Adam Welz's Weblog

Eastern Screech Owl release, Central Park, New York city, 18 July 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 19, 2009

Hi All

had a fantastic time in Central Park on Saturday with a gang of New York city raptorphiles releasing 5 pint-sized Eastern Screech Owl into the park. They had been rehabilitated by Bobby and Cathy Horvath. Here are some photographs:

Cathy Horvath with one of the young grey-phase birds before release:

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Two more grey-phase ESOs. Note Bobby Horvath’s slightly munched hand on left — they may be small, but they have teeth sharp beaks and claws:

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Me and ‘my’ owl — the one the Horvaths gave me to release. Cathy on bottom left of frame. It didn’t seem to want to fly off in any hurry and sat on my hand for quite a number of minutes while everyone took pics:

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Because the bird did not want to fly, I decided to put it on branch, from which it immediately flew:

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Here it is a coupla minutes later near-silhouetted in a bush next to the path. I really like its unevenly-sized pupils!

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Here’s a pic of the rufous-phase adult that Bruce Yolton released with a green tinge all over everything — the light really is green under that summer deciduous canopy in North America…

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…and another of the same bird a little later:

20090718_ScreechOwlNYC-7463 720

What a great thing to do on a Saturday afternoon! You can see more pics of the release at

http://yojimbot.blogspot.com/2009/07/if-you-love-it-let-it-go-part-2-screech.html

and

http://urbanhawks.blogs.com/urban_hawks/2009/07/eastern-screechowl-release.html#more

and

http://www.fotoportmann.com/blog/2009/07/20/eastern-screech-owls-release-central-park/

Cheers

A

Malachite Kingfisher, Intaka Island, Cape Town, 3 May 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on May 4, 2009

Hi All

I see there’s still a trickle of visitation to this site even though I haven’t added a thing to it since late last year. I’m a little wary of blogging because it can mean a lot of time in front of the computer (I already have too much of that) and because my blog entries are usually written in one unedited go they’re not always highly readable — when you make most of your living from writing, as I do, that combination can be hazardous.

Nonetheless, because there are interesting things in the world that don’t always merit proper ‘stories’ (like little birding adventures) I’ve decided to carry on here. I can’t promise to be reg’lar as a geezer on All Bran Flakes but I will continue sticking things into the Web-ether.

Yesterday, late morning, I decided to flunk off to Intaka Island, a small bird sanctuary here in Cape Town near the truly horrendous Century City shopping mall. The weather was fantastic, and the bright, low winter sun made everything pop out wonderfully.

While I was sitting at the Painted Snipe spot a Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata) appeared close by. These are fairly common tiny kingfishers that like to fish from reeds or sedges low over shallow water. I usually see them zipping past in low, slightly undulating and very fast flight, their outrageously iridescent blue backs giving them away along with their clear ‘peeet’ call (a little like the call of the Malachite Sunbird, strangely enough).

malachite-kingfisher-shadow-intaka-4-may-09

The bird was very good at positioning its head so that the sun did not directly shine in the surface of the eye, presumably to avoid flare and thus see into the dark water more effectively — getting a shot like this, with a little eye-shine, meant waiting for it to look up at passing birds.

I could see that this bird had been ringed on the right let, I’m not sure by who, and I remembered from my teenage ringing days that we had to fit them with extremely narrow rings because the tarsus (lower leg) of this species is so short. They also have fused middle toes, as far as I remember — their feet are thus optimised for perching, not hoping, walking or handling anything.

Anyrate, my little Malachite flew around a bit from perch to perch and occasionally splashed down (sometimes successfully) after something like a tadpole or whatever. Sometimes it faced away from me, making its ‘false eyes’ on the back of the head quite obvious. Many species have marks like these, presumably to make predators think twice because they’re ‘being faced’ or ‘seen’.

malachite-kingfisher-intaka-back-3-may-09

You can see from this picture that the moniker ‘Malachite’ is a bit of a misnomer. The bird is far more a royal-type blue. The malachite-ish bits, on the head, are more like a deep turquoise. I’m a sucker for iridescent birds like this no matter what their colour, but perhaps we should think of a better name for these guys?

