Saturday, March 18, 2006

First warbler arrives on St. Patrick's Day

Louisiana Waterthrush - 3/17/06
Photo by Cal Vornberger

The first warbler in Central Park is usually the Pine Warbler, showing up at the beginning of April. The La. Waterthrush appears on the New York City Bird Report* with an early date of April 5. According to Lloyd Spitalnik, the very earliest Central Park sighting of that species was on March 23 a few years ago.

That makes yesterday's sighting of the Louisiana Waterthrush a record. Indeed, it may be a record for the entire state of New York. The small, ground-dwelling warbler was found and photographed in the Loch area of the North Woods by Cal Vornberger . You'll enjoy Cal's website at

*And check out the New York City Bird Report for the absolutely latest sightings, sent in by the park's best birdwatchers. Http://

One last [I promise] comment about the junk

PM Junior, just after arrival with paper - 3/12/06
Photo by Bruce Yolton

P.S. from Kathleen Guchone about the junk in the Trump-Parc nest:

Perhaps PMJ and Charlotte are wiring the nest for internet reception so that Charlotte does not get too bored while sitting on the eggs. She could watch other raptor webcams to see how they are progressing

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jack Meyer's Spring Schedule

Jack has just sent in his annual birdwalk notice. It's a great opportunity for birders of any level. He writes:

My Spring Birdwalks in Central Park will begin Thursday March 30, and end Sunday May 28

Walks will be four days a week, Thursday through Sunday.

Walks leave at 7:30AM from 72 St and Central Park West (NE corner). The walks will last until 10:30 or 11:00, with a brief coffee break mid-way through.Those with other obligations are alway free to leave early.

The cost is $6. No reservations are needed.

If there are any questions, you can reach me at 212-563-0038
(Not after 8 PM please) or email
Should the weather be bad, and you are uncertain if the walk is going, phone anytime after 5 AM . If you get my answering machine, you will know that I have already left for the park and the walk is on.

I'll be looking forward to seeing all my birding friends again, and to meeting some new ones.

Jack Meyer

Re the junk in the nest

Junior contemplating paper - 3/12/06
Photo by Bruce Yolton

Re: Posting of Mar 15, 2006

Lots of delightful correspondence about the latest Trump-Parc posting. First Blakeman responded to Bruce's info. Then a few others:

This is important new information. So the paper wasn't a sheet from the Times? Well enough.

It appears that the Trump-Parc parents want their kids to be morally instructed. Nothing surpasses the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (tough lessons, however, for lethal predators).

And because the young ones may be spending a few winters in Spanish-speaking lands to the south, the decision to prompt the eyasses to learn to read Spanish is laudable.

Again, smart parents, these.

--John Blakeman


Another great exchange with J. Blakeman, but I have to say I was more interested in the piece of what Lincoln described as "electrical cable" in the nest of PMJ and Charlotte. Apparently, not content to just raise their eyases with early reading opportunities, PMJ and Charlotte appear to be planning to wire up their nest so they can read even in the evenings! So funny that such regal birds are very human in their propensity to collect junk (perhaps they'll have a garage sale when the chicks fledge). I wonder, has anyone ever seen that kind of eclectic nesting material in Pale Male's nest over the years, or is this something unique to his progeny?

Bill Trankle
Indianapolis, IN

Dear Marie,

We should all note Charlotte's care in finding a Spanish document for her eyasses. She is indeed a caring mother, hoping to make her babies bi-lingual at the earliest possible moment.

The questions from the observer named Mai, and the response from John are wonderful. John seems to be a scientist with humility, unafraid to learn, even from amateurs. His demeanor is a reminder to us all to keep an open mind and listen. There are great things to be learned out there. (Who could have imagined that we could witness these events with Pale Male, Lola, PM Junior, and Charlotte?)

Best Regards,
Nan Holmes

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bilingual, eco-sensitive hawks!

Photographer and hawk observer Bruce Yolton read yesterday's report here about the Trump-Parc nest and sent the following clarification. It was addressed to me and John Blakeman:

Marie and John,

WIth regards to today's post about newspaper's in the nest...

