12/31, Juvie and Ringer

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill
Juvenile Red-Tail at the Great Hill, Dec. 31

The last day of hawkwatching for 2006 provided two red-tailed hawk sightings in Central Park, but the hawks were busy and so not prone to hang around for pictures.

The first sighting came at 3:05 after circling around the North Woods area for 20 minutes and then opting to check the Great Hill before perhaps heading over toward the Meer. Taking one of the trails leading off the Hill, I had one of those frequent thoughts of "that crooked branch looks just like a hawk leaning forward," and even throwing in a "it's even got a little snag at the end like a beak." Five steps later it was evident that the bent branch even had pale breast feathers and was moving. There was time for just one picture as the red-tail flew off to a nearby tree, then one more picture of its back (brown tail feathers, ergo it's yesterday's juvie) before she swooped off toward the Blockhouse.

Despite circling about the North Woods area for another 40 minutes, there were no more sightings of the juvenile. I headed south in the direction of the Pool with no particular goal in mind.

Bruce was standing at the loop road bridge below the Pool, watching the Loch area. New Year's greeting were exchanged, and then we opted to head south to look for the "ringer", the extra adult red-tail, who had been haunting the area west of the Reservoir of late. Bruce is plainly much better at scanning rooftops than I, as he spotted the hawk perched on scaffolding atop a building at the corner of West 94th St. She didn't stay there long, but swooped into the park a minute later, and then began the first of several circuits about the area bound by CPW, 93rd St., the loop road, and 96th St.

Adult Red-Tail over Central Park

The light was dimming rapidly and 20 minutes later I lost sight of the adult flying into the trees near 93rd St. Sunset may be getting later now, but by 4:40 it was too dark to see much of anything.

Posted 12/31/2006 05:47:00 PM by Robert

12/30, Juvie on the Loose

Juvenile Red-Tail by Central Park's Great Hill
Juvenile Red-Tail by the Central Park Loop, Dec. 30

I was late getting into Central Park today, so figured luck finding any of the red-tailed hawks would be bad as they'd have fed and be digesting prior to finding their evening roosts. Luckily, for me, I found one hawk still looking for a meal.

After entering the park at West 100th St. just before 3:00, I headed toward the North Meadow, then to the Sparrow Rocks, the compost hill, down to the Fort Clinton memorial, back to Nutter's Battery and past Lasker Rink to reach the waterfall by the Huddlestone Bridge. Then up the ravine along the south side of the Loch and hang a right to take one of the trails uphill into the high part of the North Woods.

Crossing over the top of the rocky prominence in the middle of the North Woods, I realized there was a hawk perched quietly about 30 feet straight ahead, overlooking the fenced area south of the Blockhouse. Since I was looking at her back, it was immediately apparent that this was a juvenile, presumably the same one I'd seen Christmas Day and once or twice before that. It was quiet enough that I also realized that I was flanked by squirrels whining about the hawk.

That was at 3:30. The next 25 minutes were active, as the juvenile made a circuit and alit on at nine or ten perches, always looking around and presumably looking for prey. The next perch was in the middle of the fenced area, atop a 25-foot dead tree with all the branches lopped off, reminiscent of a twisted telephone pole.

Juvenile Red-Tail in Central Park's North Woods

After a few minutes there, she swooped off to the north, west of the Blockhouse. As I hied my way that direction via the loop road, I met her coming back and alighting on a tree just leaning over the road as it climbs to the top of the Great Hill. She perched looking southward, so any cyclist or jogger coming up the hill ascending the hill and not focusing on reaching the top would still be unlikely to see her. Her head bobbed about a bit as she kept looking around

Juvenile Red-Tail by Central Park's Great Hill

Then a short swoop over to the top of another dead tree with its branches lopped off.

