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Bird watching in the city

Posted on Wednesday, December 7th, 2005 at 12:50 pm CET

We live close to the center of Leiden. Our back yard is very small and paved with bricks. The idea of attracting feathered friends to our garden is a bit misguided, as there are dozens of pet cats prowling through the neighborhood. Last year we put up a substantial bird feeder in the middle of the yard, but on the first day a cat jumped into it. We added a small “fence”, which manages to keep the cats out. Now the feeder receives regular visits from a few extremely nervous doves and tits. The other day we even spotted a robin on the feeder for a fleeting moment. It’s exciting viewing for our (indoor only) cats, but for me, the best place to watch birds is via the computer.

I check in on Pale Male almost every day, and so should you. The photography is outstanding, the updates are frequent (daily as far as I can tell), and the unfolding drama couldn’t be more compelling.

Have you heard of Pale Male? He’s a red-tailed hawk living near Central Park in New York City, named after his lightly-colored head feathers. He was in the news last year because his nest, magnificently and innocently constructed on an apartment building, was deemed a nuisance and removed by authorities. Pale Male watchers and nature enthusiasts were outraged and the nesting site was eventually restored. It was too late for last year’s season though, as Pale Male and his mate Lola tended to a nest of three eggs which never hatched.

As winter gets underway, Pale Male and Lola are starting their mating dance again. And thanks to this fantastic website, internet surfers everywhere can follow their saga. Will their nest be successful this year? Will their chicks survive to fledge, like two of Pale Male’s grandchildren did last year? (As the unfortunate fate of Pale Male’s nest became clear last year, the website began to chronicle the successful nest of Pale Male’s offspring, Pale Male Jr, and his mate, Charlotte.)

So as the days get shorter and colder here in Leiden, I’ll keep an eye out for birds visiting our feeder. But the best place for bird watching will still be online.

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