7/15, Hawkwatching

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk in Morningside Park

Despite good intentions, I didn't get headed toward Morningside Park today until after 6:30. But like last weekend, my first red-tail sighting came before getting to the park. Walking down 107th St. toward Columbus Ave. just before 7:00, I looked up to see one of the Divine adults perched atop the Verizon building, but on the low railing rather than on the mast mount.

On arrival in the park, I immediately headed down to the lower level via the entrance at the corner of Morningside Dr. and 110th St. I had hoped that I'd see another hawkwatcher around, but no, so I'd have to do my own finding. Belatedly I put my hearing aids in so that I could listen for suggestive robin chirps, and... good lord! Somewhere close there is a fledgling whining for attention, with volume set at 10. If I can't find this hawk, I might as well just give it all up. A minute later, I find him perched high in a tree near the softball diamond as the tawny color of breast feathers among the green gives his position away despite lack of movement.

Moments later, I hear Donna yelling down from the 112th St. overlook. I'm not sure what she's saying, but I point up to indicate that I have found a fledgling. A few minutes later she arrives on the lower park level, muttering that now she has lugged her telescope bag all the way down the 100 Steps, the fledgling is sure to fly off. Such cynicism. But after a few minutes, I indicate that I'm going to head up to the higher park path to see if I can get a better view, and before I've walked 50 feet the fledgling takes flight, apparently up to Morningside Dr.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk in Morningside Park We split up to hunt for the fledgling's new position, and my choice of the "goat path" gets me there first. Incessant feed-me cries were coming from directly over the 112th St. overlook, and I mean "directly over". And on a low enough branch that Yao Ming could probably reach up and tug a tail feather.

The fledgling had quieted a bit, apparently something just south of the overlook having grabbed his attention. After walking down the sidewalk a bit, I notice a squirrel in frozen position. Ah-ha. Is the fledgling so tired of waiting for a take-out food delivery that he's contemplating making his own meal? Quite possibly so, as after about 7 minutes in this new spot he jumps from his perch and swoops down to the ground just inside the park fence, just missing a squirrel. He stays in that spot for a couple minutes, first eying the squirrel, then eying the photographer to see if any embarassing photos of this failure were taken, then stomping around apparently trying to shake loose some ground clutter caught in the talons of his left foot. Then he got up and flew off to a tree to the south.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk in Morningside Park Divine Red-Tailed Hawk Prey

Heading down the goat path again to stake out the fledgling's new position, Donna and I instead succeeded in losing track of him. Just after 7:30, thinking perhaps I've gone too far south, I turn around to scan the treetops to the north, and see something large fly into the very tippy-top of the trees back up hill. With the aid of Donna's telescope, we decide after some debate it's an adult and possibly Tristan.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk on Morningside Dr. After 10 minutes or so, I head back up the path to see if there are any better views of the adult hawk. No luck. On return, I find Donna has shifted to the Morningside Dr. sidewalk near 110th St., where the view of the adult is a bit less obstructed, and where the surroundings are not quite as creepy as that section of the park path can be in mid-evening. From there we are able to easily track the adult when shortly after 8:00 it flies off to the top of a tree at the corner of 110th St. and Manhattan Ave. Although it's now facing away from us, we have a better view of its tail feathers; they're bright red, so yes this is an adult hawk.

While I subsequently made a quick pass down to the lower park path to see what can be seen down there, the adult hawk flies off. And in trying to track it down, Donna moved to the corner of Manhattan Ave. and there spotted a fledgling perched on a security fence on the top of 246 Manhattan Ave. After I arrived at that location and angled for a better view of the fledgling, it dived off the fence and soared low straight in my direction, and then briefly ovre the park, before banking left and into the trees along 110th St. A ruckus of robin chirps ensued, loudly enough that pedestrians were looking up into the trees to see what the heck was going on up there. A few minutes later, a fledging emerged from that area, flew back across Manhattan Ave. and alit on the fire escape halfway up the building on the corner.

We presumed the two fledgling flights just seen were by the same bird, but perhaps not. At 8:21, the fledgling on the fire escape decided there was a better one not far away, and flew across the traffic of 110th St. and alit on the fire escape of 354 West 110th. It apparently liked the spot, and perhaps there was something just inside an apartment window that was of interest, because aside from hopping down off the railing and onto the fire escape landing, it remained there as long as kept watching.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk on Manhattan Ave. Divine Red-Tailed Hawk on 110th St.

But oddly, the robin alarms were still going off above our heads. Around 8:30, I finally spotted the robin making the most noise and realized it was not looking across the street. Moments later another fledgling flew off a nearby branch, shifting east to another tree. More robin noise, and it again shifted eastward a tree. Still more robin noise, but this time the second fledgling stayed put.

About 8:55 we finally called it a night, leaving the two fledges at their apparent roosts for the night, not quite opposite each other across 110th St.

Posted 7/15/2006 10:35:00 PM by Robert

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