Juvenile Red-Tail on Central Park's Great Hill

Then a slightly longer swoop to a tree at the edge of the lawn atop the Great Hill. This perch was directly above a couple miniature soccer goals which had been set up by two dads and their two young kids for a practice session. They looked up at the hawk; she looked down at them. Then everybody pretended everything was cool and went back to what they were doing; the hawk looking about and the kids kicking the soccer ball.

Juvenile Red-Tail on Central Park's Great Hill

After trying one more tree alongside the lawn, the juvie headed back to the North Woods, perching again on the "telephone pole" tree. She looked about a bit, then tried another spot closer to the road.

Juvenile Red-Tail in Central Park's North Woods

After that collection of short flights, the red-tail apparently decided it was time for a long one. At 3:55, she took off to the south and I lost sight of her in the vicinity of the waterfall when she crossed in front of the distant monolith called Mount Sinai.

It's almost 4:00, the light is going. To hang about a bit longer, or to to call it a day? Well, maybe the hawk didn't go much farther than where I last saw her, so down to the waterfall. Nada. Back along the road past Harlem Meer, and then up toward the Blockhouse. Not much to see. But at about 4:25 as I examined an odd shape atop a branch, a hawk passed through the view. It's the juvie again.

This time she didn't stay put in any one spot for more than a minute, and even though she wasn't traveling far, there were several times I thought I'd lost her. Her movements were just erratic enough that at one point as I stood near the loop road looking east into the fenced area, she swooped from behind me toward something on the ground, pulling up at the last moment and back up into a tree. Finally at 3:35 she was off to the south again, this time in the direction of the Pool.

Posted 12/30/2006 08:13:00 PM by Robert

Christmas Hawkwatching

Red-Tailed Over North Meadow
Red-Tailed Hawk over the North Meadow's Sparrow Rock

I didn't have much of a chance to go hawkwatching over the weekend. The only opportunity Saturday or Sunday was a long walk from the Apple store at 58th St. home to the Bloomingdale Village/Morningside Heights area late in the afternoon. That provided a glimpse of Lola perched at the Beresford at about 3:30. Possibly Palemale was up there with her, as Bruce took some photos a bit later that showed him sitting nearby. More interestingly, Bruce's Christmas Eve Mystery has photos of another adult red-tailed hawk perched on buildings a few blocks north and then going into roost just inside park (or are the later pix a different hawk?).

But on a dreary Christmas Day, I talked my nephew away from the computer game and into a walk over to the Great Hill so that we could look around for Tristan and Isolde. It turns out that a 13-year-old with good hearing can be very helpful when hawkwatching; he was able to pick up squirrel whines from a hundred or more feet away.

We walked into Central Park at Frederick Douglass Circle, i.e., the northwest corner, at about 1:30 and headed up the loop road. A minute after turning onto a paved trail leading to Blockhouse No. 1, something fluttered above our heads and landed high in a nearby tree. A look at its tail revealed dark feathers and so probably a first-year red-tailed hawk, although a Cooper's hawk was also a possibility as one has been seen in the park off and on.

That first hawk took off toward the Great Hill before we had much of a look. After following that way, we headed back over toward the North Woods and were about to walk by the south side of the rocky prominence. Another hawk fluttered up, settling onto a branch close to the loop road and about 50 feet away. But as I was fumbling about with the new monopod that was under the Christmas tree that morning, the hawk swooped off toward the Ravine. My nephew got a good look at the red tail feathers, and my impression from the tawny breast and dark belly coloring was that it was Isolde.

Our third hawk sighting came about ten minutes later as we were approaching the Sparrow Rocks at the top of the North Meadow. She circled about overhead for close to two minutes, and then sailed back toward the Great Hill.

(At the time it was impossible to see any color patterns on the circling hawk. After initially playing around with some pix in Photoshop I thought a dark belly band revealed it to be Isolde, but a subsequent close look at the tail feathers in the image posted above revealed the striping of a first-year red-tail.)

