Washington Square Park Maintenance Issues Remain Unaddressed, City Opts To Place Ineffective and Hawk-Killing Rodenticide in Park (See Update: Rodenticide Removed!)

Updated!

Overflow trash in open top containers

8:24 p.m. — Good news! Roger Paw blogger wrote in to say that the bait boxes have been removed! See more info from that blog here. Now, if the park maintenance issues can be addressed…

Original post follows —

Washington Square Park has been rodenticide-free for awhile – but no longer. Rodenticide bait traps have been placed in locations in the park. (I had a feeling this was coming.)

Throughout New York City this year, Red-tailed hawks have been poisoned by “secondary poisoning” (eating a poisoned rat). Rodenticide is not the answer. Proper maintenance of trash is the only solution —  this has been proven again and again, and yet, at Washington Square, containment of the park’s trash is a serious problem. This is a Parks Department maintenance issue and also education issue of park users. However, if trash cans are full and not emptied, that compounds the problem.

The latest from Hawk cam chat member City Woman who writes:

Many devoted hawk watchers spent the last few weeks writing and calling various City officials concerning plans we learned of to put rat poison in Washington Square Park. Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that our pleas fell on deaf ears as evidence of the lack of commitment to a poison-free sanitation plan for the park was revealed by posts from photographer/blogger Roger_Paw.

The only real control of rodents comes from proper sanitation. What is so disappointing and frustrating about the Parks Department decision is that there is so much room for improvement in this park. To even think of risking the life of the hawks, who are seen in the park almost daily and get many of their meals there, through the secondary poisoning that can occur when a non-target animal eats a poisoned rat is disgraceful. Their decision shows no real commitment to getting to the root of the problem; they are only going for the quick temporary fix.

Bobby and Rosie, Washington Square’s Red-tailed Hawks

The pictures were taken in the park this past Saturday by a member of Stop the Poison (STP), a group formed to oppose the use of poisons in our parks.

Currently, almost all trash cans in Washington Square Park have open tops. If, the trash is not removed by evening or tops are not put on the cans, there is an open invitation to rats. In addition, a walk through the park, reveals almost no signage about proper disposal of food and the reasons why it is needed.

Washington Square Park could be a perfect location to show how proper sanitary methods can decrease the rodent population, if not completely, at least substantially, without the use of poison.

Suggestions made to NYC Parks Department officials by Stop The Poison:

Solar powered waste compactors (as used in Philadelphia and other locations)
Rat-proof garbage cans
Rodent-repellent trash bags
Summonses for littering
Carry in, Carry out waste policy (bring your lunch or snack with you; take your garbage out with you)
Revision of landscaping that is conducive to rat tunnels

Please ask your readers to insist that a commitment be demonstrated to make the park a model of excellence in bringing all possible resources and expertise to bear rather than resorting to toxic poisons that make each meal a lethal game of chance for our precious wildlife.

“Discarded trash everywhere! In flower beds, under benches, under trees … accumulated for days!”

In addition, a reader, Brant, sent in this comment earlier in the week:

In Washington Square Park this morning (October 6, 2012) and found it so disgusting ! Discarded trash everywhere ! In flower beds, under benches, under trees, everywhere!!!!
The people responsible for cleaning the park are incredibly inept!
We are not talking about trash that accumulated overnight but for many days!
Not only that for a few blocks on each side of University Place, not one garbage pail! Not one!
What will be done? I will contact immediately 311, and for what it’s worth, complain to them as well as the Sanitation Department!

Washington Square East

“Rats” author (and NY resident) Robert Sullivan very clear on how ineffective rodenticide is

I’ve written before on this blog about the problem of rodenticide in our city parks — seven or eight new york city hawks have died this year alone – and would like to reiterate the following (which the Parks Department should know):

Author Robert Sullivan, who studied rats in the city and wrote about his discoveries in his book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” states that removing garbage and the rats’ food source is the key, even tho’ no one considers that was the “sexier” solution – it IS the solution.

Sullivan consulted with David E. Davis, the “founding father of modern rat studies” who determined:

“when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. ‘Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,’ Davis wrote.”

When I told reader Brant that the city’s Parks Department was putting poison out, he said:

Rat poison is the easy way out !
It’s again, putting a band-aid on the problem !  One must be pro-active and they, are reactive !

