Saturday, August 06, 2005

Q&A about hunting techniques

Photo by Lincoln Karim
August 4, 2005
Fledgling that caught a rat

Mai Stewart sends Blakeman an observation:

<> Did you notice on Lincoln's website yesterday
that apparently fledgling #2 has already succeeded in catching his first rat?? BRAVO!!!!

I think your fears about lack of prey in CP during August may be unfounded -- I've never known CP to lack rats -- even in the dead of summer -- this may be another difference from the country + country RTs. I think the only fears we might have might be about the babies' learning curve re hunting -- and #2 is already ahead of the curve!!

Blakeman replies with some new information about hunting and prey:
Yes, I sure took interest in the photos of the dead rat and the crop-full fledgling. You've noted my previous comments on the importance of voles as sustenance prey in rural areas. There are no voles in Central Park, that's clear. So how do the young red-tails there learn to hunt? Elsewhere, that happens with voles.
It's becoming clear that rats are the missing prey, substituting for the voles of rural areas. Rats are easy for any fledged red-tail to kill. They don't run very fast, and they are big and easy to grab. Their skin (unlike a squirrel's) is thin and easily pierced by talons. Importantly, the hawk gets a kill by merely grabbing the main body part, the thoracic or chest cavity. For a half-grown rat, it's almost impossible for a red-tail to grab the rodent in a non-lethal grip. If it sinks its talons anywhere into the animal, one or two talons are going pierce the lungs or heart. The squeeze alone will suffocate the rat.
Rats -- if they are available -- are better food sources than voles, as they are bigger and easy to kill. I've always presumed, based upon conventional teachings on the Norway rat, that these animals just don't venture out into the sunlight in the daytime, where red-tails could readily pounce on them. I've presumed them to be essentially nocturnal and unavailable to the diurnal (day-active) red-tails. But once again, things in Central Park aren't as I know them elsewhere. Apparently, there are a good number of young, inexperienced rats walking around in the daylight.
I'm certain that any hawk, adult or immature, that kills a rat and just leaves it sit is already in good condition, well fed, and capable of many future kills. It appears that this hawk has now mastered the daily killing of rats, and therefore is well on its way to surviving. If rats continue to be available, the young hawk will specialize on these and remain healthy. Being well fed, it can then experiment with various attacks on pigeons, learning how to capture this difficult prey. Rats can be killed by an outright pounce, with little or no stealth, speed, or surprise. Pigeons, because they can fly so much faster than the hawk, must be taken with clever maneuvers of stealth or surprise.
Although pigeons are the primary prey for CP adults, it looks like Norway rats are the animals that the young must learn to capture to survive in the park. The only parallel for this is in much of the West where several species of ground squirrels (rather rat-sized) are primary red-tail prey species. But most ground squirrels, as I recall, go into aestivation, summer hibernation, so they can't be hunted by young red-tails learning how to survive in August. In most of the West, August red-tails have to learn to capture the ubiquitous voles in order to survive.
Once again, I stress the crucial importance of documenting what Central Park red-tails are capturing. The consistent capturing of food is everything for these birds, whether molting, breeding, rasing eyasses, or learning to hunt for the first time. Rats, I think now, are the keystone species, not pigeons.
Everyone, let us know what prey items are seen, and when. We know about all the pigeons being taken to eyasses on the nest. What, now, are the new fledglings capturing themselves? Looks a lot like rats are the main prey item. When are the rats being captured? Are these all within a half hour of sundown, when the nocturnal rodents are starting to move about? Or, are rats moving across the Central Park landscape in midday, when red-tails really prefer to hunt?
Everything seems different in Central Park. Because of day-active rats, it looks like the 2005 Trump Parc eyasses now have a good chance of surviving. They are learning their hunting lessons well.

John A. Blakeman

Friday, August 05, 2005

Two new Underwings for the Central Park Mothers

!. The Clouded Underwing

2. The Oldwife Underwing
Photos by M.Winn

When birdwatchers in a group come upon a bird they have never seen before, a Life Bird, as they call it, they don't always cry out with joy. After all, it might be a common bird for all the others. The admission that one's list is so paltry as to omit this particular sparrow or warbler or vireo might be embarrassing. And unless they are in Attu or Madagascar or some other exotic outpost, rarely does a group of birders come upon a Group Life Bird -- one new to all of them.