Sometimes the bird would lurch forward, as if to dive down to a fish, but suddenly change its mind and not let go of the restio it was perched on. For a few seconds it would be tipped forward like this, feathers ruffled out, until it settled back. I have no idea why the feathers get puffed out like this as it’s about to dive: simple excitement?

malachite-kingfisher-lurching-intaka-3-may-09

You can see the ring in this photo.

After about fifteen minutes another Malachite Kingfisher appeared on the scene, resulting in some piscivorous disharmony; the birds could clearly not share a fishing spot, and every time the ‘first’ bird would try to move a few metres to stay out of trouble, the newcomer would attack it. Here’s the beginning of a sortie:

malachite-kingfisher-intaka-4-may-09

and, a fraction of a second later, we have contact (ouch)

malachite-kingfisher-fighting-intaka-4-may-09

This photo was pure luck — my manually-focused old Tokina 300mm was just in the right place at the right time. What surprises me about the image is that you can see how serious the attacking bird is. This is no playfight or territorial show-conflict. It seems to want to impale the other one on its bill! The attacking bird’s eye appears strangely white because it is protecting the surface of the eye with its nictating membrane, or ‘third eyelid’. This is a membrane that birds have that can be flicked very rapidly across the eye (transversely) to clean or protect the cornea. Sometimes I wish I had them, like, hello darling! flick, flick, whoa…

The pictures were photographed using a shutter speed of 1/1,600th of a second, very fast, and its a testament to the speed that this all happened at that the two pictures immediately above this text are slightly blurred. Many birds flying along at normal speed would be rendered more sharply at this shutter speed. It’s amazing to me that not only did the attacked bird seem able to get a defensive foot out, but it also managed to fly out of its perilous position without braining itself on the surrounding vegetation. They must have incredible avionics!

Until next time…

Adam

African Penguins watch the sun go down, Boulders Beach, Simonstown

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on October 15, 2008

Hi All

have been rushed off my feet for ages now — no time to blog! Just have time to put an image up before hitting the sack. Will be taking time off round December and should be able to blog then.

Here’s an image from the African (aka Jackass) Penguin colony at Boulders Beach, Simonstown, about a 45 min drive from my house. (Photographed 13 Sep 08)

Look after yourselves!

Adam

Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town, 10 August 2008

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on August 12, 2008

One of the great reasons for living in Cape Town is the famous Kirstenbosch Gardens, one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world.

Deluged w work (blogging takes a backseat to earning a living!) I nonetheless had to get out over the weekend to screw about with my camera (Nikon D300 with somewhat clunky, rare Tokina ATX 300mm f4). This image won’t win any art awards, but here’s one of the tiny living jewels that inhabits Kirstenbosch – a male Southern Double-collared Sunbird, in full breeding regalia. Sunbirds fill a parallel niche to hummingbirds in the New World (nectar-eating pollinators) but they can’t really hover, hence the curved bill. Note the dusting of yellow pollen on his head. The plant is some type of Pincushion Protea.

Later, after the sun had gone behind the mountain, I found a very confiding Dusky Flycatcher. The camera’s performance at 800 ISO was quite OK.

Best to all out there!

Adam

USA ’08 trip: Bird list

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 20, 2008

Hi All

am back in Cape Town and slowly getting my head into what I need to do next.

So as to bore you all backwards, here’s my bird list from my nearly 3-month trip to the US. I did not spend that much time seriously birding as I had work to do and people to see, but nonetheless managed a fairly respectable total of 281 species (free-flying wild species positively identified by sight, including 4 introduced species). In addition, I unambiguously heard but did not see (or did not see well enough to see well enough to confirm field marks) another 4 species (Ruffed Grouse, Wood Thrush, Clapper Rail, Warbling Vireo) and saw in the hand (mist-netted) 2 species which I did not see free-flying in the wild (Yellow-breasted Chat and Swainson’s Thrush).

I haven’t gone through all my notes, so I may have missed a species or two, but will edit the list appropriately if I find extras. There’s at least one Phalarope I still have to ID from some poor photos, and I have a sneaky feeling about one or two more shorebirds buried in the notes. With the species I saw during my shorter trip last year, and when I lived in Alaska in 1991, I have well over 300 species on my US list now, but probably not yet 400. I’ll work out my total USA list sometime (perhaps never) and post it.

I birded in California, Alaska, Texas, Michigan, New York, Connecticut and a tiny bit in New Jersey. Big dips (birds I wanted to see, looked for, but missed) include Greater Roadrunner, American Woodcock, Upland Sandpiper, Blackburnian and Cerulean Warblers. Next time!

Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark’s Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Least Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Anhinga
Brandt’s Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great (White) Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Mute Swan (introduced)
Trumpeter Swan
Gtr. White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Brant (Goose)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Wood Duck
Mallard
American Black Duck (poss hybrid w Mallard – many seen, none absolutely sure 100% Black)
Mottled Duck
Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Eurasian Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Greater Scaup
Harlequin Duck
Long-tailed Duck
White-winged Scoter
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
California Condor
Mississippi Kite
Cooper’s Hawk
Northern Harrier
Harris’s Hawk
Red-shouldred Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Plain Chachalaca
Wild Turkey
California Quail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Willet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
Dunlin
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Baird’s Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson’s Snipe
Black-legged Kittiwake
Bonaparte’s Gull
Laughing Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Thayer’s Gull
Western Gull
Heermann’s Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black Tern
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Forster’s Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Arctic Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Pigeon Guillemot
Marbled Murrulet
Feral Pigeon (introduced)
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
Red-crowned Parrot
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Groove-billed Ani
Eastern Screech-Owl
Barred Owl
Lesser Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk
Common Paraque
Chimney Swift
Vaux’s Swift
White-throated Swift
Anna’s Hummingbd
Rufous Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Eastern Wood-Peewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Black Phoebe
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Couch’s Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue Jay
Steller’s Jay
Green Jay
Western Scrub-Jay
Gray Jay
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Northwestern Crow
Fish Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cave Swallow
Purple Martin
Oak Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse
Black-crested Titmouse
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee
Black-capped Chikadee
Brown Creeper
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bushtit
Marsh Wren
Bewick’s Wren
House Wren
Carolina Wren
American Dipper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Varied Thrush
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
California Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling (introduced)
Orange-crowned Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Ovenbird
Western Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Dickissel
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak
Eastern Towhee
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Olive Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Finch
Purple Finch
Common Redpoll
House Sparrow (introduced)

Photos will be posted as I get around to going through them.

Cheers!

Adam

Houston frounce-infected Red-tailed Hawk babies: Update

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 11, 2008

Hi All

just got of the phone to Cathy Horvath – and heard some good news.

Hous (aka Houston 1 or just plain Houston), the young Red-tailed Hawk who was fostered in with the Astoria/Triborough Bridge Red-tails, is standing and ate by himself yesterday. I filmed this incredibly sick bird being recaptured a few days ago and in such bad shape that I doubted he’d even make it though the day alive. His frounce lesions were huge, he was extremely skinny and so weak that he lay on his side in the carrier.

Here’s Houston 1’s mouth on 5 July, the recapture day. The frounce lesions are the disgusting cheesy growths in his mouth. Note also the discoloured tongue. Bobby’s ‘caption’ for this photo was “In addition what you can see in his mouth there is much more down his throat , under his jaw, and in his crop that we can feel which makes his case much worse than Hous ” 2 ” . This is why he is so thin presently. He has a hard time swallowing anything solid so Cathy is mixing him up a meal in a blended smoothie type which is tubed into his crop. He’s also getting flagyl, sprartrix, and baytril .”

