A Christmas Walk

This is the only guy in a red suit that I saw on Christmas Day.

Northern Cardinal near Central Park Blockhouse

The niece and nephew are now teen-agers, which means opening presents on Christmas is now a noon event. So I spent a couple hours of the beautiful morning checking out the north end of Central Park and Morningside Park to see if any of the raptors were up and about. But despite scanning the skies and all of Tristan and Isolde's usual perches, there was no sign of red-tails. The above cardinal and the sparrow below were the only birds that I took decent pix of.

Sparrow in Central Park Ravine

The cardinal was perched very quietly near the Blockhouse, which did make me wonder if there might be a raptor about. Perhaps so, as James watched two Cooper's there a few hours later.

But it wasn't a complete raptor bust for me. At the very end of my walk, when I was up on Morningside Drive, I looked down to the cellular antenna structure on the roof of 306-8 West 112th and spotted a kestrel. It was too far for good pix, but they were good enough to reveal the right shape, size and coloring.

Posted 12/25/2007 11:18:00 PM by Robert

11/25, James's Harlem Bird Walk

Red-Tail over Morningside Park

Sorry for the lack of posts. The last time I was out for any sort of hawkwatching was on Oct. 1, the day of the falconry show. Not too many good pix from that, so I never got around to a blog post. Bruce did post about our viewing the Cathedral hawks hanging about Mount Sinai hospital afterwards, keeping an eye on the exotics in their territory. Since then I've been checking out some bikepaths in Manhattan, and the closest I've come to hawkwatching was keeping an eye peeled while skating in Riverside Park North and through Tompkins Square.

So about today... Seven of us met at James's apartment on Central Park North for his annual (?) Harlem birdwalk. First we went up to the roof to see who might be flying about the area. I quickly spotted someone hawklike perched in the utility tower of a project house over past Madison Ave.

Red-Tail in the Projects

The hawk is the dot sitting on a railing near the top right of the tower. She soon took off and was probably the red-tail that we viewed moments later soaring about between the projects and Harlem Meer.

Soon thereafter a juvie red-tail was spotted to the west, and it circled about for a few minutes, including a few passes directly overhead. No pix of that as I figured that as soon as I put my binoculars down, she'd disappear.

Then off for the birdwalk.

First over to Morningside Park and then turn north. Little of interest at first, although there was a sapsucker (probably a juvie) at about 116th St. and then a downie or hairy woodpecker a moment later. Also plenty of sparrows enjoying a drip near the lower 116th St. entrance to the park. Then a block north James looked up to check out a titmouse over the main path and spotted a red-tail soaring high overhead. Possibly the one we'd seen earlier.

Red-Tail over Morningside Park

Red-Tail over Morningside Park

By the time we made it to 125th St. we'd watched that red-tail circle about several times...

Red-Tail over Morningside Park

...and then caught a ten-second look at another just north of the park.

From there, north to St. Nicholas Park and past CCNY. On St. Nicholas Terrace at about 133rd. St, James spotted an Americal kestrel on a pipe atop a seemingly abandoned bulding (probably not, but many windows were broken out).

CCNY Kestrel

A minute later it dove off to the other side, toward the athletic fields but then re-appeared atop a telephone pole a block north. As we walked that one block, I considered that I might have gotten a glimpse of a peregrine off to the southwest, as Riverside Church was directly that way.

CCNY Kestrel

No sign of the area adult red-tails hanging about the gargoyles atop Shepard Hall at CCNY. Press on northward but break for a bite of food at a cafe at 147th St. On exiting the cafe, a hawk was spotted back down St. Nicholas Ave. toward the university, but unfortunately not by me.

The group started breaking up after that, and after passing alongside the top of Jackie Robinson Park, we were soon down to three. But more red-tails were yet to be spotted. From the Highbridge Park overlook, alongside the tower and above the bridge, a hawk was visible across the Harlem River soaring over 170th St. in the Bronx.

Bronx Red-Tail

It faded off to the east. Now down to just two us, James and I, we continued on toward the hawk nest in northern Highbridge Park. From another viewpoint at 186th St. I thought I saw another red-tail across the river, but it was too far away and heading the other direction.

Back up along the north end of Amsterdam Ave. we checked the antennae atop the Isabella senior care center but no hawk was visible. But walking another block north, we found that it was just a matter of perspective; a hawk was sitting on the other side of one of the antennae. We walked around the block to Audubon Ave. to get a better look.

Highbridge Hawk #1

Our guess was that this was dad of the Highbridge nesting pair. He shuffled his perch, and we shuffled sidewise to keep him in sight.

Highbridge Hawk #1

It was almost 3:00 and we thought of making a quick subway run up to the Broadway Bridge to check on the peregrines. But across the street from the subway station, we chanced to look north, and spotted the other Highbridge adult hawk. She was atop a chimney screen on an apartment building at the intersection of Fort George Hill and Fairview Ave., her feathers ruffling in the breeze.

