Thursday, December 16, 2004

Letter of 12/16/04 - Nest Guard Rail Concerns

Subject: Re: Nest Guard Rail Concerns (Ohio Hawk Person)

Date: 12/16/2004


I contacted the architect with an email last night, requesting a sketch. He responded this morning stating that it would first have to go through his client, the Audubon people. I understand the architect's client relations concerns.

Consequently, I emailed Dr. Michael Burger, a personal friend (and a former student of mine). Mike is a National Audubon official for all of the NE. He's at the Cornell Ornithology lab. He would certainly know the NCY Audubon principals, and would be able to get my questions forwarded to them. But Mike may be in the field or away from his office today.

For your understanding, my email to the architect is in blue below. I used my professional return address, as I deal with architects and landscape architects in my native plants landscape design consultancy, hoping that this might open a professional door to the nestsite designs.

My Greetings:

I am a raptor biologist specializing in the red-tailed hawk. I have bred the species in captivity, rehabilitated injured redtails, banded wild redtails, participated in numerous field breeding studies, and I train and fly the birds as a licensed falconer. In short, I am an expert on the breeding of red-tailed hawks.

As such, I contacted Ms. Marie Winn, of Pale Male fame and author of “Redtails in Love” regarding the Pale Male nest controversy. Ms. Winn past my information on to various parties.

I’m pleased that your firm has been retained to design appropriate new devices to both retain the nest sticks and to reduce the out-fall of carcass leavings.

If acceptable, I would like to donate my services to promptly review your proposed nest site designs. I’m certain that your reinstallation of the pigeon spikes will be acceptable to the hawk pair. My greater concern regards the design of the “guardrail” device. It is crucial for nesting success that whatever this contrivance might be that it not extend above the rim of the finished nest at any point. I fear that it would seem convenient and effective to place some sort of artificial rim structure around the nest. Knowing the birds’ nesting habits as I do, I am certain that any such structure will hamper the birds’ landings after eggs have been laid. The hawks must be assured of being able to land unhindered by any extraneous structure adjacent to the nest. The airspace above must remain open, to allow unhindered flexing of the wings of both adults and the eyasses (the young). Likewise, there should be no structural projections above the nest rim, as these will damage the soft wings of the eyasses during exercises before flight.

I hope this information is useful. The worst outcome for all parties would be for the installation of a new nest-holding structure that, in the end, would cause nest failure.

Also, be aware of the large, weighty quantity of carcass leavings that are cast away during the nesting period. Any device designed to capture these, to keep them from falling to the sidewalk below, must accommodate the many pounds of such refuse. Ideally, any such structure or device would take the form of a chute that diverts the leavings to an obscured waste zone below. I’m aware, however, of the negative aesthetic problems this could engender.

As I stated, I’d be delighted to promptly review your designs, pro bono. As a raptor breeding expert, I want this project to succeed. This pairs’ successful exploitation of the protein sources of Central Park presages increased urban red-tailed hawk nesting. As you may know, peregrine falcons and Cooper's hawks now commonly breed in urban areas.

Your firm certainly doesn't want to inadvertently contribute to Pale Male's nest site loss. I believe that my 30 yrs+ experience with the captive and wild breeding of red-tailed hawks allows me to successfully evaluate a nest structure's probability of success.

I am also a professional native plants landscape designer, and as such I can open and review architectural drawings in any common CAD format. A simple sketch drawing would be sufficient for review. Hope I can assist.


John A. Blakeman

Mr Ionescu's response to me this morning was:


Thank you for your response, concerns and interest in the subject of the hawks' nest.

We are presently in touch with the Audubon Sociaty and they are advising us on issues related to the design of the nest.

Please contact them directly and upon their advice we would welcome any suggestions and input on the design.


Dan Ionescu, AIA

That's where I stand, awaiting any response from Audubon, should there be any. As it happens, Dr. Burger immediately asked for my comments and thoughts on the day following the nest's removal. He wanted my info, recognizing I was an expert on the matter. He was delighted to know that I had already shot off several emails to those I could find with the authority to act promptly and definitively. The most important email, of course, was to you.

I hope this works with Audubon. I have no access to any NY Audubon people. Let me know of any further actions you think I should take.

Nonetheless, things are looking up. The last obstacle would be the erection of a too-large "guardrail" that inadvertently restricts in- and out-flights by the pair. That could cause nest abandonment. Hope it doesn't happen.

Keep in touch.


John A. Blakeman