Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Dog Days of summer in Prospect Park

Mute Swans with cygnets

(Photo credit - Rob J)

My 13-year-old nephew, Brandon, is spending three weeks with us while enrolled in day camp. On June 19th of 2004 I took him into Prospect Park to look for that season's young Red-tailed Hawks. Having recently fledged, they were still in an awkward and noisy stage. They were easy to locate as they clambered around in the trees near their nest on Payne Hill. Last Sunday I was hoping to repeat that good fortune by finding this year's young hawks from the Ravine nest.

"Alto" from 2004 brood

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sweet Pepperbush (clethra alnifolia)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I had received a couple of reports from Tom Kerr, one of the new park rangers, who had been observing the Red-tailed Hawks along the lakeside of Lookout Hill. At this period of development the parents usually cut off the free handouts to force their offspring to learn to hunt. Some offspring are easier to wean than others and Tom described one juvenile chasing the adults while crying. I say "crying" because the vocalization is very different from the typical, Red-tailed Hawk's raspy "keeeer" call. It's a short, high-pitched whistled yelp that breaks at the end like a yodel. I would imagine that, after a while, the irritating sound might cause a parent to give in to the pleas.

Before checking Lookout Hill we walked through the Midwood. I scanned the trees and, periodically, imitated the young hawk's cry. In the past I have found that they will readily respond to it. Neither the adults nor the two juveniles were in the forest so we headed off to the south end of the park.

Pagoda tree flowers (Sephora japonica)


(Photo credit - Rob J)

The dog days of summer have snuck up on me like a lion stalking its prey. It was upon me before I had time to notice the transition. Pagoda trees throughout the city are heaping their buttery-colored popcorn flowers all over the streets and sidewalks. Cicada's are now "churring" in waves throughout the day. After sunset crickets and katydids being "ticking" to the yellow lightshow of fireflies. Uncountable and single-minded, honeybees and bumblebees are traveling from flower to flower while spring's flowers have already morphed into fruit. Hundreds of robins in the park are gorging themselves on a sudden abundance of black cherries. Squirrels are hanging upside down in hornbeams to collect their dangling clusters of seeds. The hornbeam fruits are like little green bundles protecting several small fruits. Chipmunks on the ground are collecting carelessly dropped bundles and carrying them off to their larders.

American Hover Fly (Eupeodes americanus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and bee

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Pyralis firefly (Photinus pyralis)


(Photo credit - Rob J)

We walked up to the top of Lookout Hill from Center Drive. Near the Butterfly Meadow I heard the unmistakable cry of a young Red-tailed Hawk. The sound was coming from the top of a tree midway down the slope towards the lake. When we couldn't locate the source I briefly thought that I was being tormented by another smart-alecky Blue Jay. We were standing in the woods on the slope when I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk taking flight near the south end of the hill. The young hawk continued to call from somewhere within the dense foliage of a Sycamore Maple. An adjacent Black-cherry tree was loaded with robins calling out a warning to all the other animals. I thought we might have a better view from the lower path of Lookout Hill. As we began walking towards the Maryland Monument stairway I spotted one of the adult hawks flying at treetop level. He flew passed the Sycamore Maple and the crying eyass took flight, chasing after his parent. This was the extent of our encounter with the young hawks last Sunday.

Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Northern Arrowwood (Viburnum recognitum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I searched for them again yesterday. The closest I got was hearing a crying hawk in the Midwood. I searched the trees in the forest but he had either moved on or stopped making noise. At around 2pm I spotted Alice flying above the Midwood and following the line of Center Drive towards Lookout Hill. Right behind her, in hot pursuit, was one of her offspring. I had been out searching for about 2 hours. It was about 90 degrees and the heat forced me to give up the chase.