We opted to head back toward the Great Hill via Green Hill, but as we neared the bench, my nephew reported squirrel whines in the direction of the Wildflower Meadow. Looking that way, we glimpsed a hawk go back and forth once amidst the tree tops and then fly south or southwestward.

We headed back along the service road, nervously eying the huge flock of grackles taking occupation of the treetops, and cast about for a hawk along the west side of the North Meadow. No luck, and no further sightings as we headed back toward Douglass Circle, exiting the park at just after 2:30.

Posted 12/26/2006 04:22:00 PM by Robert

12/17, Tristan in the North Woods

Tristan Hunting in Central Park's North Woods
Tristan glares at blue jays near Blockhouse No. 1, Dec. 17


I spent a bit more than an hour in the north of Central Park on Saturday looking about for the red-tails but had no luck. My timing may have been poor, as I had walked to the park along West 103rd St. and entered the 103rd St entrance just after 3:00. If I understand his post correctly, some 20-30 minutes later, Bruce spotted a red-tail perched atop an apartment building at Columbus and 103rd. I have looked up several times in that area and thought those chimney/vent covers would make great perches.

But Bruce also mentioned that when this hawk flew off, it headed south perhaps 20 blocks or more, leading him to believe it was not one of the Cathedral red-tails. This ties in with a short chat I had with Bruce last weekend in which the idea arose that there might be an extra hawk or pair of adult hawks in the Central Park area, perhaps living on the west side south of the Pool. Only time, and more sightings, will tell, but this evening my attention was piqued when I saw Marie Winn's post on the Christmas bird count mention that ten (!) red-tails were seen in the park today.


Sunday with Tristan in the North Woods

Today was one of the more enjoyable hawkwatching days I've had in months, as I had 35-40 minutes of fun with one of the Cathedral red-tails as it flitted about the northwest corner of Central Park hunting for lunch. No sitting still for two hours like Isolde did a few weeks ago, and no taking off after a measly five minutes as Tristan has done a couple times recently.

I entered the park through the West 103rd St. entrance just after 2:30, headed up the Great Hill and then made a half circuit of the lawn at the top. Briefly peered through the trees to the northwest and couldn't see anyone perched on Gabriel atop the Cathedral. I decided to head into the north woods and then make my way down toward the Ravine. I had just crossed the road and climbed up to the top of the little rocky summit on the inside of the loop when something came swooping right at me at about eye level. Before I could even flinch, it veered slightly off to the right and flew across the road to where I had just been. A hawk! Oh, and its tail is red.

I hurried back the way I had come but just as I re-found the hawk, it took off to the north. I trotted down the road and found a couple women and their children on one of the park paths eying the woods to the west of Blockhouse No. 1. Apparently they'd been similarly buzzed and seen the hawk re-cross the road.

I'd barely gotten one badly framed pic of the hawk when it was in the air again. I followed along on the dirt path and caught a glimpse of it flying by the Blockhouse. Spotted it again perched near the Blockhouse, then flying off to another perch 75 feet away. Finally it settled down long enough that I could take several pix and ascertain that it was Tristan, the male of the Cathedral adults.

Tristan Hunting in Central Park's North Woods

Tristan Hunting in Central Park's North Woods

Tristan stayed in this little area of the North Woods for about ten minutes, eying the ground clutter for rodents. Once he took a half-hearted swoop at a squirrel on the side of a tree, but nothing came of that. Then it seemed he was intent on another squirrel, as both froze into position for a couple minutes; Tristan pretending that he wasn't paying attention and the squirrel cognizant that he was being conned. Some blue jays briefly enlivened the scene with their loud complaints, but they didn't try to harass Tristan away.

Just after 3:00, Tristan flew to a new perch closer to the loop road and overlooking one of the paths. The usual intent stares followed.

Tristan Hunting in Central Park's North Woods

Several times he looked off to the right, but at 3:05 Tristan swooped straight ahead, again crossed the road, and alit on the ground near where a park path peels off from the road. I scurried over to see him standing on a log less than 25 feet from the loop road, looking hither and about on the nearby ground. Apparently he's tried for prey, missed, and was trying to figure out where it went.

