Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blakeman comments on the nest-fixing project

The large dark spots on the backs of the hard hats were a suggestion of mine. They are made to look like two large eyes peering back into the sky.
When at a nest, Red-tails will often dive at a human interloper, occasionally even striking the person on the back of the head, shoulders, or middle of the back. But if the person turns around and looks at the attacking hawk, the bird turns away, knowing that the interloper sees that hawk and will defend himself.
Fortunately, there apparently were no aerial attacks from Lola or Pale Male. The eyespots on the hard hats may have helped prevent such flights. The last thing anyone would have wanted would have a technician getting a multitude of 2-inch needle-sharp talons embedded in his scalp. Our birds had the good sense, perhaps prompted by the suggested eyespots, to remain remote and distant.
Had the spike removal waited just a few more days, the hawks could have been far more defensive. As observers of this pair surely have noted over the years, activity at the nest really begins in earnest in February. The birds are detecting increasing periods of light each day now, and that starts the breeding and nesting hormones flowing.
Let everyone be assured that the nest will now be refurbished by the pair in the usual and typical manner of mature Red-tail pairs. The birds won't even know that the spikes are removed. Things will go on just normally now, with no loss of incubation heat, and equally important, with proper egg rolling.
And the removal of the old eggs, as I've indicated to Donna Browne, is also a very helpful development. In wild Red-tail nests, old, unhatched eggs virtually never survive an entire year in the nest. Raccoons eat them, or they just rot and blow out of a less stable tree nest. With the eggs up there now, Lola would have been impelled to begin to sit on them, quite prematurely. Of course, she will naturally spend extensive periods of time sitting on the empty nest. But without the old eggs up there, those periods of bare-nest sitting will be reduced and will not impede normal get-ready-for-eggs preparations, whether physiological (hunt to get nutrients to make eggs), psychological (be available for frequent sex-inducing flights and copulations), and finally, thermal and structural determinations, (to affirm nest construction suitabilities).
I'm so pleased to learn that this crucial project went forward and came to some useful completion -- just in time, too. I commend everyone who brought all of this together, especially the people at NYC Audubon. It's one thing to educate the public on natural resources and conservation problems, which Audubon intelligently does. But it's another matter to step forward, commit institution resources, and actually get things done. Words can be cheap. Rectifying difficult conservation issues can be expensive, as this surely was. Perhaps readers should personally commend NYC Audubon for their foresight and execution of this extremely difficult program. Well done, all.
Like everyone, I look forward to seeing more photos of the completed spike removal.

John A. Blakeman