I received another report from Tom yesterday. He and another park ranger observed one of the young hawks hunting near the "Imagination Playground". This particular playground has several water features to help kids stay cool in the summer. Perhaps the hawks had been hanging around this playground for the same reason. I remember a park worker relating to me an incredible story about one of the 2002 fledglings:

"Two women who work for the parks department spotted it and stopped to ask me a few questions. One related a story that seems unbelievable. Part of her responsibilities is to keep the children's playgrounds clean. Two weeks ago, in the midst of the heat wave, she started her morning at the 3rd Street playground. While hosing down the park benches inside the playground one of the Red-tailed Hawks decided to perch on the back of the bench that she was cleaning off. She described to me how astonished she was when the hawk, rather that flying off, opened its wings and luxuriated in the cool shower. The woman claimed that the hawk allowed her to hose it down for at least 5 minutes. When she finally put the hose away and moved on the hawk remained perched on the back of the park bench."

It seemed logical that the hawks would take advantage of an early morning shower before the children arrived. Unfortunately, when Brandon and I checked it out today lots of children were present but no hawks. We went out on bicycles today but they weren't helpful in tracking down the Ralph, Alice and family. The midday weather was brutally hot and humid. Most animals were quietly hunkered down somewhere in the shade. What's that saying about mad dogs and Englishmen? Well, this mad dog stayed out way too long. By the time we returned home, my clothes were drenched with sweat through and through.

It was probably a bad idea to try and track the hawks in the midday heat. Tomorrow I'll take a quick run over to the "Imagination Playground" early in the morning and see if I can find them cooling off.

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 7/28/2006
-
Red-tailed Hawk (Young chasing adult near Midwood.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo (Payne Hill.)
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren (Lookout Hill.)
House Wren (3 or 4.)
Wood Thrush (Midwood.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler (Lullwater.)
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch (Butterfly Meadow.)
House Sparrow

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin (Several dozen.), European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Unidentified fungi on Peninsula

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another resident hawk?

Juniper Valley Park (click to enlarge)


I just received the following great photo from Bob Holden. The photograph of the Red-tailed Hawk with a pigeon was taken in Juniper Valley Park, Queens. There is a large cemetery near the park. I'll have to explore this area over the winter as it is potentially another Red-tailed Hawk nesting site.

Red-tailed Hawk with prey on backstop (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Bob Holden)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

St. Saviour's Church



This is just a brief list of links regarding my previous posts on St. Saviour's Church. I promise not to belabor the issue and will be returning to my Red-tailed Hawk/nature postings and photos tonight.

WCBS

The National Trust

WABC

The Associated Press

The Times Union

Newsday

Preservation Perspectives

Friday, July 21, 2006

Maspeth Creek & St. Saviour's Church

Green Heron with balloons

(Photo credit - Bernard Ente)

Whenever I cross over the Kosciuszko Bridge in a car I look down at the river below. I wonder about the wildlife in and around
Newtown Creek's industrial environs. I've even considered kayaking up the narrow body of water. Recently I received an e-mail from Bernard Ente who explores Maspeth Creek. Maspeth Creek is one of Newtown Creek's tributaries which also includes English Kills and Dutch Kills. It runs passed the neighborhood where St. Saviour's Church is located.

Bernard has some great photos on his website here:

"Photography by Bernard Ente".

Also, the Juniper Civic Association has created an online petition to save the historic St. Saviour's Church. To sign the petition click the link below:

Save St. Saviour's!

Church with creek in the background (click to enlarge)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Shades of black, white and gray

Bird's eye view of Moriches Bay (click to enlarge)


I had another pre-dawn pickup on Tuesday. Sean, Doug and I were going out east to Cupsogue Beach County Park, near the town of Westhampton Dunes. Low-tide creates a large mud flat on the Moriches Bay side of the barrier island and attracts hundreds of seabirds. Our primary motivation for the early morning drive was to try to find an Arctic Tern. In general, it’s also a good time of year to look for other unusual terns.