Tristan Hunting in Central Park's North Woods

Meanwhile, joggers, cyclists and skaters are passing by, all seemingly oblivious to Tristan's immediate presence. Only when I reach the area and start taking pictures does anybody else take notice. But then Tristan is off again toward Blockhouse No. 1 and I have to call out, "It's a red-tailed hawk," over my shoulder to a cyclist's question as I rush off.

Tristan is again back in the same little area just southeast of the Blockhouse. and seems to be eying the area downhill to his northeast. (Hmmmm, big fat Canada Geese down there.) He changes perch once or twice, and perhaps tries one attack while I am explaining to a passer-by what that big bird is in the tree.

At about 3:15 Tristan is perched facing south in my general direction, and I am startled when something swoops from below and behind and seems to shove him off the tree limb. Whoa, it's Isolde! This is literally the first time I have seen the Cathedral hawk parents together since June, even if Tristan has forced to fly to another perch 20 feet away.

Isolde in Central Park's North Woods

It's only another a minute later when Tristan again takes off toward the southwest and a minute later that Isolde follows. And that was it for hawkwatching in the North Woods on Sunday. Although I thought I had seen one of the hawks flying toward the top of the Great Hill, and despite another ten minutes investigating a strange, continuous bird or squirrel whine, I had lost them.

At 3:40 I decided to head south, as I wanted to spend some time at the Met. If there were any hawks at the Great Hill then, presumably they also found it opportune to leave as a flock of starlings had moved in and flooded the scene with noise.

Palemale at the Met But one last hawk sighting was in store. After passing by the Great Lawn and encountering two hawkwatchers, one packing it up for the day and the other looking about the Turtle Pond, I accidentally discovered The Pale One perched on a security camera on the south side of the museum. It wasn't clear whether he was watching over the playground or guarding the parking lot ramp.

Posted 12/17/2006 10:54:00 PM by Robert

12/10, Hawks who Like Hide and Seek, and Softball

Juvenile Hawk at Central Park's Great Hill
Juvenile red-tail at Central Park Great Hill, Dec. 10

A belated report on hawkwatching in Central Park on gorgeous Sunday, Dec. 10.

The first part of the day was a game of hide and seek, and there were multiple parties involved. The second part involved a hawk who apparently enjoys watching softball.

I arrived at the West 100th St. entrance around 1:10. At 1:15 near the north side of the North Meadow, something hawk-like is seen flying low and north, then popping into a tree at edge of the meadow. Approaching and using the field glasses, it's apparent from the tail feathers it's a juvenile red-tail. A minute later it dives out of the tree, crosses the service road and is seen flying low and east along the Loch/Ravine.

Red-Tail Tristan at Central Park's Ravine A minute or two later a hawk flies from perhaps more north and east and into the trees in that area. Some more flying about and it perches in trees west of the Wildflower Meadow. This time the tail feathers are red. I chat with some joggers on the service road for a few minutes before going into the trees to see if I can get a iewing angle that reveals more than the hawk's backside. At 1:38 I'm in front of and below the hawk; the light belly-band indicates it's probably Tristan from the Cathedral. He's looking around a lot, either watching for the juvie or perhaps scoping the ground for prey, and flutters between branches a few times. Five minutes later he takes off toward the Great Hill and I lose track of him.

I make the mistake of chatting a few more minutes chatting with some ladies who had been walking along the Loch/Ravine path, so heading toward the Great Hill might not prove fruitful. But as I'm making up my mind which direction to go, a hawk flies overhead toward the North Meadow. I head that way but lose the hawk amongst the tree branches.

