Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fordham hawks update

Rose with rat and banded leg

(Photo credit - Thomas Raj)

I received the following update from Chris Lyons regarding the Red-tailed Hawks nesting at Fordham's Rose Hill campus. He also included the above photo taken last year. It shows that Rose was banded at some point in time. Chris is checking with Chris Nadareski, Wildlife Biologist and Peregrine Expert for NYC Department of Environmental Protection. He may have banded Rose the year she nested on a fire escape. It's a long report but, as always, I enjoy Chris' writing:

"Coming in to work this Monday (3/20), I was eager to check out the nest on Collins Hall, because it was on 3/21/2005 that I first saw Rose sitting regularly in the now-abandoned tree nest by the library. The previous two weeks, I'd seen plenty of evidence that they were serious about this new nest, and watched them add a fair bit of material to it; Rose ripping slender flexible branches from oak trees, and Hawkeye snipping fresh green shoots from coniferous trees. Hawkeye, it seems to me, has a particular fondness for adding this type of branch to the nest, a normal behavior of nesting Red-Tails that he takes to extremes. Last year, somebody got a shot of the old nest from a cherry picker used to prune the campus trees, before Rose had laid her eggs. The bottom of the nest was heavily lined with evergreen branches, perhaps 20 or more, of varying lengths. The theory is that they help control feather mites, since the incubating female can't do much preening to keep those little buggers in check. If this theory is correct, Rose should be having no problem with feather mites.

Rose (?) earlier this month

(Photo credit - Richard Fleisher)

I'm hoping this added insulation will mean that the eggs won't be adversely affected by the pigeon spikes the nest was built on, as may have happened last year with Pale Male and Lola's unhatched clutch. Though building-nesting Red-Tails are not so rare as was once thought, this is only the second nest I've heard of that is built on pigeon wire, and almost certainly the first nest Hawkeye and Rose have built on pigeon wire.

However, it may not be the first nest they've constructed on a building. Still trying to find some way to confirm that Hawkeye and Rose are the same Red-Tails that built a nest on an apartment building fire escape on Creston Ave. in the Bronx, only few blocks away from Fordham. They successfully hatched young there in 2004, only to have their young taken away, and the nest dismantled, due to fears that some local kids might harm the chicks (or try to make pets of them). Studying pictures of the Creston Ave. female, I'm almost convinced it's Rose, but still trying to find out if that female was banded. Rose has a silver metal band on her right leg--and there's a good chance Chris Nadareski banded the Creston Ave. female. Reading the numbers on the band would be very difficult, but far as I'm concerned, if I can confirm that female was banded, it's almost a certainty that it's the same female sitting on Collins Hall right now--and no reason to think she changed mates in the interim.

Rose (?) earlier this month

(Photo credit - Richard Fleisher)

If this can be confirmed, it means these two built a nest on a fire escape adjacent to a tiny Bronx park in 2004, then in an oak tree next to a university library in 2005, and then inside a triangular pediment on top of a different university building this year. If they succeed in getting young off this spring, they'll have performed one hell of a hat trick. Three different nests, three sets of eyasses (though they didn't get to see the first brood fledge), in three consecutive years. Pale Male may have consistency and longevity on his side, but Hawkeye and Rose win the prize for versatility and flexibility.

But first, they've got to get this year's eggs laid and hatched. I saw strong evidence over the course of this week that Rose has started laying her clutch. On Monday morning, I saw Hawkeye in the nest--possibly giving her a break, assuming she spent all night sitting on an egg. Later, I saw Rose there--it's fairly easy to tell them apart, if you can get a good look at the head of the incubating bird. Rose's head is a much richer brown.

On Tuesday, I saw Rose on the nest in the morning--later in the day, I saw both of them out of the nest--and then they copulated on the steeple of Fordham's University Church, an 1845 Gothic Revival gem, and long a favorite perch of theirs, which is right next to Collins Hall. Nobody seemed to mind them doing this--I was probably the only human present at the time who even noticed. But I couldn't help wondering if this church wedding meant that divorce was now out of the question for the pair. Not sure what canon law has to say about this."


Fordham University Church

(Photo credit - Sean MacCarthy)

"As is usually the case with these situations, it's often difficult to tell if either bird is sitting in the nest. I don't think it's necessarily that they're trying to hide, either--it's just that you can only see them if they stick their heads up for a look around, or if they're sitting in such a way as that their tails stick out over the edge of the sticks, or if they get up for a stretch, or to turn the eggs. Judging by how often I saw one or the other in the nest, I'm pretty sure there are some eggs by now. However, if Rose isn't finished laying her clutch, they may be delaying serious incubation, to keep the eggs from hatching too far apart. This delayed incubation can make it tricky predicting a hatching date, and had me seriously confused last year.

As of today, I'm pretty sure Rose has been in the nest all the time, with Hawkeye standing guard when he's not hunting. It was fairly warm at lunchtime, and there would have been no danger in leaving one or two eggs unattended for a bit, but she was sitting faithfully all the same. So maybe there'll be hatchlings around a month from now, or maybe it'll be a bit longer--and maybe not at all, of course. I hope they laid enough branches on top of those spikes. It was on 5/9/05 that I first saw two white fuzzy heads poke up out of the old nest. They were about a week old then, I estimated. Hawkeye and Rose seem to be working on a very similar schedule this year, but it's a very different situation. Here's hoping for a hat trick."

1 comment:

Walker said...

WOW! Those hawk photos are fantastic. Thanks for the closeup on the Hawk's nest. Your site is incredible.

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