Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pale Male & Lola still sitting

Along with a great photo of Pale Male and Lola on the nest Lincoln writes on his website today:

They've been doing this for millions of years...they know what they're doing. Please keep the positive thoughts flowing for them!

Good advice, Lincoln. The perspective of time is endlessly important in thinking about these noble hawks.. Yes, they've been doing this for millions of years, many more years than homo sapiens has been around to take pleasure in them. Watching them live their lives -- hunt, soar, preen, make love, prepare a nest for young, look out for each other, stay alert to all dangers, succeed magnificently and, on rare occasions, fail --all this takes us outside of ourselves and into the timeless world of nature. Seeing their story in human terms plunks us back into our troubled selves.

Think positive thoughts about Pale Male and Lola, about the great park that has sustained them and their offspring for so many years and will continue to sustain them for years to come.

Last report on Dash

After wishing us all well, and keeping his fingers crossed for the outcome of our nest, Steve Watson writes:

Lilly spent very little time during the day yesterday on the eggs (about 1 hour), and hasn't been on them since before 7 a.m. today. She spent the night in the box, snoozing away. I watched her hunting yesterday afternoon, and she was doing very well.

So this is almost certainly the end of this clutch. We'll wait until she doesn't spend the night in the box, then take it down, install the pigeon spikes, clean it out and put it back up. With luck, she may find another mate, or we'll get another species in there. If not, we'll just have to wait until next year.

Spring Migration Heating Up

Some great birds were seen on Jack Meyer's walk this morning. At the end of his report [emphasis on certain birds mine] I'll post information about his walks --- there's still time! -- and about walks offered by another star in Central Park's birding firmament, Starr Saphir.

DATE: Saturday, 23 April 2005 LOCATION: Central Park OBSERVERS:Kellie Quinones, Pat Levine, Jack Meyer

Double-crested Cormorant (Lake.) Black-crowned Night-Heron (Lake shore north of Hernshead.) Gadwall (1m,1f on lake.) American Black Duck (Lake.) Red-tailed Hawk Spotted Sandpiper (West side of point.) Mourning Dove Red-bellied Woodpecker (Ramble.) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Ramble.) Downy Woodpecker (Several.) Northern Flicker (A few.) Eastern Phoebe (Turtle Pond.) Eastern Kingbird (Turtle Pond; west shore of lake.) Blue-headed Vireo (Humming Tombstone.) Warbling Vireo (Humming Tombstone.) Blue Jay Tree Swallow (Turtle Pond.) Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Turtle Pond.) Barn Swallow (Several, Turtle Pond & Lake.) Black-capped Chickadee (Humming Tombstone.) Tufted Titmouse (Ramble.) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Several.) Hermit Thrush (Ramble, Hernshead.) American Robin Yellow Warbler (Point.) Yellow-rumped Warbler (Many.) Yellow-throated Warbler (Castle.) Pine Warbler (Several.) Palm Warbler (Several.) Black-and-white Warbler (Several.) Prothonotary Warbler (West shore of lake, 8:00AM.) Northern Waterthrush (Riviera.) Chipping Sparrow (Ramble.) Song Sparrow (Several.) Swamp Sparrow (A few.) White-throated Sparrow (Several.) Northern Cardinal Red-winged Blackbird Common Grackle



These walks are enjoyable for all, beginners or advanced birders, young or old. Here is the schedule:

Walks will be Thursday through Sunday, from March 31 to May 29

Walks leave at 7:30 AM from 72 Street & Central Park West. (NE corner.)

The cost is $6. No reservations are needed.

If there are any questions, you can reach him at:
212-563-0038 (Not after 8 PM please)


Starr Saphir's walks are legendary. And the reality surpasses the legend. Here is Starr's schedule for walks in Central Park:

******** Sat. and Tues. Morning North End walks*****

Sat. Apr. 2 - Tues., June 6

9:00 am (sharp) to approx. noon

103 rd St. and Central Park West, the Park side

*********Mon. and Wed. morning Ramble walks*****

Mon., Apr. 4 - --Wed. June 8

7:30 am (sharp) to approx. 10:30 am

81st St. and Central Park West, the SE corner

All walks non-smoking. Fee for each walk is $6 per person; no registration necessary. For further information, please call Starr Saphir (leader) at (212) 304-3808.

Yesterday's report from Hawk Bench

Field Notes 4-22-05

Sunset 7:44PM,
Temp. 54F,
Scattered showers,
Wind ESE 5-10MPH,
Prey Tally-None reported,

All times PM unless otherwise noted.

Ric reports nest exchange, Lola off, Pale Male on,
approx. 12:30.
12:40 Pale Male down in nest.
1:18 He stands, beak down in concave.
1:22 Half down,tail to bench, digs.
1:23 Head to N.
2:00 Pale Male stands in concave, head down...?
2:20 Lola lands on nest from N.
2;21 Pale Male off, Lola in concave.
2:22 Beak down, head to S.
3:43 Pale Male, Oreo Antenna.
4:44 Pale Male still on Oreo, Lola in concave of net.
4:51 Lola watches S.
4:52 Pale Male off Oreo.
5:11 Pale Male arrives N end of nest, with twig
w/green leaves.
5:12 lola up, flies Ramble trajectory, Pale Male digs,
looks down, settles head to S.
5:32 Pale Male stands up in concave and digs.
5:44 Pale Male watches S.
5:46 Pale Male alert to W
5:54 Full head up watches W, head feathers fluffy,
6:01 Lola to N end of nest. Pale Male off. Lola
preens, digs, disappears, then had up watching W and
N.6:03 Lola stands, shuffles back down, head to S
watching W.
6:20 Continues to watch W.
6:27 Gull flies on 927, Lola invisible.
6:38 Lola alert to N.
6:43 Lola down, then stands, bends over, beak in
concave for 20 seconds, digs, close turn, tail brushes
wall, head to NE, down.
6:45 Head now to N.
7:20 Pale Male lands on Linda 3.
7:27 Pale Male preens.
7:40 Lola disapears into nest.
7:41 Pale Male flies from Linda 3 and lands on Pin Oak
E of Favorite Roost, then switches to Favorite Roost,
a bit higher in the tree than was typical in winter,
7:46 Lola looks N then in semi-circlesurveys all
points to S, snuggles way down in nest.
7:55 Pale Male sitting breast to E, head is tucked so
if eye opens it will view nest.
Submitted-Donna Browne

Friday, April 22, 2005

Blakeman on Feather Wear--With a hint for all concerned about this year's nest outcome

Lincoln Karim sent me the picture above and asked:

What do you make of his tail feathers? First thing came to my mind was that he's brushing up against the concrete wall behind the nest. This theory only holds if he turns mostly counter-clockwise.