Moriches Bay

(Photo credit - Rob J)

When we arrived the tide was still pretty high and there were no exposed flats. We had to wait 45 minutes to an hour for the water to drop. In the meantime we walked across the parking lot to the ocean side and scanned for shearwaters and other seabirds. A muggy haze hung over the horizon obscuring fishing boats and any distant, passing pelagic birds. Normally one needs to hop on a ship and travel to deep water to find these birds but we have had some luck in the past spotting a few species from the ocean’s edge.

Cupsogue mud flat

(Photo credit - Rob J)

A narrow path to the mud flats begins at the edge of the asphalt parking lot. I felt like I needed a machette as the first section of the trail cuts through dense, towering phragmites. We also had to tip-toe around patches of Poison Ivy jutting out of the reeds. As we got closer to the mud flats the vegetation got shorter and the ground got softer. Exiting the phragmites we had to decide whether to walk through thick, sticky mud or around it and through sharp edged cordgrass. Once we were on the mud flat we had to wade across several channels of calf deep, cool water. I stood in the water and watched hermit crabs flowing passed my feet in the outgoing tide.

-Click here for more about saltmarsh vegetation-

I have problems identifying some gulls and terns as their plumages are mostly just a diverse amalgamation of black, white and gray. Sean has spent a lot of time banding terns and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this family of birds. I looked forward to spending a few hours studying flocks of terns roosting on a mud flat.

Common Terns (Sterna hirundo)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Roseate Terns (Sterna dougallii)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We set up our scopes near one large flock of terns and across an inlet from another. Common Terns were the most abundant species in the area. Several fledgling Common Terns were observed lying stretched out with their chins on the cool ground. Parents arriving with food sparked a crying, begging session by their offspring. Several Roseate Terns were also seen relaxing and preening within the flock. Least Terns were seen in lesser numbers. A Black Tern in post-breeding plumage was spotted among the Roseate Terns. Between studying the terns and swatting at green flies I scanned the flats for small shorebirds. As I observed at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, dowitchers were the most abundant shorebird. I also counted approximately 12 Piping Plover in the area. One wary American Oystercatcher nervously eyed us as he walked nearby. He headed to several small shoals of mussels where he probed for food. When the returning tide began to cover our feet we reluctantly packed up our gear. If we stayed too long we’d either have to remain on a small island until the next tide change or swim through deep water with our gear. We never found any Arctic Terns but it was still a great experience.

Least Tern (Sterna antillarum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

American Oystercatchers

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This year I’ve been spending a lot of time chasing birds. It’s changed the focus of my blog and, sometimes, I feel like I’m missing the forest for the trees. While I have been learning a great deal about the ebb and flow of the different families of migrating birds, time restraints have changed the way I observe nature. Red-tailed Hawks, botanicals, reptiles and insects have become secondary to my activities. I’ll need to eventually return to spending more time smelling the roses.

Shorebird footprints

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on terns-

- - - - -

Cupsogue, 7/18/2006
-
Common Loon
Cory's Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Glossy Ibis
Osprey
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Roseate Tern
Common Tern
Least Tern
Black Tern
Black Skimmer
Belted Kingfisher
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
Common Yellowthroat
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Boat-tailed Grackle

Other common species seen (or heard):
Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Mussels, snails, barnacles & starfish

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Early morning at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Dawn on the East Pond

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I love being outside when the sun is rising. Getting there is another story. When my alarm goes off I'm never thrilled and always have to force myself to sit upright. Eventually the fog lifts from my brain. I remember the unmatched sensation of dark solitude transitioning to soft light and screeching, cawing, cackling sounds of nature preparing for a day of work. Some people think that I’m a little crazy to wake up at 4:00am just to slog through the mud at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Maybe I am or maybe they’re missing out on the best part of the day.

