Saturday, July 30, 2005

FRIDAY - fledgling in the fading sunlight: Photo by Lincoln Karim

FRIDAY very early morning - Donna reports

Irene, who lives on Central Park South, invited me and two other hawkwatchers [Kelley and Donna] to come for a very VERY early hawkwatch from her building's roof. We hoped to see Junior leave his usual night roost on a nearby building to get an early start on his day's activities. He wasn't on his usual roost when we looked out, but when we headed for the park soon afterwards we saw evidence of his early morning's work. Below is a detailed report on our adventure
from Donna, who started her morning even earlier than the rest of us:

Breakfast served early but eaten Late

Before 5AM, no creatures stirred but the homeless as I
looked in the dark at Central Park, waiting to meet
the others. Yet on the hour, other urban creatures
roused themselves. The House Sparrows nesting in the
streetlight crossbars began to chirp, two minutes
later a single Robin's chuck sounded, and five minutes
after that a lone pigeon on 220 began to preen. The
vanguard for his kind, who within scant minutes more,
would all be up about their morning business of
bathing and eating the oats left by the horse
carriages from the night before.

At 5:15AM we met, Marie, Irene, Kelley, and I, but no
hawks were discovered in the air despite our rooftop
view. So off to where we'd left Little
the night before, near CPW and 61st street, to be
rewarded at 6:15 by hearing him beg.

One minute later
Junior flew into view NW of the Greyshot Arch but
after looking around left again. Little truly started
begging in earnest but by 6:30 in the interests of
hygiene had begun preening his spotted pantaloons and
begging at the same time.

At 6:33 Junior appears with a mouse in his beak. He
flies to the London Plane branch where his son is perched
and gives him the mouse. There is a flurry of wings
and talons, then stillness. Little has dropped it.
They both look down. There it is, one fresh breakfast
mousie in the middle of the sidewalk. Little's begging
becomes almost a yodel. A pair of Westies walk
towards the mouse, their mistress distracted we
watch, but the dog's leashes don't quite allow them to
reach it. By now, Little has developed a beg with far
more syllables per breath then ever before.

There's a pause. Junior down to the sidwalk. He
looks around, retrieves the mouse, flies to the bridge
with it, and returns it to Little in his tree for
another try. Even more of a frenzy of wings and
talons, but once again Little drops it. Down it goes
right in the path of an oncoming pedestrian who,
completely oblivious, steps upon it and keeps on
walking. Junior flies away east.

At 6:45 Little flies down to the border of shrubs near
the stone wall, he pounces, wings spread, on a good
sized rock. Lifts it with both taloned feet, and
bops it on the ground. Bam, bam, bam. It is now a
very dead rock.

Junior brings another mouse and flies to the lawn.
Little takes off running faster than a speeding chicken,
which he rather looks like until talons flashing, he
grabs the mouse in his beak and flip, it flies out of
his beak and into a small patch of five inch grass.
It is the only strands not cut to uniform height in the
entire place. He can't find his breakfast and begs.

Junior either not having found it either or perhaps
seeing it as a training exercise for Little in finding
food for himself, goes to sit on a nearby lamp post.
Little flies to the same post, Junior is off, Little
is on. He waits. Nothing.

At 6:50 Little is off the lamp, back to the bushes,
pouncing, hopping, and Ta DA, he's killed some bark,
which he holds in his beak.

Then Little runs after a squirrel that comes right
back after him. She jumps at him, he jumps back
wards, then forward, the squirrel is up the tree a few
feet and then back down to dive at Little, two other
squirrels appear battle ready. Needless to say Little
does not have squirrel for breakfast but does do some

Junior sits in his London Plane and watches. Then to
a small tree behind our bench, Little follows. Then
Little to the wall of the arch, where a female jogger
is rather surprised to see him a foot from her nose.

By 7:21 after a number of perches, Little is back to
the shrubs and bushes. A few minutes later he is up
on the stone wall of the park, facing out, scratching
his head, and watching a bus parked a scant few feet
away loading passengers.

At 7:32 Junior retrieves the mouse from the grass, and
flies with it to the tree behind our bench, Little
begs. Then Little flies after Junior but lands at bit
clumsily below him, begging. Junior looks down. He is
not moved. Little must come to him. Little hops and
walks up some ramp-like branches and finally at 7:33
AM, exactly an hour from when Junior originally
appeared with a mouse, Little finally gets his
breakfast, manages to keep it, and gobbles it down
whole. Junior flies a scant bit south to a London
Plane and perches.