The Central Park Mothers [rhymes with authors] are not like birders. They do not have to keep their cool for fear of revealing abysmal ignorance. A new lepidopteran species that turns up on their beloved Moth Tree is likely to be new for most of them since Central Park is the center of their moth-identifying activities. Thus they are free to get excited. Sometimes they go berserk.

If you had been on Central Park's East Drive last Sunday at around 9:30 pm, somewhere in the area between the fancy restaurant at the Loeb Boathouse and the Pilgrim statue near 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue, [and if you are the possessor of excellent night vision], you might have seen a startling sight : seven apparent lunatics doing high fives, performing exuberant high kicks, pumping their arms in the air and then dancing around a scraggly tree labeled Columnar English Oak.

And if you had been strolling that way again about an hour later, you might have heard a rare performance of the Central Park Mother's ancient anthem [well, it dates back to 1998] that begins "We worship Toth and the Moth as well,". and signs off with the bizarre admission that "We are Egyptian Druids."

Perhaps the Mothers would not have burst into loud song that night if they had been visited by a single new species of moth. But to have two new moths in one day, both of them beautiful underwings, well, it caused them to throw all inhibitions to the wind.

It helps to know that the song was written by their youngest member, Davie Rolnick, when he was seven years old. He is now 14, and lives in Vermont with his mother and father. But as luck would have it, he was visiting town last Sunday and was present at the Moth Tree for the big two-new-moth night revelries.

Pictured above are the two moths that inspired the ecstatic celebrations last Sunday: 1. The Oldwife Underwing [Catocala palaeogamma] and 2. The Clouded Underwing [Catacola nebulosa]. Unfortunately the moths did not oblige the photographer by opening their forewings to reveal their eponymous underwings in all their bright orange-yellow, black banded splendor. But the colors were seen as the moths landed on the tree and then again as they departed. For each moth enough of the underwing pattern was glimpsed at those times to confirm the identifications.

How do they learn to hunt? Q&A

Mai Stewart asks John Blakeman:
Do the parents teach the fledglings how to hunt? I can see that they've been very diligent in their daily feeding of their offspring, but, as you've mentioned, this will cease after awhile. So I was wondering whether the parents give the kids any lessons -- it's clear they do communicate -- and, if not, how do the offspring learn how to hunt for themselves? It's been amusing to read about the fledglings chasing pigeons, but unless they learn how to actually capture one, they'll get pretty hungry --
Also, I've noticed a number of references to the RTs, particularly the fledglings, being harassed by robins, bluejays, etc. -- there was even a picture of PM being yelled at by a mockingbird -- mocked by a mockingbird, seemed too ironic -- I just wondered whether the RTs ever realize that they're BIGGER than these other birds, and could chase THEM away, if they wished -- seems to me it'd be no contest!

Blakeman replies:
How do the adults teach the young to hunt? It's almost by accident. At first, the adults merely drop dead food (or rendered pieces) essentially at the feet of the fledglings. The young birds first have to learn to "foot" the food, to successfully grab and grip the food in their feet. That doesn't happen so instinctively. Just watch an 18-month old child try to eat. You'll then understand how important it is for the young hawks to learn how to manipulate their feet.
Next, the adults will begin to drop prey that aren't completely slain -- just disabled. This may be just about to happen with the Trump Parc fledglings. With flinching prey, the youngsters have to learn how to grip and dispatch the prey.
Then, essentially live food is dropped at ever greater distances from the young. They have to learn to chase the fleeing prey. Finally, the parents will offer unhindered prey, much of which just escapes. The key here is that the parents will markedly reduce their food offerings, allowing the young hawks to get hungry.
Falconers for millennia have known that hawks (except when feeding offspring) never hunt or kill unless they are motivated by hunger. Falconers never overfeed (nor underfeed) their charges, as the hawks or falcons would then just sit on the fist or perch without hunting. The adult red-tails use exactly the same technique with their offspring. Although the fledglings will sit for hours in a tree crying out with their morbid begging calls, the parents will not be dissuaded from withholding food. At best, Jr. or Charlotte will fly near the weeping young, dangling a food item in the parent's talons. This will entice the young to begin to chase the food-carrying adult.
The adult can use this technique to lure the youngster to an area that has available prey. When in a good hunting area, the parent may drop the prey animal, enticing the pursuing offspring to dive to the ground after the dropped animal.
Sooner of later, the hungry young hawk learns that it had better take a hunting perch and start to look around for something to kill. Finally, the adult hawks stop providing any food whatsoever, usually some time in August. The young are now on their own. No food will be provided. It's now hunt and kill, or starve and die.
. . .

