Friday, December 17, 2004

12/17/04 -- Blakeman's Correspondence with Audubon

Marie: DID YOU EVER GET THE PLANS FROM THE AUDUBON FOLKS????

Date: 12/17/2004

Marie,

No, no plans or design descriptions were forwarded to me. Here's an email I just got from Tess somebody, of Audubon:

Hello John --

I have been working with E.J. McAdams and others in NYC Audubon to help refine the design specifications for a safety guard for Pale Male's nesting site. E.J. shared with me your comments and suggestions. Your points are very well taken and your concerns have indeed been addressed in the design modifications we've submitted to the architect. Input from you and other Red-tail experts has been invaluable in this process and I thank you very much for it.

Thanks to E.J.'s efforts this process is moving steadily along and we are hopeful the necessary construction at the nesting site will be completed soon.

My best,

Tess Present

Tess Present, Ph.D.

Acting Director of Science

Senior Scientist, Ecology & Conservation Science


Here's the email I just returned to her:

Tess,

Thank you for your note regarding my nest site design concerns. Having bred and raised redtailed hawks in captivity, and having participated in a number of comprehensive field studies of wild redtails, I believe my concerns and observations are cogent.

I applaud all that Audubon is doing in regard to this event. I'm a past local Audubon President and am aware of your efforts.

And give my regards to Mike Burger at Cornell. Mike's a former student of mine.

Keep me posted on any matter of concern.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman


Having worked with Audubon people (I was a chapter president and founding member of a very active Audubon Society in my area) I am aware of the mindset of those in higher-up position. In short, it often borders on arrogance. There are no other experts than theirs. I'm not at all surprised that they are keeping this insider their private huddle. You watch. When it's all done and the nest is back and the pair is breeding, Audubon is going to take full credit for the restoration. I've seen this before.

I don't desire any notoriety for any of this. I just want the pair breeding again. But the efforts of you, the Pale Male website, and all the others must be recognized. Were it not for your book, in the first place, the nest would likely be gone for good.

Lastly, one of NYC Audubon's probable concerns about allowing my participation in design review may revolve around my posted involvement as a falconer. Many Auduboners feel that falconry should have no place in modern wildlife activities. This contrary view is, of course, discounted by that fact that it was falconers who perfected the captive breeding of peregrines, perfected peregrine breeding nestboxes, and provided captivity bred peregrines for the very successful peregrine reintroduction effort of the 1980s and 90s. Because of the falconers' efforts, peregrines breed all over New York City and in most large American cities. The bird is no longer endangered. Without falconers' expertise in reintroduction and nesting promotion efforts, the bird would likely be extirpated in eastern North America as a breeding bird.

So, I wouldn't be surprised if NYC Audubon has some personal issues here. Whatever. At least they've heard my design concerns, and I presume that the "guardrail" will stay low and unobtrusive.

Keep me posted, as best you can.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman


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

Marie,

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.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman


Mr Ionescu's response to me this morning was:

John:

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman



Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Concerns About the New Structure - 12/15/04

12/15/04 -- A FASCINATING LETTER FROM J. BLAKEMAN, THE RED-TAILED HAWK EXPERT IN OHIO WHOSE PREVIOUS LETTER IS REPRINTED SOMEWHERE BELOW. NEEDLESS TO SAY I FORWARDED THIS COMMUNICATION TO VARIOUS PEOPLE AT THE NYC AUDUBON. I HOPE BLAKEMAN IS PUT IN THE LOOP!

Marie,

Glad to see that positive steps are being made to reinstall the pigeon spikes.


I’m a bit concerned about the proposed guard rail or fence, or whatever it is called. The device, as I read the piecemeal news, is being developed by an architect and it is intended to keep carcasses and sticks from plunging off the ledge.

My concern is this. If this structure extends above the finished level of the nest, above its finished rim, the birds won’t like it. If it extends six inches or more above the rim, this will mean that the birds will have to land on the new artificial rim, then drop down onto the real nest. This is not behavior the birds will want to do. This is a real issue when eggs are being laid and incubated. Because of the delicate nature of the eggs and newly-hatched young, the adults instinctively curl their talons under their feet when the land on the nest's rim. If they are forced to first land on some elevated pipe or fence, they will not be able to easily drop down onto the nest with their retracted talons.