At 2:10, after some more wandering about the service road area, Green Hill, etc., I'm again in the trees near the Loch and headed toward the Great Hill. Again a hawk flies overhead, again toward the North Meadow. This time I have some better luck tracking it, only losing sight of it as I reach the edge of teh North Meadow, where the hawk seems to disappear into the sun somewhere around the northwest side of the meadow.

Ah, another hawkwatcher. Bruce is on the path along the north edge of the meadow and indicates he had seen two hawks overhead. We move west, but then break up as I decide to head for the Great Hill whilst he apparently turns south. Bruce's pictures from the day show that he found Isolde from the Cathedral in the trees along the edge of the park around 90th St. Hmmm, interesting. That seems farther south han I had though the Cathedral hawks ranged, but then I've not monitored them in the park enough to really be sure what the edge of their territory is.

Meanwhile, I've walked to the top of the Great Hill and seen nothing, peered through branches at the statue of Gabriel on the Cathedral roof and seen nothing in that direction either. Turning around and slowly heading back south, at 2:30 I spot a hawk perched on a branch overlooking the loop road, 100-150 feet downhill from where the road's highest point. The field glasses again reveal the tail feathers of a juvenile. I make my way through 100 feet of dead leaves and winter thicket to where I can get a better look at him or her.

Juvenile Hawk at Central Park's Great Hill

The juvenile has that nervous look that I associate with a juvenile hawk whose violating an adult's territory, but perhaps it just looks that way because it's looking around at the ground. At 2:41 it seems poised to leap off the branch at something to the west, but a moment later it instead flies off to the north. Trying to follow, I think I get one more look of it flying off another tree branch and then crossing the loop road in the general direction of Blockhouse No. 1.

After ten minutes of casting about for the juvenile, the heck with it. It's close to 3:00 and time to head down to the Great Lawn where hawkwatching is nominally easier.

At 3:25 I've walked down the middle of the Great Lawn, ducked when I relaized that I was walking through the outfield of someone's softball practice, and reached the park path near the Turtle Pond. Ah, there's Lola perched in the high window at the Beresford. Heading west, I've barely gone 10 feet before I realize there's Palemale sitting in a tree overlooking the softball players. How did I miss him? Oy!

One hawkwatcher was already there and indicated Palemale had been sitting in that particular spot for a couple hours. Other hawkwatchers began to gather; Bruce arrived from the North Meadow, Stella from the June group watching the Cathedral fledglings, then Lincoln and others whose names I haven't learned.

Palemale at Central Park's Great Lawn

Palemale finally shows signs of activity just before 4:00 but when he flies out of the softball tree, he only flies over to the top a tree overlooking the path along the edge of the Great Lawn. He shuffles around for the next 10-15 minutes, flutters between branches a couple times, but despite the breeze, it's beginning to look like he's picked his spot to roost for the night.

The light is getting dim and hawkwatchers began to wander off in ones and twos. By 4:20 I also call it a day and head out.

But one last note about red-tail hawks and the North Meadow. Twice during the day I chatted with other park users with interesting hawk sightings. The first, while viewing the juvenile at the Great Hill, said that he had seen a hawk perching on an terrace or window railing at an apartment building on Central Park West and 96th St. Hmmm, could be Lola or Isolde I suppose, especially if Bruce has seen Lola as far south as 90th St. Later while watching Palemale, a couple described watching two hawks in the air over the tennis courts, engaging in activity that sounds, er, hmm, ahem, suggestive. Tristan and Isolde, in the mood, one wonders?

Posted 12/15/2006 10:05:00 PM by Robert

12/3, Last-Minute Sighting

Red-Tailed Hawk on West 66th St. Perch The Central Park hawks were not cooperative today. I entered the park at about 1:30 and it was almost 4:00 before I finally spotted a red-tail. In the interim, I'd spent 75 minutes wandering about the north looking for Tristan or Isolde, then 45 minutes in the Cedar Hill/Turtle Pond area looking for Palemale or Lola. No luck at all, and the only hawkarazzi around seemed to be a few folks idly chatting by the boat pond.

