John Blakeman and Savannah, his falconry redtail
You've been reading frequent contributions to this website from John Blakeman. Time to fill you in about how it all began:
On Wednesday December 8, 2004, shortly after the first reports of Pale Male’s nest destruction began appearing in newspapers and on TV, I received an e-mail letter from a red-tailed hawk expert in Ohio named John Blakeman. He must have found the address on my website.
Dear Ms. Winn,
I am a licensed falconer and raptor biologist with over 30 years of personal experiences with the majestic red-tailed hawk. Please understand the shared concerns Ohio falconers have concerning the destruction of the famous Central Park nest.
It's bad enough that any active redtail nest would be so cavalierly struck down. But for all of us, Pale Male's nest was special. As a redtail biologist I recognize both the pair's urban rarity and unique success. The fact that the pair fledged a trio of eyasses (the proper name for baby hawks) last year testifies that the pair was extremely successful. Three eyasses is the maximum the species can possibly raise in a year, and it can only be done under the most ideal circumstances.
Out here in the distant countryside, we especially delight that urban New Yorkers can now merely step into Central Park with a pair of binoculars and see this great redtail spectacle. Formerly, these delights were reserved to those of us out in wild redtail country. Now, these great birds have come into New York for everyone to enjoy.
I regard Pale Male as a typically-representative new American. New York City has been the fertile ground of American innovation from newcomers for two centuries. The characteristic American traits of overcoming difficulties, seeing new personal opportunities, and following through with successes against all odds is what Pale Male and his consorts have done. Pale Male ain't just a bird. He's an American, sharing the traits of all of us, rural or urban. Thanks for telling his story, it's a portion of each of our own. Pale Male will be back!
John A. Blakeman
Ohio Falconry Association
That was the beginning of an extraordinary relationship between a man and a community, one that has continued to this day. During the critical weeks immediately after the nest’s removal, Blakeman wrote frequent letters to all the concerned parties in the crisis—to the New York City Audubon offering advice about how best to make the ledge nestworthy for the hawks, and to the numbers of concerned hawkwatchers and Pale Male fans following the crisis on my website. During the early weeks he wrote [and I posted] letters relevant to the event itself – many of them reassuring to readers appalled by the building’s action and fearful of its effect on the hawk pair.
After the crisis was resolved and the new spike-holding structure was installed on the ledge, he became a valuable source of information about every possible question related to hawks and redtails in particular, what they eat, how they fly, how they hunt, how they sleep and many other subjects. Many website readers from all over the country and world wrote in their questions or observations; I forwarded them to the Ohio hawk expert. He always responded, usually on the same day I wrote..
John Blakeman continues to be extremely generous with his knowledge and time. Yet it has proved to be a mutually rewarding relationship. In the course of hundreds of letters going back and forth between Blakeman and the hawkwatchers, this expert on every aspect of redtail life [as he had come to know it over many years of intensive experience in rural Ohio,] found he had much to learn about these hawks when they live in a big city park.
One more thing about this relationship – I might even call it a friendship. Though John Blakeman has become a familiar presence in so many of our lives, not a single of his many Central Park fans has ever met him. Nobody has found the way from Central Park to Erie County, Ohio. And though he is a long-time reader of the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine, John Blakeman has never set foot in New York City.