The two large pieces of paper seen in Lincoln's photos are both 8 1/2 x 11 paper added by Junior while I was photographing them on Saturday. I saw Junior catch one in midair as it floated in the air between the Hampshire House and Trump Parc. It was an impressive sight.

One sheet of paper is in Spanish with writing which looks to be about the New Testament.

So, Junior not only keeps down the pigeon and rat populations, he collects litter and recycles.

- Bruce


Every year between March 10 and March 15 I scour the park for the earliest of the regular spring migrants, the Eastern Phoebe. It arrives like clockwork during that narrow window of time. In 1998 Anne Malcolm and I actually sighted the first Central Park phoebe of the season. It was hawking for insects at the Azalea Pond. But that was the year Tom Fiore wasn't around, having been taken captive by guerrillas in Colombia. [As readers of my book know, he escaped].

Since then I usually hear about the first Phoebe sighting from one or another of the Big Guns. Lloyd Spitalnik, for instance. He's the one who called me on Tuesday and asked slyly: Well Marie, did you get your Phoebe? Of course I hadn't. But yesterday morning the Early Birders spotted the tail-bobbing flycatcher at the Tupelo Meadow. The season is off and running. [Or perhaps I should say off and bobbing.]. Below, the list of all the other birds we saw on our early morning walk yesterday.

DATE: Wednesday, 15 March 2006
LOCATION: Central Park
OBSERVERS: Early Birders

Black-crowned Night Heron [Hernshead]
Canada Goose
Wood Duck [Lake]
Northern Shoveler
Ruddy Duck
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Flicker [many]
Eastern Phoebe [Tupelo Meadow]
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird [Strawberry Fields]
European Starling
Fox Sparrow [several]
Song Sparrow [many]
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle [many many]
House Finch
American Goldfinch [many, at feeders]
House Sparrow

PS: Check out the following link for a great photo of an Eastern Phoebe by Cal Vornberger, and while you're there, check out his whole great site.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Blakeman answers question about Charlotte and Lola's eggs

Another good exchange between web-site correspondent Mai Stewart and John Blakeman:

Note: the program that transfers photos to my website doesn't seem to be working these days. To see the photo with the egg and newspaper discussed below, please check out Lincoln's website at .
Once there, click on Hawks 2006 and then March 14, 2006.

Hi John,

I've been very interested in the photos on the websites lately -- in particular, I was wondering about what we've seen the last couple days in PMJ's nest -- here are my questions:

* The pix show Charlotte standing, looking at the egg, or around the nest -- I know these birds know what to do, but I get worried that the egg/s is exposed too much -- I'm under the (possibly false) impression that the eggs need to be kept covered, for warmth, so they can develop properly, virtually all the time -- am I wrong?

* Also, it was so interesting to see that sheet of newspaper on Charlotte's nest -- do you think one of the RTs actually picked it up + brought it to the nest, or perhaps it just wandered in on a gust of wind (of which there have been many this past week) -- i.e., would it be natural for the RTs to use newspaper, and esp. such a large piece, for their nests? Could it be a kind of protection, or windbreaker, for the egg/s?

* It appears from what I've been reading about PM/Lola's behavior that Lola, too, has at least one egg in her nest -- is this the same conclusion you draw from their behavior as well?

Well, thank you again -- hope these questions aren't too mundane (I'm not at all a trained scientist).
Mai Stewart


Everyone who closely studies red-tail nests is initially alarmed -- as you are -- about the birds' nonchalance and inattention in keeping the first egg warm.

But it's not a problem. Actually, it's perfect. So that all eyasses hatch at the same time, it's important that serious incubation start simultaneously for all eventual eggs. Therefore, the female will not sit hard on the eggs until the last one (Three this year?) is laid. Until then, she will dance around the exposed eggs. She will not sit down and put her brood patch against the egg for any period of time. She wants only to keep the egg from freezing.
In raptor breeding experiments, scientists frequently remove newly-laid eggs and store them for a week or longer in a refrigerator. This keeps them healthy, alive, and undeveloped until incubation proper begins.