Highbridge Hawk #2

And thus ended the walk. That was at least seven hawk sightings for me and probably six different hawks. Two adults, two juvies and the other two not known. Plus a kestrel, a species I had never gotten a decent look at before.

Posted 11/25/2007 09:59:00 PM by Robert

9/29, Fly-By

Not much to report lately. A couple visits to Morningside Park and Central Park's North Woods in the past couple weeks have not resulted in any hawk sightings. Tristan and Isolde are around, however, as Jim caught both members of the Cathedral couple hunting near their nest last Saturday morning (it's the fourth picture down).

Beresford Apartments

Today I had an hour to spend in Central Park just before sunset. I'd hoped to catch Pale Male at the Turtle Pond tree, but Lincoln had the spot staked out and hadn't seen His Paleness. And neither was Lola perched at the Beresford, at 6:00 or when I looked that way again at 6:30 (the above pic).

After scoping out various likely spots, I did finally make a hawk sighting at 6:45. For nearly a minute, a hawk circled about over Central Park West between 69th and 72nd St. Pix didn't turn out well because of distance and lighting. It's hard to tell who it might have been, but one pic suggested at an adult's red tail and another at a lighter breast, so I'd guess, given the location, that it was Pale Male Jr. He headed south and I lost him behind some trees.

Tomorrow is the annual (?) falconry show.

Posted 9/29/2007 09:07:00 PM by Robert

9/15, Almost Autumn


Just a touch chilly in the early evening on Saturday, and many folks could be spotted in jackets or sweaters. Climatic autumn began two weeks ago, and astronomical autumn starts at the end of the coming week.

After looking for a birthday gift in the 80s on the UWS, I headed over to Central Park to see if Pale Male or Lola was in one their usual haunts. Just before 7:00, Lola was perched in her favorite spot, keeping an eye on things. I have to wonder when the last time it was that she went to roost somewhere different.

I bumped into Bruce also watching Lola, but after an afternoon of taking pictures of migrants and other birds in the park. Then a few minutes later I met Lincoln over by the Turtle Pond. Many small birds were to be seen flying overhead, although it seemed all were headed north. But Pale Male was not in any of usual spots about the area. The sun was setting and hawkwatching quickly ended.

Flag and Cresent Moon

Posted 9/16/2007 10:02:00 PM by Robert

9/8, Oh, the Humidity

Common Yellowthroat

Was it just me, or was the humidity off the scale today? The temperature was fine, but a 90-minute walk about the north end of Central Park left me soaked.

Anyway, no sign of red-tail hawks today. The above pic of a female or first-year common yellowthroat, perched for a second on the fence along the south side of Harlem Meer, was the only half-interesting bird pic that I did take.

But that isn't to say that I didn't see any hawks, as at about 7:00 while walking across the ballfields at the south end of Morningside Park, something hawk-like did fly over, from the 116 Step Hill towards the southeast corner entrance. But it was too stream-lined to be a red-tail. Given the size, I suspect it was a Cooper's.

Posted 9/08/2007 07:56:00 PM by Robert

9/2, Still in the 'Hood

Tristan on Fifth Ave.

By late July, the Cathedral red-tail hawk parents are hard to find. They seem to have decided that the kids don't need to be defended (or can at least be secretly watched over from a distance) and it's time the fledglings learned to hunt for themselves anyway. But where do the adults go? It almost seems like they're on vacation somewhere. Perhaps they're just hanging about the far peripheries of their territory which went untended back when they were watching the kids closely. The Cathedral seems to lie on the western edge of their range; they've been noted as far east as Madison Ave. in the 100s, and Marcus Garvey Park at Fifth and 120th may also "belong" to them.

I checked in at Central Park today, first walking down to the Turtle Pond area to see if Pale Male might be perched on the Belvedere Castle flagpole as he's done in the last few days. He wasn't there, and Lincoln indicated he hadn't seen PM or Lola all day. So back up the east side of the park to see if there was any activity around the Conservatory Garden, where a fledgling was seen this past week. Instead I found Tristan from the Cathedral perched on the rooftop railing of the Guggenheim Pavilion at Mount Sinai (Fifth Ave. at 101st St.), mostly preening and sometimes watching traffic. This particular spot may be about the southeast limit of Tristan and Isolde's territory, as any further south seems to impinge on PM and Lola's range.

Posted 9/02/2007 09:38:00 PM by Robert

What are You Looking at?

Old Marmot of the Mountains (0251)

Back a few days ago from a vacation of backpacking. Pix to follow, but this year I think I'll try to do something more coherent with them. So it will take several days while I sort through 460-some pix.

Yes, hawks were seen, several in fact. But none close and long enough for a species ID.