I sent the photo to John Blakeman. He responded:

The concerns for Pale Male's tail feather tips are understandable. The fact that they are reduced in length only on one side (the right) is, indeed, curious.
But perhaps the converse question, of why so little wear on the left side, is of equal interest. Many wild adults have much more wear, with even some broken shafts from time to time. Pale Male has kept himself in fine form.
It is getting late into the feathers' year, after a winter and early spring of much hunting , and in this year, a complete rebuild of the nest. This is rather normal feather wear. I have no concern whatsoever. Only the tips are worn, and only slightly so. This is rather normal, although feather wear can vary greatly from year to year, even with the same bird.
This may relate to the iron prongs of the nest support structure. I'd expect a new layer of branches to go over this year's when annual refurbishing begins again next January or February, tending to elevate the birds above the ironwork -- if that's the cause.

John A. Blakeman

Dear Readers, I've enlarged some words in the preceding exchange between Lincoln and John Blakeman about feather wear. As we are filled with anxiety about this year's outcome -- there is still no feeding at the nest -- those words should fill us with hope about the future. If no success this year, then much hope for next year when the hawks will be building on top of an existing layer of twigs.[As, for the first time, in 1995] Yours, Marie

PS Meanwhile, we haven't completely given up hope at the Hawk Bench. But after today..

Fourth Graders from PS 6 Visit Hawk Bench

Yesterday an enchanting group of 4th graders from a local public school came for a prearranged visit to the Hawk Bench. Lincoln took a day off to be there with his huge telescope with video screen. Frederic Lilien [to the right of me in the photo above] was there shooting [not prearranged] for his new sequel to Pale Male. Apart from the fact that I don't like being filmed, it was a wonderful morning. The kids were fascinated with the hawk story and asked very incisive questions.

Below is a letter from one of the 4th graders, Nina Gunther-Segal, whose mother Molly helped arrange the visit.

April 22, 2005

<> <>Mr. Daniel Feigelson

PS6 Elementary School

Dear Mr. Feigelson,

<> <>My name is Nina Gunther-Segal. I am a fourth grade student in Mr. Carter’s class. The reason I am writing is to ask you to name Pale Male, the world-famous red-tail hawk, as the official PS6 school mascot.

Pale Male is a big celebrity, and we are lucky enough to call him our neighbor. The first time I ever saw him was when he swooped down in front of me and snatched a squirrel off of Fifth Avenue. It was really amazing. In December I went to the demonstrations for the return of Pale Male’s nest. Luckily, Pale Male was allowed to return and he has now rebuilt his nest with his mate, Lola. Since Pale Male is our neighbor, I think it would be perfect to have him as our mascot. You would be telling the world that nature is important to PS6.

<>I know this is a very important decision for all of PS6. Maybe you could ask the whole school to vote on Pale Male as a mascot. I think this would be a great idea, because all the students could learn about this amazing hawk. Teachers could even take their students on field trips to the Model Boat Pond to see the hawks for themselves (Mr. Carter took our class on April 21). The kids might actually catch the same “wildlife bug” that has bitten me!

Here is a copy of Marie Winn’s amazing book, Red-Tails in Love, for the PS6 library. I’m sure that you and all the teachers will love it (I did!). Maybe they will teach their students about Central Park. After all, PS6 is only one block away from Central Park and there is so much to learn there.

<>Marie Winn supports the idea of Pale Male as our school mascot. I also talked with EJ McAdams, President of the NY Audubon Society, who also supports the idea. He told me that if you have any questions about Pale Male or red-tail hawks you could give him a call. You could also visit their websites: <>
Mrs. Winn’s website at

NYC Audubon at

Lincoln Karim’s website at

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.


What is the Oreo Building?

big>A website correspondent writes:
Dear Marie:
What and/or where is the Oreo Antenna??
Shelly Lane

I asked Donna Browne to illuminate,
since it comes from her report.
She writes:

The Oreo building, short for Oreo Cookie, is called so
because it is a chocolate brown building with a couple
of perpendicular cream colored stripes. It is the
building farthest north that can be seen while sitting
on the bench. I'm told it's at Fifth and 79th. On top
of the Oreo is a rectangular structure that hides the
building's water tower. On the top left of this
structure, as viewed from the Bench, is an antenna.
The Antenna,looking very much like something for TV
reception, is Pale Male's favorite perch of late.

Also on top of the water tower disguise, to the right
of The Antenna, is a raised grate from which we think
warm air escapes. This was one of Lola's favorite
spots during the chilly copulation and early
sitting-the-nest season.

Report from the Hawk Bench

Field Notes 4-20-05

Sunset 7:42PM,
Temp. 85F,
Wind SW, gusts to 20MPH,
Partly Cloudy,
Prey Tally-Starling

All times PM unless otherwise noted.
3:34 Lola deep in nest,head N, Pale Male on Oreo
4:00 Lola stands on rear nest looking NW, slight
mantle, preens.
4:05 Wide mantle.
4:06 Pale Male no longer on Antenna. Lola glances into
concave then settles carefully while looking down.
4:10 3 Gulls fly over 927, Lola invisible.
4:13 Helicopter circles area. Lola completely
4:16 Lola stands in concave, looks down, beak down.
4:17 Helicopter pass, Lola invisible.
4:28 Lola stands rear of nest, preens.
4:30 Extreme rapid preening.
4:32 Pale Male discovered Oreo Antenna.
4:38 Lola digs in nest lining then down. There are
two helicopters in the area, every time one appears,
Lola covers nest. It becomes clear that the oft
repeated thought of hiring a helicopter to discover
the number of eggs would not work unless an
appropriate angle could be found from extreme
4:40 Pale Male gone, Lola watches NW.
4:41 Lola arranges nest lining with feet.
4:58 Lola down.
4:59 Lola head to N watches N and W.
5:22 Lola stands rear of nest, preens shoulders.
5:24 Very alert to N and W, glances into concave.
5:28 Actively looking for ? Seems almost ready to
take flight.
5:31 Pale Male lands on nest with short thick twig or
strip of bark.
5:32 Lola off nest.
5:33 Pale Male down and up in concave, places twig,
watches W and N, then settles, head to N, looks W.
5:53 Pale Male standing, pants, looks into nest with
focus, digs.

The behavior from 5:54 to 6:01 breaks the rythmn of
the usual behavior of the last few weeks.

