7/9-7/10, Hawkwatching

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park
The Divine hawk siblings on Monday, July 10. Big sister is at left and little brother at right.

(Loads of photos. See my Sunday photos on Flickr starting here, and Monday photos here.)

Sunday, Jul 9

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park I arrived at the corner of 110th St. and Morningside Dr. at 5:20 p.m. No sign of other hawkwatchers around, which seemed odd, but perhaps they've been and gone. For a few minutes it seems I hear a fledgling crying for attention near the south end of the Cathedral School, but it's intermittent and I can't pinpoint it, so I enter Morningside Park.

A long stroll through the park, up to 117th St on the lower level and then taking the stairs and higher paths back to 113th St., reveals no hawk sign. The one item of note is the "dog that didn't bark in the night time". It seems extraordinarily apparent that there are very few pigeons in Morningside Park south of 114th St., and a lot to the north. Pigeons may be dumb, I suppose, but they've figured out in what territory they're too welcome and are avoiding it.

Back at the 112-1/2th St. entrance to the park at 5:45 I hear a lot of robin chirping directly overhead, but a block down Morningside Drive, I see Susan has just arrived and excitedly trying to get a good view across the street. Ah-hah, fledgling ruckus in a tree next to the Cathedral School, and it's both of the young-uns. Then suddenly there's a parent circling twice or thrice or more overhead and then disappearing.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk atop Cathedral School The fledglings split up. One flies across the street into Morningside Park and we lose sight of her in the treetops. The other hops over to the eave of the roof of the Cathedral School and continues to "whine" for attention. But a few minutes later, Susan discovers that the first fledgling is immediately behind us, perched in one of the trees near the 112th St. overlook.

The first fledgling is checking out something on the branch and we realize it's food. There's a short debate as to whether it's rat or pigeon, but the exposed pigeon foot settles the matter. But oddly enough, the fledgling doesn't dig in for dinner. What's that about? Is she ill? Then she hops up to another branch. Susan notices that the fledgling's crop is full, so apparently the fledge is too stuffed to eat.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park

The second fledgling, still occasionally whining for food, has left the school roof. Susan sees it in the trees across the street at one point, and I then find it perched atop the cross on St. Savior Chapel. But finally at about 6:20, it alights on the branch where dinner has been left.

And it proceeds to chow down. Over the next 25 minutes, hawkwatchers (we've picked up a third, whose name I forgot to ask) and curious passers-by are "treated" to a gruesome spectacle of red-tailed fledgling eating habits as the second fledgling gorges itself on a big meal. There's lot of "Oooh, that's gross. Move over and gimme a better look" comments. Meanwhile, the first fledgling remains perched a few feet away, also watching the spectacle, occasionally preening.

The evening ends for me at 6:45 when it's time for me to leave for family dinner. Thankfully, it's not pigeon, but scallops and shrimp. Cooked, thankfully.

Monday, Jul 9

Divine Red-Tailed Hawk atop Cathedral of St. John the Divine I was slightly late reaching Morningside Drive this evening, arriving at the 112th St. overlook at perhaps 6:35 to find Donegal and Samantha sitting on a bench. They'd been around for an hour or so and seen nothing. But as we walk back up the street to the 112-1/2th St. entrance to Morningside Park to check out a din of robin chirps, a hawk is spotted overhead and then circling about over Morningside Drive and the Cathedral School. A few times it is buzzed by a smaller bird, so perhaps it had been perched in an unwelcome location above the street. Eventually it alit on a finial atop the Cathedral roof, a bit east of south from the statue of Gabriel.

Things then quieted down for a bit. Donna and I both tried to check out the lower end of Morningside Drive, where she thought there were suggestive catbird sounds just inside the park, but no luck. I wandered into the park, noting the sign for a performance by the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra today. When? Right now. The downbeat came at 7:00 and the rest of the evening's hawkwatching was spent to the sound of big band jazz emanating from near the duck pond.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park After a pass up the lower park path to 113th St. and a climb up the 100 Steps, I arrived back on Morningside Drive at 7:10 to find no one watching the adult still perched on the Cathedral finial. But down the street was Bruce angling for a shot through the park railing. It seems Samantha had somehow discovered a fledgling perched just over the park path near the 110th St. entrance... right where I had passed 10-15 minutes previously. Was it there when I went by? Heck if I know.

Almost 15 minutes go by and then the fledgling flies off. Bruce excitedely points to the foul screen on the baseball diamond nearby. Excited because there are two fledglings perched there. Did they go there to get better seats for the jazz show?

We hurry down, by which time one of the fledglings has dropped to the basepath close to where homeplate should be (the diamond is fenced off while improvements are made) and we see that it has food clutched in a talon.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park

The second fledgling attempts to get in on the feeding action, but the first is very successfully mantling her dinner. Photos plainly indicate that it's "her" because of an obvious size difference between the two. Little brother hops up to the top of the thir-base dugout screen and looks around for a bit. Then back down to third-base "fowl territory" where the gathering spectators watch a little karate-hawk action as the fledges have a brief spat.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park But the sibling fight is over quickly and the fledges spend another 15 minutes both on the baseball diamond or perched on one of the screens. There's one hawk-up moment during this scene as an adult soars out over the park and off towards the apartment buildings by Central Park.

At 7:55, a fledgling (big sister?) briefly leaves the diamond to do a full circle flight about the open area, and then perches in a nearby tree while the other roams about the top of the foul screen. The scene finally breaks up at 8:05 as the latter flies across the park to a tree near Morningside Drive, then the former to a tree to the south.

Divine Red-Tailed Hawks in Morningside Park A few minutes later they both shift positions again, one into the trees toward the Cathedral School and the other to a tree atop "rockface hill". I manage to get to the top of the hill to take a few close-up but dimly lit photos before that fledgling also shifts to a more protected location.

That almost rounds out the night, but there is one last spotting of an adult red-tail on Gabriel's horn atop the Cathedral. And then as I exit stage right, I hear the robins in the trees between the Cathedral and the park going nuts. Sounds like someone is going to have trouble finding a quiet roost for the night.

Posted 7/10/2006 11:52:00 PM by Robert

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