Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bad news and good

[Can't upload photos this morning for some reason. Photo of new nest in Riverside Park available at ]

Many of you have already heard the bad part of this news from other websites. The good news may be new to some. Leslie Day, one of the most dedicated of the Riverside Park hawkwatchers and author of the recent Field Guide to the Natural World of NYC, sums it up:

[the bad news]
"The toxicology report is back from the analysis of the first hawk carcass: hemorrhaging of the lungs due to a rodenticide anticoagulant. So the parents fed their babies a poisoned rat. Look at for further information.

[the good news]
I was walking my dog north along the lower promenade just past the northern-most marina gate past a row of London planes when I saw one of our hawks land in a sweet gum tree and start jumping up and down on a branch. I looked around and to my total astonishment saw a HUGE nest against the trunk of a London plane. It is supported by 4 or 5 very large branches and looks like they have been building it for at least 10 days. Lincoln saw them mating after the catastrophe. He told me today that after one of Pale Male's nest failures, they started building again right away. "

This may be the first documented instance of hawk mortality directly attributable to a NYC park's use of rodenticides. [One of Pale Male's previous mates died after ingesting a powerful chemical used to get rid of pigeons -- it was put out by a local building, not the Parks dep't].
You can be sure there will be a concerted effort on the part of the Nature Communities of both Riverside and Central Parks, to do something about this situation. We have been vocal about the use of these anticoagulant substances for years. Indeed, thanks to hawkwatcher efforts, Central Park suspended the use of the various rodenticides in the vicinity of the Model-boat Pond during the years Pale Male's nest was producing chicks.
The mandatory labels on the packages of these rodenticides used by the parks declare that they produce no "secondary effects". In other words, the manufacturers claim that there is scientific evidence showing that the substance will NOT effect any wildlife that eats an affected rodent. Obviously, now, this claim is not true for the anticoagulant that killed the three Riverside Park nestlings.

I'll be posting more on the rat-poisoning issue soon. It will not just go away, I promise you. It has been a hawkwatcher concern from the first year [1993] that Pale Male nested on Fifth Avenue. It rather amazes me, now that I think of it, that there have been no earlier incidents like this one, during the fifteen years hawks have been nesting in areas around the city where rodent-baiting is practiced . It will be very interesting indeed to find out, if possible, the name of the exact substance that proved fatal to the Riverside hawklets. Perhaps it was something new or different. Meanwhile, it is important to note that the report from Ward Stone at the DEC [via] was preliminary, with no cause of death officially given. We will have to wait a bit to get the final, complete report and Dr. Stone's assessment.