February 5, 2007

2/3-2/4, Belated Sightings Save the Days

My expectation of a weird weekend schedule actually resulted in my spending more time in Central Park than I normally would have. But with the frigid temperatures, hawks sightings were few and short. The best pictures of the weekend came from non-hawks in the Loch.

Northern Cardinal in Central Park Ravine

Saturday, Feb. 3

Entered Central Park at Douglass Circle at about 3:30 after checking the Cathedral (nothing there). Up to the Great Hill, over to the North Woods, down to the Loch, over to Nutter's Battery, and around the Meer shoreline to the Conservatory Garden. Nada. Then up Fifth Ave. and back into the park at 102nd St., across the park along the shore of the Reservoir, and down to West 86th St. to see if the "clockwork hawk" was about. Nope. Down the west side of the Great Lawn to check for Palemale and Lola. Okay, Lola is perched up at the Beresford, so at 4:52 I have a red-tailed hawk sighting for the day. Bumped into Lincoln likewise looking for Palemale, then split up as we walked by the west side Pinetum; it's getting dark and cold and it's time to go home.

Up the park paths on the west side past West 86th St. again and onward. Whoa. It's 5:20 and the light is dim, but I can tell that's a hawk circling about over the 96th St. Transverse. She heads west toward CPW, and then hooks left to head down the avenue. I lose her against the background of a building, but slowly head down the sidewalk, looking up into the overhanging branches. She's perched a few trees north of 93rd St. Hmmm, is she going to roost in a tree overhanging Central Park West?

Apparently not. She gets up and flies west toward the loop road, perches a minute, then changes trees, perches, comes back to the tree over CPW, perches, then back into the park and finally settles down. I make my exit at 5:40 with the hawk roosting in a tree on the northeast side of the Wild West playground.

A subsequent e-mail exchange with Bruce reveals that the hawk in the west 90s was probably the clockwork hawk from 86th St. He had been down there to watch her settle in her "normal" roost at 4:30, but she only perched a bit before heading north, to where I encountered her 45 minutes later.

No pictures from Saturday, as all I got were some distant shots of Lola and then a few dark and blurry shots of the northern visitor. The latter were only just good enough to reveal a red-tinted adult tail.

Sunday, Feb. 4

Out earlier than usual, passing by the Cathedral at 12:45 and then entering Central Park at Douglass Circle at 1:00. No sightings of hawk atop the Great Hill or in the North Woods. But plenty of seed eaters in the Ravine, at the same log where I frequently find them taking advantage on the largesse of a seed scatterer.

There's a clear hierarchy in play here. The sparrows and nuthatch are small, and despite some squabbling they seem to play it as live and let live. There's some happy chirping as they feed.

Song Sparrow in Central Park Ravine

White-Breasted Nuthatch in Central Park Ravine

The small guys scatter when the cardinals show up. The male seems shy about approaching the seed when there's a photographer ten feet away. The female doesn't seem too concerned.

Northern Cardinal in Central Park Ravine

Northern Cardinal in Central Park Ravine

But the cardinals scatter when a larger seedeater drops in.

Blue Jay in Central Park Ravine

But even the blue jay vacates when something bigger comes by.

Gray Squirrel in Central Park Ravine

After 20 minutes of that scene, I'm off to the east. Jim has indicated in e-mail that he often sees the Cathedral hawks, Tristan and Isolde, soaring about together over the east side of the Meer and the Conservatory Garden during lunch time. I hang about on the Fort Clinton overlook for 15 minutes, but there's not much aerial activity. A couple pigeons and a jay, and of course some gulls to the north over the un-frozen part of the Meer, but no hawks.

So off to the south, checking out the noisy crows northwest of the Reservoir, then the various ducks and geese along its western bank. At the Great Lawn at 2:30, there of course is Lola perched at the Beresford. At 2:35 again bumped into Lincoln at the south end of the Lawn. After a few minutes he notes a hawk soaring north from the Beresford; Lola is in the air. She disappears into the treetops in the west Pinetum. I make a circuit of the Lawn, getting a glimpse of Lola over the Lawn but disappearing back into that same area.

Hawkwatching at the Lawn breaks up around 2:50. Lincoln heads southeast and I north. I get another glimpse of a hawk flying by the ballfields south of the police precinct house, but 10 minutes of checking the treetops in the west Pinetum reveals nothing. To the north again.

Heading over the Great Hill to make my exit at 3:40, I made one last check of the North Woods near the Blockhouse. Some squirrels scatter and I figure it's because of my approach, but then a hawk flies across the path 25 feet ahead and perches. Squirrel whining begins to emanate from several nearby trees. I edge up to get some pictures.

Red-Tailed Hawk Tristan in Central Park North Woods

The down-sun angle made me at first think the hawk's tail was dark, but the pic reveals that it was indeed red. Which adult is it?

Red-Tailed Hawk Tristan in Central Park North Woods

He's all fluffed up because of the cold, but nevertheless the relative sparsity of the dark belly band feathers reveals it's the Cathedral male, Tristan.

Trsitan is apparently not content to hang about. He's looking about quite a bit, often to his left. After five minutes, he makes a long swoop, cruising just a foot or two along a dirt path. But rather than making a strike at prey, he suddenly banks left and disappears downhill, either into the Ravine area or perhaps over toward Lasker Rink and the Meer.


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