Houston 2 is also in much better shape. The frounce lesions have almost gone, is eating alone, and jumping around in the cage. The multi-drug approach seems to be working.

Both birds are not yet out of the woods, but for now it’s looking good.

Cheers

Adam

PS You can read more on the Astoria hawk saga at http://palemaleirregulars.blogspot.com/

two young Harris’s Hawk, Santa Ana, TX

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 10, 2008

but the birds are. I’m still running around in New York frantically trying to finish my film, hence the dearth of recent blog posts, but I’m feeling guilty about it so here are two recently fledged (i.e. still screaming and curiously un-scared of people) Harris’s Hawk. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, 28 May 2008. One of my most special finds of my trip down there.

Hang in there – I’ll have more words and images up late next week.

Adam

Danger! Pink Flamingos! (No, that isn’t a John Waters film.)

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding, nature & environment by adamwelz on June 27, 2008

Hi All

One of my favourite examples of Reconciliation Ecology is the artificial flamingo breeding island in Kamfers Dam, Kimberley, South Africa. Kimberley (famous for its diamonds) is in the Northern Cape, a rather arid province, and Kamfers Dam is one of the largest waterbodies around. There’s something special about Kamfers Dam, because for years it has attracted tens of thousands of both Greater and Lesser Flamingo to its shores. However, neither species has managed to breed there.

One fine evening not very long ago, after way too many Castles at the braai (or so I surmise) my friend Mark Anderson (a great Kimberley bird man) and some of his pals in the mining industry got it in to their silly heads that perhaps building an artificial breeding island in the dam might encourage our pinkish friends to ditch their distracting all night funky flamingo parties and get down to the sensible and worthwhile task of raising families.

The island really was a ridiculous idea, as the science of flamingo breeding island construction is somewhere with underwater cigar smoking in the ranks of human knowledge, and Lesser Flamingo in particular are known to be extremely picky about where they choose to breed; there were in fact only three known Lesser breeding sites in all of Africa when Mark and his buddies started thinking about their rocks-in-the-dam (or should we say ‘rocks-their-heads’) plan. These were Sua Pan in Botswana, Etosha Pan in Namibia, and Lake Natron. (Sua and Natron are both under threat from proposed industrial developments, making the Lesser Flamingo’s future prospects somewhat pink in a blue kind of way.)

Anyhow, the guys at Ekapa Mining had a few (zillion) brass pennies to rub together (people in the diamond industry — can’t take ’em anywhere — all those jangling pockets…) and they came out with their monster trucks and dumped a cute S-shaped pile of rocks in the dam, more-or-less according to Mark’s thumbsucky specifications. Various other people pitched in with other bits ‘n bobs like mud and old flamingo nests (s’true) and, well, blow me down soldier, before we knew it there were THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of flamingos on the island! And they were laying eggs! And sitting on them! And they hatched! And, crap, there were so many damned flamingos being born that Mark couldn’t even count the bloody things! He had to go up in an aeroplane and take high-res photos and get computers to tally up the pink and grey fluffy blobs in the pictures! The birds were packed so many so tight I could see the island as a giant pale pink S from 35 000ft when I last flew from Joburg to Cape Town!

The madcap island was/is a raging success. Wowee!

Except now the local authorities are on the edge of screwing it all up. The island is about to be dumped in a pile of crap — literally. The area’s guv’mint types seem to have forgotten that part of their job is to maintain Kimberley’s sewage plants. Slumped in a pile of reeking municipal laziness, the kind that would get you fired and perhaps even dumped in a long-drop in some other countries, they’ve allowed the local shit-stirring-and-cleaning-upping machinery to go down the toilet, and now Kamfers Dam is threatened by a tidal wave of the brown stuff. This is, splatteringly obviously, bad news for the flamingos and the 60-odd other species of birds that use the Dam and (ta da!) all the people that have to drink the Dam’s water.