Posted 8/31/2007 10:35:00 PM by Robert

7/31, Brownie Hunts the Close

Red-Tail Fledgling


A nice evening to be out and about, and apparently the hawks thought so too. Three sightings made, although it wasn't clear if it was two hawks or three.

6:22 p.m. - Just reached the corner of 112th St. and Amsterdam Ave., and robin chirps are sounding straight up on an apartment roof. It takes five minutes of wandering around the area below the scaffolding on the narthex tower at the cathedral but I finally spot a feathery posterior poking out almost all the way up at the top.

Scaffolding with Hawk

Because of the rails in the way, it was never clear exactly which hawk this was, just that it was an adult red-tail.

6:33 - It seeming like this hawk isn't going anywhere, and the close being otherwise quiet, head down toward Morningside Park to look for the fledglings.

6:39 - Looking back uphill from Manhattan Ave., can see a suggestive looking dark spot at the very top of the cathedral scaffolding.

Scaffolding with Hawk

Definitely not the same spot as where we saw the hawk perched ten minutes ago. Hmmmm, two hawks up there? My guess is both adults.

6:54 - After a quick pass around the south end of Morningside Park, without results, head back up 110th St. There are definitely two hawks on the scaffolding and both are where I first spotted them. Pix confirm that one on the southwest side of the tower has a red tail, but I can't tell whether the one on the southeast side has a red (adult) or brown (juvenile) tail.

Scaffolding with Hawks

6:58 - But as I'm crossing back over 110th St. (most of the sidewalk on the north side is blocked off for construction), I get a quick look at a hawk overhead and then heading east over Synod House. And once in the clear where I can see the top of the scaffolding again, both hawks are gone. Drat.

7:35 - After another long stroll through Morningside Park, with no sign of either hawk having stayed there despite flying that direction, back in the Cathedral close. There are robin alarms going off. Hmmm, and catbird meows, too. The white peacock looks concerned about the noise.

Cathedral White Peacock

7:38 - Whadayaknow, right in the heart of the catbird noise...

Red-Tail Fledgling

7:43 - The fledgling stands up and starts looking around. Oooh, this is definitely Brownie.

Red-Tail Fledgling

7:46 - And then she soars across the pulpit lawn and the driveway and over the plywood fence into the playground area. I find her perched atop a fence along the nave wall. That look of mild concern: "that didn't go as planned". She checks the ground nearby.

Red-Tail Fledgling

7:49 - I see something rat-like scurrying around on the ground below her, and Brownie tries to jump it. No luck. She flies over to the plywood fence along the driveway.

She looks around, copes with a dive-bombing robin.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Turn around and watches the grass around the play area.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Considers the options.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Considers some more.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Pause for a scratch to release all that thinking tension.

Red-Tail Fledgling

7:57 - Try another leap, into the grass right behind the guard house. Drat, nothing again. Hop up on the chainlink fence. Look around. Ignore the guy with the camera, the two security guards, and the workman who are watching. They're too big to eat anyway.

Red-Tail Fledgling

8:00 - Fly a few feet over to the plywood fence.

Red-Tail Fledgling

8:01 - Then fly at something over on the pulpit lawn. Miss again.

8:05 - Fly over to the fence around pulpit, perch, look around, stare at squirrels. Try to jump one.

Red-Tail Fledgling

8:07 - Back up to pulpit fence. Again jump at squirrel stupid enough to walk along 7-8 feet away. Drat again. Must learn to leap at squirrel's head rather than fluffy tail.

8:10 - Sit on bench for awhile. Ignore peacock walking by. He's also too big.

8:16 - Back to pulpit fence. Damn robins just have not shut up.

8:22 - Give up for night. Fly over to tree above Amsterdam Ave. sidewalk and think about roosting. Robins over there aren't happy either.

8:35 - Still in tree across street from Hungarian Pastry Shop.

Posted 8/03/2007 04:37:00 PM by Robert

7/27-7/29, Quiet Weekend

Do You Mind?

It was a quiet weekend for watching the cathedral hawks. I only spotted one fledgling, and that one just one time. Of course, the fledge(s) still at the cathedral and/or Morningside Park had plenty of time to be active when I wasn't around. Both parents were apparently also seen.


The start of the evening was wonderful weather-wise...

G - Gabriel

...but for watching hawks, Friday was a complete bust. At best I might have had a half-second glimpse of a hawk jumping off a finial in the cathedral close.

I scouted around for almost two hours, from 6:00 to 8:00. That included visiting the cathedral close three times, but only finding peacocks...

Cathedral Peacock

.. and checking the usual areas in the southern half of Morningside Park once or twice. No help came from any robins or catbirds. The only bird sighting of any note was a mallard duck hanging about the park pond, the first mallard I had seen there in over a month.