We went to the refuge to find a reported Wilson's Phalarope. Several species of shorebirds have begun migrating south and this is usually the time that phalaropes can appear locally. The dominant species of shorebird present this morning was dowitcher. Flocks of feeding dowitchers were interspersed with yellow-legs. The water along the east side of the East Pond was about 10" at it’s deepest point. This time I wore my mud boots as I assumed that I would be walking a long distance. In addition to a small section of exposed mud at the South Flats, there were a few points of land jutting into the north end of the pond. Sean’s sharp eyes quickly picked out the Wilson’s Phalarope on the opposite side of the pond. The bird’s bright, white plumes beamed in the early morning light among red-brown Dowitchers and streaked Yellow-legs. The Ruff was also still present a short distance south of the phalarope.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As the morning progressed dozens of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and other wading birds crossed paths above the East Pond. The Night-Herons were on their way to roost after a night of hunting while the egrets and herons were just beginning their day.

Common Tern

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Wilson's Phalarope-

- - - - -

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 7/16/2006
-
Pied-billed Grebe

Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Scarlet Ibis
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet
Spotted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Ruff (Northwest side of East Pond.)
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Phalarope (Northwest side of East Pond.)
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Belted Kingfisher
Willow Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird

Friday, July 14, 2006

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Staghorn Sumac berries

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Wednesday Sean invited me to join him on a drive out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. One Monday Shane discovered a Ruff feeding among the expected shorebirds around the East Pond. I remember hearing talk of wayward Ruffs showing up at Jamaica Bay over the years but have never be fortunate enough to seen one. We were hoping that the bird didn’t decide to return to Eurasia and was waiting just for our benefit.

There’s a narrow trail through the phragmites from the north gravel road to the pond. The trail was overgrown with sumacs, wild raspberry vines and lots of poison ivy. I had to pick my steps carefully. Due to recent, abundant rainfall the water level on the East Pond was extremely high. To traverse the edge of the pond tall rubber boots were necessary or, in my case, shorts and a pair of Tevas. I don’t really mind slogging through muck, I just rinse my feet off in the bay. Circling continuously above the pond were Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Terns, Least Terns and Forster’s Terns, squawking, squealing and laughing. North Island, the only island on the pond, was dominated by cormorants and young terns harassing their parents for free handouts. Sanderling Point is a small peninsula opposite the island and the only section of pond above water. We set-up our scopes at this spot and Sean found the Ruff almost immediately. The bird was south of our locations and was furiously snapping up bits of food from the surface of the water. Occasionally he was using his long bill to dig deeper into the mud. Most of the time he remained close to the dense phragmites that edge the pond, periodically disappearing into the reeds. The bird was to far for me to photograph, even through my scope. On Monday Shane was able to get closer shots so I’m posting his photos here.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)



(Photo credit - Shane Blodgett)

-Click here for more info on Ruffs-

-Click here to see why they are called Ruffs-

As we were watching the Ruff two other birders arrived and joined us to observe the rare visitor. Devon and Justin drove all the way from Lancaster to try and get a glimpse of the Ruff. They were very pleased with the cooperative shorebird. As the four of us were making small talk I noticed something brown in the water several yards away. It was a Muskrat with his back turned to us, munching on, what looked like, vegetation. I took a few photos but he remained with his back to us. On a whim I whistled like a Red-tailed Hawk thinking that he would turn around out of curiosity. Instead, this normally torpid animal dashed for cover like a greyhound chasing a mechanical rabbit. So much for my brilliant idea.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On our walk back to the car I had to stop and photograph a curiously out of place object. The walk from the north end of the pond to the parking lot is along a neglected and rarely used section of sidewalk. It parallels a section of Crossbay Boulevard that is frequently used like a drag racing strip. It was on this sidewalk that a Lined Seahorse met his death. All the nearby bodies of water are pretty far from the sidewalk. How did he get there? We guessed that perhaps one of the breeding Ospreys snatched something from the water that this odd little fish was using as an anchor. I’m not sure which would be worse, getting eaten by a young Osprey or skydiving without a parachute. Hopefully I’ll never need to find out. When I was very young I remember swimming at Riis Park, picking up a clump of seaweed and finding a live seahorse clinging to it. I examined him in my hand for a few moments then returned him to his raft.

Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Young Osprey

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At the West Pond it looks like the two juvenile Osprey are just about ready to fledge. I also noticed a new cycle of flowering plants. Trumpet Vines, Common Mullein, Milkweed Plants, Butterfly Milkweed, Blanket Flowers and
Spotted Knapweed created a vastly different color palette compared to my last visit in May. I was disappointed to learn that the beautiful splotches of purple created by the flowering knapweed was not something biologists were enthusiastic to find. It’s yet one more invasive species. I sometimes wonder if it will ever be possible to eliminate foreign, invasive species. In many cases the changes we’ve made to the planet are probably permanent.

Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea biebersteinii)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 7/12/2006
-
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Whooper Swan (Most likely an escaped bird.)
Wood Duck
Gadwall
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
American Oystercatcher
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Ruff
Short-billed Dowitcher
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
White-eyed Vireo
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

Snowy Egret

(Photo credit - Rob J)

More St. Savior's photos

Click image for an expanded view

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

St. Saviour's Church in Maspeth



(Photo credit - Christina Wilkinson)

As you've probably noticed, I usually refrain from political issues on my blog. I try to act as a neutral observer. In the last year I've written two postings that were exceptions to that rule. Here is the third. This issue impacts both nature and New York City history. It was brought to my attention through communications with the Juniper Civic Association in Queens. Below is an excerpt from an e-mail I received today, as well as, two photos and links regarding this important issue. If any readers connected with historical, religious or conservation groups have any ideas or contacts that might help preserve this site feel free to post your comments.

"Subject: birder and JPCA member
From: Christina M. Wilkinson
Date: 7/12/06 10:36 PM

Hi Rob,

I am the historian and nature writer for the JPCA and right now I am working on saving a 159-year old church which was built by the founders of Maspeth and is currently threatened with demolition. The grounds consist of 1.5 forested acres - a rarity anywhere in NYC. Right now the property is overgrown to the point that you can't even see the church (see photos)! In May, I noticed many migrating birds using the property. I brought this to the attention of the Audubon Society and they didn't want to get involved. [...]

Well, enough of my ranting. Thought maybe you would want to visit Maspeth one day. Besides the St. Saviour's grounds and Juniper Park, we have a "small" garden cemetery here that no one knows about called Mount Olivet. I have seen so many different species of birds there that people don't believe me when I show them the list. You should definitely check it out during migration [...]

Take care.

Yours truly,

Christina Wilkinson
Maspeth, NY"


-Click here for an article in LIC Alliance-

-Click here for an article in Forgotten-NY-

I will certainly pay a visit to the site and post a report and some photos, provided they don't sneak in one night with a bulldozer.

Fordham hawks mystery solved

Rose and Hawkeye

(Photo credit - Christopher Lyons)

Early on in the monitoring of Rose and Hawkeye at the Fordham campus Chris had questions about their origins. He postulated that they may have been the pair that had nested on an apartment building fire escape. His persistance paid off and below is what he has discovered:

"Subject: Confirmation at last on the origins of Rose and Hawkeye
From: Christopher Lyons
Date: 7/11/06 10:15 PM

There is little new to report about the current status of Hawkeye, Rose, and their three fledged eyasses at Fordham. I've had limited opportunity to track them down on the campus, and only see them occasionally, now that the family is more mobile. They do seem to still be centered around Collins Hall and the University Chapel, and some of my co-workers do report some interesting occurrences as they pass through that area--one grounds worker told me he saw one of the young hawks successfully catch a squirrel about two weeks ago (dropped down onto it from a tree). Sometimes the young are spotted with a prey item, down on the ground. Sometimes most or all of the family is spotted soaring overhead. I myself saw one of the adults being harassed by a kestrel last week. But it's getting to the time when sightings become farther and fewer between, and it's time to submit a final wrap-up report for Breeding Season 2006. I happen to have the perfect note on which to conclude--a mystery solved.

