Independence Day Hawkwatching

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park

(Many more pix from today's hawkwatching are in a Flickr photoset starting here.)

I arrived at Morningside Park just before 5:45 this evening, this time with my sister coming along. Unfortunately, no hawks were in sight then and no other hawkwatchers were around who might have already have located them. Aside from the possible sound of alert chirps downhill from the 112th Street overlook, there was no sign of the Divine hawks. At 6:00 I was left on my own as my sister had to head home and make dinner for her family.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park After walking around to Manhattan Ave. and then walking back across the park, I I made my first hawk sighting at 6:15. From the path alongside the fenced off ballfield I looked up to see a fledgling fly from the top of one tree to another. The foliage was thick, however, and her new perch was impossible to find. I headed back up to the top of the hill above the rockface to see if looking down at the tree from above would help. It didn't, but at 6:29 I saw the other fledgling sitting quietly in a tree above the park path near Morningside Drive and close to the 112th Street entrance, pretty much in the area where it seemed the alert chirps came from 45 minutes earlier.

Moments later Susan arrived and between us we began to split our pairs of eyes watching the one fledgling and looking for the other But within two minutes the fledglings became very helpful as the hidden one flew out of her treetop and alit next to the other.

The fledglings only stayed together for about five minutes before one switched her perch to another tree about 50 south of the first. Then Samantha and Donegal were seen walking up the paht below us. And then things got confusing...

One of the two fledglings flew up to the tree next to the 112th Street overlook where they had perched so often before. I headed up to Morningside Drive where the view should be excellent and there found two hawks. One was busy eating, whilst the other stayed only a few moments, flew to nearby streetside tree, perched for a moment, and then flew into the trees on the other side of the street by St. Savior Chapel.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park At this point it was just 6:45, only 16 minutes after I had made a solid sighting.I was sure I had seen both fledglings in the tree by the overlook, and wondered at what moment an adult had made a quick drop-off of dinner. And perhaps I should have wondered why Susan, Donegal and Samantha were still down on the park path. Five minutes later was all explained.

After shooting a batch of pix of the fledgling gulping down her dinner, I walked a bit up Morningside Drive where it seemed a catbird in the trees was unhappy about something. But no hawk was to be found up there. But when I walked to the overlook, two helpful people sitting on a bench pointed to directly across the street where a hawk was in a tree. A minute later it flew over to the top of St. Martin Chapel. And a minute after that the benchsitters pointed back to the fledging in the nearby tree, and there were now two hawks, both obviously fledglings.

Red-Tailed Hawks at Cathedral of St. John the Divine Aha! Now I understood. When I had previously seen two hawks in the overlook tree, one had been the adult making the food delivery. And another look across the street to the roof of St. Martin Chapel revealed that it was Isolde, the momma hawk. She didn't stay on the chapel roof for long, and by 7:00 had flown up Morningside Drive, presumably to perch somewhere on the roof of St. Luke's Hospital.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park After all that excitement, things settled down, as both fledglings stayed put until 8:00, together on the same branch of the overlook tree. Preening time had begun. The only excitement came at about 7:30 when one seemed to decide it was time to preen the other and the second decided it's wing was just fine thank you very much. The latter shifted 10 feet further out the branch to get out nipping range. During this period, there were several times when the two fledglings were sitting next to each other and a size difference seemed quite apparent. This seemed to confirm as had been suggested a week or so ago that the fledglings were "one of each", a smaller male and larger female.

As the evening light dimmed, and the fireflies began to come out, one fledgling (the girl) shifted south a tree. A few minutes later, at about 8:05, the fledglings started a chorus of "I want attention" calls. Plainly both had just seen a parent, but it wasn't until 8:15 that any of the hawkwatchers thought to turn around and check the Cathedral. Sure enough, an adult was perched on Gabriel's horn.

Red-Tailed Hawk atop Cathedral of St. John the Divine The evening came to a close over the next ten minutes as first one fledgling and then the other flew off to other treetops and were lost from view. However, as I was leaving at 8:30, I found that both parents were still in view, one (Isolde?) perched on the corner urn on the roof of St. Luke's, the other (Tristan?) on Gabriel's urn.

Posted 7/04/2006 11:00:00 PM by Robert

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