Morningside Mallard


Saturday I entered Morningside Park at the southeast corner entrance just after 7:00 p.m. and immediately spotted a hawk perched on Gabriel's horn atop the cathedral apse.

Gabriel and Red-Tail Hawk

That appears to have been papa Tristan, although it was a bit hard to tell as he was preening most of the time and his belly feathers were fluffed up.

Gabriel and Red-Tail Hawk

He stayed in place until 7:50, disappeared for a bit, and then re-appeared just after 8:00 and was still there the last time I checked.

It seemed like spotting Tristan was going to be it for Saturday. No complaints about that, as I got started late and the humidity didn't make for much of a fun walkabout anyway. But after I had last viewed Tristan atop the apse at 8:10, I was walking up Amsterdam and heard robins going bananas near the cathedral narthex tower. Sunset was rapidly approaching and it was a dim day anyway, but after a few minutes something large fluttered up high. A hawk was perched on the Amsterdam side of the tower scaffolding, probably about 110-120 feet up. Heavy Photoshopping of some truly terrible pictures revealed what looked like Isolde's dark shoulders. Given the time, it looked like she was trying to roost up there.


Rainy day, so the plan was to just make a quick check on the park and cathedral on my way to Sunday dinner. At 6:15, entered Morningside Park from the southeast entrance again and had made about 1/3 a circuit about the baseball fields when I spotted a hawk. Someone was perched on the antenna structure atop the apartments at 306-8 West 112. Getting closer, a tawny breast was revealed. A fledgling!

Red-Tail Fledgling on W 112th

Meanwhile, two robins giving her some lip. The fledge was fluffed up a bit, presumably trying to dry out, although the humidity and sprinkles probably weren't helping. So it was difficult to decide how thick her belly band was, although I'm inclined to say it was not Brownie. Assuming Eldest has made her escape to Central Park, then that suggests it was Youngest.

Red-Tail Fledgling on W 112th

Whoever the fledgling was, she was still there when I last looked her way from over on Morningside Drive.

Red-Tail Fledgling on W 112th

I also made a quick check in the close area, but there it was just the three peacocks, each perched on a fence or railing and very busily preening.

Do You Mind?

Posted 8/01/2007 11:27:00 PM by Robert

7/26, Close Again


Two red-tail fledgling sightings this evening, but no way to tell if it was two separate birds or just one.

First checked the Close on the south side of the Cathedral of St. Jphn the Divine. Just some sleepy peacocks.

Sleepy Peacock

From there, down 110th St. and into Morningside Park. At 6:30, there were robin alerts going off north and east of the dog run. After a minute I hadn't spotted the target of their ire and was watching the geese harass a dog walker and a greyhound/whippet-like dog. Then a hawk came zooming of the trees over the steps behind me, dived down low over the geese on the lawn east of the pond, did a U-turn and headed back uphill alongside the willow tree. There was a quick glimpse of a brown tail (fledgling!), along with two smaller birds in tight pursuit.

For a long time, that five seconds of excitement looked to be it for the evening. One robin kept complaining near Morningside Ave. for a few minutes, then quieted down. In the hour after that, the only suggestive noises were intermittent blue jay calls near the dog run, and then a bit of catbird squalling near the 116 Steps.

Bailed out of Morningside Park around 7:40 but again checked the cathedral Close. Ah, suggestive robin complaints. And there's a red-tail fledge perched on a tree overhanging of the Peace Garden.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Looks like Brownie.

She started hopping around in the branches, perhaps to avoid bombarding robins, perhaps to lunge at the worst of the harassers.

Red-Tail Fledgling

(Yes, I know. Overcast, humid skies, getting close to sunset, and moving targets. Feh.)

After five minutes, Brownie had had enough and flew over to the roof of the Synod House.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Perched there for a few minutes.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Then she dived down to Pulpit Lawn, a bit closer to the Peace Garden than the pulpit. Was she attacking something? From 100 feet away, I initially couldn't see anything, but was bemused to see her standing 20 feet away from the white peacock stepping across the grass. They studiously ignored each other.

Getting much closer, it looked like Brownie had something in her talons.

Red-Tail Fledgling

She'd stand there and look around, sometimes bend over and rip something off with her beak. Then she'd leap into the air and shake her feet. I figured she had caught something but hand't quite managed to kill it.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Finally I realized that while I was running around to get closer, Brownie had attacked a piece of paper lying on the lawn. (Drat. So much for witnessing a successful hunt.) Now she was having trouble getting rid of it.

Red-Tail Fledgling

I'd been chatting with one of the cathedral guards while this was going on. Soon enough he needed to lock up the Peace Garden for the night. As we exited, Brownie shifted over to the base of the pulpit and was last seen there at 8:10.

And finally, another Harlem panorama, using new pictures and different software. The software was better but Tuesday had better lighting.

Harlem Panorama 2
Posted 7/27/2007 04:58:00 PM by Robert