So take no concern here. The female will sit when she's good and ready, and that will be when no more eggs are descending down her single fallopian tube. Her inattentive attitude reveals that at least another egg is on the way. If we see this after the laying of the second egg (which will be today or tomorrow), then we will know that this year a third egg will be laid.
For all of us, keep watching.

The piece of newspaper up there? This shows that like so many New York mothers, she wants only the best education for her offspring. She wants her eyasses to be reading before the others. Out here in the rural wilds, our eyasses are rather illiterate, unable to keep up with the daily offerings of the NYT or lessor rags. Our birds only get to read an occasional McDonald's hamburger wrapper. Charlotte is a modern NYC mother. Her kids are going to be able to compete and get accepted to one of the better kindergartens.
But no, it's not a windbreaker or protection of any kind. It just looked "interesting" when the parent picked it up and brought it to the ledge. Yes, it may have been flying around int he air when picked up. A good rain will resolve (Dissolve?) the matter. It was probably perceived to be good lining material. Out here, our red-tails commonly use corn stalk leaves, which are about the thickness and texture (but not the size) of newspaper.

And yes, from what I can see, Lola, too, has an egg and is waiting for the descent of a second one.

For interest, let me recall an observation I made last year. After I made this comment, you or some other woman observer came back with a rather pointed retort -- which was much deserved. In some masculine language that apparently masked the gravity of the matter, I mentioned that I recalled a profound look of "discomfort" (or something else rather dismissive) on the hen's face for a few hours before she laid each egg. For some time she stood on the edge of her nest with this strange look, after which she sat down and laid the egg. As a male unfamiliar with either egg laying or birthing experiences, I will respectfully defer on the matter to those who have. The bird also moves about on the nest with a certain awkwardness for a time. Things to watch for, as they presage the laying of another egg.

And your questions are quite proper and appropriate. There never should be a scientist/non-scientist dichotomy in the search for explanations. That problem usually is the fault of scientists who don't invite or receive such questions. I do, and it's a pleasure to convey my explanations to people as curious and interested as yourself.

Once again, ain't this fun?

--John Blakeman

Pale Male triumphant

At the end of a recent report on the various local owls, Bob Levy, [whose book, The George Club, is nearing publication day],described a dramatic hawk confrontation:

...I also got a close-up-and-personal view of Pale Male confronting an immature hawk while I stood on the Rustic Arch. The youngster had parked itself high in a tree on the north east side of the upper lobe. Pale Male came racing from the west causing the other bird to leap from its perch. The two faced each other in mid-air flashing talons at each other for a couple of seconds but the immature quickly quit the fight and headed north west. Pale Male took over the bird’s perch only long enough to belt out a loud “KIR” call and then he headed in the direction of his nest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Location of Junior and Charlotte's nest

In the first picture below you can see exactly where the Trump-Parc nest is located, 35 stories above Central Parl South and 6th Avenue. The architectural feature the nest sits upon is called a corbel. There are 5 of them on the western facade of that glitzy, golden-turreted building, formerly the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, with the nest on the 4th corbel, counting from north to south. The second photo shows a close-up view of the nest on its corbel.
Top floors of the Trump-Parc building, western facade
Photo by Lincoln Karim - June, 2005

close-up of corbel, with Charlotte on the nest, June 5, 2005
Photo by Bruce Yolton

Spring in the air!