In summary, after the adults stop providing food in August, the young hawks learn simply by trial and error. They attack time and again, and begin to remember what worked and what didn't.

* * *
About songbird harassing of the young hawks. This was one of the most interesting things I noticed with one my first research red-tails, an immature female. When I parked her out tethered in my backyard on a perch, she was mobbed with blue jays, robins, starlings, and other incensed songbirds. The hawk just sat there and ducked.
But when I parked my trained adult red-tail in the same place, it never got a single bird flying at it. Falconers have noted this. Finally, an ornithologist observed this (elsewhere) and noted that only hungry immatures are mobbed. In a very descriptive paper, the ornithologist noted that the songbirds are able to detect the hunger and hunting state of the hawk by its perched posture. An adult sits in a posture that seldom attracts mobbing songbirds. Immatures, especially when hungry (which is most of the time in their first summer), sit rather erect. This posture is instinctively recognized by the songbirds, and they mob the hawk, trying to drive it away from their nearby offspring.
I noted that the mobbing birds disappeared after I fed my young red-tail a full crop of food. After her meal, she propped up a foot and assumed a more adult posture.
One of the reasons that the songbirds seldom mob adults is that in the air, an adult can turn over and snatch a bird that gets too close.

John A. Blakeman

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Genetics and eye color: Q & A

Photo by Lincoln Karim
August 3, 2005
Well-fed Fledgling [check out the eye color and also the bulging crop]

Ronnie, a website correspondent, sent in an intriguing question. John Blakeman answers it below. Following that, a series of notes between Blakeman and me on the subject of eye color and genetics.

I noticed on a recent photo of the newly fledged tiercel, [the male redail fledgling] the fact that his eyes are hazel, not the traditional gold-brown.

I looked over other photos of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, and I think Charlotte's eyes are also the same shade.

Is this unusual?

Maybe you could check with John Blakeman.

Thank you
John Blakeman responds:

I saw this, too, and also wondered about it. The irises of most red-tail immatures are light yellow, sometimes with a greenish cast. But these photos don't show much yellow. They are atypically dark.

How so? I don't know. I don't think it's an aberrant photographic artifact. I've photographed a hundred red-tails, and film accurately depicts such colors. I think the iris colors of these birds are legitimately dark. Genetic? Or a result of food? Almost surely it's genetic. And as with the golden breast color of the young birds, I haven't seen this in my Ohio red-tails. It may be another local color variation.

Was this dark iris color seen in Pale Male Sr's eyasses? If so, it's surely genetic.

One of the many NYC red-tail curiosities.

Subsequently I sent Blakeman a photo of a 2003 Fifth Avenue fledgling with yellow eyes that I found archived on Lincoln's website:

I asked:

Since that's one of Pale Male's offspring, and it has yellow eyes, does this mean the Trump Parc kids are less likely to be grandkids? Is eye color a dominant trait in hawks so that ALL PM's offspring would inherit some sort of darker-eyes-when-juvenile tendency? I seem to have forgotten everything I ever learned in high school about genetics. I just remember something about peas in Mendel's garden...

Here's Blakeman's reply:


Mendel struck it rich by happenstance. Purely by luck he picked seven traits in garden peas that just happened to have typical dominance and recessiveness. Biology has been favored by that propitious accident.

But in most traits, things aren't so clear, and I fear that that's the case with the eyass red-tail eye color. It's probably not classically dominant or recessive. Like most traits, it's probably incomplete dominance, or a sort of mixing along a gradient of gene expression that can vary from individual to individual. In short, there is no way of knowing the genetics involved in the eye colors we are seeing. There is no way to know if they are descended from PM Sr. It might even be related to the late (and warm) incubation. As you may know, many reptiles' sex is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. There is an outside chance this this iris color relates to something having to do with the late incubation period. Like so much, it's all speculation.


