the more likely explanation, that the new birds’ parents are not Pale Male, Lola, or any Pale Male’s other consorts.

But if Central Park today can support three nesting pairs, along with the recently-observed five immatures – 11 hawks that have to each capture and consume about 120 grams of flesh every day – then, perhaps, Pale Male and Lola haven't been very astute in driving off their youngsters. If Central Park has a continuing abundance of food, perhaps, then, the young weren't driven off. I continue to believe that most still died from hunting inexperience. But I have to now admit that there is a greater possibility that at least some of the other Central Park red-tails might be 927 offspring.

For those who might see this as a wonderful, romantic turn, I assure you it’s not. The constraints of genetic non-variability or uniformity would still be detrimental, especially if the Central Park red-tailed hawk population were to begin to inbreed. If that’s so, if most of the CP red-tails descend from a single parent (the great sire Pale Male), things could get very ugly in just a generation or two. The first thing to go wrong would probably be behavior fitness. Inbred hawks would be less likely to learn to effectively and safely hunt. Secondly, they most likely would not go through all the nuanced rituals of pair-bonding, nesting, and the successful rearing of offspring. Getting all of this just so is a remarkable ballet, one that everyone is watching once again. It doesn't take much to upset the successful but delicate interactions between both mated adults and their offspring. By nature, these birds are quick, muscular killers. All of the mating, copulating, incubating, and rearing behaviors of nesting pairs is contrary to the birds’ innate, day to day nature. I fear that inbreeding would easily disrupt this delicate balance between the restraints of pairing and the killing instincts of normal, day to day life.

It’s easy, even convenient, to believe that all of what were are seeing is the real nature of the red-tailed hawk. The birds appear to be loving, devoted mates and parents. These they are, of course. But how many have seen a red-tail actually hunt down and brutally kill a rat or pigeon or squirrel? To see this close at hand, as I have so many times when my falconry red-tails have taken cottontail rabbits, is to fully understand that these birds are carnivorous predators. They are, by nature, killers, ever bit as much as the lions of the African plains or the brown bears of Alaska.

On another point, I don't believe Pale Male is an evolutionary breakthrough. He’s nested for over a decade; a nice achievement, but one shared by thousands of other red-tails. His nesting record is quite typical for the species. On the other hand, he certainly has learned to succeed in the unique environment. But this, alone, is not so remarkable because the species itself has learned to live in so many habitats. The red-tailed hawk lives and successfully breeds in virtually every habitat (except closed forests) from the edge of the Arctic all the way to the Mexican desert. In the West, it nests on cliff sides structurally not much different from 927 Park Ave. Pale Male’s ability to adapt to NYC and Central Park, I believe, merely reflects the general adaptability of his species.

Once again, banding of the offspring, to allow accurate identification, would bring real light to this question.

Let’s hear the thoughts of others.


John A. Blakeman



Lisa’s remarks on the role of the “essential oils” emanating from the pine needles are significant. I thought about her comments, and this came to me.

Red-tails that aren't incubating spend up to an hour or more most mornings preening. In doing so, they transfer oil from a gland on their rump to the feathers of the body. Hawk watchers can often see this. The bird pokes her bill down into the feathers of her upper rump, where she gets a microscopic layer of the feather oil on the beak. She then strops the oil-laden beak on feathers all over her body.

This daily feather maintenance is absolutely essential. Remember, on the wettest, windiest days, our red-tails aren't passing the time inside any dry shelter. They are stuck out there in all of the worst weather, and if their feathers aren't properly oiled, rain will soak through and quickly kill the hawk by hypothermia. Daily preening is not for beauty.

Like most birds, our hawks are similar to turtles, in that they carry their houses with them where ever they go. Their houses, of course, are the feathers, which keep heat in and water out.

How might pine needles be involved in all of this? Lisa’s thoughts are particularly cogent. A sitting, incubating red-tail does, indeed, preen, but she can't spend an hour on her feet doing this. She’s pretty much bed- or nest-ridden. She still has to get the oil from her oil gland out over her feathers. But because she has to spend most of her time with her naked belly skin (the brood patch) tucked right up to the developing eggs, preening time and effort becomes a bit problematic.

