Wednesday, May 30, 2012

RIP Rik Davis

Some photos of Rik Davis [and a photo of two out of the thousands of people who over the years have availed themselves of his telescope to see the Fifth Avenue hawks]. These were taken over the last 5 years by Murray Head

Here's a eulogy about Rik written by Lincoln Karim and published on his website:

Rik Davis was the first person that welcomed me to setup my telescope next to the dozen or so lined up along the Model Sailboat Pond back in April 2001. He ran over and handed me a flyer to join the AAA (Amateur Astronomers Association of New York).

He was a first class studio photographer and a brilliant amateur astronomer. I learned a great deal from him over the years. It was always a pleasure to sit with him and listen to the explanations to the vast amount of questions I continually put to him. He shared his knowledge with all that were interested to learn. I don’t think I ever saw him in a bad mood in the eleven years that I knew him. He was never prosperous because I believe he was more willing to give than to receive.

Rik’s long hours at the Model Sailboat Pond surpassed any other observer. He accumulated a mass of first hand information which he willingly shared with all of us. I picked up a great deal of photography tips from Rik but unfortunately I was hardly able to learn any of his amazing patience and tolerance for people.
The Model Sailboat Pond will never be the same without you my friend.

We miss you Rik. Rest in peace.

Murray Watches an Egret Dine

Observations on this Great Egret's Eating Preferences,
I noted three.

He first flies over The Pond to decide where to go to eat.

 1 Take out

2 The Hallett... In the Garden

3 All you can eat... at Catch-of-the Day

Photos and captions by MURRAY HEAD

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sad news about a Central Park friend

Yesterday I heard the shocking news that an old Central Park friend, Rik Davis, died last Saturday.
Bruce Kamiat, a fellow member of the Woodlands Advisory Board, sent me an e-mail telling me of his death. Bruce wrote::

I've just now learned the sad news that Rik passed away on Saturday at Beth
Israel Hospital. He suffered a sudden massive heart attack.

His wife, Anna Mae, told me she and Rik had planned not to hold any memorial service in such an event.

For those wishing to send condolences, the address is 37 W. 19th St., NY, NY 10011.

Sorry to be the bearer of such news,

Bruce Kamiat
I met Rik sometime between the winter of 1991, when an unusually pale Red-tailed Hawk was first seen swooping over the Lake with a rat in his talons, and 1995 when that same hawk, now universally called Pale Male, became the proud father of three chicks in his Fifth Avenue nest.

I met a lot of people during the exciting years Pale Male nested on Fifth Avenue, but Rik was one of the few who became a friend forever.

After 1995 Rik became a familiar fixture at the Model-boat Pond, exhibiting his marvelous photographs of Pale Male and mates and sharing his storehouse of knowledge about the Fifth Avenue hawks. I could always count on a look at the nest through Rik's fine Swarovski telescope, and I always looked forward to stopping and chatting with Rik for a while. He was one of the nicest, friendliest, kindest people I've ever met.

I can hardly imagine Central Park without Rik Davis. The thought makes me terribly sad.

Blakeman on Redtails [and we've missed him...]

Photo by MURRAY HEAD 5/27/12
Murray's photo of the Red-winged Blackbird flying onto the back of the soaring Red-tailed Hawk is interesting. A revelatory story.
Here in Northern Ohio, we commonly find the red epaulet feathers of male Redwinged Blackbirds in local Red-tailed Hawk nests. For some time, it was unknown how these big hawks were so able to capture the smaller, aerially-adroit blackbirds. Normally in flight, they can easily avoid an attacking flight of the big, somewhat slower hawk.
But this photo reveals exactly how the intelligent Red-tail so easily accomplishes captures of these aggressive blackbirds. Here's what was discovered in a local study of nesting Red-tailed Hawks.
Each day, a Red-tail tiercel haggard, a male adult, of a local nesting pair, would fly out over a alfalfa field which contained a harem of nesting female Redwings. On the first day of such a flyover, the hawk would be up a few hundred feet, and the local resident male Redwing would fly up and harass the hawk flying high over head. The hawk quickly left the field, leaving the incubating Redwing blackbirds safe.
But the next day, the Red-tail, at about the same time, would do another flyover, causing the protective male Redwing to once again to fly up and harass the hawk, attempting to drive it away and keep it from snagging any of its incubating female blackbirds. On the second day, success once again for the blackbird.
Likewise on one or two following days, which in each case the hawk flew lower.
But finally, after several days of these harassing flights by the hawk, the Redwing became ever more emboldened and got closer and closer each day, just as shown in Murray's definitive photo.
Then, finally, the hawk struck. After several days of ever lower harassing flyovers by the hawk, the Redwing become overly emboldened and actually dropped upon the hawk's back as it flew over. As quick as a cat, the hawk would invert itself in the air and instantly snag the lured-in Redwing Blackbird from the air.
And easy meal for a few casual fights over a field loaded with Redwinged Blackbird nests. The Red-tails figured this out all on their own, and would fly around their territories looking for blackbird-loaded alfalfa fields where they could work their harassing magic.
Smart birds, these Red-tails.
 -John Blakeman

PS from Marie: [Murray's second story, promised yesterday, postponed until tomorrow. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday at the Pond with Murray

A note from our friend Murray Head:

Hi Marie, I have two stories for you... both from observations
this Sunday at The Pond at 59th Street.

Action... Above, Below and In-between...


Red-winged Blackbird dissuading a Red-tailed Hawk from coming too close to his nest


Submarine of some sort



Out for lunch


Two-point landing

Photographs and captions by MURRAY HEAD

[Please tune in tomorrow for the second story...]