Tired of being on my feet for so long, I opted to wander toward the Columbus Circle subway rather than spend an hour at the Met. At 3:56, just as I reached the loop alongside the Tavern on the Green, a pale pair of wings were spotted circling about over Central Park West between 68th St. and 70th St. Field-glasses out. Yes, it's a hawk. Probably either "Junior" or "Charlotte" from the Central Park South nest, as I've never heard of Palemale or Lola being in this vicinity while the CPS duo have been reported hanging about not far away.

In any event, after a minute of circling, the hawk alit on a railing near the top of a building on the north side of 66th St. A minute later it flew south and disappeared, possibly perching somewhere at 64th St.

I wandered south along the loop road scanning roof tops and ledges but wasn't finding anything. Hmmm, no hawks perched on the construction cranes on that big pile going up at 62nd St. Looking back north, here's a suggestive shape on a TV antenna on the same building where I'd seen the hawk perch ten minutes ago. The map seems to indicate it's 47 West 66th, an ABC building.

A couple mediocre pictures later, it looks like the hawk is staying put on the antenna and I'm getting cold. Time to head out. Thanks to Junior or Charlotte, whoever it is, for saving the day from being a total bust.

Posted 12/03/2006 05:32:00 PM by Robert

12/2, Eight Minutes with Tristan

Red-Tailed Hawk
Tristan at the Great Hill, Dec. 2

Sometimes as the Swedish Chef used to say, you have to "get loocky". And even then you might only get a few minutes to enjoy the view.

Red-Tailed Hawk After a quick glance at the Amsterdam parakeet nest early this afternoon (it was empty at the moment, but Bruce was scanning the area), I headed into the north end of Central Park to look for Tristan and Isolde, the Cathedral red-tailed hawks. Unlike last Sunday, there was no quick and easy sighting.

I entered the park a few minutes before 2:00 at the West 97th St. entrance and meandered over toward Sparrow Rock at the top of the North Meadow and then to the Compost Hill. Then over to the top of Green Hill to scan the woods on the east side of the Great Hill and to check out the construction crane just north of the park. Nada. Perhaps because of the wind gusts, there were few birds in the air, and even a seagull sighting seemed cause for a bit of excitement.

Back over toward the Great Hill via the Lock path, then up to and around the top of the hill, over to the Blockhouse and then slowly back toward the loop road. It's now 3:00 and nary a hawk in sight. A few minutes are spent contemplating the park map posted alongside the road near the top of the Great Hill, and then thoughts about whether to call it a day early. Heck, might as well head out... Hey!

Red-Tailed Hawk Perched 50 feet away and almost directly over the path leading from the signboard to the top of the Great Hill is a hawk. Its light belly band reveals it's Tristan. Actually, the breast is so pale that one almost wonders if Palemale is way outside of his territory. But no, let's just say that it's Tristan.

But unlike Lola's two-hour perch last Sunday, Tristan is apparently in not much of a mood to hang around. While I'm trying to figure out how to send a text message to another hawkwatcher, he zips over to a nearby tree. He stays out there just long enough for me to wind my way through the thicket and take a few pix — hmmm, blood on his talons; someone's easten more recently than I have — then he's off to a treetop closer to the lawn at the top of the hill, scattering a crowd of sparrows or starlings. I've barely made my way over there and again he's off, but this time soaring south over the hilltop and descending somewhere near the Pool.

Moonrise at Central Park's Great Hill And that was it. Although I spent another 40 minutes scanning treetops between the Pool and the Compost Hill, and back again, there was no further sighting of Tristan, or of Isolde.

At 3:57, the light was getting dim and it was time to exit the park to watch ye alma mater play football. A quick check was made on the parakeet nest on the way; the two monks were seen huddling together, watching over the corner of Amsterdam and 103rd St. as the afternoon came to an end.

Posted 12/02/2006 08:05:00 PM by Robert