John A. Blakeman

The Fall Migration is gaining momentum

Even though the official start of autumn is more than a month away, the southward migration of songbirds has been in evidence in Central Park for the last few weeks. Every day, it seems, there are more birds stopping over in the park on their way to their winter homes. The report below of this morning's Early Birder walk -- from 7 - 9 a.m, has five warbler species on it. In another few weeks that number will double, then triple, then quadruple. And so will the number of birdwatchers.
Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Location: Central Park

Reported by: Ardith Bondi

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret (flyover- Strawberry Fields)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
Barn Swallow (Lake)
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch (Oven)
Wood Thrush (Ramble)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird (several imm. Hernshead [3] and Maintenance Field [1])
European Starling
Yellow Warbler (several)
Black-and-white Warbler (Azalea Pond)
American Redstart (many)
Northern Waterthrush (Azalea Pond)
Canada Warbler (Evodia Field - singing)
Song Sparrow (Oven)
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (many imm.)
House Finch (Maintenance Field)
House Sparrow

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Happy news for hawk worry-warts

Photo by Bruce Yolton
[Check out bulge at top of chest -- the sign of a recent meal]

For those of you worried that because of late fledging, the Trump Park youngsters are not getting enough to eat, here's a message from one of the core hawkwatchers, Bruce Yolton:

If anything the Fledglings are being feed all too well by Junior! Dad brings them lots of food, so much so that this weekend and Monday hardly any begging sounds were heard. Everyone in the core group has witnessed a feeding or two. Last night [8/2/05] it was a pigeon for Little, which he stripped clean. These hawks have plenty of food and are so big. They both look fully grown and beefy. The old guard keeps saying "look at their chests, you can see they just had a meal".

Despite fears that food might be scarce for these two late fledglings, Junior has brought a wide variety of meals, sometimes as close as two hours apart. There are lots of mice and rats along the subway vents next to Central Park West and the Columbus Circle area has an endless supply of pigeons. If anything, the late fledge has made it easier on these two children. Although they have had a few robins and blue jays annoyed with them, there has been none of the aggressive mobbing behavior usually seen earlier in the year. There are simply no nesting robins or jay chicks needing protection this late in the year. So, both fledglings have been able to enjoy lazy summer afternoons with full bellies.

Back to the Mystery Cricket

On July 5th I posted a photo of a tiny insect that had appeared on the low metal fence surrounding the Great Lawn the night before. Since we were there to look at stars that night I described it as a "stargazing cricket."

I received two e-mails shortly thereafter suggesting that it was a katydid, not a cricket.

I stuck to my guns. Wrong.

Yesterday, when I checked with Nick Wagerik, our entomology guru, who had in turn checked it out in the great new resource --Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets by Capinera, Scott & Walker,
he came up with a good candidate for our critter: the Drumming Katydid.

Number 1, below is a picture of this species from an internet website, [and some additional info from that site] It is followed by#2, the picture Lincoln Karim took at the Great Lawn on 7/4/05. [Don't forget that the "Mystery cricket" photo was taken at night. That would explain the color difference. In reality, away from a flashbulb, it looked quite green.]



At Words by William Whitaker, "thalassinum" translates to "sea-green".

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Kelley describes how Junior rustled up a baby's dinner

I first met Kelley Harrison  last April at a Screech Owl fly-out in the north part of the park. Now she has become a regular follower of the Trump Parc family. Here's her report on yesterday  [8/1/05] evening's hunt and food delivery:

Dear Marie:

I had the privilege of witnessing Junior rustle up
dinner for his young son last night. I was peeping
through the chain-link fence last night trying to spot
Big in the construction site. Junior flew over my
head and swooping down very low landed on a pigeon
behind the bleachers on Heckscher Ballfield #4 where a
noisy game was in progress. The pigeon never saw what
hit him. Junior stood on the pigeon for several
seconds and then carried it to a nearby tree for the
"death squeeze." I was dismayed that after two
minutes the pigeon was still flapping its wings, a few
pecks of Junior's beak to the back of its neck and it
was limp.

Junior flew over the construction site and towards the
tree where Little's crying was attracting a large
number of viewers. After Junior was sure that the meal
was going in Little's tummy and not on the sidewalk,
he flew out of the park towards Columbus Circle. Many
people stopped to admire Little's healthy appetite.
After twenty minutes a bone fell to the sidewalk,
further inspection showed it to be a breast bone
without a speck of meat left on it. Little plucked,
nibbled, and choked down the pigeon for more than 45
minutes. He is a proud member of the Clean Plate
Club. His crop was so full it looked like he had
swallowed an orange.

