January 28, 2007

1/28, Perching on Ellington Circle

Not much to report this weekend. I wasn't feeling well on Saturday so didn't try any hawkwatching that day. Today I was as usual slow to get over to the park, so it was 3:30 before I made my way in through the West 103rd St. entrance. At least the days are getting longer, so I had halfway okay light for an hour.

A hawk sighting came 10-12 minutes later near the Wildflower Meadow when I realized that the lowest bird amongst the cloud of gulls and/or terns circling overhead to the east was a little too large. Got the glasses out and confirmed that it was a hawk, then ran across the loop road to the Compost Hill to watch as the hawk soared off to the north. It alit on an antenna 35 stories up, on the southeast tower of the Schomburg Plaza apartments on Duke Ellington Circle.

Red-Tailed Hawk Perched on East 110th St. I took a few pictures from Nutter's Battery and along the shore of Harlem Meer. But at a distance of 900 feet horizontal and 345 vertical, the pic at right was about the best I was going to get. (Click for larger version.) The photos all suggest that the hawk was keeping an eye on the east rather than watching over the Meer.

By 4:05 I was back over by Lasker Rink and began making my way the hill into the North Woods. No luck finding any hawks there, although some persistent alarm-like chirping in one area had me looking around for quite some time. Looked back over toward Ellington Circle at 4:25 and saw that the hawk there had taken off. Then I headed down toward West 86th St. but saw no sign of the "ringer" who has been roosting there.

January 26, 2007

1/26, Inwood Hawk News

When I encountered Bruce in the north end of Central Park a month ago, he mentioned having been up at Inwood and hearing that Inwood Park's red-tailed hawk female had to be rescued and nursed back to health. One of his posts briefly mentioned that she had tested positive for West Nile.

The Parks Dept. has posted much more about the story in their on-line newsletter, as I just discovered while Googling for info about something else. On Jan. 18, the Daily Plant described the discovery of the sick female on Dec. 2 and the early steps to help her recover despite a dismal prognosis. Then on Jan. 22 it reported that during her recuperation, two new hawks tried to muscle in on the Inwood territory. The Inwood female apparently recovered fully, was released back to the wild on Dec. 14, and on Jan. 5 was spotted perched next to her mate. No word though on when or how the interlopers were chased off.

Also on the Parks Dept. website is a collection of nine photos of a juvenile red-tail in Francis Lewis Park on Jan. 9. (Warning! Gruesome feeding pix.) The park is a small one located underneath the Queens end of the Bronx Whitestone bridge.

I wonder what other hawk goodies are hidden away on the Parks website.

January 15, 2007

1/15, Visiting Gabriel

My nephew and I spent an hour walking about the northwest section of Central Park this afternoon looking for the red-tailed hawks but luck was not with us. From Douglass Circle over the Great Hill, along the service road to Green Hill, back up the Loch and then up to the North Woods via park paths, nada. Just lots and lots of blue jay activity to drive me nuts thinking there just had to be a hawk in the area.

So finally back out of the park and on our way back to Morningside Heights. So where would you expect to find a "Cathedral hawk"? Yes, of course, the Cathedral. Who knew? At 3:25 we looked up from the corner of Manhattan Ave. and 110th St. to find one of the adult red-tails perched quietly on Gabriel's horn.

Red-Tailed Hawk Perched atop Cathedral of St. John

The view from last summer's hawkwatching locale on 113th St. seemed to indicate that the hawk was Tristan. Note the relatively light belly band, although my messing with the pic in Photoshop might be part of that.

This was, BTW, the first time I have seen one of the hawks perched atop the Cathedral since... the end of last July. Others have sighted hawks there from time to time, just not me.

Whilst there, I also checked the nest site to see if there was any obvious signs that it had been added to.

Red-Tailed Hawk Nest at Cathedral of St. John

Close comparison with a pic that I took on Christmas day suggests that perhaps there's an extra twig or two on St. Andrew's right shoulder. But more interesting is the algae growth that has bloomed. December's pic did shown some dark green streaks on St. Andrew's head and left forearm, but this newer pic shows the algae has spread and is somewhat greener. A result of the ridiculously warm weather of late? Hmmm. Well, perhaps the cold snap we're supposed to get later this week will set it back.