So true.

This would be an opportunity for new Parks Commissioner Veronica White to take a position her predecessor, Adrian Benepe, would not. Instead of focusing on privatizing public parks, how about creating better models of our existing ones?

 __________________________________________________________________________________

What you can DO; Suggestions from City Woman and Stop the Poison:

Following are some of the NYC Parks Department officials people can write or call:

Veronica M. White, NYC Parks Commissioner, Veronica.White@parks.nyc.gov
First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, liam.kavanagh@parks.nyc.gov phone #212-360-1307
William T. Castro, NYC Dep’t of Parks, Manhattan Borough Commissioner: william.castro@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0201
Namshik Yoon, Chief of Operations, Namshik.Yoon@parks.nyc.gov; #212-408-0212
Ralph Musolino, Park Manager, Manhattan District 1 & 2; Ralph.Musolino@parks.nyc.gov; #212-797-3142

And here are some things individuals can do to help:
IF YOU WANT TO SAVE OUR HAWKS: Do Not Use Mouse and Rat Poisons, Pellets or Blocks on Your Property
1.) Tell your building management to use covered, latching trash containers and traps instead of poison.
2.) Educate your local institutions and merchants to do the same.
3.) Ask government officials to support a ban on the sale of anticoagulant rodenticides (five California cities have done so).
4.) CONTACT STOPTHEPOISON@AOL.COM to find out what else you can do.

Photos 1 & 3: Stop The Poison

Middle Photo: Bobby & Rosie in Washington Square Park, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Credit: Roger_Paw Blog

Advertisements

Washington Square’s Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks Take First Flight Monday!

Fledge to nearby ledge!

There are two juvenile hawks this year as opposed to last year when there was just one – sweet Pip. And on Monday, Memorial Day evening, they both took their first flight from the 12th floor ledge of the Bobst Library.

Urban Hawks Blog recounted some of the unusual aspects of this fledge (more photos too):

Fledge Day at Washington Square turned out to be unlike any I have every watched. Both eyasses fledged within ten minutes of each other (8:05 and 8:15) and ended up on the same ledge of a nearby NYU building. Red-tailed Hawks don’t normally fledge together, nor do they usually fledge to the same place. The fledge happened at dusk, another rarity.

I’ve noticed in the past that many in the hawk world think there is a certain order to all this and the Washington Square hawks keep defying it — which is fitting!

Photo by Washington Square avid hawk watcher and New York Times‘ Web Cam chat room moderator (I think I have that right!) Pondove via the New York Times.

** The history of the Washington Square hawks with the appearance of Violet and Bobby at WSP Blog. **

Three (or Four) Red-Tailed Hawks Have Turned Up Dead in NYC Parks This Year

Via WPIX11Hawks Turning Up Dead in Manhattan Parks:

Several red-tailed hawks have been found dead in and around parks in Manhattan over the past two months. Two hawks were discovered in different sections of Central Park, and one in Riverside Park, according to Parks Department officials. All three were sent to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s pathology lab to determine the cause of their deaths.

“That to me is absolutely overwhelming,” said bird lover Virginia Arrea, who goes to Washington Square Park twice a day to look for a hawk she’s spotted there on a number of occasions.

I love to see the majesty of the bird in the middle of New York City,” Arrea said.

Other recent deaths include Lima, the mate of celebrity hawk Pale Male. Two more dead hawks were found, one near Columbus Circle, and another near Peter Cooper Village on the Lower East Side.

Experts suspect the hawks may have consumed poison indirectly by eating sick rodents or pigeons which they might find outside the parks.

We value our wildlife and work diligently to create the necessary balance between public health and safety, and wildlife health and safety,” said Parks’ First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. “Out of concern for the resident red-tailed hawks in Central and Riverside Park, poisoned bait is not currently used.

Here is the story from the NY Times when Pale Male’s (latest) mate, Lima, was found dead in late February.

Then there was this dramatic aspect to it when Lincoln Karim from the Pale Male Blog was arrested for possession of Lima’s body.

He was concerned that the body would not be tested accurately by governmental agencies to reveal the true source of her death.

