7/19-7/20, Hawkwatching

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk at Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Gabriel and hawk at sunset, July 19.

A two-parter: Back to the Cathedral, and Where Did the Fledglings Go.

Wednesday, July 19

I hadn't even set foot on Morningside Drive Wednesday evening when fledgling whining grabbed my attention. Just before 7:00, while still on the sidewalk at the corner of Morningside and 113th St., I turned around to see a hawk on the corner of the eaves of St. Luke's just below The Urn. In a trice, it flew into the trees overhead and I lost track of it for the time being. My first reaction was that it had been an adult dropping off some food and I should watch the spot for a while to see if a fledgling would come to dinner. But no, no fledgling arrives.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk at Cathedral of St. John the Divine A few minutes later, the whining started back up, but over by the Cathedral. On the eave of the octagonal section of Saint Ansgar Chapel, a fledgling was looking down at something below, then up, around, and down again. Then he/she seemed to become very intent in looking at something away from the Cathedral and I wondered if there was a squirrel in the small trees alongside the chapel.

Close to 7:10, one of the regular dogwalkers came along and I chatted with her for a bit. Movement atop the chapel roof reclaimed our attention and we saw both the fledgling and a squirrel chasing around, although who was chasing whom was not particularly clear. They both went to the back side of the little roof and we paced up and down the sidewalk trying to get a better view. After a couple minutes we realized that the flegling was now perched atop the red brick "chimney" along the side of the Cathedral, and the squirrel had the chapel roof to himself.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk at Cathedral of St. John the Divine Well, that was enormously weird. And the fledgling was occasionally emitting I-want-attention calls, but if there was an adult around, we can't see it.

After 5-10 minutes, I headed down into Morningside Park to see if the other fledgling was around. The first clue was bad: there were a lot of pigeons near the turtle pond, and one usually just does not see them there. Hmmm, what's that? There's also a great egret in the turtle pond. In lieu of looking for hawks, I instead spent 10 minutes taking pix of the egret as it hunted for tiny fish.

Great Egret in Morningside Park Great Egret in Morningside Park

At 7:40 I was back up on 113th St. and the fledgling was still perched on the chimney. I turned my back for a moment to look around, heard the fledling cry for attention, and turned around to find he/she had moved out of sight. But someone getting his car from the parking lot pointed up at Gabriel, and sure enough there was a hawk up there. And then I could just see a hawk in the air to the side of the Cathedral.

Presumably this was an adult perched on Gabriel, and the fledgling was picking out a new perch somewhere along Morningside Drive. But when I rushed down near the 112th St. overlook, I saw the hawk in the air circling higher, and higher, and higher, and then swoosh... effortlessly soaring over toward the apartments on Frederick Douglass Circle. That was no fledgling; that was someone who learned how to fly a long time ago.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk over Morningside Drive

But who was perched on Gabriel's horn? There were no sounds along Morninsude Drive to indicate that a fledgling was around. And when was the last time we saw both of the adult hawks at the Cathedral at the same time? Over the next 30 minutes, I convinced myself that the hawk perched atop the Cathedral was a fledgling who has learned how to fly all the way up there. It could be, but the evening light is such that better optics would be needed to be sure. Drat.

At 8:20, the hawk on Gabriel's horn dropped off and soared downward over Morningside Drive. Some robin sounds briefly suggested that it might have perched near the 111th St. overlook.

Thursday, July 20

Yesterday was strange. Today was just nothing.

Thinking that an earlier arrival might result in viewing a feeding, I reached Morningside Drive by 6:20. No hawks were on the Cathedral. Some suggestive noise like fledgling calls came from near the Cathedral School, but I had no luck spotting one if it was actually there.

Heading down into the park... oh damn, a lot of pigeons were near the turtle pond, which meant there was nothing around which kills and eats pigeons. Well, at least the great egret was back, and there was to be another jazz performance.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk on 110th Street At 6:30, I do spot an adult hawk perched on the railing atop 352 West 110th St. It looks like Isolde.

I turned and watched the egret some more. It seemed to be very successfully hunting, nabbing a half dozen tiny fish in 10 minutes, but I wondered if it was hurt. There was a dark spot on the inside of its left wing and something like a bit of string wrapped around its right ankle, and hmmmm, it seemed to favor its right foot whenever it stepped along the concrete edging of the ponf.

At 6:40, all the pigeons in the area suddenly took off for the north, and I thought now it would be hawkwatching time. The adult perched on 110th St. was gone, so perhaps she has come somewhere closer. But after a couple passes around the lower end of the park, both low and high, there was just no sign of the hawks, not even a suggestive robin chirp.

Almost ready to pack it in at 7:50, I noticed Cynthia coming up the 116 Steps (formerly the 100 Steps, but now I've counted them), and she pointed out that a hawk has alit on Gabriel's horn. Probably an adult, and most likely it was Isolde. We made a pass down Morningside Dr. to listen if Isolde's appearance had triggered any fledgling cries. No dice. At 8:08, Isolde passed overhead, flying south of 300 West 110 and apparently heading for the Great Hill in Central Park.

So at the end of the evening, this ended up as the first time since I started watching the hawks that I failed to see one of the fledglings. I guess this is what empty-nest syndrome feels like.

Posted 7/20/2006 11:47:00 PM by Robert

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