I should also go back and check the statues nearby to see if they are similarly covered. One wonders if the hawk nest may be causing the growth.

1/14, One Foggy Feeding

Due to the overcast, drizzly weather, I had figured to give the weekend a miss for hawkwatching. But late Sunday afternoon I decided to take the "long route" walking to my office. I entered Central Park at West 100th St. at about 3:50, planning to quickly check the Loch area and the North Woods and Great Hill on the way to Douglass Circle. Arriving at the intersection of the service road and the west loop road, I said hello to the black squirrel who can be found there, took out the iPod earplugs (the new Argerich recording of Schumann's piano concerto), and hmmmm.... odd bird chirping. An alarm noise?

I'd walked only 20-30 feet east on the service road when I spotted a red-tailed hawk busy feeding in a tree just to the north. It must have just started because the scene continued for more than 15 minutes as I maneuvered about, trying to take pix in the poor light. I can't be sure what was on the menu, but a glimpse of what looked like a tail dangling over the branch suggested it was fresh squirrel.

Red-Tail Tristan Feeding by Central Park's Loch

Dark eyes and a red-feathered tail initially made me think that the hawk was Isolde from the Cathedral, but a closer look at its breast and belly feathers as it preened afterwards finally convinced me that it was actually her mate Tristan. The "light eyes" that I saw on him a few weeks ago were more an effect of the lighting than of youth, and a doublecheck of photos from last summer seems to confirm so.

The day ended after 4:30 when I headed out, with Tristan perched in the same tree, although on a different branch after changing position three times. If the weather had been better I might have said he was likely to roost there for the night.

Update: Found my camera cable and added the one picture. Unfortunately, the poor light, interposing branches, and photographer or hawk motion pretty much made the other 40 pix that I took come out even worse than the one poor shot shown above.

January 8, 2007

1/6, Juvie on the Hunt, and the Miss

I was in Central Park both days this past weekend but only Saturday was successful for hawkwatching. Saturday was of course the ridiculously warm day, and my first reaction on walking into the park at West 100th St. was that it was a freaking zoo. And that was at the north end of the park. Lord knows what it was like down on the lower loop.

Anyway, into the park a bit after 2:30. Headed toward the Sparrow Rocks, but split off to take the tunnel under the service road and then headed up the trails to the North Woods. Wandered around there for a bit and then crossed the road, dodging cyclists and joggers, to the Great Hill. Didn't seem like much there and began to make an exit. And then pretty much stayed in the same spot for 40 minutes because this girl was on the hunt.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

First sighting of this juvenile red-tailed hawk came just after 3:00 from the park path, within 25-30 feet of the busy loop road. She was in the process of diving off a branch after a squirrel. She missed and then demonstrated that hawks are slower runners than squirrels, as she took four or five futile steps before giving up.

Then she hopped back up to the low branch in the above pic, stared at another squirrel on a high branch, went after him and missed. She looked around a minute, then swooped to a branch on the other side of the path, missing me and a couple pedestrians by about six or seven feet, and into the little section of woods immediately adjacent to the park map at the top of the road over the Great Hill.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

Right then another hawk soared overhead, way, way up. Crummy photos do suggest at a red tail, but after a circle or two, that hawk disappeared off towards Harlem Meer and the rest of the day's hawkwatching remained this juvenile going after squirrels.

Unlike the hawk seen last Tuesday, this one mostly stayed low and didn't seem at all bothered that I and a hundred park users were in the area. Just a glare now and again...

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

...while she looked around for food.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

Saturday was of course beautifully sunny, and I was up-sun from the juvie often enough that lighting was usually not a problem when taking pix.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

After about 20-25 minutes, she made her first try after a squirrel outside the little copse, shooting across the road toward the rocky summit of the North Woods. She was low enough that even the usually oblivious joggers and cyclists took note. But alas, no squirrel.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

Then back across the road to the trees west of the map. Look around some more.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

And make another swoop.

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

But alas, lunch got away again. And even worse, a bunch of blue jays have begun to gather and they've decided that this copse is theirs. Go away, hawk. She tolerated the playground taunting for a few minutes. Then one last disgruntled look...

