Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Riverside Church Juvenile Peregrines

Over the past week I have had a front row seat for the antics of the juvenile peregrines over at Riverside Church. As they grow, they have begun to master the aspects of flight that will make them one of the most feared raptors. Surprisingly their behavior, such as games of tag or follow-the-leader, are almost identical to the behavior of juvenile kestrels. At this point, the juveniles are testing the boundaries of their range, and on Sunday I saw them go from the north west corner of Central Park at 109th St., all the way to CCNY Shepard Hall on 138th! Thereby, bisecting not one, but two red-tailed hawk territories. My guess is that these youngsters are close to moving off their parent range to attempt to make it on their own. One of the young falcons has begun its first molt in the primary feathers, making it only a few weeks younger than the one seen palemale. Till then, I will continue to marvel at the dexterity, confidence and power that makes these birds the ultimate high-performance animals that they are!
Here they are most recently on 116th St. above Morningside Park. They are using the updraft to hover on the wind. At one point, I watched this juvenile actually flying backwards as it sought to land on the roof's railing.



It was joined by its siblings...



and a game of tag ensued!




Their reflexes and agility were a sight to behold...at times they would rocket down into the Park, diving after some unseen prey.

Eventually, one of the falcons stooped right past us. Here it is lining up the dive and then turning just past the Carl Shurz Overlook. My camera's autofocus just couldnt keep up!



The bird passed some 10-12 feet from us as it dove down, weaving through the trees with its legs out, as it ambushed a sibling cutting through the lower level of the park. It was an amazing experience to be so close to such a fast moving bird and to see it continue on past. I hope Adam got that on camera!
Here it is after pulling out of the dive and circling back to gain altitude.



One of the parents then showed up.

Then two cormorants flew by...big mistake. Immediately one juvenile lit out after it, gaining quickly!

I could not see what happened next, but the juvy over took the cormorant and both then flew down below the treeline. At this point it seemed that all the action had moved south, so I wound down to the Cathedral to see if there was anything going on there. I was shocked by what I saw! Not one,

but two,

of the peregrines has landed on the Cathedral and were just hanging out!

At no point did any redtail come to make a defense of the territory. This represents a clear collapse of the redtails nesting area...and does not bode well for the future. It also means that the one remaining juvy redtailed hawk from this years brood is still probably in the north part of Central Park.

Coming next...Firebirds!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Long Beach and Nickerson Beach

I've been a bit relaxed on the postings lately, but over the July 4th weekend I headed out the eastern shore on LI to check out the beach. In the process I visited the amazing shorebird nesting sanctuary at Nickerson Beach, as well as some ospreys over on the bay side closer to Long Beach. The light was pretty poor, but even in these conditions, it was still abundantly clear that Nickerson Beach is a special place. Here's a sampling of what I found there:
A whole colony of Black Skimmers!


They make this almost crow-like "raw" sound.
It appeared that some of the young had already fledged, and that this group was likely to double clutch.

I also saw numerous oyster catchers doing the same. Here's a group of recent fledges harassing their parents!

A gullbilled tern warding me off from a nesting spot.

Also seen: piping plovers, herring gull, black back gull, laughing gull, tons of other peeps.
On a sad note, as I was walking the beach, there was a detached wing swimming with the wave action in the surf. At first I thought it a gull wing, but as a I neared, there grew a sick feeling in my stomach. Eventually it washed up on shore...

Astonishingly, it was the entire front left quarter of a juvenile osprey. Something had severed the body from the breast on down and stripped off the flesh. My only guess would be that one of the juveniles may have been practicing fishing and got caught in the surf where a shark took it.



Sleep well, gentle rower!




Also seen upstate in Bear Mountain...




Next up...juvenile peregrines!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Independence Day aka The Kestrel Release Party!

With all of the observation and study that I've been participating in, it was great to have an opportunity to get up close and personal with my favorite raptor. Thanks to Bobby Horvath, I was given this chance when I was contacted by him to participate in releasing another dozen fledglings that had been rehabbed under his care. The first dozen were let go in Central Park, so we decided to mix it up a bit and release these guys into Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. And although the weather wasn't the best, it was an amazing and successful event that I will not forget. Here are some pix and vids of the morning!

The Posse queuing up for action.


Some of the releasees. An interesting note is the high proportion of females to males this year. I wonder if the cool and rainy Spring had anything to do with it.
Here Bobby prepares a young male for banding, while Francois gets down to business.

With the Horvath's, its a family affair!



While there, I noticed a group of Park Rangers. Someone had apparently tried (and failed) to sacrifice a chicken and they were trying to capture it. Bobby caught the bird and a ranger came over to release one of the kestrels.


Here's some pix and vids of the other members of our group getting their kestrel release party on!






Here's that beautiful and distinctive klee-klee-klee!

I also had a chance to release a male and female kestrel. Merci beaucoup Francois for the photos!






Here's the female drawing some blood from the hand that frees her!

Don't worry little girl, I wont hold it against you for wanting to be free!

Its really great to see youngsters growing up with respect and fascination for these beautiful animals!

The Night Owls!