At 7:40AM on our way out, we looked up, and there was
Junior, his beak tucked in for a moment's doze.

A well deserved rest I think, because as everyone
knows, feeding toddlers is never easy.

-- Reported by Donna Browne--

FRIDAY afternoon

Friday in the life of the grandkids: Bruce Yolton sends afternoon pictures and writes:

1. Dad brings a 4:10 pm snack (I think it's Dad)
2. A fledgling, as a child walks by with a balloon
3. Mom on the Christopher Columbus statue's head in Columbus Circle (These really are urban birds!)

[All photos by Bruce Yolton]

Friday, July 29, 2005

Baby falls asleep in plain sight

7/28/05 --Photo by Bruce Yolton
Fledgling falling asleep with nictitating membrane closed

Field Notes 7-28-05

Last quarter moon,
Temp. 81F,
Humidity 52%,
UV high,
Wind SE 5-10MPH,
Prey Tally-mouse.

All times PM unless otherwise noted.
7:03 Fledgling sitting in a tree near CPW, the bridge,
and the far west restrooms.
7:05 Fledge up and lands near stone wall and near
squirrel, squirrel rushes the fledge, who retreats to
a tree still W of the path, but slightly nearer the
7:08 Moves to London Plane, Jr. arrives and perches in
tree S of Fledgling.
7:09 Fledgling to London Plane nearer bridge.
7:14 F. to Jr.'s perch, then Jr. up, numerous perch
switches, with constant begging.
7:22 F. hunkers down on branch. (First I thought it
looked like Little, now I'm wondering if it's Big.)
8:07 Jr. swoops after mouse on lawn, between Rest Room
and Columbus Circle.
8:11 Jr. to tree beyond curve, perches momentarily
where F. will later find food, then off and beyond
8:13 Fledgling's nictitating membrane closes, opens,
8:25 Jr. arrives with a mouse, perches in tree some
distance from fledge who does not beg.
8:27 F. slices.
8:33 F. switches branches within same tree and is
suddenly eating something? Where's Jr?
8:45 Last known roost for Jr. on Green Glass checked.
He's not in residence.
9:05 Return to fledgling's last known perch of the day,
extremely dark and unable to find if she's still
9:50 Exit.
Submitted-Donna Browne

Junior and Charlotte: quintessential urban hawks

Regular Trump Parc hawkwatcher Bruce Yolton observes:

These birds are so much more urban than Pale Male and Lola. These last few weeks have certainly gotten the "amateur behaviorist" part of my brain excited.

The CPS pair roost in 60 story buildings, made their nest from materials on
balconies - not from down in the park, control the "canyon" that exists as a
half pipe down 58th Street and exits at Columbus Circle where the birds find great updrafts, built a nest 35 floors high and seem to control more urban area than park area. After being up on a few roofs, I realized that the
high territory has far fewer humans than the low park area, and must be much safer.

In regard to the debate between John Blakeman and this website about whether red-tailed hawks are early risers, Catherine Doyle, a regular website correspondent, writes:

The NYC hawks are just taking on the character of NYC. You snooze you lose. Early bird gets the rat.

Unlike places out of NYC, where slow and steady wins the race.

I love the comparisons between NYC red tails and non-NYC red tails. Amazing how living creatures adapt to survive and thrive.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Is everything all right?

In recent days I've been getting some anxious e-mails from readers who have been following the progress of a hawk's nest for the first time.

For example:

Subject: What happened yesterday?

Hi Marie. Yesterday morning [someone] told me that he heard on his radio that a hawk was on the ground in the south part of the park and couldn't fly. I've been checking your site and Lincoln's site constantly for any news, but nothing. What happened?

I would be very grateful for any information. . .Worriedly, Rosemarie

We oldtimers started out worried about everything too. I remember spending sleepless nights worrying. Then, each year, as we observed what magnificently capable creatures these Red-tailed hawks are, our anxiety level went down.

Here's what I wrote to Rosemarie:

Everything's fine. These rumors spread like wildfire. The babies spend time on the ground and people think they're sick...or crazy. In fact, they're toddlers.

Two more fledgling pix

Here are the two pictures of "Big" , the female fledgling, that I didn't post yesterday. They were taken by Bruce Yolton , one of this years devoted hawkwatchers. You may notice something odd about Big's eye in the second picture, a whitish film making it look like his eyes are injured in some way. What you see is the nictitating membrane, a sort of "second eyelid" that lies under the bird's main eyelids. Once Big is completely asleep, he'll close his eyelid also.

