Friday, December 24, 2004


When I received John Blakeman's last letter about his conversation with Tess Parent, the Audubon scientist, I assumed he had been sent the plans. But just to be sure I sent him a link to a site where they had been posted. Here is his wonderful, comforting, optimistic response.


My wife and I were en route to Louisville when we were diverted by the extreme snowstorm that hit Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky two days ago. We were confined to a motel, with no access to the outside world. We escaped today, and I'm writing from my daughter's in Ft Wayne, Indiana. Thank you for getting the nest structure plans to me. This is the first that I've seen them.

In short, they are probably perfect, as good as could be designed. I'm very pleased with what I see. There will be no structural problems of any sort. The nest bowl can be effectively formed by the birds, and flights to and from the new nest will be completely un-hindered. It looks very acceptable.

Here's what I predict. If the pair chooses -- and I believe they should -- nesting should resume. I can envision the birds extending the sticks right to the outer edge of the new structure, which is now 26.5 inches from the building wall at the back of the nest. The birds will like this. Formerly, the nest was parked on a rather narrow ledge. Obviously, it worked. But from ledge nests I've studied in Nevada and Idaho, and from typical Eastern nest dimensions (up to 30 inches in diameter), the pair will delightfully extend the outer rim of the nest onto the new angled rods that point away from the building. And as hoped for, these rods will firmly support the nest, keeping it from falling over the front.

This is a very fine design. It will work. If the birds don't nest there this year, it's not because of this new structure. It will be for some other, unrelated reason.

I'm very pleased with both the materials and the design. For this site, for this pair, this should work.

But this should not be necessarily regarded as a model for any future nest structure for any other NYC or other urban red-tail nest. Pale Male selected this site for unknown reasons. As those who study Western red-tail ledge nests know, this nest site is much too high above the ground, and it is also on a rounded surface that slopes off precipitously on both sides. The narrowness of the "ledge" is not favorable. The new structure obviates that a bit.

But red-tails being red-tails, they frequently don't conform to the pronouncements of "experts" like me. That makes studying them so delightful. The birds so frequently come up with new and unique behaviors that allow them to succeed in ways never seen before. Red-tails seldom capture pigeons, but this pair has learned the feat well. Once, I found a red-tail that built a nest just 20 ft off the ground, with numerous more "perfect" nest trees nearby. The pair raised and fledged a pair of eyasses. So, red-tails are capable of many things not so commonly observed. Pale Male and his mates have shown that repeatedly. They should be happy with what they see when they now soar past 927 Fifth Avenue.

I will follow their nesting developments from afar, knowing that everyone has done all that could and should have been done. It's all now in Nature's Hands once again.

I thank you for your allowing me as a distant outsider to post my observations. My best wishes, once again, to all.


John A. Blakeman