5:54 Pale Male flies off nest. Elizabeth reports beak
opening several times. Calls? Pale Male circles in
front of nest at least twice.
5:55 Pale Male returns to nest, looks into concave
with focus, then digs, looks down. Then looks to SW.
5:57 Pale Male down in nest head to S. Lola lands on
5:58-6:01 Pale Male off, lazy circles- 927, back and
forth Dr. Fischer, S of Boat Pond, Pilgrim Hill, Boat
Pond, Cedar Hill, Lola watches, then preens.
6:28 Lola sitting tail to bench.
6:52 Pale Male on Oreo Antenna, Lola head visible.
6:54 Lola stands, slight mantle of concave, she looks
into concave.
6:56 Wide mantle, very alert.
6:58 Stands on edge of nest, look into concave.
7:03 Preens oxter.
7:06 Lola settles into nest, Pale Male flies off
antenna and goes N.
7:10 Lola head to N, looks N.
7:23 Pale Male to nest with Starling. Lola takes prey
to Stovepipe railing, eats.
7:28 Pale Male down in nest, Lola circles over Pine
7:33 Lola to nest.
7:34 Pale Male to Pin Oak some feet E of favorite
roost Pin Oak.
7:35 Lola in concave looking down.
7:44 Lola watches Pale Male in Pin Oak.
7:53 Pale Male switches to a new branch, same tree.
Submitted- Donna Brown

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A new birder lucks out and a list from a birding Big Gun

These two bird photos, talken on April 17th arrived yesterday, attached to the letter below. The answer to her question is below her letter.

I was out this afternoon in CP on west side around 105-110 street and got these two photos. I have no idea what they are (new to birding). Do you know what they are?

Dear Nabil,
The first bird is a Hermit Thrush
The second bird is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Good work, spotting these two beautiful early migrants and getting photos of them. Good work, that is, for a new birder. Here is a list of yesterday's highlights from one of Central Park's best birders, David Speiser:

Of note today.
Prothonotary Warbler (oven)
Yellow Warbler (oven)
Blue Winged Warbler (Tupelo)
Prairie Warbler (south side Turtle Pond)
Chimney Swift
Norther Parula (south side Turtle Pond)
B&W Warbler

Again ,and in increasing numbers
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Also, Winter Wren and Brown Thrasher

David Speiser

Hatch Still Inconclusive -- But we go through this every year

Note: I've emphasized a few lines in Donna's report to point out the behaviors that seem to me to indicate a hatch. But not until we see feeding will we know for sure.

Field Notes 4-19-05

Sunset 7:39PM,
Temp. 78F
Fair Skies,
Wind SSW 5-10MPH,
Prey Tally-Pigeon, Rat,

All times are PM unless otherwise noted.
Early Report: Ric-Pale Male brought Lola half a
pigeon. Anne S. reports seeing Pale Male near Tanner
Springs with Gull diving at him.
3:48 Lola on nest, head to wall, preens.
3:50 Lola digs in lining, leans over.
3:53 Deep in nest.
3:55 Eyes above nest, looks WNW.
4:10 Lola stands, mantles nest.
4:12 Mantles higher allowing air between wings and
4:15 Into nest, out of sight.
4:22 Lola mantles.
4:25 Bent over, digging in lining.
4:35 Up and mantling.
4:39 Wide, high, mantle.

5:08 Lola low in nest, eyes over twigs.
5:33 Still down.
5:37.02 Lola off nest to W.
5:41.06 Pale Male to nest from W. Circles in concave
digging lining toward center.
5:42 Settles, eye through twigs to W.
5:50 Out of sight.
5:52 Lola to nest. (Some hypothesizing that as Lola is
not seen defecating in or off the nest, these short
interludes are bathroom breaks.)
5:53 Pale Male off, Lola watches him go.
5:54 Lola into concave, digs, tucks something under
herself with beak, disappears.
5:55 Eyes over top of twigs.
6:07 Lola stands, small mantle, preen, look to W to N
to W to E.
6:14 Panting, big mantle that fades to small.
6:21 Stands in concave,looks down, digs,
settles in,
tail to bench.
6:39 Leaning head into rear of nest.
6:56 Down in nest.
7:24 Pale Male to nest with rat.
7:25 Lola stands, Pale Male flies to Linda 1. Lola
eats rat rapidly high on nest, tail to bench.
7:30 Katherine observes Pale Male fly into and bump
window (agressive move.
7:32 Lola's eating slows.
7:36 Lola into nest beak down, settles.
Submitted-Donegal Browne

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Field Notes from the Hawk Bench 4/17

Note: 4/17 is the date we first began to think that a chick had hatched. These field notes give an idea of why. [On the other hand, maybe it was the heat that made her keep mantling...]

Field Notes 4-17-05

Sunset 7:37PM
Temp. 70F plus
Wind variable
Prey Tally-pigeon

2:50PM Lola on nest.
Pale Male on Oreo antenna.
2:58PM Pale Male off Oreo.
3:48PM Lola mantles concave.
3:59PM Back down.
4:06PM Pale Male on Oreo.
4:08PM Lola mantles concave, facing bench.
4:10PM Lola tail to N, sits high.
4:12PM Lola completely down.
4:15PM Eyes through twigs.
4:18PM Pale Male gone from oreo.
4:20PM Lola barely visible.
4:23PM Lola Calls. Pale Male Calls, he is circling.
4:24PM Lola off nest, Pale Male on.
4:25PM Pale Male slight twig arrangement, snuggles for
fit, back to bench.
4:26Pm Digging, head to N, beak movement, Calling?
4:27PM Pale Male disappears into nest.
4:29PM Eyes up VERY alert.
4:35PM Eyes through twigs Alert.
4:40PM Little head jerks, tucking egg under?
4:49PM Pale Male off nest, PR flight over bench. Lola
4:52PM Lola low.
5:15PM Lola stands, leans into concave, little head
moves toward self, carefully settles in.
5:29PM Lola stands, preens back.
5:30PM Lola mantles concave.
5:36PM Lola, tail up, head down, digging, turns body
and half sits.
5:56PM Mantles.
6:00PM Lola deep in nest, eye visible.
6:17PM Lola stands, preens chest, preens tail
6:20PM Lola's beak works, call?, sitting higher.
6:27PM Lola down.
6:29PM Pale Male to nest, lands N end with pigeon.
Lola stands S end of nest. Pigeon presented prepared,
no head, eviserated, fully feathered. Lola begins
eating, and remains an nest for full meal. Pale Male
remains alert, on guard, viewing territory. Lola eats
muscle portions inititially.
6:35PM Pale Male head to wall but watching Lola and
out. Lola finishes meat then to skin and swallows
bone. Lola has difficulty swallowing final fully
feathered wing, it is swallowed, comes back out a bit,
sticking from beak, then somewhat down again...neck
stretch, feather ends still visible in beak, then
6:45PM Pale Male off nest to W.
6:48PM Lola settles back into nest.
Submitted-Donna Browne

Blakeman answers Donnas questions about the Trump-Parc Hawks


You asked for my comments on the Trump Parc nest, after an egg was reportedly seen rolling out of the nest on two different occasions. Apparently the birds resumed incubating after the loss of the two eggs. You asked, "What's up over there?