Here is where the pine needles might enter. When red-tails preen, they not only spread protective feather oils, but they also comb out with their beaks very tiny feather lice. These very tiny bugs actually eat hawk body or contour feathers. The feather lice prefer to eat the white, un-pigmented portions of the brown body feathers. Preening greatly limits the damage feather lice can cause. The aromatic emanations of pine needles might restrict the feather lice while sitting on the nest.. Therefore, the sitting red-tail can apportion her meager preening time to only spreading feather oil. With the pine needles, she perhaps needn't spend much time combing out the feather lice. The pine needles may drive the lice away.

Red-tails have another arthropod ectoparasite, the hippoboscid fly. I have never found one of these large, slow, flattened flies on a healthy adult.. But virtually every immature bird has them. These things are the size of large house fly, but are very flattened. They don't fly very fast, but they move between the layers of feathers with great alacrity. These things live on blood they suck from their hawk hosts, and can be a real problem when the young red-tail begins to decline due to poor health or starvation. A healthy, experienced adult learns how to grab and kill the bugs with their beaks. But the newly-fledged youngsters don't recognize the pest, and they can run rather profligately between the feather layers. A single dose of parrot ectoparasite spray kills the hippoboscids in my captive birds. They never come back. The aromatic gases or odors coming off the pine needles may drive the hippoboscids off the incubating parents. They surely don't have much time to be poking around with their bills chasing these feather flies while still trying to maintain proper temperatures in the eggs beneath.

This would be a wonderful experimental study by an undergraduate ornithology student. Devise some trials where pine needles are placed next to cultures of feather lice and hippoboscids and record their reactions. This may solve the “Why evergreen sprigs?” question. Good thinking Lisa, something I hadn't considered.

One last note. For those watching the birds up close, check to see if the bird you are watching has evidence of feather lice. On first year birds, every single one of them does. Look on the brown contour feathers of the back. You will see that the margins of these are quite irregular, as though they've been eaten away. They have been. The feather lice eat away the white parts, leaving a very irregular brown edge.

Then look at the same feathers on any adult. You are likely to see some irregularity, but much of the whitish margins of these feathers will be unconsumed. The adults stay ahead of the feather lice. The youngsters aren't good at it. This is often an indicator of a hawk’s general health. Those in poor health or nutrition are badly feather eaten. Survivors have the lice, but with markedly reduced damage.

And for anyone concerned that these little arthropods might have jumped off my captive birds and infested my person, don't be alarmed. These very tiny bugs are absolutely confined to buteonine hawks. They couldn't even survive on the feathers of a pigeon or robin, let alone on human hair. The feather lice of my beloved red-tails pose no danger to me or anyone else. They stay on the hawk, or die.


John A. Blakeman



***Dear Marie...Just one thought still puzzles me, and that is the apparent, strange "tiptoeing-around" the vernaculars used to depict the actions of the Hawks. Why must this be? ALL language was, in fact, created by PEOPLE! Even scientific terms were created by people. So, if some people chose to describe Pale Male and Lola's actions as "Mating," this seems perfectly fine to me, since mating is a word commonly accepted in our society to cover a broad spectrum of phases. So, if some of we people refer to romance, breeding, mating in terms poetically pleasing, all the better. This is why we have the Theosaurus. I'm sure these scientific terms are meant as guidelines, not decrees. I guess if one were to follow that course, what lies ahead? Babies referred to as "plasma-multiplicands" or something? Please, please...let's have everybody create and express life as they individually feel without fear of not being "scientific enough." I really can't see a world bound by these strict guidelines as to how you are to phrase things. There should never be a need to apologize for creative expression as long as it is for benefit of all living things. Be free everyone, all of you who have written such wonderful works, those who have been so stalwart in your prose and as such,earthly stewardship of all living things! Amanda

***Dear Marie,

My take on "Mate" Vs. "Copulate" is that they are usually synonyms. "Courting", or "Courtship Display", however, is alway the activity that leads to "Mating" and/or "Copulating". What muddies the water is the unfortunate terminology: "Mating Displays" used as synonym for "Pair Bonding" and "Courtship Displays". But, the "act of mating", or the "mating act" means one thing and one thing only=copulating, joining, coupling or whatever four-letter word you like.

Best, Katherine Herzog

***Hi Marie—

For those who don't feel comfortable using the word copulation, how about the most popular euphemism used by humans (at least when they are in polite society) to describe their own activities: "having (had) sex." While it isn't scientifically correct, I don't think it would be considered incorrect either. And it has the advantage of not being the biological term for another activity.

