Saturday, July 16, 2005

Forewarned is forearmed???

A note of concern by John Blakeman and a PS from Marie


I'm concerned about the lateness of the fledging of the Trump Parc eyasses. Most of the easy prey pickings are gone now that we are in high, hot summer. Not many little robin babies and other vulnerables are so easily offering themselves as fledgling fare. Our new hawks are going to have to work very, very hard to learn successful hunting techniques.

Everyone should be prepared for the difficult times that the eyasses will encounter when they take wing. The parents will continue to provide food for a time, but things really begin to change in August, when the birds perceive the first reduction in day length. Parents will almost instantly stop feeding the young and leave them to themselves -- which at that time of year is not propitious.

Central Park has a lot of red-tailed hawk fare; lots of pigeons, squirrels, and rats. But none of these are captured by the inexperienced with ease. Just as a kid on the street or playground has to learn how to throw and catch a baseball, the young hawks will have to learn how to capture Central Park's offerings. Instinct prompts, only repetition succeeds. When hunting lessons are learned in June, there is an abundance of other young animals that are naive and vulnerable to the hunting of hawks over head.

By August, however, the weak, young, and dumb prey are sparse. The chances of the Trump Parc eyasses of reaching adulthood are reduced. Only one or two in five make it anyway. These birds have the calendar stacked against them, so let us all be prepared for some difficulties when they are on the wing, on their own in August. All could turn out well, but living in nature is always a crap game, and the odds are stacked against this pair. Let's see how, or if, they rise to the challenges of late summer hunting lessons.


John A. Blakeman

PS. from Marie:

In Red-tails in Love I describe the hawkwatchers' anxiety back in 1995 when the first Fifth Avenue redtail babies were about to fledge. We had our whistles ready, to stop traffic on Fifth Ave in case a baby fell in front of traffic. We had a blanket to wrap the fallen creature, etc. etc. As you know, everything went swimmingly, that year and every other year thereafter until the nest-removal crisis of December 2004.

I would say that this year's Trump Parc hawkwatchers are no calmer than we were then. I guess John Blakeman's letter above,
and the anxious e-mails and calls I'm getting asking for names of rehabilitators who might come to the rescue of a fallen Trump-Parc baby all fall into the category FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED. But I call it DOOM PROGNOSTICATING. Why live under such a gloomy cloud? Life is too short.

Anyhow, here is my response to John Blakeman's warning above, addressed to the Hawkwatcher Class of 2005:

Dear friends,

From my own experience watching Central Park fledglings since 1995 I'd say baby robins or other migratory birds are generally not a large part of the fledglings' diet during their early hunting months. Pigeons -- which do not stop reproducing in July-- and rats [ditto] seem to be their mainstay. Aren't baby pigeons and baby rats just as dumb and catchable as other babies? So wouldn't the prognosis for the late-fledging Trump kids be better than John Blakeman suggests?

Of course I'm known to be a cockeyed optimist, but on a number of occasions our Ohio hawk expert has found things to be a bit different in Central Park.

So don't despair, faithful hawkwathers. Junior has Pale Male's genes [next week I'll tell you why I've come to believe this ] -- and the two nestlings at the Trump Parc nest have them as well. These are superior birds. So look out, unborn rats and unhatched pigeons of next August. The fledglings are coming, the fledglings are coming.