Secondly, this new rim must extend away from the edge of the nest. The birds are sensitive to any structure that interferes with the folding and extending of wings when landing and taking off. If new spikes or prongs extend more than 4-6 inches above the cornice, they will protrude above the new nest and can injure the soft developing wings of the eyasses when they start to flap their wings.

Lastly, I’m concerned about the design of the new carcass-catching device, what ever it might be. If the ejected food items merely accumulate in the device, it's only a matter of time before the device becomes overwhelmed. Sooner or later, the carcass-catcher will become filled. Do the designers understand the nature and quantity of rejected items?

The device, ideally, will be below the rim of the nest, but I’m a landscape designer and understand the aesthetic considerations the architect is likely to address in his solution. If appropriate, I’d be delighted to quickly review the proposed design, if possible. A CAD design could be emailed to me as an email attachment. My professional CAD program can open any drawing used by architectural professionals.

I wouldn't want all of what's happened go for naught, to have the proposed solution turn out to be rejected by the birds. If everything stays low and below the nest rim, all should be well (except for possible carcass accumulation problems). But nest-holding rim devices could cause nest site rejection by the pair. Or, they might elect to stay at the same site, but attempt to pile up enough sticks so the rim rises above whatever new structures are installed. That's the kind of nest that could, indeed, fall off and create a problem. The normal flat, bushel-basket sized and shaped nest presents no problems. A tall columnar one built to get the rim high in uncontaminated airspace could be a problem.

I hope that all of these concerns are immaterial.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman

Guard Rail Concerns -12/15/04



Subject: Nest Guard Rail Concerns (Ohio Hawk Person)

Date: 12/15/2004

Marie,

Glad to see that positive steps are being made to reinstall the pigeon spikes.

I don't mean to inappropriately intervene here. Disregard any of this you see fit.

I’m a bit concerned about the proposed guard rail or fence, or whatever it is called. The device, as I read the piecemeal news, is being developed by an architect and it is intended to keep carcasses and sticks from plunging off the ledge.

My concern is this. If this structure extends above the finished level of the nest, above its finished rim, the birds won’t like it. If it extends six inches or more above the rim, this will mean that the birds will have to land on the new artificial rim, then drop down onto the real nest. This is not behavior the birds will want to do. This is a real issue when eggs are being laid and incubated. Because of the delicate nature of the eggs and newly-hatched young, the adults instinctively curl their talons under their feet when the land on the nest's rim. If they are forced to first land on some elevated pipe or fence, they will not be able to easily drop down onto the nest with their retracted talons.

Secondly, this new rim must extend away from the edge of the nest. The birds are sensitive to any structure that interferes with the folding and extending of wings when landing and taking off. If new spikes or prongs extend more than 4-6 inches above the cornice, they will protrude above the new nest and can injure the soft developing wings of the eyasses when they start to flap their wings.

Lastly, I’m concerned about the design of the new carcass-catching device, what ever it might be. If the ejected food items merely accumulate in the device, it's only a matter of time before the device becomes overwhelmed. Sooner or later, the carcass-catcher will become filled. Do the designers understand the nature and quantity of rejected items?

The device, ideally, will be below the rim of the nest, but I’m a landscape designer and understand the aesthetic considerations the architect is likely to address in his solution. If appropriate, I’d be delighted to quickly review the proposed design, if possible. A CAD design could be emailed to me as an email attachment. My professional CAD program can open any drawing used by architectural professionals.

I wouldn't want all of what's happened go for naught, to have the proposed solution turn out to be rejected by the birds. If everything stays low and below the nest rim, all should be well (except for possible carcass accumulation problems). But nest-holding rim devices could cause nest site rejection by the pair. Or, they might elect to stay at the same site, but attempt to pile up enough sticks so the rim rises above whatever new structures are installed. That's the kind of nest that could, indeed, fall off and create a problem. The normal flat, bushel-basket sized and shaped nest presents no problems. A tall columnar one built to get the rim high in uncontaminated airspace could be a problem.

I hope that all of these concerns are immaterial.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman