Friday, March 14, 2008

Previews of Coming Attractions

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

The hunt is on for Central Park's first phoebe! Prospect Park's first one is usually sighted a day or two earlier, and it was seen two days ago.
[Hint: It flicks its tail as it perches.]

From the Farmer's Almanac:

[in less than a week!]

March 20 —Vernal EquinoX

Spring begins at exactly 1:48 A.M. (EDT).

Wind northeast or north at noon of the vernal equinox, no fine weather before midsummer. If westerly or southwesterly, fine weather till midsummer.

March 21 —Full Worm Moon

earthwormAt the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.

Easter eggs

March 23 —Easter

This Christian holy day celebrates the resurrection of Christ after his Crucifixion. It was probably the earliest of the church’s annual festivals and was fused with elements of pagan spring festivals celebrating new life.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spotlight on two park birdwatchers

photo by Joe Melhado - 3/5/08

Ardith Bondi, on the photo's left, [with Rochelle Itzen] was one of the soloists in Domenico Cimarosa's Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra at St.Peter's Church on March 5. The Centre Symphony Orchestra accompanied. She is a top-notch Central Park birdwatcher as well as a terrific nature photographer. [And a wonderful flutist.] You can see some of her photos at


photo by David Speiser

Here's Liliana Speiser again, an up-and-coming Central Park birder -- her Daddy David is one of the park's best! You met Liliana last year when she was taking her first steps. Now she's two [as of thirteen days ago] and almost all grown up. Behind Liliana is a sea turtle she admired at a recent visit to the Aquarium. Were you wondering about her birding level? Her father writes:
She has really progressed and can identify many species of birds including Eagles, Flycatchers and Owls.

PS -
Speaking of flycatchers -- the migration has officially begun. The first Phoebe was seen in Prospect park yesterday [March 12] by Alex Wilson.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Now the world knows! The press release:

The news is out.Look for headlines tomorrow or the next day. And expect crowds at the hawk bench when hatch time draws near.

Parks, NYC Audubon, and Leading Hawk Experts Restore

Red-Tail Hawks Pale Male and Lola’s Fifth Avenue Coop

The Parks Department, NYC Audubon and red-tailed hawk experts today announced the restoration of the nest of the legendary red-tail hawks Pale Male and Lola on the 12th floor cornice of 927 Fifth Avenue. Concerned that this historically reproductive avian pair has failed to hatch chicks since re-establishing their nest on the Fifth Avenue building in the spring of 2005, Parks and New York City Audubon recently spearheaded a restoration of the duo’s nest and positive signs of copulation have since been observed.

“Over the years, the story of Pale Male and Lola has enthralled New Yorkers and nature lovers all over the world; we are thrilled to be able help make the Fifth Avenue nest a friendlier environment.” said NYC Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Red-tail hawks are native to New York City and this spring we are hopeful that new chicks are born to continue the cycle of life.”

With the permission of the appropriate City agencies and the building’s co-op board, scaffold workers, under the direction of New York City Audubon, successfully removed stainless steel pigeon spikes protruding from the nest cradle that extended above the nest material and posed a potential threat to embryo development during the 5-6 week egg incubation period.

The spikes were discovered through NYC Audubon-commissioned photographs of the interior of the nest, taken from the building’s roof by wildlife photographers Donegal Browne and Jeff Kollbrunner. The spikes appeared to impede the bird’s ability to roll their eggs to evenly distribute embryonic fluids and tissues. The spikes also appeared to interfere with the hen’s ability to make proper contact with the eggs to her brood patch and keep the eggs consistently warm.

A study of three retrieved eggs laid in Spring 2007 by Dr. Ward Stone, Head of the NYS Wildlife Pathology Unit, revealed that toxicity was not a preventative factor in reproduction success.

The photographs led the panel of red-tailed hawk experts assembled by NYC Audubon to recommend the removal of the pigeon spikes. Panel members were Ron Austing, Dr. Keith Bildstein, John Blakeman and Dr. Heinz Meng. The repair of the nest’s cradle could be critical to the birds’ ability to produce chicks this spring and in the years to come.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Battle of the Bulge

Bob Levy sends in a photo and dramatic story:

The plaintive hawk-alarm call of a Gray Squirrel alerted me that a raptor was in my immediate vicinity. As I headed in the direction of the sound I scanned the open branches on the periphery of a meadow where from experience I have learned hunting hawks will often perch. In hardly any time at all I was looking up at a large juvenile female Red-tailed Hawk only about twenty feet off the ground. Although she periodically jerked her head from side to side to triangulate the positions of three squirrels foraging several yards away she did not attempt an attack. Her bulging crop indicated that she must have recently had a substantial meal and was not immediately ready for another.
For the next twenty minutes or more I was able to observe her freely from beneath the overhanging branches of an evergreen. I really did not need to hide. The hawk obviously knew I was there but that did not bother her. She continued to rest and digest her meal while giving two other observers and myself only an occasional glance. Meanwhile I clicked away with the camera and took three dozen images...Zoom in and enjoy

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dear Readers,

I'm having problems with getting photos onto my website -- uploading, as they say. Hope to get to the bottom of this soon.