When I exited the park at Columbus Circle, I saw
Junior and Charlotte spending some quality time
together. The light was fading fast and it was
impossible to see who was who. I believe Junior was
the first one to perch on the very pointy finial of
the water tower above Starbucks at 60th and Broadway.
This is one of their favorite perches. Charlotte and
Junior tussled over who got to be King of the
Mountain. Unbelievably for several seconds they both
clung to the very tiny tip. Eventually the "loser"
had to perch on the rim of the water tower. After a
few minutes the "King" flew off and the "loser" got a
turn at the top. Around 8:25 after much soaring over
Columbus Circle one of the parents, probably Junior,
disappeared behind the Green Glass building. I waited
a short time but never saw him fly back to the park.
Could it be that he has not given up the bright lights
of the big city for the quiet darkness of Central Park
for his nightly roost?

Kelley Harrison

Monday, August 01, 2005

Redtail Eating Habits: Q & A

Donna asks a question :


I've seen Big try to swallow a small rat,
unsuccessfully. Charlotte had to pull it back out.
Jr. seems still to be preparing the food in some way
before bringing it to the young.

We were watching one of the fledges at dusk. Jr.
appeared a number of times. In one case he had a
mouse, or something quite tiny in his beak. Then we
lost track of it. Busy night of people stopping by,
asking what we were looking at, looking through the
Scope; hard to keep track. Eventually the fledge
"found" something in a tree and ate it. I'm not sure
if it was something stashed or a leftover as by then
it was too dark to see clearly, but interesting that
Jr. might be placing food to be "found" by the young.
Have you seen that?

Earlier the fledgling had flown down to the ground
near the stone wall of Central Park near a squirrel.
The squirrel rushed him and the fledgling hightailed
it back to the tree.

Speaking of squirrels I don't know that I've ever seen
Jr. with a squirrel. Charlotte yes, but not Junior.
Lola takes more squirrel than Pale Male but he does
take some. Size differential? Bad experience with a

Thank you,

Blakeman answers:

I've mentioned it before (somewhere), that red-tails (and other hawks) are poor eaters, that they only ritualistically, or mechanistically tear their food. They don't eat with any refined techniques. It's pretty much just to reach down and grab something and tear it away, then try to swallow whatever was torn.
For the new young birds, even this level of dining refinement isn't present. They just try to wolf down anything they can get into their mouths. Remember the photo with the long feathers stuck in the mouth? Case in point.
The young birds try to wolf down a big object, but it finally gets caught in some choking receptors somewhere in the throat and the object is coughed back up. To see this up close, as I have so many times, is to become alarmed. So often, it appears that I should reach in and do a Heimlich. But the bird always manages to extricate the overly-large swallowing. Then, the young bird often tries to swallow the object in exactly the same manner again, ending exactly as before. As you saw, the big object, perhaps a rat pup, falls to the ground. The bird looks at it puzzlingly and just wonders why it didn't go down. Finally, it realizes that it has to step up on the food and rip it apart with it's beak. But if talons aren't firmly set into the object, the beak merely pulls the food up between the toes into free air. The bird then tries to swallow the object once again, yielding exactly the same choking response.
To watch this spectacle of coarse raptor dining is to wonder how the young birds ever learn to successfully eat. Somehow, they do. But you've seen a bit of the complications the first year birds have to work out in their first few weeks out of the nest. Somehow, it all resolves and the birds will be able to feed effectively, if not delicately. Adults sometimes revert to inordinate wolfing, too. Red-tails are incapable of fine dining.
About the squirrels. In rural areas, these arboreal rodents are marginal and infrequent red-tail fare, especially the larger fox squirrel. The squirrels of Central Park, I believe, are all the slightly smaller gray squirrels. Nonetheless, each species can be challenging prey, even for the muscular red-tail. Squirrels are hard to kill. They have lightning-fast, extremely powerful, and agile teeth and jaws. Unless a hawk can instantly grab the head of a squirrel and restrain its biting, the bird is likely to encounter a vicious bite that can severe a tendon or split a bone.
Additionally, squirrels have skin that is almost impervious to the penetration of the hawk's needle-sharp talons. It is difficult for a red-tail to sink a talon or two into a vital organ. And since most of those are in the thoracic (chest) cavity, the squirrel's head may be free to fling about and render multiple bites on the toes and tarsus (ankle) of the hawk.
Although squirrels appear to be readily available hawk food, these rodents are formidable prey. Your indication that you've never seen Jr. with a squirrel is very accurate, I'm sure. You note that squirrels have been seen mostly with the two females, Lola and Charlotte. That exactly matches the experiences of most falconers who pursue squirrels with red-tails. The smaller tiercels (males) just don't much like to take on squirrels The big hens will, from time to time.
Having watched red-tails hunt, I'd stay away from squirrels if I were a red-tail. They are dangerous, difficult to kill, and hard to rip open for the underlying flesh. You noted that a squirrel ran right at a fledgling on the ground. She was wise to retreat. Squirrels are formidable. A wise red-tail stays away from them except only when it knows it has the upper hand. Lola and Charlotte know their prey and how to kill them. Smart ladies, these. Their husbands are smart, too, in generally avoiding squirrels.

