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The Daily Plant : Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parks And Bronx Bird Enthusiasts Celebrate Red-tailed Hawk Release Three Months After Rescue

The red-tailed hawk on the day of its release
Daniel Avila

Last Wednesday, September 29, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe released a five month-old red-tailed hawk into a clear blue sky in Central Park. The bird may have just taken flight a week ago, but it was the end of a long journey that began last June, when a group of Bronx bird aficionados rescued the baby hawk from a fall at 149th Street and Melrose Avenue.

Candido “Lee” Nieves had been observing a pair of red-tailed hawks that had nested on top of an air conditioning unit at a building at that intersection for close to a year. They had started a family, with three young birds, five stories up in the Bronx. Nieves and his good friend and fellow bird watcher Daniel Chervoni watched them almost daily with their binoculars, and early in the summer they observed the mother hawk feeding her babies at least once a day.

In June, however, she stopped arriving at the nest. They found out later from a police officer that the mother had been found with injuries of her own and was taken to a nursery for rehabilitation. The other two baby birds seemed to have flown off on their own.

While observing the nest on a Saturday in late June, Nieves realized that the lone baby hawk had fallen five stories from the nest to the ground. He had landed in the busy street, bringing traffic to a halt, and appeared to be badly injured. Nieves crossed the street, scooped it up, and walked about ten blocks south to Brook Park, where he found Harry Bubbins, Director of Friends of Brook Park. The two called Chervoni, who along with Nieves is a volunteer for the Park, and he arrived soon after.

Together, they decided that the bird’s best chance for survival was with raptor expert Ludger K. Balan, who at the time was leading a demonstration at Sherman Creek Park in Manhattan for Harlem River Awareness Day. It was Balan who had turned both Nieves and Chervoni onto monitoring the nest at 149th Street, and they knew he could provide the bird with the best care.

The three men fashioned a makeshift cage made of two milk crates, and Bubbins loaded up a canoe to bring the hawk to Balan. He paddled up the river to Sherman Creek Park in Manhattan, and Balan took the bird into his care.

The young hawk, which was believed to have been about 70 days old at the time, did not suffer any serious injuries in the fall. Balan arranged for its care with bird expert Bobby Horvath at Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, his licensed raptor center on Long Island.

Commissioner Benepe celebrated the beginning of Raptor Fest by releasing the five-month old hawk—who he named Stormy—last Wednesday after three months of care. He was joined by members of the Urban Park Rangers, Bobby Horvath of Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation and first and second graders from P.S. 83 and the Dalton School. Raptor Fest took place in Central Park last Saturday and featured aerial shows and flight demonstrations.

The rehabilitated hawk will join a growing population of raptors in City parks. The red-tailed hawk is one of 13 birds of prey found in New York City Parks, and their presence has grown consistently over the years with increased conservation and rescue efforts, along with a more concerned and proactive public.

Bubbins was particularly thankful for the efforts of Nieves and Chervoni. He said that they’ve each developed a care and appreciation for nature “through their involvement with NYC Parks.”

“Thanks to them, the red tail hawk was rescued and a vital component of our diverse eco-system lives on,” Bubbins said. “Wildlife is able to thrive in our Parks and young people have the opportunity to learn and expand their imaginations and become the next generation of park stewards because of people like [Nieves and Chervoni].”

“I’ve always loved nature,” Nieves told the Plant. “Especially quality birds like that. A lot of people thought that was just a regular bird. That’s a special bird.”

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Lewis Carroll
(1832 - 1898)

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