Where my babies at?

It’s been harder and harder to locate Christo and Dora’s young lately. While it’s common at this time of year for young hawks to start exploring on their own, we keep looking for them to see how they’re doing.

So, in addition to hitting the streets of the East Village and scanning the area like the NSA going through AT&T’s data we’ve been keeping an eye on Christo and Dora.  On a recent afternoon, we found them together on the dome of the Most Holy Redeemer Church on 3rd St. They look quite haggard as they are molting but they are still quite active even in the summer heat.

On this day, they were monitoring their territory and perhaps checking in on a baby, although it’s hard to tell. First, they “chatted” on the Church…

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…then Dora took off, swooping East a bit and eventually circling West.

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Christo watched her fly for a moment…

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…then took off himself on the same East-then-West path.

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They regrouped on top of the Village View tower where we’ve been seeing at least one of them almost every day lately.

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One of them started hovering, looking directly down just in front of the building they were perched on.

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It’s not clear what it was looking for, we were hoping a baby was nearby.  We scanned the entire area to no avail. There was a report a few weeks ago of a baby stuck in the construction netting on the school nearby but it apparently freed itself, thankfully.

Christo continued to stand on different parts of the same tower to look around (this is behavior we haven’t seen before on Village View)…

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After a bit, Dora took off and a few minutes later Christo took off uptown.

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Half an hour later, Dora was back on the Church dome and Christo on Village View.

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She noticed something and headed off quickly – in the direction of…take a guess!

Village View.

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She landed there gracefully, meeting up with Christo again.

We’re hoping that the babies are still doing well on their own and that they’re avoiding the tragedies we’ve seen in Central Park as of late. We’d like to see them to confirm they’re ok, but for now we’ll just have to hope. After all…

“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Pale Male’s Babies in Peril

Historically we’ve been focused on the East Village Red-tailed Hawks, but the story unfolding in Central Park this past week, simultaneously unsettling and heartwarming, was something we could not ignore.

It started last Saturday, August 8th, when one of Pale Male’s offspring was discovered by hawk watcher Susan Gibson.  It was in a tree looking quite ill: its  eyes were half closed and it hadn’t moved for hours. Concerned, long time hawk watchers Jean Shum, Nabil Esphahani, and Ann Shanahan kept watch over the baby until nightfall.

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By Sunday morning, the bird looked even more exhausted and Ranger Rob (who was off duty) was called in to attempt a rescue.  Initially, the young hawk was too high in a tree to reach. Just as Rob approached, the hawk flew to an even higher window sill on The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

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There was no safe way to access it so the devoted rescuers had to do the hardest but most frequent activity when it comes to bird rescues…they had to wait. Luckily in this case, they didn’t wait long. Within an hour, the bird flew to the grass and Rob was able to safely catch it in a net. 

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Jean and Rob drove the hawk to WINORR, a wonderful wildlife rescue organization that has helped with countless rescue efforts in the past. 

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Although blood tests are inconclusive at this time, the hawk has been gaining strength and it is eating, which is a good sign. If When it recovers, it will be released where it was found in Central Park. 

Injuries and illness are common for young Red-Tailed Hawks this time of year as their parents feed them less to encourage independence. As the young are left to their own devices, they hunt poorly (often catching slower and sicker animals) and explore on their own (often getting stuck in places they shouldn’t be). 

On Tuesday, a second young hawk was spotted in a tree looking ill.  It was still there on Wednesday when heartbreaking news came in: a third young hawk was found dead near 77th St. and East Drive. Within the span of 4 days, all three of Pale Male and Octavia’s 2015 offspring were in peril.

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Again, a group of people watched the sick hawk until late Wednesday evening.  By Thursday, the hawk still hadn’t moved and a rescue was in order. Here is where the story gets interesting on the human side of the equation. The hawk was sitting in a very dense tree, no ladder could reach it.  Perhaps, with a cherry picker, a rescue would be possible. But who has one of those on hand? The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks Dept.) and the Central Park Conservancy (CPC) cut through the bureaucracy and BS one would expect in any large, human-run organization, and they got a CPC cherry picker to the scene quickly (so quickly, in fact, that I assumed I had an hour to get there to witness the rescue…how wrong I was, I ended up sprinting a mile to make it in time!).

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With the cherry picker in position, Rob and the folks from the Parks Dept and CPC discussed the best approach to take. As you can see in the video below, the thick foliage made it tough…

…and the bird flew to a nearby tree.  Because it still had the strength to fly, everyone decided to watch it for another day, and hope it would come down to a lower branch where it could be rescued.  I spent time with the group who stayed there vigilantly watching the hawk for hours and hours. While I was there, the hawk was alert a handful of times…

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But spent most of the day stagnantly resting in the tree, ignoring the world around it. 