Q & A about the fledglings

I forwarded the following letter to Blakeman and received a promt reply.

Now that the little Juniors are in the park, I was wondering what would happen if they start
heading North-East in the park and get into Grandpa's territory? Is there any danger for the little Jr's if that happens? I am assuming that young hawks would be oblivious to territorial issues.
John Blakeman answers:

The young birds, as they begin to learn to fly with alacrity, will begin to explore Central Park. At the first, they will remain in the south, near their natal region. As they grow stronger and begin to start hunting themselves, they will drift further afield. But if they are perceived by resident adults, Pale Male Sr., and Lola, as intruders, the adults will fly out and challenge the youngsters. They aren't likely to make any physical contact. They will just fly out with an attitude of superiority. The young birds will fly out of the area, with their tails figuratively between their legs. These birds instinctively understand the signaling intents of the parents. They are safe. They will just have to move back home when challenged.
That will work as long as their own parents allow them to stay. But in August or September (late, for this late pair), Jr. and Charlotte are likely to drive the young birds out of the south end of the park. The birds may then just get up in the air and join a stream of fall migrants heading south. They may never be seen again as they disperse in migration. Only two to four migrants out of 10 ever return the following spring. Their greatest danger is not from territorial challenges of nearby adults. It's their ability to find food during the fall and winter.
John A. Blakeman

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Do our hawks hunt early? Blakeman still demurs, but another piece of evidence surfaces

Though Kelley [in yesterday's post] observed Pale Male Junior leaving his night perch at 5:18 a.m., in today's message, below, John Blakeman sticks to his guns about redtails' morning activities, or lack thereof.. But another piece of evidence contradicts our Ohio expert's considered opinion. It follows Blakeman's letter.

Marie and Kelley,
As so often in the past, the Central Park red-tails have made me the fool again.
5:18 am!? No self-respecting rural hawk has done any more than ruffle its feathers at that hour.
I'll concede the hawk's early morning flight, as it was well-observed by Kelley. But what did the bird do once it flew over into the park? I'm betting that it took up a typical red-tail perch within the upper branches and foliage of a tree, and once there went about its leisurely preparations for a normal day's activities. I seriously doubt it went over there in pursuit of any pigeons or rats. It probably parked itself on a limb and casually lifted a spare leg into its belly feathers and passed the time at ease until mid-morning.
. . .

Kelley, I thank you for getting up so early and recording red-tail activities at such an obscure hour. Valuable information. Was this a one-time event, or does the hawk perch on a building each evening and then quietly scoot over to a tree in the park each morning? Could be. Keep us posted, all. The hawks flying around in the park aren't dice in a roulette wheel. Nothing with them is just chance or random, even at 5:18 in the morning.


John A. Blakeman

And here's the contradictory evidence to suggest that Junior and Charlotte are not spending their early mornings preening: an e-mail from hawkwatcher Irene Payne, who lives near the Trump Parc nest.

... I did start getting up early since the eyasses fledged to see if I could see where the feeding was taking place. I started Saturday - 7/23 - trying to start at 5:30. At 6:10am.Junior was soaring around - actually right over my head with a rat in his talons. At 6:12 Charlotte joined him for a fly around. A minute or two later they disappeared for me towards the nest site. I never saw what happened to that rat. The next thing I saw was Charlotte flying to the CNN sign at 7:25 a.m.

Babies in the Park: Donna

Hello Marie,

Just as I got off the subway, Stella called. She had
heard begging and Jays scolding. Sure enough there was
F-2, Little, deep in the foliage of a tree within the
construction fence across the transverse west of the
7th Ave. entrance. (The phones lines began to buzz.)

Junior was in attendence with a black rat. At 7:08
Jr. changed perches and prepared the rat, Little's
begging increased in pitch and rapidity. 7:10 Jr.
brought the rat to Little, who continued to beg even
with the rat right there in his talons. Finally he
ate it and started begging once again.

By then Lincoln and Arthur had arrived and a bit of a
crowd was gathering. My phone rang and it was Irene.
John had discovered Big in a tree just west of Little Hill.
By the time I got there at 8:05, Big was in a London
Plane, right there beautifully exposed for photography
but also surrounded by a mob of scolding Blue Jays and
a single Robin. The Robin continued scolding long
after the Jays had given it up. The phones had done
their work and the clan had gathered: Jean, John,
Arthur, Lincoln, Ben, Bruce, Irene, Stella, numerous
bicyclists, and tourists.