The peculiarities of NYC red-tail hawk nesting (and other) behaviors never cease. I've just never encountered a nest where eggs did or could roll out. That simply should never happen. Eggs often cool in poorly constructed nests, which are rather frequent in young, inexperienced pairs. But to have an actually egg role out of a nest belies some severe nest construction problems. It just shouldn't happen.

I don't know what could cause this other than inadequate construction by the adults. Might there be a local shortage of nesting materials? Perhaps, but if so, the nest shouldn't have been constructed in the first place. If the nest were poorly assembled, it should have fallen apart early on, before eggs appeared. More importantly, the sitting parents should have detected the nest's fragility and inserted some restorative twigs and sticks. Why didn't they? I don't know. Once again, weird, from a wild rural red-tail's standpoint.

If red-tails could talk, could you imagine the conversations being passed among successful adults out in the country side? "Hey Wilma, did you hear the one about that kid and his mate who tried to build a nest on some building down the Hudson in that big city? The eggs rolled out of it! Can you imagine? Stay away from the city. Who knows what will happen to a hawk that tries to live down there. The eggs rolled out of the nest! It's shameful. Are they related to anybody you know? Hope not."

Apparently, an egg remains. Otherwise, the pair would no longer sit. Let's see what, if anything else, happens.

On another subject, Donna, you asked if red-tails might not "imprint" to a particular nest type or location. You noted, quite accurately that eyasses imprint, or become psychologically attached, even fixed, on their parents, or whoever else feeds them. This can be an irretrievable problem when humans try to raise eyasses, as the little hawks quickly think humans are their parents. Things get very sticky when the eyasses start to fly and grab food from any nearby "parent," any human then see. But that's another story.

So no, I can't altogether discount a nest "imprinting" factor. Perhaps the eyasses do have a tendency to put their nests up on ledges two or three years later, when they start house (or nest-) keeping. Nonetheless, I really think remoteness and solitude, the absence of human and pet clamor and possible visitation by nest predators is most likely the reason the birds are way up on the side of New York City buildings. Notice that a number of hawks have first tried tree nests in Central Park, including Pale Male. I still think red-tails are predisposed toward tree venues, which they abandon after they individually learn that trees in Central Park seldom offer the peace, quiet, and perceived safety a motherly red-tail hen wishes for herself and her eggs and offspring.


John A. Blakeman

Do we have chicks? A note and then Donna's Field Report of 4/16

Note to Pale Male & Lola Fans eagerly awaiting final confirmation that there are chicks in the nest:

When the chick hatch they are small, naked, and helpless [altricial]. They cannot raise their heads, and lie quite limp for at least the first few hours after hatching. [Source--BNA-#52 -account by Charles Preston] They become active by second day, begin to issue small calls.

Consequently they must be kept warm in order to survive. This the mother accomplishes by brooding, that is, sitting on top of them.

NOTE: Brooding is hard to distinguish from incubating, the activity Lola has been doing for the last month. The greatest difference, as we hawkwatchers have come to understand, is that the brooding female is sitting a little higher on the nest. Not necessarily ALL the time. But much more often than during the incubation period.

Because as of April 17 Lola began sitting higher on the nest a good part of the time, we believe she is brooding at least one chick. The chicks hatch asynchronously, that is, first one hatches, and a day opr two later the next one, and if there are three, then the third. So all this time Lola will seem to still be sitting on eggs. But she is likely to be brooding.

The confirmation will be when we see the parent birds standing on the edge of the nest making feeding motions, up-and-down, to an unseen something deep in the bowl of the nest. And then the same feeding motions at a different spot, indicating the feeding of another chick.

It may take 7-10 days for a chick to grow big enough to be seen from the model-boat pond. Although the nest is not as high as it has been in recent years, so it may be sooner.

But the bottom line: Without 100% certainty, we believe. Chicks.

Below is Donna's 4/16 Field Report. That is the day before we saw the changed position on the nest. I am eagerly awaiting her next reports, to see whatb other differences we can find.

Field Notes 4-16-05

Sunset 7:36PM,
Humidity 24%,
Wind NE 8,
Gusts to 20,
Prey Tally-None reported.

1:35PM Pale Male in nest, brow and eyes visible
peeking over twigs.
1:50PM Lola arrives on nest with a great beak full of
dried grass/long thin bark? Puts it down, Pale Male
immediately leaves the nest. Lola preens.
1:55PM Lola not visible in nest.
1:56PM Eyes become visible.
2:04PM Lola stands and digs, bead down, then settles
out of sight.
2:13PM Lola's head becomes visible, very alert.
2:23PM Lola looks WSW.
2:24PM Lola looks WNW
2:25PM Lola looks S.
2:26PM Lola looks N, extremely alert. Beak opens
several times, calls? Lola flies off the nest to WNW,
Boathouse, very fast. Sam runs in same direction. The
nest is left unatended.
2:29PM Lola returns to nest, settles in with some
footwork, looks N.
2:30PM Sam reports Lola has chased an intruder
Red-tail away, that was circling in the W.
2:40PM Lola invisible in nest.
2:43PM Pale Male discovered on Oreo antenna.
3:00PM Pale Male faces E.
3:01PM Lola invisible in nest.
3:06PM Pale Male up and into trees in W, with speed.
Lola completely invisible.
3:07PM Lola's eyes appear above nest, very alert,
looks W, then alert back and forth over surroundings.
3:13PM Lola stands, preens, stretches, then settles.
3:15PM Lola stands, vigilant.
3:18PM Lola looks W and N, into nest, settles.
3:22PM Vigourous preening while still on nest of upper
3:25PM Lola stands, arranges lining, back down, twig
3:26PM Pale Male discovered Carlyle 4, facing out.
3:27PM Lola down but shuffling around deep in nest.
3:36PM Lola stands, head to S, preens lower anterior,
head up,visual check, preen, check, preen lower back,
vigorous head scratching, down.
3:40PM Lola head up, looks W.
3:46PM Pale Male still on Carlyle 4. Lola, one eye
shows through twigs.
4:00PM Lola stands, preens, beak to concave.
4:04PM Settles.
4:07PM Pale Male heads W, Ramble.
4:21PM Lola stands, preens, works nest lining, preens
wing feathers, does lining work with feet.
4:25PM Settles.
4:28PM Lola head up alert to NW.
4:30PM Pale Male discovered on Oreo.
4:40PM Lola watches W and N.
4:43PM Lola stands, back to bench, some preening. Pale
Male is gone from Oreo.
4:47PM Lola invisible in nest.
5:03PM Lola stands, preens.
5:05PM Lola preens, 8 to 10 flying insects visible in
air around her, shuffles feet.
5:07PM Lola alert W.
5:27PM Pale Male to nest.
5:28PM Lola off to N and W.
5:29PM Pale Male tail to bench, shuffling, digging.
5:55PM Invisible in nest.
6:00PM Pale Male looks into concave.
6:05PM Pale Male peers through twigs.
6:28PM Nest exchange, Pale Male west and north. Lola
6:33PM Lola, deeply in nest, eye visible through
6:39PM Lola, stands, preens.
6:40PM Settles. Pale Male to ?
6:47PM Eyes above twigs.
7:04PM Golden light on Fifth.
7:07PM Lola stands,preens, surveys area to N.
7:10PM Lola settles in, then up, checks, preens chest.
7:11PM Back down. Pale Male discovered on Oreo
7:13PM Lola down in nest, through twigs something red
in beak? Whets beak on nest twigs.
7:14PM Lola stands head to bench, backs up squashing
tail into wall while turning, as if avoiding stepping
on something in concave, resituates in nest.
7:33PM Pale Male still on Oreo Antenna, preens chest
slightly, surveys area.
7:34PM Lola stands, preens right wing.
7:37PM Lola alert.
7:38PM Lights visible on Carlyle roof. Pale Male
still on Oreo.
7:4?PM Pale Male to W.
Exit circa 8:15

