Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bronx Botanical Gardens

Although they'd much rather you call it the "New York Botanical Gardens" Bronx Botanical Gardens or BBG, is much much cooler. So here's so flora and fauna from this amazing Bronx beauty.

The biggest surprise were the more than 50+ wood ducks!

Look out little bro, someone is watching you very carefully.

Moving On

This years crop of fledgling raptors are now becoming accomplished killers. Although they still rely on the umbrella of protection their parents provide so they can perfect the art of hunting. I found a juvenile from St. John's in the Close last week.

This next week, I watched it snag a rat on the North side of the Great Hill. In fact, the same thing happened last year where after a few weeks, the parents led their young from their nursery in the Cathedral Close to the richer hunting grounds of Central Park.

In addition to perfecting killing, they are also learning how to eat the different kinds of prey. I watched amazed as this youngster bit off the rat's head, opened the carcass and then removed and discarded the stomach!

Amazing behavior that I had never witnessed in a juvenile before. They seem to just wolf it down most of the time. Needless to say, if Central Park had been using poison, this would have been the last rat this hawk ever ate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to be a Peregrine

To be a peregrine falcon, you must hunt other birds. To catch other birds, you have to be a total badasss. Here's momma showing how its done on a baby robin.

The kill.

Transfer to the youngster.

Now that the parents are less able to feed their dispersed young, the offspring begin to hunt for themselves. On Tuesday I watched a young female make her first kill at 135th and Riverside. As they become more competent hunters, any bird that strays near the scrape is considered fair game. Thats what happened to this DC Cormorant as it came home for the evening.

3 on was quite the aerial battle, but the Cormorant managed to escaped alive.

Dont worry bro, they cant get you all.

Now that summer's here, Im off practicing how to be a human. Hope you are too!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to be a Kestrel

More than any other raptor, the American Kestrel is most likely to live its entire life in a completely man-made world. From hunting atop antenna, to nesting in cornices, to flighting on rooftops, American Kestrels have a complex relationship to our architectural world.

In addition to these environmental hurdles, one of their most difficult tasks is learning to hunt while at the same time being hunted. I had 3 of the 119th St. kestrels together on a roof,

when suddenly a parent let out an alarm. A juvy peregrine had focused in on them and made a stoop at the group. They then scattered to a tree in Morningside Park.

Fear of predators is instinctive, but learning how they are vulnerable to attack is something that not even the most gifted rehabber can teach these bird. Out west, entire broods are killed off by hawks and other falcons. Survival tactics such as these learned on rooftops and nearby Parks provide them with the skills to make it in this very challenging environment. For them the first flight is the hardest as there are few good perches directly out of the nest. However, provided they are in good health, all they need is to be is safely put back into their environment, ie rooftops, in order to be given the best chance of survival.

Today was a very special day in that I got to see this dynamic play out before my very eyes. One 135th St., the kestrels also have 3 chicks. Here baby male begs to the adult male to be fed. The male does not comply and flies off.

A juvy female was attracted to the calls and flew in behind them.

After sometime, I watched her stoop from the rooftop and kill a juvenile sparrow...her first kill! Now her sister and brother begged from her, but she absconded to a further roof. It took some searching, but I was able to see her finish off her first meal.

Welcome to a Brave New World little birdy!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

How to be a Hawk

It take a lot of work to learn to be a successful hawk. Youngsters have to learn the lessons of not only how to hunt, but what to hunt as well. This discrimination takes weeks and weeks of diligent practice but really takes about 6 months to perfect. And even then all it takes is 1 bad rat or pigeon to screw the whole thing up. During this time they will be trained by their parents on exactly where and what to hunt. I caught up with 2 female chicks running all over the Park doing some such stuff.

One flew down!

Then joined by a sibling.

They practiced killing earthworms.

Got some sun.

Then practiced killing each other.

Big sisters can be so pushy!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Settling Down

Now that most of the crop of baby raptors have fledged, things are quieting down. Unless of course you are an American Robin, in which case you are going to be pipping your head off as these fledglings explore their new surroundings. That is how I managed to find 2 baby kestrels from the 119th Street nest. They were so active it was hard to get a pic, but one did come out into the sun for a bit.

Further down the street, it was the same situation and I was able to locate 2 of the 3 Divine babies.

Meanwhile at Riverside, only one baby could be found.

Although later that day I watched a parent climb with a juvy to about 1000' and practice stooping. Should be fun watching all these guys learn the ropes.