—Susan Keiser


I live in Atlanta and have followed the story of Pale Male from here. Tonight I was looking at when I came across the following post,

"The hype in New York about "The Gates" has been so pervasive that I am delighted to read some cool and skeptical responses. As a New Yorker, I have been subjected to the hype, but I joined the throngs in Central Park so that I could test my own skepticism with actual experience. With all love and deference to my friends who are flying into NYC to walk under the saffron pleats, I find "The Gates" a Disneyland for a cultural elite. A relevant footnote: I was caught in gridlock near a gate in the southwestern part of the Park. Everyone was staring at a tree branch over the artwork, where Pale Male, a famous local falcon, was chomping on a small animal. The crowd was discussing, not the Gate, but whether the animal was a rat or squirrel. Reality bites."

Who knows if was really him.




About Karen Anne Kolling's incisive questions about what really constitutes "territory" in the case of CP red-tails.

In the rural wild, all of what I noted before is accurate. Wild rural red-tails simply occupy one or two square miles (or more) and drive off any other red-tail that might enter this space. There isn't enough food for three birds in the territory, so the odd bird is driven out. Period.

But this usual arrangement is in flux in CP. Lots of food, lots of hawks, and small, even undefended territories. The area around the nest is the actual territory. The only question is the radius of the territory. It's a mile or two in rural areas. Right now in CP it seems to be variable and indeterminate. We'll just have to see how this plays out. I've never seen this before. This may be unprecedented in red-tailed hawk natural history


John A. Blakeman

Sunday, February 20, 2005


READERS' THOUGHTS ABOUT NEST BUILDING AND LINING, the first by Jack Meyer [I once characterized him as a super-Regular] and the other from Lisa in Florida:

Marie- I just finished reading the latest John Blakeman letter. Perhaps our
Red-tails will take a hint from last summer's Wood Thrushes, and line the
nest with toilet paper! Jack


Hi Marie,

I would venture that the RTHs are ringing the nest with the pine needles for their essential oils. Essential oils are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. Nature's "pine sol" if you will. Thanks for all your work.


Lisa (in FL, former lifelong NYer)

2/20/05 --Why are there 5 Redtails at the Azalea Pond? Isn't that Pale Male's Territory?


You forwarded a nice note from Sally and Peter Johnson where they noted five red-tails apparently associating together, or at least tolerating each other. None of these were Pale Male and Lola. The Johnson's noted that all of these birds were "juveniles," (exactly the same term for "immatures," birds in their first year).

This is unusual, of course. (But that’s true for so much of the rest of the Central Park red-tail saga.) Here’s my take on this.

Although the 927 nest is under daily construction, it’s still deep winter. Sex hormones are starting to flow, prompting the copulation and nest building being observed. But so far, there is no impending food shortage for any of the Central Park hawks. As I so often point out, food is everything for a hawk. If food is abundant and available, territorial imperatives recede. If resident hawks perceive that ample food is close at hand, they will be rather accommodating of intruders in the fall and winter. Prime red-tail habitats, areas with lots of prey, often have large fall and winter groups of hawks. In the winter, in prime areas, red-tails can be almost social, just as the Johnson's described in their email forwarded to me.

Presently, Pale Male and Lola have access to essentially unlimited prey animals. From this, they are expressing virtually no territorial defenses. Don't for a second think that our resident pair is inadvertently unaware of each of the other red-tails in Central Park. They see every wing flap of these youngsters and keep track of where they fly, perch, and hunt. Our experienced adults know and keep track of the entire red-tail scoreboard.

For now, the young hawks are hunting and eating in CP just like our celebrity pair. But let’s see how long this continues. All is well just now. Presently, there is a general raptorial rapprochement regarding hunting and perching venues. There is plenty to go around.

But things are likely to change significantly when Lola becomes gravid, when her first egg begins to form. Egg formation requires a large amount of calcium, proteins and lipids, which are all absorbed from the mother’s body tissues. Very quickly, the female’s outlook on life changes. I've watched this in the female red-tail in my captive breeding trials. When eggs begin to form, the female takes on a serious, even morbid attitude. Life instantly gets very, very serious.

Food becomes very important, and competition from interloping youngsters is likely to met with stern behavioral warnings to leave. Pale Male will perceive the new hunting and territorial regime, one that precludes un-needed competition from other nearby hawks.