NY Daily News reports on three but also mentions there’s a fourth: Three (Perhaps Four) Hawks Dead from NYC Parks March 9, 2012

Related at this blog:

* Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square; On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks, May 7, 2011

Name the New Washington Square Park Gal Hawk; Voting Ends Today After Voter “Fraud” at New York Times Site

Updated(at end)

Squirrel and New Gal Hawk Play?

Updated – So the New York Times is running a poll to choose the name for the new Washington Square Park hawk. I was never quite able to ID Violet over Bobby – never really seeing them too close either – but the “new gal in town” has a very distinctive RED tail. Yes, they are red-tailed hawks but this is veryred and, when she flies, it really shows.

Some people started calling her Noelle when she appeared Christmas Eve Day but, then, I think perhaps Roger_Paw started calling her Rosie based on her distinctive red markings. That name resonated with me. She’s very much a Rosie, strong and spunky. Whereas Noelle; it’s a beautiful name, but, for this hawk, it sounds a bit … I don’t know… meek.

Anyway, you can take part in the poll over here at the New York Times.

Note: there was voter fraud (!) so they are redoing the poll – it ends at 1:43 p.m. today!

I learned a lot from the hawk watchers at the park on Sunday. I was quite worried about the squirrel in the above photo (so priceless the look between the hawk and the squirrel – maybe I’ll try editing it a bit later edited) but one woman told me that the squirrels taunt the hawks to see how far they “can go.”

And it did indeed seem this way. “Rosie” would make a slight move with her wings as if to go for the squirrel and the squirrel would immediately dart away. The squirrel even going as far as up to the branch she was on.

The hawk watcher told me that the squirrels also can wrap themselves around trees so they are not quite so easy to catch. (Although, she noted, “Rosie” did catch one on the ground the other day.) New Gal Hawk knew this squirrel was not a viable option as she stopped paying attention, preening and cleaning herself although every once in awhile she’d do a little jab in the squirrel’s direction. She didn’t seem too fixated whereas I was sitting there on pins and needles.

Oh! Also, she was bringing twigs to the former nest outside NYU President John Sexton’s office on the 12th floor of the Bobst Library that day. (Note — it is not confirmed that they are officially a couple.)

Update! Rosie won.

Sunday at the Square — Trees Recycled; Kites Fly; Hawks Swoop In; Squirrels and Pigeons Hold Their Ground; Park Remains Under Construction

The Arch Amidst Tree Recycling Event

A Tree Arrives for the Chipper

Girl Gathers Mulch Amidst Mulch Hilltop

First Sighting of One Hawk On NYU Library

Woman flies Kite around the Fountain

Gaining Speed ...

Bobby and New Gal in WSP Tree

Pigeons and Friends Pre-Hawks Arrival

Pigeons Take Flight; People Actually Duck

Wondrous Pigeons in Flight

Sparrows Camouflaged in Tree

I first noticed this squirrel chattering... (to left of sign)

Moments before running up the tree female hawk was now in

Gal Hawk and Black Squirrel Taunt Each Other (look closely in brown box)

Note: this was quite nerve wracking; it occurred on the southern end of the park behind fencing. It took awhile but, at last, the hawk – the new female who has a very distinctive red tail – flew to another branch and the squirrel was safe!

New Gal (Alternately called Noelle or Rosie)

SW Quadrant Remains Under Construction

Trees were Dropped off -- after Event had Ended

The Tree at the Arch Remains Lit


Photos: Cathryn

So sad to hear WSP Resident Mama Hawk Violet has died

Updated!

Violet at the Horvath's

It happened yesterday afternoon — The Horvath’s announcement via their Facebook page:

We are extremely heart sick to have to announce to everyone that Violet has passed away . She came through the surgery very well. She woke up and was sitting up fluffing her feathers. All of a sudden she had a heart attack. The Vet did CPR on her for 20 minutes to no avail. xrays showed that at some point after her right foot had deteriorated, her left femur was broken. We don’t know how she ever survived for as long as she did. We are somewhat relieved that at least Violet wasn’t suffering alone somewhere. She was warm, peaceful and had a full belly and pain medication.We just couldn’t get her in time.