By 8:30 Big's head was nodding, her eyes shut, then she'd
jerk awake and do a bit of preening and then her head
would fall forward with her beak in her breast feathers again.

By 8:30 Kelly had arrived with the news that at 8:20
Junior had gone to roost on the Green Glass building.
(Interesting since both Fledglings were in the Park,
so perhaps he's been using it for months.) Everyone
was looking through the scope at Big, fast asleep but
a large school group of kids were coming up the path
laughing and talking. Oh dear, the baby will be
awakened. Kelley ran over and told them that the baby
hawk was asleep up in the tree. The kids all got
quiet and practically tiptoed past. Then with a Good
Night, young hawk, the humans drifted away toward
home in the dark.


PS Kelley says that Jr. does a bit of show over
Columbus Circle before going to roost so perhaps we
might want to set the scope up there to watch Junior
go to roost. I checked and his roost spot on the Green
Glass building is visible from the fountain area...and
at least 10 degrees cooler there as well.

In the park at last:Letter and photo from Bruce

"Big" asleep at 8:27 pm
photo by Bruce Yolton
Both fledglings were sighted in SW corner of Central Park today.

The first to fledge, who has been nicknamed Big, is shown in these four photos just as dusk arrived. (By using long exposures without flash, my camera was able to capture what was difficult to see with the naked eye. These pictures give the illusion that it was much brighter than it actually was.)

The first two are of Big while she checks out the annoyed Robins around her, in the third she then checks out our group of birders, and then finally in the fourth she has fallen asleep. It was amazing to see and hear the park go from noisy day to quiet evening in only 10 or 15 minutes. When Big fell asleep, we could actually see her head drop as she dozed off.

So, the big, Central Park adventure has finally begun for these two fledglings.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dear John: Our hawks are not slug-a-beds!

In response to Kelley Harrison's note yesterday, wondering about when red-tailed hawks get up in the morning, John Blakeman sent the note below. But even before I posted it, Kelley continued to investigate Pale Male Junior's sleeping and rising habits and came up with some very contradictory evidence. As ever, the Pale Male tribe is unique!
Kelley Harrison's amazing note follows John Blakeman's letter. Thank you Kelley for your persistance and, perhaps, insomnia.

Kelley Harrison wondered when red-tails typically "start their day."
These big hawks are famous for lounging on their perches in the morning. They are not by any account early starters. When everyone else in Manhattan is rushing to get busy each morning, the red-tails are sitting up on their perches calmly preening or just sitting in a quiet attitude of contemplation watching the inexplicable mayhem below.
In preening, they rub their beaks over the oil gland on the upper surface of the rump, then they spread this rain-repelling oil on feathers over their entire body. This daily primping can take an hour or more. Duck-like, this allows them to sit out in open rain with no discomfort.
In the morning, the air is generally cold and heavy, making flight more difficult. So red-tails tend to sit around for most of the early morning before venturing out for real hunting. In summer, many red-tails will still be perched at 9:00 am or later. Of course, there are always exceptions, with a hawk on the wing about the day's business just after sun up. But by and large, don't get up to be in Central Park before 8 or 9 o'clock expecting some good hawk flights or hunts. There won't be many.
(This is just one of many reasons I prefer red-tails over all other hawks. I'm a late morning starter myself. Seems only reasonable.)

John A. Blakeman

Kelley Harrison wrote: 7/26/05
Dear Marie:

Pale Male Jr. was already on his roost at 8:30 p.m.
when I went to Columbus Circle last night. At 9:00
p.m. I confirmed with Donna, Veronica and Jean that he
was still there. Determined not to miss fly out I
went to the roost building at 4:40 a.m. It is nearly
impossible to discern a hawk at the top of the
building at that time of day. I went on "blind faith"
that he was still there and waited. As dawn
approached I could see a dark shadow of wing movement.
He flew out at 5:18 a.m. and headed straight for the

Kelley Harrison

"Big" report from Bruce with Hawkwatcher names for buildings

Photo by D. Bruce Yolton

"Big" again
Photo by D. Bruce Yolton



After a discussion about how noisy the Central Park Blue Jays were and the false alarms they were ringing, we heard the loudest racket around 7:45 p.m. from Little Hill. A few folks went into the woods east of the hill to see what was up. It turns out "way up" on a White Tile building, west of the construction site where Lincoln Karim has been taking pictures, was Fledgling I, nicknamed "Big". ( For those keeping track, east to west starting with the nest, it's Trump Parc, Construction Site, White Tile Building, Decorative Railing Building, Arthur's Building, Hampshire House, Essex House.) Her mother [Charlotte] was high on the left chimney, keeping an eye out.