John A. Blakeman

Sunday Fledgling Report and photos

Here's a report from Bruce Yolton, accompanied by four photos. [Donna is on vacation for a week or so.] I've put one statement in big letters, for all my worried correspondents:

It's hard to take a picture through a chain link fence! But I believe the first photo, is of Fledgling 1 (Big) eating, around 5:30 Sunday. She's inside the fenced-in area of the Playground construction, slightly north and west of the Cast Iron Bridge. It was the third tree along the path from the bridge. After eating, she flew under the bridge in an south-easterly direction.

For about an hour, you could run across the West, Southbound drive and see one fledgling and then run back to see the other. Both fledglings seem to be doing just fine. [Emphasis by Marie]

Next are two photos of the one I think is Fledgling II (Little). He chased pigeons in the late afternoon/early evening (I might have to start carrying a notebook to record times) and ended up two blocks north. A Robin got annoyed with him and made a racket for at least an hour. The Robin kept with him as he returned to his normal spot. When he finally had enough he ended up on the lamp post.

The second Fledgling II shot gives you a good idea of how his wing feathers are doing.

Last is Junior, in the playground construction area. He's on one of the posts set up to protect the trees in the area from the construction equipment.

For those looking for angles to see into the fenced area, try the bridge that is fenced in from the Southbound drive but that you can still use. Also, if you climb up on the rocks north of the area (where rock climbers practice) you can also see in. This is how I shot pictures of Junior.

Although I've called the fledglings I/II and Big/Little, I've labeled the photos Playground and CPW fledgling because I'm not 100% sure who's who. I'm up for further discussion once we have some better pictures of the Playground fledgling.




Sunday, July 31, 2005

Missing Chick Info for the worrywarts

People have been asking why all the reports I've been posting focus on the smaller fledgling only. Where is Big, they ask with considerable anxiety. Now Lincoln Karim reports on 7/30/05 -- yesterday:

Chick #1 (larger - female?) was seen near Pine Bank Bridge -the cast iron bridge near the playground at 7th Ave & CPS).

What's with Pale Male and Lola?

People are writing me reproachful letters. Why don't you ever write about Pale Male and Lola any more? Grandkids, shmandkids, we want to know about our hero!

My reply: Pale Male and Lola are enjoying a much-deserved vacation. They are each sighted every so often in the park, but they 're not to be found anywhere regularly. Please wait patiently until next February when the noble pair should be beginning their family story again -- mating, incubating, baby-tending, etc.

And just imagine: come next spring, we might be following TWO redtail families in the park, Pale Male's on Fifth Ave. and Junior's down south. The Central Park Hawkwatchers are getting their walking shoes ready.

The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming!

Instead of moths, cicadas were the stars of the meeting of the Central Park non-maternal Mothers last night 7/30/05]. As the insect-admiring group swept nearby trees with their flashlights, they'd periodically call out "Found one!" Then everyone would gather at the discoverer's tree [often a Beech] and watch a cicada emerge from its nymph case.

There is almost nothing weirder than an emerging cicada. In its various stages of emergence it looks like some sort of alien creature in a science fiction movie. Once the entire adult insect has made it out of its hard exoskeleton and onto the tree trunk, it is transformed into a thing of beauty [and a joy forever too, if you consider the eternal cycle of things]. Here are a couple of pictures I took last night:

Cicada out of its nymph case, with wings not fully opened

Fully emerged, waiting for wings to dry before flying off to fulfill its derstiny: to mate..