The inordinate winter abundance of red-tails in Central Park is not likely to persist. For now, food is abundant. But when our resident adults begin to perceive that things could start to get tough, first to produce a pair or trio of eggs, then to help feed Lola during incubation, and finally, when eyasses have to be fed for 16 hours each day, our birds are likely to become downright intolerant.

Once again, the entire CP red-tail phenomenon revolves around the abundance of prey animals. If there is lots of food, there will be lots of hawks. When food begins to become harder to procure because of competition, the adults will either drive off the interlopers, or have a reduced brood size. If five or so immature red-tails remain and compete with Pale Male and Lola, only one or two eyasses may be produced this year. At worst, none would be. It could be an empty nest year.

It’s possible that the following could occur. What happens if the five immature winter hawks simply disregard the behavioral admonishments of the adults to scram, to leave the area? Would that be possible? Could be. Booting out one or two incursive intruders is a reasonable task for an experienced resident pair. But perhaps the five youngsters perceive that the pair of old fogey adults simply can't cover enough space to keep them out. As an adult chases after one youngster, another simply flies over to the abandoned space that the adult just left. If the immatures are impudently unresponsive (unlike your kids and mine, who perfectly responded to our adult admonitions), the entire process could devolve into something of an unproductive flying circus. Do we have now a gang of juvenile delinquents that might disrupt the normal conventions of red-tale domesticity? Let’s see what happens.

Again, I've never seen anything like this in the rural wild. This is all new. Nothing is decidedly settled. And should, perchance, this year’s brood size be reduced or altogether absent, don't fret. Let’s honestly prepare ourselves for what might become a biological reality, that the annual production of three-eyass broods is unsustainable and atypical.

As long as Pale Male and Lola had no hunting and prey competition, when they were the only game in town (or the Park), everything went their way. But that may no longer be the case. The rats and pigeon prey base may now have to be divided with, or shared among, some other Central Park hawks. At some point, a CP red-tail saturation point must be reached. Originally, I would have projected that a single pair exploiting the entire Park was saturation. I was wrong. There have been as many as three Central Park resident pairs in recent years, and now there are the added winter immature population. (After all, this is New York City. Residents of every species live closely packed together in high density.)

Let’s watch what develops. I'm betting that the intruding youngsters will be driven out and few or none will be seen in March and April. But a quite alternate scenario might develop, with unexpected, even untoward results for our pair.

And most of us just thought we were merely watching the uneventful lives of a single pair of red-tailed hawks. Nature is seldom so neat and tidy. Things in the wild are usually a continuing interplay of multiple forces and factors, just as are being seen with Pale Male and Lola. Isn't this as good as the plot of a great novel, the thematic development of a great symphony, or a walk through a great art exhibition?


John A. Blakeman


Dear Marie,
A number of things came to mind while reading your
Daring Hypothesis. [It's just below]

Within Homo sapiens, we accept without thought that
humans as individuals can be different from each other
in many and striking ways. Whereas in the past our
tendency with individuals of other species has often
been to see them as nearly identical within that
species particularly when it came to behavior.

We'd noticed and then proved to our satisfaction that
many species had "hardwired" instinctive behaviors.
Which we had a tendency to generalize to other similar
species or to mistake just where or when those
hard-wired urges stopped and learned behavior began.

For instance, a baby pigeon, nearly as soon as it's up
off it's haunches, has an urge to peck at things on
foot level, particularly small contrasting spots the
size of seeds. And as this behavior occurs whether the
squab has seen his parents eat or not, it appears that
members of Columba livia are hard-wired to know how to
eat. But in actuallity they are only hard-wired to
peck. The sequence of getting the seed into the
beak, and the swallowing-of-the-seed or the
drinking-of-water actions are learned. Young who never
see the adult example or who do not in duress figure
out the behavior on their own, die.
Having hand raised a number of squabs, I know that
there is a huge disparity amongst individuals as to
how long and intense a learning experience is needed
for success. I've a limited study group, but in my
opinion, what I'm watching is the difference in
individual intelligence for learning from observation
or figuring it out for themselves, barring the
traumatic negative eating misadventure. In shorthand,
some are just smarter than others.

We also took to be hardwired any animal behavior that
seemed universal in a species. We now know, that that
is not necessarily the case but rather sometimes a
learned behavior with excellent advantage for

Somewhere along the line a "smart" chimp learned to
choose and refine a twig for termite retrieval. Not
all chimps needed to be that inventive, others, we
think, learned from observation.

