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The Hudsons

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Perhaps we anthropomorphize other creatures in the hope that someone will anthropomorphize us. Karim is of that breed that believes in and awaits universal reconciliation. But for the problem at hand he sees no likely solution. Despite his postings and calls to authorities, nothing has changed. The baiting stations are still there, outside the park and inside, too. Well, not all of them. One day in May, Karim brought some home from the park to photograph. They don’t make for lovely pictures, but they killed a mouse in his apartment.

No surprise that the natural world is full of death, which is one reason we try to corral it. The hawk stories from Pale Male onward flatter our dream of unlikely survival, even grandeur, in an unwelcoming environment. This spring, New York’s red-tails disappointed that dream. There were more nesting pairs than ever but, as directly follows, more failures too. Some produced no eggs, and some eggs failed to hatch. Even eyases who lived to fledge faced the problem of growing up in an environment not primed to deal with them. They got blown into buildings by heavy winds or picked up by police when neighbors found them practicing their moves on the ground. The U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act never anticipated city hazards, like the construction worker who dropped rocks (he said they were pieces of bread) on Pale Male’s head, or the eyases that succumbed, as some human children do, to lead poisoning.

And the Hudsons? Or perhaps we should no longer call them that, the naming contest having been canceled as a result of their loss, and their identities returned, as it were, to the wild. At the site of their old nest, the flowers and cards are now gone; all that remains is a blurry note taped to a railing, directing visitors to Karim’s Website for information about what happened there. But they aren’t far away. Though Day would not walk in that part of the park anymore, one morning late in May, Sadie dragged her north along a bike path, and there they were, building a new nest, about 300 feet from the first, in a London plane tree nearer the river. It was quite an improvement, real-estate-wise, set firmly in the crotch of four hefty branches. Later, Karim saw them mating there. Nothing resulted, but the humans, at least, appreciated the effort.

And then, by the end of June, the new nest was abandoned. Some think it was built only as grief-work. Others think the hawks were preparing it for next year and will lay eggs there come March. Frequently, from her boat, Day sees the pair in the trees behind the ball field at 77th Street or over the river, alarming flocks of pigeons. This gives her hope that they will return.

Karim isn’t so sure. What makes sense to us may not make sense to them, he feels; we don’t see what they see. Perhaps they’ll find a better spot, where they will be made more welcome. Maybe, he suggested darkly, in New Jersey.

This story relies on news reports as well as the work and thoughts of various hawk-watchers. Leslie Day blogs at fieldguidenyc.com. Lincoln Karim’s observations of red-tails are at palemale.com. Beth Bergman posts her photographs at thebethlenz.blogspot.com. Marie Winn is the author of Red-Tails in Love (1998) and the just-published Central Park in the Dark. D. Bruce Yolton maintains the Website urbanhawks.blogs.com.


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