"Big" moved from the White Tile building to the Decorative Railing Building, hopped/flew some more and was lost from view although a few of us thought we saw movement in the construction site. Donna's notes will have all the details.

Above are two photos to show "Big" is doing just fine.

- Bruce

Monday, July 25, 2005

A sleep-deprived hawkwatcher


Dear Marie:

I was at the Columbus Circle Fountains last night and
was delighted to see three red-tails over the SW
corner of the park. Around 8:15 a fledgling was
perched on a balcony railing on the ugly Central Park
South apartment building (the last one on the block).
The fledgling flew into the park and stayed but Jr.
and Charlotte flew to Columbus Circle and were
swirling around the Trump Hotel for several minutes,
several times their wing tip would brush the building.
Then they perfomed an aerial display over Broadway at
60th Street, swirling around each other for another
two or three minutes. Jr. and Charlotte then perched
on the terrace over the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental
Hotel, I think this is the 36th floor (they get to
enjoy the view without paying for the pricey drinks).
They landed about three feet away from each other and
Jr. "scooted" across the terrace ledge to be closer to
Charlotte. They spent several minutes together and
then Jr. perched on several of the lower terraces of
both the North and South Towers of the Time Warner
Building. Then Jr. and Charlotte both flew to Jr.'s
perch on Seventh Avenue around 8:40. She perched on
an antenna just above his roost of the vertical
support and stayed for about ten minutes and then she
flew east. I wanted to find out what time Jr. would
fly out for a day of hunting. I went back to the
roost at 4:50 a.m. and he was gone. Do you have any
idea what time red-tails "start their day"?

A very sleepy hawk-lover,
Kelley Harrison

My answer: Well, according to the US Naval Observatory Civil Twilight is 5:14 a.m. It should be completely dark at 4:50am. Even with city lights I'd say that's too early for the biological clock of a RTH to be going a'hunting.


A New Moth for the Mothers

Habilis Underwing [Catocala habilis]
photo by M. Winn 7/24/05

Last night at about 9:30 pm a new species of moth showed up at the Moth Tree, the Habilis Underwing. The Central Park Mothers were ecstatic, even though the unobliging critter failed to open its forewings and reveal more than a sliver of its light orange-yellow and black underwing. It was the 18th species in the Catocala family on the Central Park list.

Below is the current list, with the new addition. [You'll love the names.]

Underwing Moths seen in Central Park over the years

Common name*****Latin name*****Plate in Field Guide*****Dates seen

1. Girlfriend Underwing Catocala amica 32[14,15] – 7/14/95, 7/8,26/99, 8/6,10, etc./04, 7/10, 14, 23, 24/05

2. Ultronia Underwing Catocala ultronia 33[9] – 7/22,26/99, 8/9/99, 8/2,6/04, 7/10, 14,21,24/05

3. Little Underwing Catocala minuta 33[14] - 2000, 7/14/05

4. Widow Underwing Catocala vidua 34[4] – 8/11,17/99, 8/20/01, 8/3,5,16,17,18/04

5. Sad Underwing Catocala maestosa 34[9] - 8/9,16, 18/99, 8/17/04, 7/14/05

6. Yellow-gray Underwing Catocala recta 34[10] – 8/13/01, 8/2,5/04

7. Tearful Underwing Catocala lacrymosa 35{3] 8/12/04

8. White Underwing Catocala relicta 35[9] – 8/3/99, 8/15,20/01

9. Habilis Underwing Catocala habilis 36[8] 7/24/05

10. Yellow-banded Underwing Catocala cerogamma 36[9] – 8/13,16/99, 9/4/04,

11. The Bride Catocala neogama 36[12] – 8/3,16/99, 8/8,15,17/01, 8/10,17,18/04

12. Youthful Underwing Catocala subnata – 36[18] 8/ 16 /04

13. Locust Underwing Euparthenos nubilis 37[5] 8/3/04

14. Ilia Underwing Catocala ilia 37[7] – 8/27/98, 8/9/99, 7/1,14/00, 8/2etc./04, 7/10,11,13 etc/05

15. Once-married Underwing Catocala unijuga 37[9] – 8/4/99, 7/29/048/9,17,18/04, , 9/3/04, 7/14/05

16. The Penitent Catocala piatrix 37[11] – 8/27/98, 8/10/99, 7/29/04

17. The Sweetheart Catocala amatrix 37[13] – 8/2,16/99, 8/20/01, 8/6,16,17,18/04 8/2,6,7,16,17/04

18. Darling Underwing Catocala cara 37[20] 9/3/04

Donna's Field Notes - 7/24/05

Fledgling watching traffic
July 22, 2005

Field Notes 7-24-05

Note from Marie: I'll answer Donna's  6:13 pm question some other time. Sorry,  I don't have the BOOK in my office.

