Saturday, April 07, 2007

Report with no photos.

Cedar Waxwings have been around for a few weeks. They seem early; last year they didn't arrive until the end of April. Lloyd Spitalnik has a great picture of a waxwing, and many other birds on his website --Http://

David Speiser sent me some fine photos of Phoebes , a Chipping Sparrow, a Song Sparrow and other early migrants, which you can find on Cal Vornbergers Http:// website, FORUMS page. David is listed there as Toucan 10000.

Lysiane Ribeiro M.D., a website correspondent, sent me a fantastic photo of a ring-necked pheasant she sighted at Hernshead two days ago. Unfortunately the photo's not available on any website.

Why am I NOT posting these wonderful photos? Because the chronic problems I have always had with uploading photos through the provider of this page,, seem to have worsened. I used to be able to post photos of some photographers and not others. Now I can't seem to post ANY photos at all.

Sorry. Many thanks, nevertheless, to the photographers who send me great pictures. I'll keep trying to post them. One of these days I hope to get a different website provider.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

From the archives: First letter from John Blakeman

The Falconer of Central Park - statue at 72nd St transverse near West Dribe

On Wednesday December 8, 2004, shortly after the first reports of the nest removal 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. I thought readers of this website who have enjoyed so many illuminating essays by John Blakeman might enjoy seeing his first one:

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 are what Pale Male and his consorts have demonstrated. 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

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

At the Hawk Bench -- year unknown

Pale Male, Superstar

Celebrity worship is not a recent phenomenon. “There’s always been a cult of celebrity,” Joyce Carol Oates once noted. “The instinct to worship is so deeply embedded in the human soul, we naturally look to individuals elevated above the masses, however minimally they might be elevated, and temporarily.”

It was only a matter of time before one of those individuals proved to be elevated above the masses quite literally: Pale Male, the first avian superstar, pursuing a flock of pigeons above the Model-boat Pond, or making lazy circles in the sky with his true love Lola.

After the nest-removal and ensuing hue and cry, Pale Male Superstar moments began happening throughout Central Park. You’d see a few strollers ambling along, tourists, perhaps or New Yorkers taking a shortcut to get to their destination.

Someone would suddenly look up and scream “It’s Pale Male! Look, it’s him!” and begin to jump up and down like a contestant on Jeopardy. It was a celebrity sighting like any other, something to tell the family at home, as you’d do if you spotted Meryl Streep shopping at Zabars, or Johnny Depp getting into a taxi.

The name Pale Male was a crucial ingredient in creating the hawk’s celebrity. You can’t have celebrity without a name. Doubtless the fact that the Fifth Avenue Hawks had names was an important part of the overwhelming public response to the nest-removal crisis. People who knew and cared nothing about birds were able to anthropomorphize them into a humanoid couple whose "love nest" had been torn down by a wicked landlord.

But it was not just the fact that the hawk had a name, assigned to it long ago , as it happens, for birdwatchers’ convenience. The name itself -- Pale Male -- had a particularly engaging sound—it pronounced trippingly on the tongue. Even the echo of Pall Mall , either pronounced as Americans do, to rhyme with ball, or with the upper class British pronunciation, Pell Mell , gave the name a special charisma, a zing. People liked to say it—Pale Male. Pale Male and Lola. The names could pull the emotion lever all by themselves, even without the pathos of the nest removal..

People wept when they heard that Pale Male and Lola’s nest had been destroyed. What could be worse than having your home destroyed after ten idyllic years and 23 children? But that certainly was not the way the birds perceived it. They had no understanding of the machinations of a privacy-minded Board of Directors who hated the public attention these famous hawks focused on their building. From the birds’ point of view it was all much simpler.

As John Blakeman explained it, redtail nests are destroyed by natural forces all the time, by storms, winds, torrential rains. The birds don't "suffer" when this happens. They are hard-wired to deal with it. They'll just build a new nest when the next breeding season begins. They often build a new nest even if an old one is not destroyed. Indeed, according to Blakeman, a single nest having a ten-year run is rare indeed

Though the nest-removal crisis was a perfect media event, though people loved to read about how the billionaires repented of their sins, hired an architect and spent big bucks putting up a new structure for the bereft hawk couple, the outcome was almost certainly not advantageous for the hawks. Instead of building an expensive stainless-steel structure on the ledge it would have been better to keep them off the site somehow. Then they might have built a nest in a tree somewhere in the park—it was still early in the season -- and the whole story might have had a happier ending: chicks in the nest for the tenth year in a row.

Instead, nest failure for two years in a row after the nest-removal crisis.

Now we've paid our dues for all the human foolishness that interrupted the hawks' long and successful run on Fifth Avenue. This may be the year for chicks in the nest again.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Three active Manhattan redtail nests

Female on statue of St. Andrew on northern facade of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Photo by Bruce Yolton - 3/25/07

Central Park South Hawks [formerly Trump Park Redtails--old bldg and new
Photo by Bruce Yolton

You all know about Pale Male and Lola's nest on the 12th floor of 927 Fifth Avenue [corner of 74th St. As you all surely know, Incubation probably began at the Fifth Avenue nest on March 10th. That's when incubation seemed to begin in 2001 for Pale Male and Lola's predecessor, Blue. Hatch day that year was April 18th. But please tremember that all these dates are approximate, since we cannot look into the nest from any vantage point.

The hawks at the Cathedral-- many are calling them Tristan and Isolde, names chosen by children at the Cathedral School, began incubation a bit later than Pale Male & Lola, perhaps a week or two ago. They are definitely incubating

And the Trump Parc pair, Junior and Charlotte, seem to have moved to 888 Seventh Avenue, in a high spot on the east-facing facade, invisible from the street or Park. But very recently someone saw Junior bringing in food, which indicates that incubation has begun there too.

I'm hoping we'll have chicks at all three!

[There are two other Manhattamn nests we know of, one at Inwood Hill Park, one at Highbridge Park at the north tip of Manhattan.

Bruce Yolton has been following all these nests on his website. He has some great photos and information about these hawks. Click on the link below the photos to visit the site.