Submitted-Donegal Browne

Watson adds info about inbreeding and a tiny [but hopeful] note about Lilly

In a post yesterday, John Blakeman brings up the problems of inbreeding if some of the several redtails trying to nest around Central Park are Pale Male's progeny. Steve Watson responds with the note below:

In regards to the question about the CP red-tails being related and the concomitant possibility of inbreeding depression: there's a fascinating case of an isolated population undergoing inbreeding, that has been exceptionally well studied by some of the very best wildlife biologists.

The wolves on Isle Royale National Park arrived via travel on the ice in the 1950's, probably as a single pair. ALL wolves on the island today are descended from those original wolves, and so the population is genetically isolated, and undergoing inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity. The effects are starting to be seen as evidenced by bone abnormalities, including extra vertebrae, asymmetrical vertebrae, etc. Nevertheless, the population is not undergoing any dramatic losses. There are currently 3 packs and 30 wolves, about average for the population over time.

This population has been the subject of nearly a half-century of continuous research, one of the longest-running studies of a single population of carnivores ever. It forms a fascinating (essentially closed) ecosystem with perhaps as simple a predator-prey relationship as to be found anywhere in nature. More on this can be found at


Despite the inbreeding and abnormalities that are now showing up, "..the wolf population on Isle Royale continues to reproduce at normal levels. Furthermore, breeding wolves, at least, survive to old age. The continued success of this small, isolated population is presently one of our most interesting and important scientific issues. It has been impossible to accurately predict year-to-year developments in this protected population, and the wolves themselves are clearly defining what is possible." (2004-2005 Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale).

Isle Royale just came to mind when I read the Q & A regarding possible inbreeding in the CP red-tails!


P.S. Lilly had an interesting interaction with another kestrel today...we don't know what it means. Details at the website.

Screech watch-general report

Photo of the three fledglings taken by Owlwatcher on April 17, 2005
[Compare this with earlier photos and you'll see the transformation from baby to near-adult, all in the space of a month.

Last week the screech-owl family disappeared from their pine-tree day roost a bit east of 103rd Street. The pine tree --there were actually two pines, one right next to the other-- were within sight of the little body of water called The Pool, where parents and children stroll, couples sit on benches and smooch, dog-walkers walk --a pleasant Central Park hangout.

At the end of their night's hunting the owls always returned to those same trees day after day and the spot had become a gathering place for owl-watchers in need of an owl fix. [Yes, it's addictive. Beware. One look at the photo above, taken yesterday by Owlwatcher, one of the regular owl people who chooses to appear under a nom de plume, and you're in danger of becoming an owl junkie.]

They were gone. But owl-hunters are a determined bunch. Since the owls had been seen heading into the woods to the east, Donna Browne thought their new daytime refuge might be in that direction. Bravely she set off, accompanied on her owl prowl by Chris, another regular screech-owl watcher.

The two women located the little owl family last Wednesday in an oak tree down in the Ravine, not far from the open hill where the owls' pine-tree roost was located. Not far in physical distance, that is, but miles away psychologically. For the Ravine is in the deep woods. And the woods in the north part of Central Park are scary. It is a common belief that regular folk don't venture there, that it is the stomping ground of drug addicts, muggers, wild gangs of teenagers and the like.

Donna and Chris are small women--you might think they were foolhardy to venture into the dark woods. But they had another important escort, Cris's border collie named Fig.Fig is a well-behaved dog. But he has one habit that may be annoying under other circumstances but was welcome now: he barks fiercely at strangers.

They found the owl that night, but the very next night night when Donna and Samantha [her 13-year-old daughter] and I made another expedition to find the owls they weren't in that same tree. It was quite light when we began searching, but by the time we had scoured all the trees in the vicinity of that big oak night was falling. And no Fig. We gave up quite soon.

Subsequently two reports came in of owl sightings--one a sighting of the family back in their old pine tree, and one of them in a deciduous tree , a different one than the oak, down in the Ravine.

Well, last night they were easily found
not far from the Loch by a small group of owl hunters, . An hour before sunset they were all very visible on a scraggly, slightly bent-over deciduous tree quite near the side of the stream. At about 7:25 they all began to preen, and flyout began around 7:40, a few minutes after sunset.

A few whinnies after flyout -- I think it is the sound the parents make to keep the kids together. A bit of chittering by the fledglings -- Feed me feed me. And then they disappeared in the direction of the deeper woods.

It's time for the last gathering of the BirdFeeder Squad. I'll have to save the incident of the Owls and the Pussycat and the Owls and the Homeboys for tomorrow or the next day.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Most of the time you know when a baby is born. You hear the cry in the delivery room. You see the kittens or puppies in their litter box. You watch the butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. But when, as in the case of the Fifth Avenue Redtails, the baby is in an egg in a nest 12 stories above the ground, and you cannot see into nest from the roof [the overhang is too big] or from any nearby window on a neighboring building [there are setbacks that prevent a direct view] then you have to go by indirect signs to tell when that baby has cracked its shell and come out into the world.