We also didn't know until lately that though the
chase-prey urge was wired in many species, that
exactly what to chase was not. Therefore the
"culture" of pigeon eating in Central Park for
Red-tails could have started with a "smart" Red-tail
watching another species do so as we suspect may have
happened with suet and "The Suet Eater" or a Red-tail
being smart enough or unafraid enough to eat a pigeon
inadvertantly nabbed by a sudden rush of the
chase-prey urge or killed by headlong flight into a

The issue of raptors eating pigeons is a fascinating
one. Last winter during the extremely cold weather
when, as you may remember, the Bald Eagles followed
the ice down the river, I noticed every pigeon flush
from my terrace in a seemingly split second only to
look out the window and see an Immature Bald Eagle
staring at me from her momentary perch on my terrace
railing. She seemed as surprised as I was and took off
in pursuit of the fleeing pigeons.

For the last two days, I have sighted a Red-tail,
possibly a two year old, hunting the pigeons that
congregate on my 27th floor terrace at 43rd and 9th.
I have not seen this Red-tail succeed, she seems to be
using the Peregrine on the wing tactic, but if I do
I'll be fascinated to know if she's changed hunting
tactics. She too may well develop a taste for pigeon.

Actually this Red-tail's first sighting was made by
Quicksilver my parrot, who screamed and flung himself
precipitously to the floor, tipping me off by one of
the few "hard-wired" behaviors I've ever seen him
display, that a predator was outside. Take note, I'm
not saying he might not have have plenty of hard-wired
responses, it's just he lives with people in a New
York City apartment, one can imagine hard-wire
behavior stimuli just doesn't come up all that often.
Therefore one should not be fooled, just because a
bird may be hard-wired for certain behaviors, it does
not automatically discount behavior that we would
describe as thinking or intelligent. Silver is an
African Grey Parrot who because he has the tracheal
equipment, and was raised by English speaking humans,
is able to speak hundreds of words in context, and has
purportedly, though with a brain only the size of a
walnut, the capacity for having the IQ of a five year
old human child. Nevertheless he still screamed Awk!
and threw himself in the floor with the right stimuli.
Neither behavior is mutually exclusive.

Surely humans are not the only species for which there
are individuals that "think/act outside the box".

What about positioning a nest on a building instead of
using a tree? We might all agree that there is an
instinct to make a nest in Red-tails. Young birds
have the urge to build a nest but their initial skill
at nest building seems to be lacking. Then unless we
find that some kind of organic maturation process
within the Red-tail brain as it gets older is
responsible for better built nests, we could surmise
that better Red-tail nest building skills are learned.
And if they are learned by trial and
error/experimentation, that opens the way for a
"smart" bird faced with nesting failure to attempt out
of the ordinary strategies to make the nest "work" for
the next breeding season.

As for the younger hawks now attempting to nest on
buildings, beyond "reinventing the wheel", two
possibilities come to mind. Eeither they were raised
in a building sited nest (Pale Male and mate's
offspring?) or they have learned from Pale Male's
building sited nest's visual example.

Unless of course one wants to invest in Rupert
Sheldrake's theory that once any individual of a given
species figures out how to do something, it is far
easier for any other individual of that species to
figure it out and do it as well. One example being
the post WWII, bottle top removing, cream drinking,
Blue Tits in the UK.

There are several other aspects of Red-tail "culture"
in Central Park to be investigated as well. My
experience with comfort distance in country Red-tails
is similar to Mr. Blakemans, they won't allow me
within a country mile. Central Park hawks will eat in
a tree right above the heads of any number of humans.
Lola has been known while hunting to zoom down a path
two feet off the ground with one wing tip a scant foot
away from pedestrians. Did these birds never learn a
fear of humans and therefore arrived in Central Park
in the first place or have they revised it due to the
behavior of the current human population in their

Another question, what are all those Red-tails doing
so close to each other? Come to think of it, why is
that Red-tail so close to that Cooper's as well? As
has been suggested prey abundance in off breeding
season does seem to allow for less then the expected
inter and intra species aggression. Also suggested
has been that prey abundance allows for far smaller
territories during breeding as well. Is it possible
that what has always been taken as hard-wired
aggression may be based more on prey than was
suspected previously throughout the year? To take
that even further is it possible that much of the
Red-tails vaunted lack of social interaction even with
bonded mates, at least in our perception during much
of the year, is at least in part based on a lack of
prey as opposed to their being hard-wired loners?

