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. 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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Great Horned Owl Menu

Just been learning a ton about these guys by being able to observe them. They are known as the tigers of the forest for 2 reasons. One is the tiger like striping and two is the tiger like ferocity with which they take their prey. I've been going through their pellets and checking near the nest for signs of what they have been taking. Here's a grim sample. First and foremost is the eastern grey squirrel. Also in this pic is a american woodcock and ground squirrel. They are also taking quite a few eastern cottontail. In their pellets I have found American Robin, Mourning Dove and Rock Dove (including the band). Unfortunately they also killed this adult male Red-phase Eastern Screech Owl. Ill be looking for the rest of that ESO family, hopefully they are ok.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Great Horned Owlet Rescue

Now that the babies are bigger they have been tromping around the nest. That coupled with the soggy wet snow we've been having, has made for a dicey situation. By yesterday morning, pretty much all of the nest had come down and the two youngsters were huddled together on a platform type branch, some 60 feet up. When I returned to the nest yesterday afternoon, much to my surprise, one of the babies was sitting silently on the ground. I scooped him up and after a quick inspection realized that it was somehow unhurt by its fall. After calling the Raptor Trust, they put me in touch with a rehabber in Tom's River, the Tom's River Avian Care facility and off we went. I gotta tell you on the ride over, we definitely bonded. This is one cute owl and my first great horned owl rescue. So thankful it has so far worked out and I'll be sure to update the bloggy as the situation develops.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Looks like two of them up there. Its so great to see the tiger of the forest treat her babies with such loving tenderness. Good luck little guys!!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Well That Only Took 1 Year

Birding out in the Pinelands of NJ I have come across owls fairly regularly. They love these dense pitch pine forests and the plentiful mammals that feast on the seeds. But actually spotting them is very, very difficult. For the past year I have been using the tried and true method of collecting pellets, finding the white wash and then reverse triangulating to find the roost. In this way I have found a few screech, snowys, saw-whets, barn owls, short eared owls, long eared owls and one great horned owl. Due to the presence of bald eagles in my area, all of these birds are very shy and very well concealed. Never using the same roost for more than a week at a time, it has become a real challenge to find a nest. This week after the snow melt, after months and months of searching, it finally happened. At fly out the past few nights there have been great vocalizations and a nest exchange with a possible feeding. There are no lights were I am so night photography is virtually least as long as the moon is a waning crescent. Hopefully the chicks will continue to grow and it wont be too long before I can get some daytime shots of them. Good luck hooters!