Juvenile Red-Tail at Central Park's Great Hill

Then she tried hiding in the trees just to the north. Apparently didn't like that shady area and just after 3:40 took off for good. Flying along the loop road and then disappearing around the curve toward the Loch.

That made the fourth, possibly fifth time I watched a juvenile in the Great Hill-North Woods in the past two weeks. It was almost beginning to seem like clockwork that she'd be in the area in the 3:00 timeframe. But perhaps Saturday's disappointing hunting made her change the agenda in her daybook. I was back in the area on Sunday, but she wasn't. Oh, well, I suppose I need to do a better job of figuring out where Tristan or Isolde have been hiding of late.

January 2, 2007

1/2, Mystery Hawk in the North Woods

Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park's North Woods
Mystery Hawk in the North Woods, Jan. 2

I had the day off today, as I work at a federal government office and we all got the day off because of the national day of mourning for President Ford. But the weather being sunny, albeit breezy, that of course meant I made a trip over to the north end of Central Park to look for around for the red-tailed hawks. It turned out to be one of the strangest such trips yet.

I was again on the late side, entering the park at West 100th St. a bit before 3:00. After a stroll by the North Meadow, Sparrow Rock, the Compost Hill, Nutter's Battery and back up the Ravine, I reached the high point of the North Woods. Nothing promising at that point except for a few excited but short-lived jay jeers in the Ravine. But at 3:27 I saw a hawk fly into the top of a tree a couple hundred feet away, nearly on the opposite side of the fenced off area, so I couldn't approach directly. I tried circling clockwise, hoping to get a photo angle with better light, but as I did so, she started doing likewise, changing perches two or three times and doing one out-and-back swoop northeast of the Blockhouse. By 3:36 she had flown off to the south, last seen somewhere in the vicinity of the Wildflower Meadow, and I had taken no pictures and had no idea whether I'd seen an adult or juvenile.

I wandered about the rocky crest of the North Woods for a few minutes and then though about striking in a new direction, but at 3:48 came another sighting as a hawk flew from the Great Hill area and alit on a high branch in perhaps te same tree as my first sighting. Same hawk? Presumably. Certainly similar behavior as she treated me to a teasing game of hide and seek for the next 35-40 minutes. A few perches in the North Woods, then across the loop road to trees along the verge of the Great Hill lawn, then back to the North Woods, then back toward the Great Hill.

But at the start she did stay still long enough that I could take a few pix that might even come out. Well, sort of...

Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park's North Woods

Perhaps the "teasing" behavior was because the hawk really did have her eye on me, and had decided that 100-120 feet was the closest I was going to get. Even in the obscured shot above, where I have just gotten a half-decent look at her through a collection of branches, she is staring right back at me. None of the wide-eyed, "who are you look" of the juvenile seen this past Saturday, but almost a challenge in her eye. "I've got my eye on you, buddy. Better not step out of line."

But the game of hide and seek and the glaring eyes were not the strange part of this particular hawk sighting. No, it was that I have no clue what hawk it was.

The first problem was that although a couple of the photographs I took seem to show single-colored tail feathers, and so indicate that this was an adult red-tailed hawk, the angle of the pix was just enough off or there was just enough shadow that I wouldn't say for sure that it was an adult.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park's North Woods

(BTW: Note the full crop. This birdie is stuffed.)

But assuming that was an adult red-tail, who was it? Well, on that question I'll assert that it was neither Tristan or Isolde. The belly band is too heavy for Tristan. But it's not Isolde either because the shoulder feathers are too light and because Isolde's eyes are dark. This one had light eyes, like a younger hawk, whether a juvie or a second- or third-year.

So if this was an adult, then it was a ringer. It's known that there is a ringer who's been hunting the park area west of the Reservoir, and possibly even two. Was this (that one|one of those)?

Thoughts anyone? Use the comments if you care to venture your own guess.

And speaking of the ringer(s), once I finally lost track of this mystery hawk, I tried heading south to West 86th St. to see if I could find where the one's roost was at. No luck. Even if it was there, I was presumably much too late to get a glimpse of it moving about and it was getting too dark to really look around.