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This is not normal behavior for a juvenile hawk at this age.  They should be practicing hunting, flying around, and exploring their environment (as we saw recently with the young hawk at the NYC Marble Cemetery).

By Friday morning, the hawk still hadn’t moved and probably hadn’t eaten for days, so Ranger Rob, Kevin Sisco, and some helpful park visitors (aaahh, the kindness of strangers!) worked together to stand up a giant ladder.

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But alas, good things are never easy, and the ladder was too precarious to climb.  And so the team was back to square one…and the waiting ensued. 

But this time, Caroline Greenleaf, who is the Director of Community Relations at Central Park, got the cherry picker to assist in a second rescue attempt.  As you can see in this video (shot by Nabil Esphahani) Ranger Rob got part of the net onto the baby.  It then ducked, stepped back, and again flew to a nearby tree.  

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It picked an even higher perch where a rescue wouldn’t be possible.

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As of this morning, the hawk has moved from that perch and hawk watchers are searching for it.  After so many hot days without eating, the bird is likely in worse shape.  

We will continue to update you as this story unfolds.  If you do spot the hawk in the park, please let us know ( twohawksnyc@gmail.com ) and we will put the word out. 

Many thanks to Ranger Rob, CPC, Parks Dept., Caroline Greenleaf, and all the hawk lovers who have helped these hawks.

Top 5 Myths about the East Village Red-tailed Hawks

Throughout our time blogging about these hawks, we’ve learned so many new things and we’ve heard a lot of stories – everyone has had some kind of experience with them.  But we have also heard a lot of people quite confidently spouting misinformation.  This is our attempt to break down some of that. 

Myth #1: They are not Red-tailed Hawks.

Actual quotes we have heard: 

  • “Those aren’t hawks, they are bald eagles!” 
  • “What is that Turkey doing on Avenue A?” 
  • “Dude, I saw you the other day with that Falcon!”

The birds that often rest on the top of the cross on the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer on East 3rd St. are, without a doubt, Red-tailed Hawks.

Red-tailed Hawks (RTH’s) are very common throughout North America, largely thanks to their adaptability.  That’s why they can thrive just as well on a mountain cliff as they can on an air conditioner. 

Myth #2: They cause the rat problem in Tompkins Square Park.

Tompkins Square Park has, in the past, limited or suspended rat poisoning during fledge season.  This is because RTH’s are a federally protected species. A good amount of the EV Red-tailed Hawks’ diet is rat (they also eat mice, squirrels, sparrows, starlings, and pigeons from what we’ve observed). While they probably make a decent dent in the rat population, especially feeding a family of five, the reality is that we humans are the reason rats are plentiful in the park.  They eat our garbage. And unfortunately, we often make it easier for them by littering.  That’s why the city has installed those rat-proof, solar-powered garbage cans.  So, the best way to shrink the rat population wouldn’t be to drop tons and tons of poison around or to bring in 100 Red-tailed Hawks (even though that would be something to see), it’s actually just to throw our trash in a covered garbage can!  If only we could all be as smart as this crow.  If you want to learn more amazing facts about rats, check out Robert Sullivan’s book, “Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants”.

Myth #3: They nest in Tompkins Square Park.

Nope, they nest near the park but not in it. Last year, they nested on the Christadora building but got kicked out because of building renovation.  This year, they nested on the 12th floor at Ageloff.  It is illegal to tamper with a nest, and Red-tailed Hawks like to nest in the same place year after year so, with luck, they’ll be back again on Ageloff next year.  For now, though, the nest remains empty.  

Why have these hawks chosen to nest on buildings rather than in the park? One factor is likely having a higher vantage point for the nest.  It’s easier to protect and also easier to see what’s going on from a building that’s taller than the highest tree in the park.  Urban ecologists believe that it’s also because the parents might have been raised on buildings. Guess you go with what you know! 

Myth #4: That’s not a baby!

When the Wayward Fledgling made a close encounter with people on 3rd St. last week, a lot of people didn’t believe that it was a mere 55 days old.  “It’s way too big!”  The good news is that we have been tracking every stage of these big babies’ growth and, while it has been astoundingly fast, we can assure you that these are the same birds.  The easiest way to tell the juveniles from the parents is their tail.  In young birds, the tail is barred, while in fully grown adults, it is a rusty red. 

Myth #5: These birds shouldn’t be in the city.  They have no place here. If you want to see wildlife, go to Jersey.

This is a real quote, and sadly we’ve heard versions of this more than once.  To you, we say: You should rethink this, my friends. When you really start to look around the city, past the taxis and buses, past the fast-moving flow of urban foot traffic, past your own phone, you start to see that there is already so much wildlife around you.  Cities are filled with all types of animals, including us, and we should all make an effort to understand that this is just as much their place as it is ours.

Operation Rescue: Wayward Fledgling

Well, we thought seeing the hawks fledge would be the highlight of this hawk-watching experience, but the birds keep upping the ante.  The Wayward Fledgling (who tried to return to the nest a day after leaving, and spent the next evening above Bibi on 4th St.) returned to 3rd St. and Ave. A again today, and it drew a bigger crowd than U2 playing a surprise show in the subway.

According to Jennifer Dirnfeld (who took the first two photos below), when she arrived on the scene, the hawk had already started a commotion across the street from the church:

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Unfortunately, people didn’t give it enough space and it was scared into the flower section of a deli, where a man (irresponsibly, may we add) shooed it away with a rolled-up newspaper.  From there it flew into the window at TwoBoots, where Ceili Clemenson was eating a slice. Ceili, who helped rescue an injured juvenile hawk years ago in Dumbo, came out of the restaurant just as the 9th precinct police arrived.  The hawk got stuck among the delivery bikes at TwoBoots and an officer helped to free it. 

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The hawk then made its way east on 3rd St. and stopped at Iron & Silk gym (as if it hadn’t already had enough of a workout!):

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I arrived on the scene and Ceili, Jennifer, and Vaydra Alexander (another wonderful protector of wildlife) all helped the police keep people away to give the hawk space (no easy task if you know New Yorkers).  I called Urban Ranger Rob Mastrianni and informed the police that he was on the way.

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The bird was very nervous and eventually took a running start and flew up across Ave. A to the awning of Landmark Bicycles.

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The police cordoned off the area and helped keep curious onlookers at bay while we waited for Ranger Rob (who has a history of saving hawks in our neighborhood) to arrive.

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As the crowd grew…

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…the young hawk’s parents looked on from the cross on the church.

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The hawk had moved onto a familiar spot (an AC!) by the time Ranger Rob arrived to assess the situation.

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Ranger Rob used a net to carefully catch the hawk…

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…and I had the honor of assisting with the rescue.

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Once the hawk was safely in his grasp, Ranger Rob checked it over to ensure it was healthy.  In Rob’s kind and experienced hands, the bird remained calm the entire time.  

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Next, Ranger Rob deemed that a box was a better way to move the hawk than the crate he brought.  Thanks to Vaydra, we had a perfect one on hand already.  Here is the hawk in the box (you’ll have to take my word for this one):

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Then, following Ranger Rob and the bird-in-box, a small procession of dedicated hawk lovers marched to Tompkins Square Park to witness its release. How could you not love this guy? And the hawk too. 

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Ranger Rob placed the fledgling into a tree. Believe it or not, this was probably its first time in a tree!

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Immediately, the blue jays felt threatened and started to screech and fly around the hawk.  But it didn’t seem to mind.

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It relaxed in the tree for hours.  The parents were seen soaring above, which is a great sign because they know where it is and can feed it as needed.

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What a journey! A big thanks to the boys in blue of the 9th precinct, Jennifer, Vaydra, and Ceili, and especially the greatest ranger in town: Rob Mastrianni.

New York City is a wild place and, in a way, we are all wild creatures living in an urban jungle.  Today, so many people worked together to support one young hawk.  This was such a beautiful thing.

The Wayward Fledgling can’t get enough of 3rd St.

The Wayward Fledgling (more background here and here) caused quite a stir on the  corner of 3rd St. and Ave A this afternoon.  Photos below by Jennifer Dirnfeld, who was on the scene when the bird started flying and running from business to business, getting caught up in windows, bikes, flowers, and eventually moving to the awning above Landmark Bicycles in Ageloff (the building which housed the original nest). Police cordoned off the area and a major crowd formed until the bird was safely captured by Ranger Rob Mastrianni and released in the park.  Full story with dramatic photos to come later today.  

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Again, if you see this or any of the fledglings, please don’t disturb them.  If they appear to be in distress, please contact: WINORR.

The Wayward Fledgling is at it again

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This evening just after the rain/hail/thunderstorm, the Wayward Fledgling was spotted on 4th St. flying onto a window screen, trying to hang on, then toppling down to an AC.  Last we saw, it was doing just fine.  

If you see this or any of the fledglings, please don’t disturb them.  If they appear to be in distress, please contact: WINORR .