Even as early as December when I found Pale Male and
Lola at evening, they had gone to roost in different
trees and no, there wasn't any snuggling going on, but
they were defintely within sight and sound of each
other. Giving these supposed loners the "flock"
advantage of predator warning by another who might be
in the intermittant brief awake period during the
other's intermittant brief asleep period. The
distance between the pair being advantageous as a
strategy against predators as well, as they are only
two. And though I've not seen the immature's roosting
habits this could conceivably hold true for the
Central Park immature hawks as well.

So many questions to be answered, so little time.
Sincerely, Donna Browne

My Daring Hypothesis: A Question For John Blakeman

There is a "plethora" of red-tailed hawks in Central Park and environs these days. I can't resist offering a somewhat audacious thought of my own:

Pale Male has been breeding successfully since 1995. Each of the 3 offspring of that first nest would have been ready to breed themselves by, let's say, 1998, and THOSE birds could have produced Pale Male grandkids by 2001. Then there are the three offspring of the 1996 nest, who could have each had young by 1999, and so on and so on. Meanwhile Pale Male and his mates have been producing eyasses year after year -- a total of 23 who lived to fledge.A mathematician would have to figure out how many possible Pale Male children, grandchildren, etc. there could be by now. Since it is a geometric progression, I'd bet that number is huge!

John Blakeman has previously written of the 23 offspring:"I'm certain that the majority died in their first summer." That was written on Dec.26., almost 2 months ago.[For this and other references to past Blakeman letters, scroll down on the LATEST NEWS page.] I wonder if his thinking has changed about this since then, as he has come to recognize that the NYC redtail explosion represents a possibly different reality than the situation he is most familiar with -- the rural and suburban redtail.

Obviously, I am not a biologist. Nevertheless I have a strong hunch -- partly stimulated by the timing of the local proliferation of redtails, partly by the fact that so many of the local hawks are making attempts to nest on building ledges rather than trees[unsuccessfully, so far, because of absence of spikes anywhere but at 927 Fifth]-- a strong hunch, as I say, that there is a connection between Pale Male and these proliferating NYC redtails. As I wrote to John Blakeman before, how extremely odd that before PM arrived in Central Park there were NO resident redtails in Manhattan. Now they're a dime a dozen.

I'd buy the no-more-boys-in-the suburbs-shooting-redtails hypothesis John proposed in a letter on Feb. 6, 2005, except that an alternate hypothesis makes more sense to me. I'm about to propose it, knowing well that I'm going way out on a limb, and that I really am unqualified to make scientific hypotheses at all! But perhaps it will stimulate an interesting answer, so here goes.

Is it possible that Pale Male is, in fact, some sort of evolutionary breakthrough? While Blakeman has written about the intelligence of hawks as compared to the Corvids or parrot families, [that is, that hawks are not the sharpest crayons in the avian box] perhaps Pale Male is actually a smarter redtail?

He has succeeded at building and maintaining for 11 years a pretty unique nest. He has managed for all that time not to eat a poisoned rat or pigeon, nor to collide with a truck on the highway, nor to fall prey to any of the various slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that others of his kind run into.

Maybe he has passed on this gene to a bunch of others who are managing to survive that perilous first year better than redtails did before, discovering new prey sources, perhaps. [Blakeman has speculated earlier, in a letter not posted, that pigeons might be an important factor here]. Anyhow, I've run this idea up the flagpole. Long may it wave.

Lincoln Karim
Pale Male with sprig of evergreen in bottom photo
[(See Blakeman comment below]

The intelligent question was asked [by Karen Anne Kolling], “What do they line the nest with?” As the nest approaches full structural size, lining will be an important next step.

Right now, the nest is almost surely just a moderately intertwined pile of sticks. But this would not be able to retain the heat needed to incubate the eggs. Many first-time red-tail nests fail to get properly lined, and cool March winds blow right through the structures. Needless to say, the eggs laid in these insufficient nests fail to hatch. I've seen this quite often, frequently in marginal habitats, almost surely by newly-mated pairs that haven't learned yet how to properly prepare a successful nest. Pale Male’s first efforts may have been of this nature.

