Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pale Male nest suggestion and Blakeman's reply

[Photo won't upload this morning]

Shortly after the news came that the NYC Audubon was planning to retrieve the eggs at Pale Male's failed nest , a letter from a website reader arrived in my e-mail box, I forwarded it to John Blakeman, noting that he had commented on this issue several times before. I rather hoped he wouldn't dismiss the suggestion entirely. And indeed, as you will see, he did not.

PS I also forwarded Blakeman's answer to Glenn Phillips, executive director of NYC Audubon. Haven't heard back yet. But I'm hopeful.


While the scaffolding is up to collect the eggs from the once again failed nest of the famous couple, is there any possible chance that the gap between the concrete and the nest cradle can be filled in with animal friendly insulation as outlined on Lincoln Karim’s archived website of structural necessities for their nesting site to promote successful hatching? The spikes were taken out in early 2008 but none of the other outlined issues were ever addressed. Does anyone know why? It would seem that the nest cradle being so many inches off of the concrete gives the nesting pair a false sensed of reality as to how deep their nest bowl really is and they don’t build and insulate it deep enough to keep those cold March/April night/day winds out of the nest even though they both vigilantly incubate. It would be a very long shot to say Pale Male is suddenly “infertile” the seasons after humans destroyed his decade long successful nest; humans need to figure out a way to make this work again.

Please do what you need to do to help them out.

Failure is not an option for 2009!

A dedicated Massachusetts fan…

Sheryl Pew

Westborough MA

Blakeman responded:

Yes, I've commented on this previously, and generally felt that the loss of incubation heat to winds circulating beneath the nest was not likely to be much of a problem. The hawks sit for extensive periods on the nest before eggs are laid, we think to discern that the nest is tight enough to retain incubation heat. If things feel a bit cool on the bottom of the nest bowl, more lining is brought in to tighten things.

The Houston Street pair, as an example, had a rather shallow nest, resting upon open chain link fencing, with full air circulation beneath. They are bringing off a full clutch of three eyasses.

Nonetheless, because the window washers and the swing stage are going to be right at the nest, there is no reason that the gap beneath the nest and the cornice couldn't now be filled. As I proposed previously (never acted upon), three or four spray cans of foam insulation sealant could be spritzed under the center of the nest, filling the gap.

Because foam sealants have only a 10-inch or so tube snout, a substitute one of about 20 inches may have to be used. in order to get the foam sufficiently to the rear of the nest. But this weatherproof foam insulation needs to be only directly under the nest bowl, not out under the more porous nest rim or edge.
The bowl of the nest is only about 16 to 18 inches or so in diameter. We don't need to fill up everything under the entire nest. That nest extends way out to each side of the egg-holding bowl. Cold air out there is of no concern whatsoever.

The materials costs for this are probably less than $30 dollars. Properly selected foam is weatherproof and will cause no staining or weathering problems.
It's an idea worth going forward with, given this unique opportunity to be once again at the nest site.

--John Blakeman

Friday, May 30, 2008

FLASH! Relatively * good news about Rat Poisons

This just received from Alicia King of the American Bird Conservancy, via Glenn Phillips of NYC Audubon:

EPA Announces Decision on Rat Poison

May 29th the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a landmark decision to control the sale and use of rat poisons throughout the United States. The decision is aimed at protecting children, pets, and wildlife.

The most toxic rat poisons will be removed from the consumer market and replaced with less toxic alternatives, which have been shown to be equally effective in controlling rodent populations in cities and farm settings. All over-the-counter sales of these alternatives will be required to be in the form of bait stations to prevent accidental poisoning of children and pets. Licensed pest control operators and livestock ranchers will still be able to purchase the more toxic “second-generation” rodenticides for use only in areas where the products will not be accessible to children.

Dr. Michael Fry, Director of Conservation Advocacy at American Bird Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council have been pressuring the EPA for years to address the threats to wildlife and human health posed by rat poisons.

The EPA began its evaluation of rodenticides in 1998. A lawsuit brought by NRDC over child poisonings, along with the threat of action by American Bird Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife over the poisoning of San Joaquin Kit Foxes and birds of prey, convinced EPA to develop a mitigation plan for both ecological effects and children. The manufacturers of these chemicals fought back, pressuring EPA to accept less stringent, alternative plans, and threatening them with lawsuits.

