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

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