Trump Parc Territory
Charlotte, Junior, two Fledglings

Sunset 8:20PM (NYT),
Temp. 84F,
Humidity 62%,
Mostly Sunny,
Wind variable,
Prey Tally-rat.

All times PM unless otherwise noted.
Contributers to today's Field Notes are Irene Payne,
Bruce Yolton, Ben Cacace, Kentaurian, Arthur, and

First an important unposted sighting from Saturday,
7-23-05, that I didn't receive until today.
At 7:50PM, John sighted a Fledge on the
railing of the "glass box", across CPS, slightly E of
Little Hill. The fledge sat on the left side of the
railing and two pigeons sat a few feet away on the
right side. Then she jumped down to the white lip
below the railing and disappeared from sight. An adult
RT was perched on the E Chimney of the Hampshire
House. At 8:50PM a fledgling was sighted on the
railing of the brown building adjacent to the
scaffolding on the level of the window near the
construction netting.

Now back to 7-24-05
Irene's morning report:
5:45-7:45AM Observations of RT's over the park looking
N, from a CPS observation point-Zip,Zero, Nada.
8:00AM Junior perched on the CNN sign.
Bruce reports-
10:20AM Adult RT flies low between buildings at
Seventh Ave.
Arthur reports-
Around noon- Fledge on construction net. Junior on
construction elevator.
2:00 Both birds gone.
Donna and Samantha's report-
(From Ben's bench)
2:40 Charlotte, tail to park, on Hampshire House E
2:43 Looks up, preens, wags tail.
2:43 Stares down and to NE (fledgling?).
2:57 Charlotte preens breast, two perfect rounded
breast feathers fall and breeze wafts them over a bit
to drift slowly down onto the high left HH terrace.
(Anyone know who sweeps up there so we might obtain
them for DNA testing?)
3:02 Adult RT above HH with prey in talons, identified
as Charlotte by molt marks. She circles over park,
very wide circles, then above Little Hill, west of
Little Hill.
3:05 Disappears behind Time Warner building, then
appears again in front of TW, circles above Green
Glass building.
3:07 Charlotte lands on W circular pipe
structure,oblique, misses her step to move, gets
balance, moves near center strut, shaded from sun
partially, roof of Green Glass building (888 Seventh
3:15 Flock of pigeons wheel W. Charlotte faces S.
3:54 Charlotte still on pipe wheel.
Return to Little Hill-no new sightings.
We set scope up on CPS north sidewalk, many people
look through the scope in amazement including a number
of carriage drivers who enthusiastically tell us
stories of RT hunting they've seen. Sam gives the
horses our ice water and snacks.
4:25 Charlotte still on 888 wheel.
4:45 We try Columbus Circle, Charlotte's still on the
wheel. Sam plays in the fountain.
4:56 Charlotte on the wheel but moves a step W.
5:15 There.
5:20 There.
5:20-5:40 John reports Jr on X of Essex sign.
5:23 There.
5:35 There
5:40 Where's Charlotte!
Back to Little Hill
5:44 RT on E chimney turns, it's Jr. who then
once again faces S.
6:00 Dragonfly buzzes Jr., he snaps at it.
6:02 Jr. begins careful full-slide-of-beak preening of
red tail feathers. Intermittantly looking down and S.
6:13 Jr. to far right, most western, jaggy decoration
on top of the Essex House. Bruce says he thinks it's
a finial. Marie, you have the BOOK...Is that leafy
jaggy thing a finial?
6:15 Jr. up and to W, lost in foliage.
6:35 Adult RT (Junior?) on west prong of X in Essex
sign, looking S and slightly W.
7:00 Adult RT (Charlotte?)discovered on E chimney HH.
7:22 I've gone to try and see which RT for sure is on
Chimney by going to 58th. Looks like Charlotte.
Peregrine sighted from, E circles HH. RT on Chimney in
shadow, VERY STILL. When I cross the street, now it
looks like Jr. They've switched? Little Hill watchers
say that CHarlotte came after the Peregrine like a
bolt out of hell and chased her E. (Nobody is going to
get Charlotte's babies.)
7:33 I get back to Little Hill and the hawk on the
chimney has now become Charlotte again.