I felt like in the last week many of the hawk bloggers commenters – and I so appreciate all their amazing coverage! – were so anxious that Bobby have a new mate that Violet was quickly becoming forgotten. I know it may not be always popular to say that it would have been better than she never had a leg band and that she was attended to sooner but both are true.  At the same time, I know when you do any kind of animal or wildlife rescue, it’s so easy to doubt yourself and look back over every decision wondering if it was the right one.

I just hope in the future the powers that be – whether it’s NYU or a governmental agency – can work with others who may have supplemental and additional knowledge that can help the situation. Sometimes it’s so easy, in any field, for people to believe they are such “experts” that they end up ignoring those who are ‘in the trenches.’ We all need to work together.

The New York Daily News reports: [Cathy Horvath] “said they are considering burying Violet in Washington Square Park, where she and her mate often sat in trees, hunting for rats.”

And the Horvaths wrote on Facebook today:

We are going to have a plaque made in honor and memory of Violet. We would like to bring her back to her park and place her at the tree where we were able to finally get her. We will let everyone know once we get all the details settled. We want to thank everyone with all our hearts for the amazing support and kind words. It has been very helpful to us. We are so heartbroken from all of this and it is comforting to know you all cared so much for Violet and for us. thank you again, Cathy and Bobby

I hope they do bury her at WSP.

I liked Violet’s spirit. I liked how the hawk bloggers and watchers would be able to spot Bobby often but Violet’s whereabouts were sometimes a mystery. Yet she’d always return. Bobby and Violet discovered that ledge (as I’ve said before, what are the chances…? outside NYU President John Sexton’s office) and made their nest together there. They defied the odds when everyone said the window for a baby hawk had passed. She looked after Pip beautifully; they both did. And the two hawks added a new vibrancy to the park. In the last few weeks, Bobby had been providing Violet with food to compensate for her injured and worsening leg. I realize a new gal will move in (and may have already) but I really appreciated Bobby and Violet as a pair and, of course, individually. Peace to Violet.

All WSP Blog coverage on Violet, Bobby and Pip here.

(Took a break from my break to post this. New posts resume Tuesday, January 3rd.)

Last Night at Washington Square

Red-tailed Hawk Bobby Perched Atop the Judson Church Cross While…


This is neighborhood Red-tailed hawk Bobby, I presume, atop the Judson Church cross. Previously noted as one of his favorite haunts around the park, he lingered there for a long time.

Baby Soda Band Played on the Garibaldi Stage


Baby Soda (above) last night at the Park. They were quite good!

From their web site:

Baby Soda is on the forefront of a new movement loosely known as street jazz; with an eclectic set of influences ranging from 30’s era swing, New Orleans jazz, and southern gospel. The ensemble doesn’t desire to recreate the past, rather they bring the concept and joy of the music to the present.

Baby Soda is an adaptable and ever changing group made up of New York’s finest musicians; featuring trumpet, trombone, clarinet, banjo and the unique one string box bass.

Pip, Young Red-Tailed Hawk, Getting Ready to Leave the Nest above Washington Square!

It could be any day now. Pip, child of neighborhood hawks Violet and Bobby, has been doing flying motions, flapping his wings, and is almost ready to leave the nest (outside NYU President John Sexton’s office – again, what are the chances?). Young birds – from sparrows to pigeons – sometimes get down on the ground and out of the nest a wee bit early and then it’s always interesting, as a human who encounters them, figuring out how, when, and if, we intervene. (Probably a bit different with a hawk.)

Violet and Pip around June 5th

Pip Flapping His Wings, Sunday

Precious Pip, June 18th, 2011

New York Times City Room reports 6/19:

Sometime very soon — perhaps in a few days, maybe a week — Pip the red-tailed hawk will take a few more practice flapping hops, face the great wide world and, on untested wings, soar off the ledge where she has spent the first six weeks of life.

There is a good chance that she will never return.

Pip, as you may know, is the child reality-Web-TV star of City Room’s Hawk Cam, whose fast-forward metamorphosis from cottony puff pile to gawky adolescent outside a 12th-floor window at New York University has unfolded before a global audience. (Pip’s sex remains unknown, but by falconers’ convention, unsexed raptors are referred to as female).

He’s gotten so big! (I’ve always thought of Pip as a boy.) Tho’ the Times states: “Most fledglings starve to death during their first summer — Bobby and Pip’s mother, Violet, will leave dead rats in tree crotches for her for a few weeks, in part to keep her alive, and in part to keep her from boomeranging back to the nest. But by August or so, if Pip cannot find her own prey, she’s out of luck. Such are the ways of the wild.”

I think Pip will make it.

When Pip does fly, any day now, it’s going to be quite the occasion as he may land in a Washington Square Park tree. Look out, squirrels!

(I hadn’t written about Violet, Bobby and Pip since May 27th. So much else going on, with the Eastern side of the Park at last opening and all!)

***********************************************************

Photos #1 & 3: Bruce D. Yolton, Urban Hawks Blog

Photo #2: Heather Alonzo/Roger_Paw blog

Neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawks Pip and Violet Look out on Washington Square

Pip and Violet

Pip, baby hawk born to Washington Square hawks Bobby and Violet, was named by New York Times readers where the City Room Blog has been meticulously tracking the hawks’ progress from a video cam of the nest set on the ledge of NYU’s Bobst Library. There’s video at the Urban Hawks blog of Pip and Violet with Pip wandering close to the edge of the ledge. Pip is now pretty big (this picture doesn’t quite show it).

Photo: D. Bruce Yolton

Previous WSP Blog Posts on Violet and Bobby:

* No Intervention Right now for Mama Hawk Violet; Rodenticide All Removed at Washington Square Park

* Violet & Bobby Nest-Watch: Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of Riverside Park Hawk Death, Can we Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide?

* Hawks Set up Nest Around the Park — “Violet & Bobby” VideoCam Watch

Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square. (And yet…) On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks

Rat Poison Sign Washington Sq Park

The City’s Parks Department told the New York Times yesterday (May 6th) that they were removing the rodenticide “bait stations” at Washington Square that day to accommodate red-tailed hawk couple Violet and Bobby and their newborn hatchlings now residing above the park. This is good news!

However, at 7 p.m. yesterday, bait stations were still visible along Washington Square South and Washington Square East behind Phase II construction fences and close to the Bobst Library; the building’s 12th floor ledge accommodates Violet and Bobby’s nest.

From New York Times City Room Blog, “The Dangers of Rat Poison”:

bait station at base of tree washington sq south

The main threat Bobby and Violet’s brood face, and it is a serious one, is from Bobby bringing home a poisoned rat for dinner. Rat poisoning is believed to have caused the death last month of an adult male red-tail in Riverside Park, state officials say.

The city parks department regularly sets poison in rat burrows in Washington Square Park, which the hawks’ nest looks out on. But in anticipation of a possible hawk hatch, the department has refrained from doing so since April 22.

bait station, washington square east

“We will not be placing additional rat poison in the park while the hawks are fledging,” Phil Abramson, a parks spokesman, said in an e-mail Friday.

“Parks staff is searching the park today to make sure there are no bait boxes or any other signs of poison remaining.”

*******************************************************************

Hopefully, those remaining bait stations, pictured above left, were located and removed today.

Meanwhile, it might be time to rethink rat poison in our city parks in general.

In Robert Sullivan’s book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” he interviews David E. Davis, “the founding father of modern rat studies.”

Sullivan writes: [Davis] consulted with cities on their rats, preaching his most important discovery throughout the country – that poisoning rats was not in itself an effective way of controlling them. In fact, when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. “Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,” Davis wrote.

The only way to get rid of rats was to get rid of the rat food, or garbage, but no one wanted to hear this: as it was the dawn of the age of ecology so also it was the dawn of the age of the chemical, of poisons and pesticides, and people seemed to want a sexier, chemical-based fix.

Seems they still do.

Photos: Cathryn

Yesterday’s WSP Blog Post: Violet and Bobby Nest-Watch: Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of Riverside Park Hawk’s Death, Can We Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide?

Update: In a tense turn of events, not poison-related, Violet’s foot is entwined in plastic netting leg is being constricted by a wildlife identification band placed there by a researcher. Wildlife rehabilitators and hawk experts Bobby and Cathy Horvath are coming today to see if they can help and somehow spring her from it! [5/9: They will be attempting a rescue mission from the window ledge to remove the band in the next few days. The bands don’t usually cause this to happen but it does make you wonder in general about placing bands on birds and other animals. ]