This is where you come in: Do your web-browser a favour and tootle-loo off to

http://www.savetheflamingo.co.za

and add your name to the wake call to Kimberley’s municipal water people to get their act together before it’s too late (don’t forget to wipe when you’re done).

Mark and the Save the Flamingos crowd have a rescue plan all worked out, with engineers and envirramentalists and fighter jets and dancing girls all ready to go to rescue our long-necked pinko-weirdo feathered friends (OK I made up the fighter jets and dancing girls) BUT THEY NEED YOUR HELP, wherever you are in the world! Cash would be nice, too!

Send this link to your contacts! See you on the flamingo website! A luta flamingua, etcetera!

Adam

spiritual skimming – Black Skimmer at night in Central Park

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding, photography by adamwelz on June 18, 2008

Phew

had an extraordinary experience at the Model Boat Pond (just south of the Met Mus of Art) in Central Park, NYC.

22:30, pitch dark, two Black Skimmer going back and forth through the reflections of the city lights… they passed withing 5 metres of me! Got some video footage with small camera in nightshot mode.

One of my most amazing N American wildlife experiences so far!

Frame grab from video footage – added to blog page Fri 20 Jun. These tern-like birds feed by flying very low over the water, their lower mandible dropped down to scythe through it. When they touch a small fish or tadpole or whatever, the bill snaps shut. It’s supposed to be one of the fastest reflexes ever measured in any vertebrate.

Adam

Friday the 13th on Houston and D – nearly arrested over a bird…

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on June 14, 2008

Hello All

it’s late and I’m bushed so this’ll be quick n dirty.

I’ve been following a Red-tailed Hawk nest down on the lower east side of Manhattan. it’s on an airconditioner over a busy road. Bad nest position. The nest has had 3 chicks, raised well, and they’re approaching the time of fledging. Over the last few days 2 of the nestlings have flown. Both ahve ended up on the ground in somewhat dodgy situations, and have been taken in to the care of a rehab guy for a short while until all their flight feathers ahve properly grown out. Houston 3, as I call him, the thrird yongster on the nest, had until today wisely decided to stay put there.

Anyhow, I went down to film him, and set up the tripod, quite early this afternoon. I zoomed in and locked off the shot on the nest, and started rolling, just when I noticed a funny buzzing on channel 2 of the sound. While I was trying to sort that out, lo and behold, Houston 3 flapped a bit, took an oncoming gust, and flew for the first time! Since the tripod was locked off I have no follow shot – tho I’m well chuffed I got waht I did – and in fact could not see where he went. We scoured the ‘hood for a blocks in all directions, and then I diecided to go off uptown to get the camera looked at. No sooner had I missioned across to 38th st, taken the camera ou tot show the techinician what was ‘wrong’ and have it behave perfectly, than my phone rang. houston 3 had been found, goofing off in a tree across the road from his nest. I hurried back (carrying all this gear across Manhattan is making me fit) and started shooting him flopping from branch to branch. After a littel while mama Red-tail piched up with a nice juicy rat, and started flying back and forth around the nest area, tempting houston 3 to fly, to come get dinner. i guess this is the natural way of getting a new fledgling flying fit.

As I was filming rat-pack mama on the nest, I heard a huge commotion. Houston 3 had flown back across the 4 lanes of traffic of Houston St, aiming for his nest building – but had failed to read a good perch. He was flopping around, trying desperately to cling to a vertical wall. As I got my camera on to him trying to perch on a vertical, he suddenly gave up, turned, and came down at a steep angle on to the tarmac of the west-running lane of Houston. He crash-landed somewhat badly (having done precious little landing in his life, and never before on the ground), belly flopped forward and skidded across the tarmac. Crap!