Ben and Kentaurian report Charlotte roosts on the nest
once again this evening.
B and K also report Junior for the third time seen
going to roost on silver support near roof of north
face of 888 7th Ave.

7-21-05 from Veronica's roof, first sighting of Junior
going to roost on a building, "Green Glass" 888
Seventh Ave., by Veronica, Jean, Bruce and Donna.

Submitted-Donna Browne
Just a word, I hear from Ben that a silent mugging
took place on a bench at the ballfield this evening.
Please watch your stuff and use the buddy system at
least by dusk in the park.

A new kingdom for the [non-maternal] Mothers

Chocolate Tube Slime Mold

On July 21st the Central Park Mothers [rhymes with Authors] wandered into a new Kingdom. That night the Moth tree [East Drive near the Boat House] seemed to be attracting only one species of Underwing moth -- the Ilia. Though that is a big and beautiful moth, we had overdosed on the species during the previous week when scores and scores of them swarmed around the tree's oozing sap patches.

And so we wandered about a bit. Just a little way down the hill, heading for the Model-Boat Pond Noreen stopped to point out an odd something on the trunk of a tree.It was dark brown, indeed, chocolate colored, furry in texture. At the base of it we could see a pure white something else. [It looked almost exactly like the photo above, though there was just one mass of it. When you blew on it, a smoky cloud of spores emanated from it.]

Nick peeled off a little chunk of it, and pulled out his ever-ready magnifying glass for a closer look. Though it was unknown to the rest of us, Nick recognized it at once. "It's a Chocolate Tube Slime Mold," he announced happily, his disappointment at finding no new moths that evening now gone.

And that was our new Kingdom. For those of you who think, as I long did, that there are only three Kingdoms in our classification system --- Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral, you'll have to revise your next game of Twenty Questions. For the Slime Mold is in none of those Kingdoms. It has one of its own, called Protista. Since you're reading this on a computer I can guiltlessly say, look it up!

In an e-mail to another Central Park night explorer, Brad Klein, I noted our discovery of a slime mold that day. Brad, a bird, bat, and dragonfly enthusiast, wrote back:

"Marie, don't you think you're slumming a bit down there on the evolutionary tree? I mean there's no shame at gazing at a plant from time to time, but a slime mold's not even in one of the respectable Kingdoms!"

You've heard of sexists and ageists, right? Could we call Brad a Protistist?

Baby on Building

I just received an e-mail from a new website correspondent who lives on West 58th St, quite near to the Trump Parc Hotel. He identifies himself only as Arthur. He writes:
Hope you enjoy the pictures [I have lots] taken from my back view on
Central Park South facing 58St, all at about 12:15 on Friday. I saw the baby
hawk on the railing until 12:15. Then I had too go to work. I came
back around 3:30 and the hawk was gone.

PS I like your web site very much. Donna turned me on to it

Last Friday, around 12:15 p.m., he writes, he took some photos of a redtail fledgling he could see from his window. Very obligingly he sent me the photos. Here they are:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Babies in the park?

Second fledgling
July 22, 2005
photo by Lincoln Karim

Yesterday I posted some field notes from a very fine observer, Ben Cacace, that included the line [which I highlighted]
It was good to hear that the juveniles made it into
the park before dark.

Ben included the words "to hear" to indicate that this was not a direct observation of his own. After asking a number of others, this remains an unconfirmed rumor. Not that it makes much difference. But it was a bit out of the usual pattern to have the fledglings in the park so early. Usually these building-born fledglings remain on various perches on buildings for about a week before heading for the leafy world of the park .

Postscript for Nervous Nellies:

Two letters from Blakeman

Below, two communications from John Blakeman.
The second is a copy he sent me of a letter to Donna about a particular observation in her Field Notes:


I share the joy of all in learning that the two Trump Parc eyasses have so successfully fledged. If I might, just a few observations.