The final decision is not as strong as the proposed mitigation plan presented by EPA in January 2007, which called for the second generation products (brodifacoum, bromodialone, difethialone and difenicoum) to be labeled “restricted use”, with sales only to licensed pest control operators. Instead, they will still be available through farm supply stores to ranchers.

American Bird Conservancy believes the final decision will be very helpful in reducing the exposure to birds and mammalian scavengers in suburban areas, where they may come into contact with poisoned rodents. Because of budget cuts and overall decreased funding for monitoring programs, the EPA will not have a monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of their final decision.

Manufacturers will have 90 days to agree to comply with the new regulations or to voluntarily agree to cancel the registration of their product and remove it from the market. Manufacturers will have 18 months to provide new bait station packaging and test results of package safety to the EPA, and EPA will provide an approval decision within one year. This means registrants must agree to the above conditions by September 4, 2008, and have testing and packaging applications submitted by December 4, 2009. The final decision allows distribution and sale of current products until June 4, 2011.

More information is available at
To view the ABC press release, please visit

Alicia Frances King
American Bird Conservancy
Director, Bird Conservation Alliance

1731 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009
Note: Why relatively? See three paragraphs from the end of the press release in section beginning with "The final decision..." These happen to be the substances found in the three Riverside nestlings.

It happened--on 42nd Street and at the Gill

Here's proof of the Manhattanhenge effect, in a photo taken last night at 42nd Street by MITCHELL NUSSBAUM. Tonight should be another spectacle.

And this drama happened yesterday at the Gill. It was captured in a poetic photo by MURRAY HEAD:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The return of Manhattanhenge --check it out tonight

Every year I alert readers to the phenomenon called Manhattanhenge. Well, it's coming up. This year the best viewing days are Thursday and Friday, May 29 and 30, although tonight might work too. Sunset on May 29th will be at 8:19 pm. Don't forget, the further EAST you stand to look towards the setting sun, the grander the sight of Manhattanhenge will be. Here is a 2006 article about it written by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the man who first coined the phrase:


What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rose in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the chage of season.

For Manhattan, a place where the evening matters more than the morning, that special day comes on July 12; one of only two occasions in the year when the Sun sets in exact alignment with the Manhattan grid, fully illuminating every single cross-street for the last fifteen minutes of daylight. The other occasion is May 28th. Had Manhattan's grid been perfectly aligned with the geographic north- south line, then our special day would be the Spring equinox, and if we so designated, the Autumn equinox -- the only two days on the calendar when the Sun rises due East and sets due West. But Manhattan is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, shifting the days of alignment elsewhere into the calendar. Upon studying American culture, and what is important to it, future anthropologists might credit the Manhattan alignments to cosmic signs of Memorial Day and, of course, the All-Star break. War and Baseball.

Because Manhattan is so small (13 mile long) compared with Earth's distance to the Sun (about 93 million miles), the Sun's rays are essentially parallel by the time they reach Manhattan, allowing the Sun to be seen on all cross streets simultaneously, provided you have a clear view to the New Jersey horizon. Some major streets cross the entire island from river to river without obstruction, including 14th, 23rd, 34th, and 42nd streets. While the July 12 sunset qualifies as the exact day for this auspicious moment, the surrounding days will also work, as the point of sunset migrates slowly south from day to day along the horizon, bringing with it ever-shortening daylight hours.

As always, keep looking up,

-Neil deGrasse Tyson

Department of Astrophysics
& Director, Hayden Planetarium
American Museum of Natural History

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An elusive warbler continues in Central Park

Mourning Warbler
Photo by DAVID SPEISER - May 26, 2008

Lloyd Spitalnik []writes on Metro Birding Briefs this morning:

Just heard from Scott Zevon that the Mourning Warbler at the east side of the Upper Lobe continues since this past Saturday. Another bird found yesterday in a Linden Tree on the south side of the reservoir is also being seen.
Good luck as always,
Lloyd Spitalnik

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Birds Birds Birds

Great birds still filling the park [21 species of warbler seen yesterday!]. Here are some photos of the last few days:

Saturday, May 24,

Mourning Warbler at Upper Lobe

Friday, May 23,

Great Egret

two photos [of fish-eaters]by MURRAY HEAD

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Redstart [female]

Eastern Wood Pewee

Lincoln's Sparrow

Solitary Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper
Five photos by DAVID SPEISER