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

Preface

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.

Anyway...

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

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