Blimpie, one of the neighbourhood’s hawk fans, imediately ran out into the traffic, waving his arms and blowing the whistle that he carries everywhere – an unforgettable sight. All I could think was get the poor dumb bird out of the road! Francois, a Swiss-French photographer who has been photographing the birds, was already taking his shirt off to throw over the by now very confused Houston 3 (I’d been telling him yesterday what do do if this happened) and other people were already bearing down on him from all sides (the hawks are somwhat of a local circus with $0 entry tickets). My camera was on a tripod, and I could not move fast with it, so I abandoned the viewfinder and sprinted across to get the hawk – as a result, missing the dramatic money shot (urgh – producer, please don’t be angry w me!). i was conscious of at least two more people with hands on the bird as I lifted it up, one tugging on the wing. As I scooped it up and crossed the road, to where some trees were that I had a vague idea of putting it up in, a crowd began to form. Somewhere before or after this a car crashed into another car because someone was trying to see the hawk. there were jokes about me being the “Discovery Channel in the ‘Hood” (I guess making videos and simultaneously grabbing hold of unhappy wildlife is, indeed, what the game’s all about nowadays 😉

i asked the people to stand back so i could give the bird a littel peace and see if I could get it into a decent tree, when suddenly a plainclothes cop car pulled across in front of me, the guy grabbing his badge from under his shirt – all very NY cop show. “where the heck are you going w that bird’ etc. I told the cop I knew how to handle raptors and the best thing for the bird might be just to release it in a nearby tree. (Cop thought I was trying to steal it – whcih happens a lot to urban raptors in NYC)

“Is that a badge in your hand or are you just unhappy to see me?” 😉

That was not to be. Within another minute things had become completely insane. there were something like 40 or 50 people around, yelling at me, some to release the bird, most wanting me to turn around so they could take pictures of it (I felt like a goddamn movie star on Oscar night – it’s not fun). somebody was climbing a tree and telling me to toss the bird up to them, like it was a football???, kids were screaming senseless stuff – it was all too hectic. There was no way I was going to get the by now incredibly stressed bird into any kind of useful tree without it being hounded into harm by the public. Officer Keenan (the name of the rather sizeable cop in the pic below) seems to have somewhat lost his temper at that point too. He got out of his car an informed me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t care who I was or what I did, he was taking the bird. (“You can’t expect to walk around in Manhattan with a hawk and not have a crowd form around you!” was one of his more astute observations.) I told him that if he could find me a box, and make sure the bird got to Bobby Horvath (the only rehabber I know in NYC, who happens to have this bird’s siblings under care), I would give him the bird. You don’t really have any bargaining power with an NY police officer who’s had it, but I guess he understood that he did not want to be clawed by a hawk and htat maybe putting it in a box instead of the trunk of his car was at the end of the day the most practical solution. He went off, and came back with a dirty cat-carrier, better than nothing I guess, I put Houston 3 in it and asked Officer Keenan if he could drape somehting over the cage so the bird could be less stressed. He told me that was the last thing on his priority list (which I guess it is, if your job is to bust drug dealers in the projects) and walked off with Houston 3 bouncing around unhappily in his new confinement.

Bobby Horvath (whom I had called in the middle of the madness) was on his way, and when he arrived we tracked the bird down to an animal pound facility somewhere uptown (Houston 3 had a small blood spot on his bill but otherwise seemed healthy). So – i got home at almost 11, exhausted the bird is safe in the hands of an experienced rehabber, and hopefully will be released with his sibs shortly, in a nearby area where their parents can carry on raising them. I trust that next year the Houston St hawks will find a safer place to raise a brood…

Now I just need to figure out how to tell this drama for my little documentary, seeing as half the shots are missing. you can’t film and hang on to birds and try to hold back the insatiably curious public all at once, but when that insect gene gets inserted into the human genome, you know, the one that’ll give you six arms and legs, I’ll be first in line for the treatment!

Note to producer: I’m not even going to consider a re-enactment!

Goodnight!

Adam

PS there are doubtless pics on some of the urban hawk blogs from NYC now – google Yolton’s blog and pale male blog…