Yesterday, April 17th, 2005, at a little before four in the afternoon, the hawkwatchers gathered at the Model-boat Pond saw a very telling though indirect sign. Instead of sitting low in the nest as she has been doing for the last 30 or so days, Lola began sitting higher. While earlier only the top of her head, her beak, and her very alert eye were visible to the watchers below, now her entire head and some of her body were plainly seen. And every once in a while she would spread her wings and seem to be holding them over something in the nest -- mantling, that behavior is called.

Of course it was an exceptionally warm day, with the temperature up in the 70"s for the first time this year. It could be that this change in behavior was brought about by the heat. But we have learned from experience that the higher sitting position, and the act of mantling an unseen presence in the nest always means that a chick has hatched. The newborn is still too small to be seen over the top of the nest. But we can be reasonably sure that it is there, by the changed behavior of the female.

So that's the news. We can't say with 100% certainty, and yet we are almost certain that at least one of the chicks has hatched. As Charles Kennedy, the beloved hawkwatcher who died last October used to say at such moments: Hallelujah!

Blakeman answers some previous questions

Got some time this afternoon. I was to do a nice 50-acre prairie burn, but rain doused that idea, quite literally.
Mai Steward submitted some good questions. Here are my thoughts.
1. I've been wondering about all the digging / footwork that goes on in the nest, as noted by Donna Brown -- are the hawks just making the nest more comfortable for themselves (esp. Lola, since she spends so much time just sitting there), or is there another reason for this foot activity, perhaps connected with the incubation of the eggs?
Mai, Donna and some others have noted this. I don't know what it is. I don't recall my captive breeders doing any over-the-eggs-dance, and I don't recall seeing this in wild nests. But the birds do a lot of wiggling, rocking, and maneuvering when settling down. Perhaps this appears to be digging, from distant, lateral viewpoints. But it may also be a real digging motion. Perhaps this relates to the pigeon spikes below the nest. Perhaps the birds are repositioning lining materials as they feel the ends of the spikes below the nest. Nesting red-tails often reposition lining and even some feathers around the eggs in the nest. But I'll have to plead ignorance on this.
2. I've noticed how protective PM is of the nest site, it's really cute and touching -- probably this is deeply ingrained instinct -- and also how Lola seems to know, many minutes in advance, of PM's arrival, even when he's out of sight -- as reported by Donna Browne, Lola's head is up, she's alert, looking intently in the very direction from which PM soon swoops in .
Remember, red-tailed hawks are animals of vision, not smells, or even much of sounds. What they see is essential to their lives. And they have remarkable eyesight, as everyone knows. So yes, they are in constant visual contact, or at least they have a good perception of where the other mate is when out of site. Lola, when sitting on the nest, has a very good idea of what Pale Male is up to when he comes into sight. If he’s got a food morsel, she can see it from across the Park or way down the street. If PM comes back with nothing, she understands that he’s gliding in to give her a breather, a chance to stand up, defecate (“slice”), and even take off on wing for a time. (We human dads aren't nearly so instinctively understanding and accommodative of the similar needs of our wives have while tending to our children. We have some lessons to learn here.)