Back on March 9th of this year, I first reported my suspicions that Hawkeye and Rose were the same Red-Tail pair that nested on the fire escape of an apartment building on Creston Ave, across from St. James Park, only a short distance from Fordham. This was in 2004, around nine months before two Red-Tails of similar appearance built a nest in a tree near the University Library. Piece by piece, I learned the details of that earlier nesting, which I had previously known nothing about. Because of a small number of local youths displaying an unwholesome interest in this breeding attempt, the 2004 pair had their nest removed by Chris Nadareski of the DEP, along with their still-fluffy young. The two eyasses were successfully reared and released upstate by Mr. Paul Kupchok, a licensed rehabilitator working at Green Chimneys, a residential treatment center near Brewster, that cares for animals as well as people. The parents never attempted to nest in that area again.

The coincidence of the 2004 breeding attempt, so close to the 2005 nest, was compounded by the fact that Rose was observed to have a band on her right leg in the months following her appearance at Fordham. Banded Red-Tails are not that common, and it seemed a reasonable deduction that she acquired this piece of jewelry at the time Chris Nadareski removed that nest. I was never able to contact Mr. Nadareski to confirm this. But as it happens, he isn't the one who banded her.

Not quite two weeks ago, I happened to mention all this to David Kunstler, of the New York City Parks Dept, who works in The Bronx. He remembered the case of the Creston Ave. nest, and he knew some things I didn't--namely that the female of that pair had been found with a drooping wing on 5/14 (only a few days after her nest was removed). She could still fly, but was significantly impaired, and had to be taken into custody. After being mistakenly shuttled over to the Animal Medical Center on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (pity Red-Tails don't have language as we know it, or she'd have quite a yarn to tell her youngsters), she was put into the care of Bobby Horvath and his wife, Rebecca Asman, two very experienced rehabilitators who live on Long Island. Ms. Asman judged this female to be 5-6 years of age at the time. The newcomer impressed both of them with her confident bearing, and ability to quickly adapt to her new surroundings, which included a large number of other convalescing birds and mammals. After an early period of understandable distrust, she got on well with her keepers, but remained inherently a wild bird.

Rose's banded leg

(Photo credit - Christopher Lyons)

On 6/7, her slight injury properly healed, she was released in the same place she was captured--with a band on her right leg, to help identify her in the future. Mystery solved--and if I can ever read the number on Rose's band, I can know it for a certainty, but I'm certain enough as matters stand now. Rose is that very same female, and there's no reason to think she would have needed to find a new mate after such a short absence, so Hawkeye is almost certainly the same male. They would have found each other with little difficulty (I would give much to have witnessed that reunion), and in the coming months, would have cast their eyes around for a more secure nest-site within their shared territory. Probably they had already noticed the green shady campus, only a few minutes flight from their 2004 nest--be interesting to know why they didn't nest there in the first place, although St. James Park does have a very large pigeon population, and they could hardly understand why some humans would react differently to their breeding activities than others. Her rehabilitators were both very gratified to learn that their former charge and her mate had managed to successfully rear five young since her release, in a place where their presence was welcomed--and where they were guarded by 24/7 campus security.

In the process of talking to the Horvaths, I also learned of two other active Red-Tail nests in recent years. They mentioned one at the VA Hospital in Jamaica, and one built on a window air conditioner on the Queens Courthouse (unclear whether either pair produced young this year). Both nests were known to locals, and observed with great interest. We agreed that there must be many other nests in the five boroughs that none of us knew about. Indeed, if this little mystery story proves anything, it's that there's a lot of things about our local Red-Tails (and urban wildlife in general) we don't even begin to suspect--but that we all stand to learn a great deal more if we pool our knowledge."



(Photo credit - Christopher Lyons)

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope