June 30, 2006

6/29, Cathedral Hawkwatching

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Hawkwatching at the Cathedral on Thursday was cut short due to the rainburst that hit the city just before 7:00 p.m. It had started to sprinkle as I headed over to St. John the Divine, but stopped by the time I got there. Donegal, Stella and Samantha had also just arrived and no one had yet spotted any of the red-tails. As it turned out, I was the first to find one, as a stroll down Morningside Drive quickly brought me within range to hear a fledgling calling for attention. After a few minutes of pacing back and forth to triangulate where she might be, I located her in a tree above the cars parked along the west side of the street about 100 feet from 110th Street.

The fledgling stayed put just long enough for the other hawkwatchers to join me. All the while she was calling out, but if she was crying "feed me" to a parent, we didn't see the adult. Was she "talking" to the other fledgling somewhere near by?

Just after 6:40, the fledgling flew across the street and into a tree in Morningside Park, perched for about two minutes, and then flew to a tree closer to 110th Street. We lost track of her for a few minutes, perhaps because we were trying to figure out which was her new tree. The wind gusts which were picking up did not help, as it seemed the tree we thought she might be in was being blown about like a lifeboat on a stormy sea. But after five minutes we realized a fledgling was perched in a tree overlooking the park entrance at the corner of Morningside Drive. It was the same tree I had found a fledgling in on Monday.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks The rain had begun to do more than sprinkle and the wind was beginning to pick up. I took a couple of photos at about 6:49 and then stopped trying as it was becoming impossible to hold an umbrella and shoot a decent picture. Then as the weather got really nasty, it was time to flee across the street for a shelter at one of the businesses lining the south side of 110th Street.

Returning to the park entrance 15 minutes later, I was startled to see that there were two fledglings sitting next to each other where I had previously seen just the one. Perhaps I shouldn't have been... a closer look at the two photos taken at 6:49 seemed to reveal one of them in the process of perching there.

Over the next twenty minutes, neiher of the fledglings showed any sign of leaving their joint perch. Instead they were postured in a manner which seemed to encourage their feathers to dry. But as the rain begin to pick up again near 7:30, I found it time to leave and go somewhere where I too could try to try off.

There will be no hawkwatching on Friday, as I will be off to a baseball game. Hopefully I can get up to the Cathedral on Saturday for an hour or two.

(Updated July 3 at 16:12 to include photos.)

June 28, 2006

6/28, Cathedral Hawkwatching

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks

(All images from today are posted in a Flickr photoset that starts here.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks This episode of hawkwatching is dedicated to noisy catbirds, who make finding hawks perched in trees ever so much easier.

Today's weather was much better than it had been since late last week, still partially cloudy but nevertheless partly sunny. I headed over to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine a bit earlier than I had the last several outings, and was on Morningside Drive at about 6:15 p.m. There had been no hawk sign on the north side of the Cathedral, but these days there normally is not unless an adult is perched on Gabriel's horn.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Walking south along the Morningside Park side of Morningside Drive, I again lucked out and located a fledgling before 6:20. Close to the 112th Street overlook, catbirds were making go-away chirps, and as I moved by it was even more apparent that the target of their interest must be close by. Seeing one catbird just 15 feet away, I tried following a line in the direction it was looking, and bang! a fledgling perched in a tree perhaps 25 feet off the ground and 20 feet from the sidewalk. Her perch was next to a fork in a branch, making it a bit difficult to get a clean sight line, but she was moving around just enough that it seemed that a better view would soon be at hand.

Sure enough, within five minutes she had flown over one tree, to the same tree where the two fledglings were perched last Friday. A few minutes later she shifted to a higher branch but didn't seem to be destined to stay there long as twigs poked her in the head every time she tried to sit up straight. Just after 6:30 she moved to a good solid branch and settled down, looking around, preening, etc.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Donegal had arrived just a few minutes after I did. Both of us were amazed at one point when the fledgling, apparently tired of the catbirds calling her names, gave out a couple of skreeks that were nothing like the whiny feed-me calls we were used to hearing. My, my. Baby is growing up fast and getting loud.

Figuring that Donegal would studiously keep watch on the fledgling, I wandered off at 6:40 to see what other members of the Divine family might be in the area. Moseying down Morningside Drive, and then east on 110th Street, there was no sight or suggestive sound. But entering Morningside Park at the corner of Manhattan Avenue at 6:45, one only had to glance up at the Cathedral and see that one of the parent hawks had perched on Gabriel's horn. As it turned out, that adult hawk would stay put for as long as I was hawkwatching tonight. Baed on past evening behavior, it was probably Isolde.

At 6:55 I had walked back across Morningside Park and was below the tree on which the fledgling was perched. I took a picture or two from the path below, and then as I was shifting to a different position, I saw a hawk fly from the top of that tree south into a tree near the 111th Street overlook. Doublechecking, I found the first fledgling was still perched in the same spot, so this made the first day since last Friday on which I had definitely seen both fledglings.

Unfortunately, when I rushed up the path to let Donegal know that I had seen a second fledgling, both of the fledges shifted position and I completely lost track of them. Wandering up and down the path for 10 minutes didn't reveal any sign and I finally made my way back to the Morningside Drive sidewalk, to find that Donegal watching one of them perched on a gable of the Cathedral School.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks The fledgling stayed put until 7:18 (during which Bruce also showed up), then shifted down to a side ledge of the gable. Hmmm, why does she keep looking down to her right? A minute later she shifted down again to a gutter on the eaves and, it turns out, to where the other fledgling was busy eating. Apparently a quick food drop-off had been made by the missing parent.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks The siblings remained together along the gutter until 7:26, both apparently getting their share of whatever was on the menu with no squabbling, before one flew off. The first to leave headed south and perched at the corner of the scaffolding erected around the south wing of the Cathedral School. Ten minutes later, the second aldo departed, flying back to the tree near the 112th Street overlook where the fledglings have now been seen several times.

That seemed to wrap up the evening's activity. Except for some shifting about for better perches and different views, all three hawks still in view (remember, an adult has been atop Gabriel's horn since 6:45) remain where they are until at least 8:20, when I finally depart.

June 27, 2006

6/27, Cathedral Hawkwatching

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks

(Not many pix today, or yesterday for that matter. Today's small photoset on Flickr starts here.)

I started walking over to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to look for the hawks at about 6:30 p.m., and immediately wondered whether they'd be about. The wind was picking up and was very gusty. You'd think a wise hawk might just grab hold of something solid and stay put. But no...

There were no hawks about Gabriel's horn or along the Chapels on the back side of the Cathedral. Approaching the corner of Morningside Drive and 110th Street, I was stunned to see a hawk straight in front of me, flexing its wings and otherwise showing off the light-colored feathers on its body. As I fumbled for my camera, it flew out of its tree (the same tree where the fledgling had been perched last night) and then back into the trees just to the east. I rounded the corner onto 110th Street and walked about halfway down to Manhattan Ave. and stopped because the robins perched in the trees close by were going nuts.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Looking up, the position of the fledgling was easily found because it wasn't happy with her perch and the gusting wind wasn't helping much. The pic at the top of this post was one of the first I shot, at 6:49 p.m., while the one just at right was taken three minutes later. She jumped around a it, flapped a bit, etc., with of course a little preening and one instance of Linda-Blair-like head rotation.

Jean walked up behind me right about then and we admired the fledgling for awhile, pointing her out to the many pedestrians curious as to why we were looking up in the trees. But just after 7:00 we walked back to Morningside Drive to see if we could spot any of the other hawks. No luck up there, I soon returned to 110th Street with Donegal, Samantha and Eleanor in tow. Ooops, the fledgling had moved and the robin ruckus had quieted. Where did the fledge go?

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks After ten minutes of scanning the tree tops, I saw a hawk fly from overhead and up toward the trees alongside Morningside Drive. Heading back uphill I found Jean at the 112th Street overlook, pointing where a fledgling (presumably the same one) had just landed in a nearby tree. It had found good cover, because it was impossible to get a decent sight line for any photos. But another 10 minutes later, it again flew off, heading back to 110th Street.

By about 7:50, Donegal and Samantha had found the fledgling's new perch, and after some maneuvering I found it was sthe same tree where it had been perched just before 7:00. However, it was perched somewhat higher and getting a decent photo proved difficult. As it turned out, it would remain in that location for the rest of the evening, still there when we left around 8:30.

Although we had all had brief glimpses of the adult hawks in the sky earlier, after about 7:45 spottings became more frequent as they soared about in the wind, often over the Cathedral. Around 8:10 we thought we saw one alight in a tree about 50 feet from the perched fledgling but never were quite sure about it.

There was quite a bit of walking around tonight as we tried to follow hawk movements, to the extent that it seemed we were doing more hawkchasing than hawkwatching. At least they're still proving findable, although it has been several days since we saw both fledglings.

June 26, 2006

7/26, Cathedral Hawkwatching

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks

If tonight was any sign, hawkwatching at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is about to become significantly more difficult as the fledglings wander ever further from their original nest.

Arriving at the Cathedral at about 6:40 p.m., I immediately spotted an adult perched on Gabriel's horn. The effect of the strong breeze is apparent, as the hawk is standing on the horn with its body held almost horizontal, its head pointed south. At one point I think I get a glimpse of coloring that suggests that this hawk is Isolde, but it was a tiny glimpse in low-quality glasses.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Wandering along Morningside Drive, I find none of the other hawkwatchers is about, nor are any fledglings to be found on the Cathedral chapel roofs or atop the Cathedral School. After about 15 minutes, I imagine that I have seen a hawk perched atop an apartment building on Frederick Douglass Circle. I move south a bit to get a better view. No hawk, but I do hear the one-chirp "go away" sounds that smaller birds start making when there is a hawk perched nearby. Continuing down Morningside Drive, this sense that birds are making hawk-alert sounds become stronger. At 7:00 on the nose, I step into the park entrance at Morningside Drive and 110th Street, look up, and there's a hawk.

Up above a fledgling is flapping about a bit in a tree, apparently having trouble maintaining her perch (gee, that branch looks small) in the strong breeze. The chirping birds nearby probably aren't helping. After a few minutes she flies over to another branch and gets a good solid grip. She settles down and will remain there for the rest of the evening, looking around, preening, etc.

Moments later Bruce, Donegal and Samatha arrive, apparently come from over by Central Park. If I understand them correctly, an adult hawk was just seen over there, apaprently the female. That suggests it was Tristan perched on Gabriel's Horn rather than Isolde. On the other hand, looking back up to the statue on the Cathedral roof, I see that the adult perched there has vacated. Perhaps it was Isolde and she's been on the move since I last looked up there.

(Donegal's post reveals the explanation. They had actually been in the cathedral area for a half or more and at one point had seen one hawk on Gabriel's horn at the same time as another was perched on the water tower at 412 West 110th.)

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks The next hour is spent watching the fledgling perched over the park entrance, and wandering in vain up and down Morningside Drive looking and listening for hawk sign. It isn't until almost 8:00 that another hawk is seen. Bruce and I are standing at the overlook at about 111th Street, and looking back toward the cathedral, I see an adult come flying from that direction, soaring over the park toward the apartment buildings by Central Park. For a moment it seems it might perch there, but instead it circles over the Great Hill, circles some more a bit closer, and then flies back our direction. At last view, it had disappeared back over the Cathedral and was not seen again, despite a walk up to 114th Street to see if it perched somewhere on the roof of St. Luke's

Hawkwatching concluded at about 8:15 with one last look at the fledgling perched over the Morningside Park entrance.

(Updated June 27 at 14:31 to include link to Donegal's post.)

6/25, Cathedral Hawkwatching

(Beginning with this report, I'll begin to refer to the adult hawks by the names "Tristan" and "Isolde". These are names apparently given them by folks at the nearby Cathedral School.

Sunday hawkwatching at the Cathedral was short but fairly sweet. I had skipped Saturday and most of Sunday because the weather was so wet, but since I was in the neighborhood for family dinner and the streets were actually dry, I popped over to Morningside Drive for a few minutes. No camera, though, so no pictures.

Arriving at about 6:45 and beginning to work my way down Morningside Drive scanning the chapel roofs and ledges, I noticed ahead a couple pedestrians pointing toward the Cathedral School. Further downhill it looked like Donegal had also just arrived and was trying to quickly set up her scope. Hurrying down I spotted a hawk just flying one from of the side gables of the Cathedral School to just out of sight along the northern roof and then disappearing. Then a gable to the south there was another hawk perched, this one plainly a fledgling.

We watched the fledgling hop around on the gable for a few minutes before it flew over to a corner of the north roof for an easier perch. A few minutes later I though the fledge had suddenly decided to fly out over the street, perhaps chasing a starling, and then made a sharp turn and flew toward the chapel roofs. But no, the fledgeling was still perched on the corner. It turned out that Tristan had flown in low over the Cathedral School, made the turn, and then ended up atop the cross on St. Savior Chapel.

Several minutes later as I'm debating whether I need to depart for dinner and a little rain started to spatter, the fledgling did fly off, but she made her way to a tree in Morningside Park, perhaps 75 feet into the park between 110th STreet and 111th Street. After that it was time for me to leave.

As I was heading west on 113th Street, I did look up at the old nest. It seemed empty at the time, but...? Why does this matter? Donegal reports that an hour later she saw Isolde perched there. Given the rainy weather and the protection provided by the nest site, it doesn't surprise me to hear the nest was back in (temporary) use.

Bruce visited the Cathedral. earlier Sunday afternoon and also reported seeing a fledgling on the cathedral School roofs. From the look of his pictures it seems to have been perched on the chimney-like structure, but it later ducked over to the scaffolding on the school south wing when the rain picked up.

June 23, 2006

6/23, Cathedral Hawkwatching

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks (Pix in my Flickr hawkwatching photoset for June 23 begin here)

I arrived at the Cathedral shortly after 6:30 p.m. and found a cluster of hawkwatchers on Morningside Drive, intent upon a tree directly across the street from the Cathedral School playgound. It turns out that both fledglings are in the tree, about 20 feet apart. (They had been discovered by Bruce when he sat down on a nearby bench and then looked up.) Also in view, although far away, is an adult (later determined to be Mom) on an antenna support on the roof of a building on Manhattan Ave. at 108th Street.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks At 6:50, an adult swoops in to the Cathedral chapel roofs and lands atop the St. Savior Chapel cross. He doesn't quite perch and on later review I realize he's bent over something and is presumably preparing a meal. Both fledglings fly across the street. The first lands atop the railing between St. Martin and St. Ambrose Chapel, perches a minute, then flies up to the St. Martin roof and then over to the St. Savior roof and out of sight. The second instead ends up in a tree about 75 feet down the street, and other hawkwatchers explain to me that she's probably still having trouble getting lift when she flies. She flew to a downhill tree and would presumably then work her up the street.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Ten to 15 minutes of fledling noisemaking -- and it's a real racket -- ensues and then Dad flies off, and the first fledgling is out of view. I mistakenly guess she's on the St. Savior roof with food. The hawkwatchers congregate down the street where they can see the fledgling in the tree, and it's not until 7:15 that the behavior of passers-by reveals that the first fledgling is now on the north eave of the Cathedral School roof, and she's busy eating. (Apparently when Dad flew off, he dropped the food there, and the fledge had to fly over from the chapels in order to eat.) I can't quite make it out, but Bruce indicates that with his lens, he can see it's fresh rat for dinner.

As we're watching the first fledgling eat, the second makes its way out of the tree and is next spotted on the roof of St. Ambrose Chapel at about 7:23 by Samantha. The fledge hops about a bit and then flies over to the Cathedral School roof to see if she can get a bite before the rat is all gone.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Both fledglings remain at the corner of the school roof for the next 20 minutes. The second gets a bit of food, but there's a tussle or two as the first tries to defend her dinner. Twice the second paces along the gutter at the roof's edge to see if there are any bits o' rat left uneaten. Then at 7:52 one of the fledglings (I think the second, least fed baby) flies into a tree along the street, about 75 feet south.

At this point it's been about 45 minutes since Dad flew off but Mom has remained distantly in view on the rooftop radio antenna. But at 8:05 she flies off and is last seen over 111th Street and she seems to be flying east, fading from view in the humid sky rather than disappearing behing a building.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Things remain quiet for about ten minutes and I wander up the street if an adult has perched somewhere atop St. Luke's hospital. No, but as I'm coming back down Morningside, I think I see a hawk below me flying across Morningside Park. Perhaps so, as the fledgling still on the school roof is lookin over that direction as if there's something of interest.

About 8:20, the fledgling on the school roof joins her sib in the tree, perching just a foot away. But after a few minutes she decided to move on and flies across the street... and lands in the same tree I had seen both of the babies in two hours earlier. Then five minutues later, Mom does appear swooping low over Morningside Drive to land on one of the side gables of the Cathedral School, perhaps 30 feet from the fledling who had flown into a tree a half hour before. That fledgling starts crying for attention (again, I assume it's the one who did not get much to eat from Dad's food delivery), but at this point of the evening it's getting very dim and one assumes room service has closed for the night.

SHrtly after 8:30 it's time to call it a night. I can still see Mom on the school roof, and make out the nearby fledgling because her pale front feathers are visible, but the other fledgling is now impossible to see, assuming I'm even looking at the correct spot.

(Updated: June 24 at 15:38 with more photos.)

June 22, 2006

6/22, Cathedral Hawkwatching

(Pix in my Flickr hawkwatching photoset for June 22 begin here)

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks After doing a complete circuit of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, including a walk through of the campus on the south side, it looked like this evening was going to be a complete bust. Nary a hawk to be found. Construction of a scaffolding on the south side of the Cathedral School suggests that if either fledgling spent last night there, they surely moved elsewhere for the day.

But 5 minutes after sitting on a bench along Morningside Drive, I see some suggestive movement through the treetops at about 6:10 p.m. An adult (later revealed as Dad) had alit on Gabriel's horn. Still, though, except for the two smaller birds futilely attempting to harass him off the horn, there was no further activity to report for the next 20 minutes.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Then Donegal and Samantha arrive. Shortly thereafter Donegal and I walk down Morningside Drive to check if anything has changed on that front, and at about 6:45, I spy one of the fledglings on the small ledge on the side of St. Savior Chapel. This is the the same place as where one of them was fed two days ago, but today's fledgling is perched on one of the little dog-head gargoyles and splitting her time between scanning the skies and preening. it's fun to watch her for awhile as the sight lines are easy and she's active and relatively close. Donegal is able to set up her scope in a place where passers-by frequently ask for a look.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks At 7:10, the fledgling has shifted her position a bit and I move down Morningside Drive to see if I can get a better view of her new position. I find an okay spot and watch a bit. Thinking that she is looking to her right overly often, I pan my glasses to the side, and bang! there's the other fledgling perched quietly on a small tree branch about 50 feet away. She's overlooking the playground at the Cathedral School; too bad that area was closed when I made my earlier circuit.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Heading back up the street to report the sighting, I find Samantha pointing out a hawk in the trees about 10-15 feet from the ledge where the fledgling had been. A look through the glasses reveals it is the fledgling. However, about 10 minutes later a rain of pigeon feathers begins falling from the tree. It's apparent that at some point a parent came by for a moment and delivered a meal. The feather fall is from the meal getting plucked. (Later, Samantha does indicate that she briefly saw two hawks at the same time in that area of the trees.) All are amused by the fellow sitting in a parked SUV directly below who is mystified by what is falling on his vehicle.

At about 7:50, as we're back downhill watching the quiet fledgling above the playground, two passers-by indicate they had seen a hawk on the roof of one of the apartment buildings. Turning around and looking east, we see that Mom is perched on the scaffolding atop 300 West 110th Street, above Frederick Douglass Circle.

Moving back up the hill, we spend the darkening evening watching the fledgling who has been fed. She hops around among the branches, crossing over Morningside Drive. At one point she seems to have found a nice perch, but the catbirds or mockingbirds on that tree are having none of it. They chirp constantly and loudly until the fledgling eventually shifts to another spot.

All the while, the fledgling above the playground has not budged except for occasional prenning or to adjust her position whenever the breeze picked up. I finally call it a night about 8:20 as it's becoming too dark to observe the fledglings in the tree cover.

(Updated: June 23 at 10:49 p.m. to include pictures.)

June 21, 2006

6/21, Cathedral Hawkwatching

(Pix in my Flickr hawkwatching photoset for June 21 begin here)

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks I don't think I'll try to go back to cover two weeks of hawkwatching. The short form is that the first baby hawk at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine fledged on Sunday, June 11, and the second on Saturday, June 18. (Unfortunately, I wasn't there for either event, although I did see the second one almost go for it the evening before.) The long gap between the two might be because the first was rather precocious; it certainly seemed quite clumsy for the first 2-3 days after it left the nest.

Now it's June 21, and the fledglings are roving further away from the nest. They're still either on the Cathedral grounds, or on the east end of St. Luke's hospital, or in the nearby trees over or along Morningside Drive, but it's tougher to locate them because there are more spots to check and a lot of tree cover to hide them.

Popping over to the Cathedral just after 2:00 p.m., it seems that there are no hawks to find at all. It's sunny and although the temperature is not that high, it's brutal to stand in the sun for very long. Presumably the hawks think likewise and are hiding in shady spots. But as I'm on my way back to the office, I do a quick scan of the roof at St. Luke's and spot an adult on a railing. Walking back over, I find Mom out in the sun above 114th Street. (All photos are clickable.)

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks Going back to the Cathedral around 6:30, I find Bruce has just beaten me there and already spotted one hawk atop the cross on St. Savior Chapel. A couple minutes later, I spy a fledgling on the eaves of St. Martin Chapel.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks It turns out that the hawk on the St. Savior cross is Mom. And ten minutes later Bruce notices that Dad has also shown up and is perched on Gabriel's horn up on the Cathedral roof.

Just before 7:00, Dan and Mom fly off almost at the same time, he heading high toward Central Park and she swooping low over Morningside Park. Then we see that the fledgling on St. Martin's Chapel is getting active, moving from one roof corner to another and then back. A couple minutes later the fledgling decides to fly and makes for the roof of the north wing of the Cathedral School!

And to add to the excitement the other fledgling comes out of nowhere to join her. The second had apparently been hiding somewhere just out of view, perhaps over on the roof of St. Ambrose Chapel. (Bruce has suggested this second flegling might have been Mom. I suppose this could possibly be true, if on swooping over the park, she turned north and then came in very low over the chapel roofs.)

Unfortunately the gables on the Cathedral School stick up higher than the roof, which with the tree cover makes taking pix difficult. As we're angling for sight lines, one of the hawks on the school roof flies to the top of the south wing of the school. At that point, all five hawkwatchers (Bruce, Jean, Susan, me, a lady whose name has slipped my mind) completely lose track of where the hawks are at, and we have people on both sides of the street pacing slowly around trying to find them. About 7:15, someone noticed that Mom is atop the water tower on the roof of 412 West 110th St.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks After that, everyone moseyed around to Amsterdam Ave. and we went exploring for hawks on the south side of the Cathedral campus. While we're doing so, Mom shifts from the water tower over to Gabriel's horn. Close to 7:30, Bruce finds a fledgling perched on an eave of the roof on the back side of the Cathedral School. We admire her for awhile, point her out to some kids who have been playing basketball at the school court, and then it's time to leave.

Cathedral Red-Tailed Hawks For perspective, here's another shot of the fledgling on the eave at the Cathedral School. She's at the lower right. Note that Momma hawk is perched on Gabriel's horn at the upper left.

As the day comes to a close, we see Mom still perched on Gabriel's horn, but being harassed (and ignoring it) by a smaller bird that alternately perches on one of Gabriel's wings, chirps loudly, and tries to buzz Mom.

An extra half dozen photos from the day are posted in my Flickr photoset.