Saturday, December 02, 2006

In case your ego needs adjustment ordinary sunspot taken at the National Solar Observatory,
located in the village of Sunspot, New Mexico and released back in 1998.

Here is a letter about sunspots from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History. It appeared on a list-serv called Star-Struck to which I subscribe and which I always enjoy. Info on how you can subscribe too appears at the end. It's free.

Dear Star Struck,

As you may know, the Sun's surface is an active place. Not only does
the Sun's equator complete one turn in less time that the regions
near the poles, but huge blobs of gas rise and fall like a boiling
liquid on a stove.

Meanwhile the Sun's powerful magnetic field get trapped within this
electrically charged (ionized) gas, as it gets twisted and turned,
and stretched and stressed. This turbulent activity drives a
fascinating ensemble of features that include solar flares,
prominences, and ever-present sunspots -- regions of the Sun's
surface that are slightly cooler than the surrounding areas, leaving
them to appear darker by contrast.

Advances in precision imaging, using telescope optics that compensate for the blurring effects of Earth's atmosphere, have led to images such as the one above

That image is expanded from its most recent appearance on the
"Astronomy Picture of the Day" website

For reference, and in case your ego needs adjustment, our 8,000-mile diameter Earth would just barely cover the inner dark area of the spot, and the Sun itself would be about forty-feet wide.

As always, keep looking up.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Department of Astrophysics
& Director, Hayden Planetarium
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024


To add your name to the Hayden Planetarium's
"star-struck" e-list, send a blank e-mail to

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wonder what's happened to MBPM-2

Remember these birds? 12/9/04

Since so many of you started reading this website during the Pale Male crisis, I thought it's time to bring up that painful subject again, as the second anniversary of the nest removal crisis approaches.

The fatal memorandum

Back in 1993 when the management of 927 Fifth Ave. took down the hawk nest for the first time, they may not have known that the removal was a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act , a federal law. Or perhaps they didn’t think anyone would zap them for it. But the hawkwatchers did indeed zap. They called the Fish & Wildlife service who threatened to impose a whopping fine and warned the management never to do it again.

Ten years of successful nesting followed. Consequently the hawkwatchers were lulled into a false sense of security. Innocently, they believed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act would keep anything untoward from happening to the beloved nest.

Their trust was betrayed. On April 15, 2003, under the aegis of an openly anti-conservation administration in Washington, a new US Fish and Wildlife memorandum—MBPM-2 –was affixed to the law. It announced that henceforth there would be a new interpretation of clause 703 in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the one that prohibits the removal of any native American bird’s nest.

MBPM-2 stated that from henceforth, nest removal was prohibited only when there were eggs or birds within a nest. It claimed that a nest without eggs or resident birds had clearly been abandoned. Until the nest-removal crisis, nobody had heard of MBPM-2 .

Well, not exactly nobody. Somebody connected with the management of 927 Fifth Avenue was so well informed about this arcane new regulation that a lawyer for the building applied to the US Fish & Wildlife Service for a permit to remove a hawks’ nest from a 12th floor window ledge of a New York City apartment house on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street. The permit was quickly granted. On December 7, 2004 the nest was removed.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service is an organization federally mandated to protect all native American wildlife. MBPM-2 makes that mandate a travesty. At the time the permit to remove the nest was granted, thousands of people knew that Pale Male’s nest hadn’t been abandoned. The redtails had been re-using the nest year after year for ten years. Yet according to the new Memorandum, it had been legally removed. And any future nest could be removed at any time between early June, when the young fledge, and the following March, when new eggs are laid.

Unprotected by law, the hawkwatchers were forced to appeal to the
court of public opinion. They mounted their noisy protests outside the windows of the Fifth Avenue billionaires and won their battle. But did they win the war?

[Though it is being contested, MBPM-2 is still in effect.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Taps and Reveille for a Hawk

Before sunset [4:31 pm] on Sun. November 26, 2006
Pale Male at night roost, and Lincoln Karim there to photograph

At sunrise --6:56 a.m -- Monday November 27, 2006
Pale Male still at his night roost [though it looks like he's on a different branch] -- and Lincoln Karim is there too.

Question: We know the hawk gets enough sleep.
But what about the photographer?

Thanks for this great sequence, Lincoln.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Intellectual Hawks: John Blakeman comments

Pale Male [facing out] on Linda's window, March 2006
Photo by Bruce Yolton

From Donna Browne's website- PaleMaleIrregulars:

Donna writes [last week]

After reading my thoughts in Pale Male and Lola Sit on Linda, John Blakeman sent in some of his own regarding Red-tails facing windows.


Be assured. Neither Lola or Pale Male are facing the windows to peer inside the buildings.

Can they see inside? Just as well as we could, were we perched up there.

But are they interested in what is going on inside these apartments? Not at all. Although it might appear that they are looking in, they aren't. Or at least not for long. Neither bird decided to face the window to peer inside.

Hawkwatchers need to understand that hawks have two foveae in each eye, not one (as in humans and other mammals). It will be recalled from school health or biology classes that the fovea is the small, cell-packed area of the eye where detailed vision is centered. Humans have one fovea, so we can see only a single, central spot of visual clarity. Our hawks, however, have two of these in each eye, one positioned to see forward, as we do, and a second one positioned to see exceptionally well out of the side of the eye.

So, when it appears that Lola is watching someone's afternoon soaps, looking straight into the window, she is not. In fact, she's looking sideways down both directions of the street. She's spotting both the sky and the ground for interesting or threatening new objects that would come into her wide, lateral field of vision.

She might look inside the window for a moment, but only to discern if there is any threat. After that, her attention is behind and beside her, where she must concentrate her thoughts.

I've mentioned this before elsewhere. Don't for a moment think that when our red-tails are sitting quietly and motionless up on a high perch that they are merely passing the time idly. Although the hawks appear to be rather disengaged from everything around them, such is not so. They are mentally noting everything of interest, the flying past of a peregrine high over a street several blocks away, the landing of a flock of pigeons out in the park, the scampering of squirrel across a Central Park lawn, and any number of other faunal activities.

If one of the landed pigeons begins to appear inattentive in rising with the flock when a dog approaches, or if the squirrel stops too far out into the lawn, distant from a tree of refuge, Lola notes it all. Not only that, she's continually processing all of this to determine her most efficient flight off the perch for her next meal, which could be hours away.

Our hawks are contemplative intellectuals, continually surmising the entire landscape. They leave the soaps and other domestic trivialities to what they must regard as a much lesser species, human beings, who can't concentrate, can't stay focused, can't see much, and can't even fly.

Poor us. We watch the soaps.

John Blakeman

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Manhattan parakeets: a follow-up

A beautifully clear view of the newly discovered Monk Parakeet nest on Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd St. It was discovered by Rebekah Creshkoff last week.

News traveled fast. Today I received an e-mail from Steve Baldwin who runs a fascinating website about Monk Parakeets. He's a Brooklyn resident, and just a little defensive about us Manhattanites. But his pictures are fabulous, and his devotion to the species [as you'll see if you check out his website] is admirable and inspiring.

Here's a link to his follow-up of my story: