Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Great Blue Heron Rookery

This one in Ocean County Park wasnt too hard to find...I just followed the dozens of herons that stalk the marshes out here. To be fair, there are probably a few in some hidden corners of NYC but out here they have the unspoiled and primeval appearance. At this one alone there are about 50 pairs, each producing from 1 to 3 young. Mortality is fairly high but the parents are very involved...reminding me of raptors the way they take turns caring for the young. Speaking of raptors...these guys should have a hatch soon too!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Brick Eagles

Now that I've spent time outside of the City for a couple of years, its clear that much of what I learned from watching hawks and falcons also applies to other raptors such as eagles and owls. One difference though is that the eagles and owls nest much earlier...about 6 weeks by my count. So while hawk watchers await the hatch of another round of urban raptors, here we await the fledges. I caught up with the venerable pair of Bald Eagles atop a cell tower in Brick, NJ. Standing guard much like their city cousins, they also presented fresh fish and tried to lure the youngsters out. It'll be great fun watching these guys over the next weeks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Catching up with the Owlets in Rehab

I paid a visit to Tom's River Avian Care to check on the owlets progress. Turns out they are doing well and should be releasable by the end of summer. The littlest one had a broken leg from his fall but its all healed and now he just needs to exercise it. The eldest is mostly flighted and has a great mistrust for people which is great! I also got to visit a few of their other charges such as this adult male Great Horned Owl which was hit by a car. They also had an osprey which had been electrocuted by landing on a high tension wire. TRAC is the only raptor rescue center south of the Raritan and serves all of Central and South Jersey. At their peak they get over 1000 birds a year, many of them birds of prey. If you have a sick or injured bird, please give them a call!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Great Horned Owlet Rescue Part 2

So the eldest chick had been doing great all by himself. Strong enough to cling to branches there was enough space to hold on. As it has grown though it had started branching a bit and two days ago I had hard time finding him cuz he was out on a limb huddled next to mom. In the morning light this was the best pic and getting another angle proved impossible. Ever since I got the youngest baby mom has not been as relaxed around me so I left in order not to stress them. The problem was that when I returned in the late afternoon, everybody was gone! Turns out the little bugger decided to fledge a tad early! It took about 2 hours of scouring the woods but finally there he was, back in the woods by the stream! We scooped him up as he is still too young to fly. There's no doubt he can jump/flap but without any developed tail feathers this guy would be easy prey for a fox. Hopefully we can release him and the other owlet in about 2 weeks time.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ravenswood Red-tailed Rescue

This was the most challenging rescue I've ever attempted. As a result, its going to be a bit tough to describe all the elements that went into this but I'll give it a shot. First off, this call came in from the Ravenswood Powerplant in Queens. Long a fixture of the skyline, this place is tucked up against the East River in the shadow of the 59th Street bridge (or whatever they are calling it these days) and not so easy to get to. I've been past it many times but never inside and because of security reasons I will only post one exterior shot and then closeups from inside the plant. After meeting the a manager and a few environmental control officers, we drove to the gas turbine exhaust room where the hawk had ended up after chasing a pigeon down the stack. Oh but first we had to climb a ladder, then shimmy over to a small opening and climb into a dark room with limited flooring. This is a shot of the room with the lights on, but we had them off during the rescue to try to remove stress from the bird. If you look at this pic you'll notice a few things. For one there are sloping sheet metal sides which the bird kept trying to claw up. Second its soaking wet. Third, there's a gap of about 8 inches running around the perimeter of the room. Also there's a bunch of pigeon feathers from its last meal. As we scale up and approach the bird, it was extremely agitated. Instead of trying to chase the bird around the small enclosure, I just waited for it to flop in front of me and threw a towel over it. This worked but the sly bird squirmed between the planks and down into the enclosure beneath us. Damn! After composing myself, we looked for a way into that area but there was none, so I squeezed in between the same gap and got down to where the now furious bird was. Again I got the towel and threw it at the bird, which was now on its back. It tried to foot the towel but missed and instead grabbed its own wing. I then quickly corralled the bird but it wouldnt release its own body. Not wanting to risk further injury I climbed back up and put the hawk in the box we had. Whew...now to get down without injuring ourselves or the bird. We took our time and all 4 of us worked together to safely get back outside. The hawk was throwing itself all around the box and I wanted to release it because its nesting season and likely on eggs. The bird had also probably been in there overnight and was very hungry. Before I could do that though I needed to inspect the bird because its unethical to release a bird that is not 100% healthy. After taking it to a maintenance room and gathering it, I noticed a number of problems. First and foremost, it had broken its talon trying to scurry up the turbine room wall. Also a few of its feathers were broken. It had also footed its own wing and could be injured from that. I made the call to Bobby Horvath of WINNOR who has rehabbed many birds of prey in the past. We decided to get the bird to him and then they would take it to a vet immediately afterward for a checkup. If it all turns out ok, we'll release this bird in a day or two so he can get back to his nest and mate. Definitely a situation that could have resulted in injury to people or birds but due to experience and calm decision-making, this worked out as well as it could have. Thanks to the NY Audubon, the good people of Ravenswood and the Horvaths. Im gonna go collapse now.