Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pale Male & Lola's chances for 2009

Pale Male & Lola, March 9, 2008
Photo courtesy of

On 1/6/09 I posted an intriguing note from John Blakeman in which he described extensive Redtail nest failures throughout the midwest in 2008 . He attributed them to
extreme weather conditions in the area and wondered whether Pale Male & Lola's nest failure last year might not have had a similar explanation. As he wrote:

If there are persistent strong, cold, rainy winds, even in the best wild nest, too much cold air can get down through the nest and cool the eggs, especially when the mother has to stand up and slice (defecate), or when she stands up to start tearing some prey her mate has brought her for food.

Many readers began to look through last year's weather archives in search of an extreme weather event in the New York City area during the 2008 incubation period.. Donna Browne described her search and her subsequent correspondence with John Blakeman on her blog Pale Male Irregulars []

As Donna wrote:

The only wind information I had at the point that I emailed John Blakeman was for March 8th, the day with the strongest wind for the month of March 2008, 64 mph wind gusts buffeted the area. The temperature ranged that day from a low of 33F and a high of 48F. I asked Mr. Blakeman whether those temperatures with gusts of wind that strong could have cooled Pale Male and Lola's eggs.

Here is his response--


Yes, 60-plus mph gusts, especially at a nest against a wall (as is 927) could cool the eggs. But had incubation begun in the first or second week of March?

Well, when did incubation begin in 2008? Donna wasn't sure. Here's a note I posted on this site on March 7, 2008:

The date on which Lola first spends the night on the nest, which is also the time she and Pale Male begin to exchange sitting duty so the nest is attended at all times, is a landmark for Hawkwatchers. It may not mean that actual incubation has begun -- there are probably a few practice days that go by before egg laying begins and incubation begins in earnest. But we keep track of that date. It means that real incubation is imminent--will begin within a few days. Yesterday, March 6, was the day!

Though I wrote that the commencement of exchanges might only have meant that incubation was imminent, theoretically there could have been eggs, very vulnerable new eggs, in the nest on March 8, 2008. Therefore, the March 8 windstorm Donna describes might have been the extreme weather event Blakeman was wondering about.

Time will tell...