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

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