Saturday, January 15, 2005


more thoughts from John Blakeman

Yesterday I wrote John Blakeman to tell him how many readers of this website have written to say they love his letters. I told him I was thinking of writing more about the nest-removal crisis. Here's a part of his response, beautifully written as usual:

... the far greater story, with many implications, is this unforeseen invasion of an urban environment by a wild species presumed utterly un-adapted to such reproductive success. As you know, I heard of a pair of red-tails nesting in Central Park many years ago, [Note from MW: He's talking about my book here] but I utterly dismissed the story as an aberration probably equivalent to the many others we outlanders hear about New York. There couldn't be any real biology here, just some weird red-tail behavioral anomalies. Knowing the species as well as I do, none of this was out of the question, and all of it could be easily dismissed. After all, raptor biologists wouldn't anticipate going to the center of Manhattan Island to learn about the red-tail. But I was wrong on so many accounts.

The greater story is not just Pale Male and Lola, or even city red-tails in general. The big story is how wildlife can adapt to modern urban life. The Norwegian rat did that several millennia ago. Squirrels didn't have to adapt at all to urban forests. But raptors are invading cities and thriving. Falconers, having raised and trained peregrines, knew that this species could probably be enticed to breed in urban areas. That's a now well-described conservation success story. But no one, even "experts" like me, would have ever imagined that red-tails would elect to enter cities and breed there.

As a falconer and raptor biologist (and conservation lecturer -- I have several conservation slide shows that I give on raptors, prairies, Alaska, and my Western Studies) I'm always concerned when conservation and ecological success stories are so frequently neglected. Environmentally, it's not all going to hell. The good stories, such as the restoration of raptors, or my tallgrass prairies, have to be told, to give encouragement and hope. . .

Keep in touch.


John A. Blakeman