3. Regarding the ledge-nesting of not just PM, but also the younger pair on CPS, I thought this was the result (esp. in PM's case) of harassment by crows and blue jays -- that PM + mate had attempted several times to create nests in trees, but they were forced to give up because these birds made it impossible for them -- or am I mistaken? In fact, all the birds in CP live quite close together, compared to out in the wild -- Was this a factor in PM's retreat to 927?
This is an interesting, even plausible reason for the abandonment of initial tree nests inside the Park per se. But, I don't think so. Doubtless, red-tails can be harassed unmercifully by crows and jays, and they often just retreat to some distant perch when so pestered in non-breeding areas. But don't forget that should a red-tail elect to do so, it can grab a mobbing jay or crow right out of the sky.
We know from one or two very well done studies that most birds are able to detect the aggressive intentions of red-tailed hawks, especially as they relate to the hawk’s hunger. I've personally seen this with perched captive red-tails in my backyard, and occasionally with wild eyasses out on their first personal hunts in July. If a red-tail is hungry and on the hunt, many species of smaller birds can detect this from the hawk’s body stance. The hawk leans over and has an “I'm hunting” look. Humans can discern this after a bit of time. (This is a wonderful experience for me. As I travel down country roads and see red-tails perched, I can almost always read the bird’s mind set, as expressed by it’s posture. I can tell when it’s hunting, loafing, or watching nearby threats. It’s all body posture. Birds have learned this instinctively.) If the hawk is hungry, songbirds will mob the hawk, trying to drive it off. If it’s not hunting, the other birds pay no attention to it. as it presents no threat.
But here’s a remarkable story, one that my compatriot doing the two-year study of Ohio red-tails observed. It was noted that almost all red-tail nests in flat, Lake Plain northern and northwest Ohio had the remains of male red-winged blackbirds. Red-wings commonly nest in harems in hayfields and along ditches. A proud, testosterone-warped male (with the bright red epaulet wing feathers) stands guard over his several wives raising young in nests within the male’s territory. Now a red-tail can't possibly capture a free-flying, diligently observant red-winged blackbird. When being chased by a hawk, they fly too adroitly to be captured. We wondered for some time where and how so many red-tails were capturing so many red-wings, and why they were always just males, never a female.
The answer may relate to jay and crow harassment in Central Park tree nests. (Or, maybe it doesn't – but it’s good story, anyway.)
Here is what was observed. Red-tails are famous for “doing the rounds,” for punctually moving from one hunting perch to another while circulating around a hunting territory. At 10:30 AM a resident male could be seen sitting in a particular tree, peering out over the landscape for prey. Every day at about 10:40, the bird would then take off and fly a half mile to another, well-used hunting perch. After a time there, the bird would move on again. In watching this every day, we were able to put dots on maps signifying perches, along with arrival and departure times. The hawks are noted to be very methodical and punctual in covering the entire hunting territory, often several square miles. None of this was random wandering.
It was noted, however, that when moving from hunting perch to hunting perch, the hawks often passed over hay fields or stretches of roadside ditches with resident red-winged blackbird populations. And as mentioned above, the patriarch red-wing males could see that the hawk passing above was on the hunt. The red-wing flew up to the passing hawk on the first day, mobbing as it flew over. It was trying to protect its females and young in the nests below. Just as soon as the hawk passed out of the red-wing’s territory, the blackbird dropped back down to attend to its females.
But because the hawk flew over the red-wing area each day on its hunting rounds, the red-wing male (males being males), became ever more perturbed with the passing hawk. Each day, the mobbing red-wing would fly every closer to the passing red-tail. At first, the blackbird stayed 4 or 5 feet away in its pesterings. The next day, it got closer. Finally, on a final day, after being impossibly emboldened, the red-wing actually dropped down onto the red-tail’s back – a fatal mistake. At this point the hawk turned over and snatched the red-wing out of the air with instant ease.
This was seen several times, and we are absolutely certain that by flying repeatedly over the red-wing areas day after day, the red-tails were setting up the red-wings for an easy, effortless kill. They deliberately suckered the red-wing males in by slightly slowing their flight and dropping down to just 20 or 30 feet above the nests of the blackbird nests below each day. The red-wing males perceived, quite erroneously, that they were successfully driving off the marauding red-tail each time. But in fact, the red-tails were setting things up for an easy meal for their eyasses back at the nest. The hawks had to fly over the red-wing territories each day anyway while making their hunting circuits. It was an easy and smart thing to lure in the hapless, testosterone-polluted blackbird males. Smart hunters, our red-tails.
What might that have to do with blue jay and crow harassment around a tree nest in Central Park? I have no doubt that should a red-tail wish, it could easily reach up and grab a mobbing jay or crow, after luring it in. Red-tails can maneuver their legs and feet as quick as cat, and they have a very long reach. If a Central Park red-tail wanted to put an end to smaller-bird harassment, I think it could very quickly.
Well why, then, didn't that happen? Not sure. But jays and crows, as we know, are very intelligent. If one is lost to a scheming hawk, the others will have the good sense to retreat and stay way. Obviously, the Central Park red-tails didn't grab many crows (or any at all). As I asked before, were the hawks overly occupied and concerned with the large numbers of ubiquitous Central Park animals that seemed to pose a continuing threat to nests and eggs? Those, of course, may have been both humans and dogs, species the hawk knows that it can't fend off by a quick punch of an extended leg.
Your observation that bird populations in Central Park are compressed and compacted is astute. That may be the real answer. Collectively, there may be too many birds, mammals, and other environmental disruptions too close to the nest to allow calm and peaceful nest building and incubation. The confluence of other species of birds, wild mammals, multitudes of people, dogs, bicycles, and whatever else frequents Central Park, is too great to allow normal red-tail nesting in trees just above this persistent clamor. I continue to marvel at the disruptions that Central Park red-tails abide; ones that my wild rural hawks wouldn't at all.
My wild, rural red-tails might ask a Central Park hawk, “Are you nuts? How can any self-respecting red-tail live here with all of this?”
4. If the younger hawks in CP are PM offspring, are their mates, as well? (Which would probably not be good for their reproduction, as JB has mentioned) Or is it possible that other female hawks were somehow attracted to these males, the way PM's mates have just shown up?
Mai, you got this question quite right. If all or the majority of CP red-tails are Pale Male progeny, we are watching a chapter near the end of the book, which will be a tragedy, expressed in the final chapters with accounts of failed nests, genetically deficient eyasses, and the eventual loss of the formerly productive, aged-out parents. The genetic difficulties of inbreeding are surely a problem for red-tails as much as any other species. If all the red-tails are related, even with different mothers, the inbreeding loads on the population will eventually overwhelm it. Unless some unrelated outsiders elect to come in to broaden the genetic base (or have in the past), we would be watching only a curious, even aberrant natural history diversion, not a continuing red-tail occupation of Central Park.
Therefore, I'd like to think that at least the mates of the 927 progeny are unrelated. Once again, everyone can see the unparalleled value of banding data. As before, we are guessing. Until we can get some reliable ID info, we'll just have to hope and guess.
There may be so many prey species in Central Park, so many easily captured pigeons, squirrels, and rats, that parents are neither motivated (by hunger or shortage of food specimens) to drive out the new eyasses each summer, nor to drive out nearby new nesting residents. There may be too much food around, allowing offspring to hang around home and never go off to college or work (to a new, distant territory). If all the hawks are related, this is going to genetically complicate matters rather lethally in a generation or two.
Lots more to ponder. Super observations and questions. As always, wish I had more definitive answers. But those of us who initially study wild species in wild habitats (even in Central Park) are always frustrated by the inherent murkiness of our understandings. None of this is physics, where hard numbers quantify the truth. It’s all a bit “soft,” but wondrously so. Everyone, keep watching and thinking,.

John A. Blakeman

Blakeman: The Prognosis for the Kestrels is poor

I sent Steve Watson's letter about the demise of his nesting male kestrel Dash to John Blakeman, just as Steve had suggested I do. Below is his realistic, not unexpected response. Then after that I am including Steve's letter I received last night. He had read Blakeman's response. He too, as you will see, is realistic. But Hope is the thing with feathers.

The loss of the Pasadena kestrel tiercel is unfortunate, albeit by a natural element, another avian predator, a hawk even.. The death of the little falcon is gruesome enough, but things are not likely to go well for the surviving mate and the developing eggs the pair was incubating. It is highly unlikely that the female will be able both hunt to feed herself and also remain on the eggs to keep them warm enough to stay alive. The only hope is that a large, easily accessible prey population (such as numerous grasshoppers or mice) is right outside the nestbox. Given that this is on institutional grounds, I doubt that the female will be able poke her head out of the nestbox, find a food animal to capture, quickly drop down on it, consume the prey, and then promptly resume her requisite incubation duties. The poor female has too many required tasks to accomplish. Without the supporting male, things don't augur well for the kestrel family.
And even if the eggs were to hatch right away, the single falcon would be hard-pressed to find sufficient food to raise the eyasses.
Almost surely the incubating female will be driven by hunger to leave incubation and head out for food. Her chances of consistently finding, capturing, and consuming it in 10- to 20 minutes, time after time, probably three or four times a day until the eggs hatch, and additionally until the eyasses are 6 to 10 days old, when they can stay warm by themselves, are very bad.
All of us need to confront the cold, natural reality that what happens to the prey of our beloved red-tails and kestrels also happens, from time to time, with our hawks as well. Unlike the plot of a novel or movie, we don't get to presume that nature's story will always turn out as we prefer. Accept the fact that nature is it not always as we wish it. Nature (to personify it -- an error) has no concerns about individuals, only populations. The kestrel population of Southern California is probably fine. Our observed family is now in disarray, with the eggs soon to die, leaving the mother a widow and alone. Cruel and disheartening, but coldly authentic.
If the mother kestrel escapes any future attacks of the sharp-shinned hawk and survives (very likely), she will retreat to a normal day to day life of personal hunting, to eat and survive. It's almost surely too late for her to find another male who could copulate and sire young this late in the season. A reproductive year has been lost. Things will have to resume next year, with a new male.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Things will work out, but again, only from the perspective of an entire kestrel population. This pair is no more. The remaining female could be killed, or she could survive, mate with an new male next year, copulate, and bring off a new brood of four kestrel eyasses. But that's next year's story. For now, we can only contemplate.
I recommend that the nest box not be cleaned out. Remove only the dead eggs. Leave the lining material in there Kestrels prefer older, settled lining material. Next November, you might want to take a peek inside and see that enough wood chips, excelsior, or other material remains. Merely add enough to make up the difference of what was compressed or lost. Don't take it all out. Do that in the second or third year after young have grown up in there, cleaning out the mutes and old food debris. Sadly, there won't be any of that this year.
Does everyone understand that life in nature is cold, cruel, harsh, even unforgiving for all? This episode authenticates it. Be careful about inappropriate, even romantic explanations for what has occurred. It's real nature, not always as we'd like.
I thank Steve for arranging for the camera. Do it again next year, when we might be able to see a kestrel family being raised.

John A. Blakeman

Hope springs eternal

From Steve Watson:

We pretty much expected John's response to be something like that. The only thing that might make a difference is that the nestbox is not on institutional grounds as John thought, but rather is behind our house in open space. She's been hunting today several times, and has been successful. I think there's a lot of food out there, but of course, we're not really expecting that this will work out. Still, hope springs eternal...

The one thing we don't know is the temperature issue for the eggs. Assuming she could find sufficient prey, how constant and at what temperature would these eggs need to stay to be viable? We are in sunny Southern California, after all :)

Anyway, my thanks to John for his detailed response. We've watched enough predation in the wild to fully understand how tough life for wild creatures can be.


I had also sent Steve the almost certain news of our hatched chick. At the end of his philosophical letter he added:

Congratulations on the chick! That's such good news after a wild year (nest taken down, etc.).We'll be watching Pale Male and Lola from here, as well as wishing the best for our now solitary kestrel.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Screech-Owl Story that is not about Screech-Owls


As you may remember from Donna's field report of two days ago, the little owl family that had moved to an oak down in the dark woods known as the Ravine, were not found by the owl hunters the next day [4/14]. We wandered around the dark, creepy woods for an hour or so, and never heard a single haunting whinny or fledgling chitter.

The day after that, [4/15], I planned to get up to the North Woods nice and early, well before sunset, to try to find the new Screech-Owl roost. That was my plan until an e-mail arrived just as I was leaving my office: Prothonotary Warbler at the Lower Lobe. Of course I had to check it out before heading for the owls. A prothonotary warbler is a big event in Central Park. And I had missed an early sighting of the golden-colored warbler the day before.

At around 5 p.m. I got out of the subway at Central Park West and 72nd Street. Though for some political reasons the south-western end of the Lake had been renamed Wagner Cove quite a few years ago, birders never call it anything but the Lower Lobe. As I came out of Strawberry Fields and waited for the traffic light at the West Drive to change, I could see the Lower Lobe through the still un-leaved branches of the bushes at the water's edge. There I could already see a crowd of birdwatchers peering through binoculars at something low and nearby.

The light changed and I broke into a run. Up the path to the parking lot, then to the top of the little hill with steps leading down to the Lower Lobe I trotted. As I reached that spot, that was the instant that all the birdwatchers lowered their binoculars. Rats! Double rats! The bird had just flown away.

I was just just rounding the corner from the disappointing Lower Lobe to head for the uptown owls when I ran into Chris Cooper, a superb birder whose presence in Central Park signals the real beginning of the spring migration. He shows up at the very beginning of the migration as dependably as the first Pine Warbler. At the end of May, when the last batch of Blackpoll Warblers are beginning to trickle out, Chris Cooper disappears until the following spring.

He too had received an email and was there for the prothonotary. In self-pitying tones I told him that I had missed the bird by a few seconds.

He looked at me in disbelief. "You're not giving up so easily?" He asked.

"Well, I ..."

I returned to the Lower Lobe with Chris. Just as we got to the top of the stairs heading down to the water we could see a small group of birders gazing at something with binoculars. One of them was Barrie Raik, a birding friend who clicked her camera just as Chris and I lifted our binoculars and gazed too. The photo at the top is what her camera captured at that moment.

The warbler stayed until it was almost too dark to see. And I never got to the screech owls that day.

Report from the Hawk Bench --4/15

Field Notes 4/15/2005

Sunset 7:35PM,
Temp. 51F,
Humidity 78%,
Wind variable 8 to 15,
Sunny and cool,
Prey Tally- pigeon.

AM Report: When asked, Ric replied,"The usual." He
then showed me the red spot at the S end of the Boat
Pond where a pigeon had been taken.
3:48PM Lola on the nest, tail to bench, in bright sun.
Pale Male not in sight.
4:11PM Lola still has her tail to the bench but now is
crooked around so her head is to the S.
4:12PM Lola stands, her posterior to bench, preens
chest and back, turns and stares into nest for about
15 seconds, goes back to preening.
4:16PM Lola disappears into nest.
4:19PM Eye visible through twigs.
4:20PM Pale Male discovered on Linda 5.
4:29PM Pale Male up and flies N and then W circling
over Boat Pond, trees W of Pond N of Hans, circles
over Boat House, Lola watches.
4:37PM Lola stands, preens chest meticulously, then
wing and mid-back.
4:41PM Lola down but still preening.
5:13PM Lola stands, preens upper chest, alert looks W,
preens left wing.
5:18PM Pale Male lands N end of nest from the W.
5:20PM Lola off. Pale Male into nest, surveys area.
Digs moving in half circle. Settles head to N.
5:2?PM Pale Male half down and digging. Then stands,
5:28PM Pale Male head to S.
5:49PM Lola lands on nest, Pale Male invisible in
concave, he doesn't appear...pause, pause,
pause...Lola steps closer, Pale Male stands.
5:51PM Pale Male up and circling over N end of Boat
Pond. Lola watches.
5:52PM Pale Male circling to W.
6:00PM Lola in nest, alert to W, then N.
6:05PM Pale Male discovered on Carlyle 3.
6:08Pm Lola down, just eyes.
6:30Pm Lola alert looking through twigs, Pale Male
still on Carlyle.
6:35PM Pale Male, wings locked, does a spectacular
dive/swoop from Carlyle 3 all the way over to beyond
the bench tree line, trajectory slightly N of Hans.
6:45PM Exit from Bench Area
6:55PM Prothonotary Warbler, lower lobe near small
rustic gazebo.

And for those who asked why a Prothonotary Warbler was
called such....
The name "Prothonotary" comes from a Prothonotary, the
chief clerics or secretary of the Byzantine, Greek, or
Roman Catholic church, who keep special records and
wear a bright yellow hood.

Submitted: Donna Browne