Monday, early morning, Rebekah Creshkoff reports:

Lots of trilling juncos on the Great Hill this a.m., and many robins,

Veronica's quick Grackle report

Country grackles arriving at feeding grounds
Photo by Judy Glattstein

Veronica Goodrich, a Personal Shopper for Bergdorf Goodman's, has consultations and fittings with her upper-echelon clients [some major donors to the Central Park Conservancy among them] in a plush dressing room overlooking the Pulitzer Fountain. That's at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. Almost every evening, she watches a large flock of grackles and starlings arriving at pear trees surrounding the fountain to roost for the night. Recently she sent the following quick report:

As for the Grackles: there are more now!!!!!! The landing time is about 5:45 to 6:00pm. I really do look forward to that part of the day......can't tell you how many clients get a kick out of that...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Penumbral Eclipse tomorrow

Just in from Central Park amateur astronomer Tom Clabough:

From today's
When the full moon rises on Tuesday evening, March 14th, you might notice something odd--a gray shadow darkening the moon's southern hemisphere. That is the shadow of Earth, and if you can see it, you've spotted a penumbral lunar eclipse. Penumbral eclipses are not as dramatic as total eclipses. A penumbral eclipse involves only the pale fringe of Earth's shadow while a total eclipse happens in the shadow's dark red core. Both are fun to observe. Maximum eclipse occurs between 6:18 p.m. and 8:18 p.m. EST on March 14th. Observers in Europe, Africa and eastern parts of North America are favored; the eclipse will not be visible from California and other western US states. Further details, at: 
(Article appeared Monday, March 13)

Saturday Flyout

New owlers at West Drive fly-out
photo by Bruce Yolton

A big crowd gathered to witness the West Drive owl flyout on Saturday, 3/11/06. Among them Sam Cardwell, 7, a student at St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's on the Upper West Side, and his mother, Margaret. Sam is already an ardent follower of the Fifth Avenue Hawks and may be the youngest reader of Red-tails in Love.

In spite of the crowd that included several photographers [none using flashbulbs, fortunately] the fly-out went without a hitch at about 6:10 pm. The single cat-faced female flew in a northwesterly direction, looped a bit southward and then perched for almost ten minutes on a branch quite near to the owl bench. A few of us clearly heard four bursts of the beautiful downward trill song before she took off again towards the Upper Lobe.

Was she calling to the young, one of whom was seen at the hole entrance on Friday at 2pm?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Egg #1 seen at Trump-Parc nest

Charlotte on the nest 3/5/06
Photo by Bruce Yolton

Since the Hawk Bench at the Model-boat Pond is far below Pale Male and Lola's 12th floor aerie on Fifth Avenue, and there are no nearby buildings with sightlines directly into the nest, the hawkwatchers never know how many eggs are in the nest until the chicks begin to poke their heads up. We know when incubation begins because Lola begins to spend her days and nights on the nest. We know when the eggs hatch because we can see Lola's feeding motions. But we never see into the nest.

Junior and Charlotte's 35th-floor nest is a different story. Our friend who lives on the 65th floor of a nearby residential tower has a telescope in his window that looks directly down into the nest. Here is his latest communication:

Just an update. On Friday, March 10 there were no eggs in the nest on the west side of Trump-Parc. Today, March 12th, when we returned, we noted one egg in the nest, and Charlotte seems to be sitting on it much of the time.

So now we know for sure.

Great Horned Owl Pellets prepared by owlers, then analyzed by mammalogists at Natural History Museum

Bones removed from Great Horned Owl pellet

Regina Alvarez preparing bones for analysis

Noreen O'Rourke working on pellet bones

Two Great Horned Owl pellets collected by Anne Shanahan at the Azalea Pond on January 18th and 19th, respectively, and one pellet from the same owl found by James O'Brien on January 25, 2006 near the Loch, were taken to the American Museum of Natural History for analysis. Ruth O'Leary and Darrin Lunde of the Dept of Mammalogy examined the bones carefully extracted from the pellets by a small group of Central Park Owlers. The eagerly awaited Owl Pellet Analysis report came in a few days ago.

Pellet #1 collected on 1/19/06 contained bones of two individuals. Both were Rattus norvegicus [Norway Rat] one adult, identified by its relatively intact cranium, the other possibly a juvenile, identified by its right upper tooth row.

Pellet #2 collected at the Loch on 1/25/06 contained 1 individual, an adult. Norway Rat.

Pellet #3, collected on 1/18/06 contained 1 individual, an adult Norway Rat