The nest lining has to be wind-tight. When watching either of the pair settle down on to the eggs to incubate, notice the deliberate manner in which this is done. What you can't see is that as the bird gently wiggles down onto the eggs, the parent is putting the naked skin of its abdomen right on to the eggs themselves. These bare patches can't be seen when the birds are flying, as they are under the outer body feathers. But before incubation the inner down feathers of the abdomen are lost, creating the “brood patch.” The brood patch seems to be larger on females than males.

So, while the birds are sitting on eggs, the adult’s body warmth is being transmitted directly into the egg. If the lining of the nest isn't tight, too much of that heat escapes and the embryo or unhatched chick (it’s not an eyass until it hatches) won't develop properly.

What, then, is the lining made of? It varies greatly, depending on what the birds have available. It’s usually some light, fluffy, fibrous plant material. The thin flakings of wild grape vine is used, as is the light, shedding bark of smaller dead tree limbs, providing little sheets of paper-like material that can be pressed together in the nest. Out here in rural Ohio, last season’s dead corn leaves are commonly used.

The birds will simply look for whatever is locally available. Most importantly, the material must be able to be tucked and compressed. Clumps of dead grass stems are often used. A fist-full of partially decayed (but dry) leaves works. It would be interesting to document the preferred lining materials of Pale Male and Lola. What does the vegetation of Central Park have to offer?

If they haven't yet, some time soon the pair is likely to start bringing sprigs of evergreens to the nest. No one has ever figured out exactly why this is done. A well-needled tip of a pine branch is brought to the nest and either tucked into it on the side, or sometimes arranged at the edge of the rim. The birds have a strong compulsion to do this, and out here in rural northern Ohio where evergreens of any sort are uncommon, we know that some birds have to fly several miles to find a valued pine or spruce tree. The best explanation is that the evergreen sprigs tend to repel feather lice and other invertebrate vermin – except that eyasses in their first weeks often are pestered by a number of bugs nonetheless. The green-sprigs-at-the-nest story is still an unexplained one.

This is an experienced, successful pair. They aren't doing anything new that they haven't done so very successfully before. Getting the apartment ready for the new brood of eyasses becomes important once again. Watch to see when lining material begins to appear at the nestsite. That’s rather equivalent to the buying of the bassinet and other accoutrements that human moms do when they know that live-giving things are about to happen.

As a falconer who gets to watch my red-tails hunt and kill, where I see close at hand their remarkable power, speed, and predatory determination, to watch their markedly converse behaviors of gentleness and care at the nest is always a striking contrast. At the nest, I still find red-tails almost totally out of character. I'll have some more comments on that when incubation starts. But to watch a red-tail at the nest is a special privilege, seeing it behave in considered ways seen nowhere else.

And New Yorkers can just go to the right spot in Central Park, ask to take a peek through a spotting scope, or just look up there with a pair of binoculars to see this remarkable spectacle. Although I've seen it here in the wild many times, I'm still a bit envious. You can see it both with ease and at length. Very special. Very special.


John A. Blakeman

A defense of the Christo Gates that I rather agree with:

Hello Marie -- I've been an avid follower of your website since the co-op board tore down the original nest. Thank you, and Lincoln, and all the others who were instrumental in getting the nest rebuilt. May Pale Male and Lola enjoy many more years there.

Now, about The Gates: I think you are too hasty to condemn them. Years back, as bored teenagers in rural Maryland, my friends and I heard about "love-in's" taking place in a farmer's field. Well, we had to find out what this was all about so we went out to the field late on a Saturday night, dizzy with anticipation, and found a crowd of people had gathered to listen to a rock band that, in retrospect, was profoundly mediocre.

Who cared? It sounded great to us at the time! We were at a "happening." Did this "love-in" provide real love? Or great music? No. No more than Christo's Gates provide real art. But we loved the music and the crowd. It was a happening and we loved being part of it.

That's what I think The Gates provide. A "happening" that will be remembered as a focal point of people gathering together and feeling good about it. And don't forget those hot-dog vendors who tripled their daily wages!

Keep up the good work.


The Somerville Gates


Great art inspires other artists. That much is clear. Finally I have to accept the greatness of Christo and Jeanne Claude, for they have inspired a genius in Somerville, Massachusetts.

You can get on the website showing the amazing Somerville Gates by clicking on the caption just below the photo. Once there, be sure you also click on About the Someville Gates, where you may enjoy the poignant comparison between the Christo Gates and the Somerville Gates, item by [hilarious] item.