First, my thought that the exceptionally high nest location might turn out to be an advantage for the birds' first flights appears to true. In typical rural tree nests, many birds clumsily find themselves on the ground after leaving the nest. Such nests are just 30 to 60 ft above the ground, just a small fraction of the height of the Trump Parc nest. A bird jumping off a tree nest has just a few seconds to get her flying act together before she hits the ground or a much lower limb. Because they were so high, these NYC birds had a lot of air beneath them in which to learn the actual mechanics of flight. They were able to land on nearby building tops, instead of crashing into flexible tree limbs, or the ground itself. This worked well.

It appears that the two birds will now fly between building roofs and window railings and the like. Very soon, they should learn to ascend in flight, and then be able to select desired perches. This is much better than being confined to ground level perches in Central Park.

But I noticed from Lincoln's photographs that at least one of the new fledglings still has a short tail. It's at least an inch less than full length just yet. Therefore, it still doesn't have complete control of the air. Its wingloading is still a bit heavy. Its flight will be labored for another few days.

Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. are typically keeping track of their offspring. The fledglings will make quite a racket to maintain verbal contact.

So far, all appears to be well. After the failure of the 927 nest, we now have success at the south end of the park. It's a gratifying situation.


John A. Blakeman

This note of yours is really significant:

"6:12 Jr. up, circles, flushes pigeons from roofs,
hunting on the fly. Pigeons wheel in front of him and
then bank to around behind him, they gain on him, he
does about-face in air, he's within a hair of nabbing
pigeon but it veers to the side."

This midair direction reversal maneuver may indeed be the secret to the catching of pigeons in flight by NYC red-tails. A red-tail can never capture a pigeon in a straight aerial pursuit. Pigeons can fly faster than red-tails. When tail-chased, the pigeon just flies away from the hawk. Young red-tails will try this in their first hunting exploits when on their own. But they learn quickly that chasing pigeons is a fruitless waste of energy.
The ability of the big red-tail to throw open its wings and tail and turn right back around in a new direction is familiar to falconers who have seen their birds do this when chasing rabbits. Rabbits are famous for running at full speed away from a pursuing red-tail. Then instantly, the rabbit stops and turns around and runs right back where it came from. Young or inexperienced red-tails can't adjust to this instant change in direction and they ignominiously shoot past the rabbit now fleeing backward beneath the hawk. When this happens with my hawk, I always applaud the now-safe rabbit.
But as the bird experiences this more often, it begins to anticipate the rabbit's sudden course changes. That seems to be what Junior is doing.
The most significant thing here is the response of the pigeons. This circling-behind behavior is what pigeons do when they encounter a peregrine out in open air. Peregrines cannot easily make flight reversals with any speed. They just go forward -- at remarkable speeds. If a pigeon can stay behind a peregrine, it is safe. If it finds itself out in front of a lightning-fast peregrine, the pigeon will die.
Consequently, pigeons have ancient instincts to circle around and get behind a peregrine, should one get into their airspace. But pigeons, native to the Old World, have no instinctive behaviors to avoid New World red-tails. Genetically, red-tails are brand new to the pigeon experience. They apparently are trying to use peregrine avoidance instincts to avoid the red-tail.
That may not work, for two reasons. The first peregrine avoidance maneuver of pigeons is to quickly dive into vegetation or hit the ground. Because of their speed, peregrines have to stay out of tree limbs or off the ground. At 80 to 150 mph, a small branch on a tree will break a peregrine's wing. And trying to slam into a pigeon on the ground at such speeds will kill the falcon.
Red-tails, however, are designed to crash into trees and brush, even the ground. They fold their wings and plunge into the vegetation. A pigeon sitting in the center of a tree, believing that it is safe from peregrines, is apparently vulnerable to conniving red-tails.
Your observation of Junior coming close to grabbing a circling-back pigeon is really significant. Red-tails are really intelligent in learning the ways of their prey. Over time, they learn to exploit their perceived vulnerabilities. That seems to be what you observed. Junior may have discovered an instinctive behavioral deficiency in NYC pigeons that he has learned to exploit.
Keep watching. See if you can see this again. This is really beginning to explain why so many pigeons are being taken. This explanation is still mostly conjecture on my part, but knowing the red-tail as I do, this is heading in the right direction (as it were).
Of course, if this explanation is authentic, then how long will it take for the NYC pigeon population to learn not to circle back behind a flying red-tail? Every time Junior plucks off such a pigeon, its DNA that would cause its progeny to do the same thing is lost to the population. A "dumber" pigeon, lacking the get-behind-the-falcon genes won't be killed by a red-tail. Its offspring will likewise survive. Good old Darwinian natural selection. Where might it end?

John A. Blakeman