2/11, Kerfluffle in the North Woods

I saw three, quite likely four hawks at the north end of Central Park today, but remain confused about part of what I saw.

Entered Central Park about 3:10 at West 97th St. First hawk sighting came at about 3:40 just after I reached the Fort Clinton overlook at the SE corner of the Harlem Meer. Something large with a flat wingspan was flying out of the park and down East 107th St., disappearing behind a building. A couple minutes later I realized that a hawk had perched two blocks south, on a metal framework atop the Cardinal Cooke Health Center. It stayed there a minute, then shifted to the top of a building another block south. Stayed there a couple minutes, then into the air to circle about above the Cooke center a few times.

Red-Tailed Hawk Soaring near Cardinal Cooke Health Center

And then the hawk landed directly on the tower at the Cooke.

I'd already halfway figured that the hawk was Isolde from the Cathedral pair. A close look at pix afterwards did indeed that the hawk was a red-tail, and the dark shoulders were more indicative of Isolde rather than Tristan.

That was at 3:49 and by 4:00 Isolde wasn't showing any signs of leaving.

Red-Tailed Hawk Perched on Cardinal Cooke Health Center

I opted to head in the direction of the Ravine and the Great Hill to see if I might find Tristan out and about. Descending from Green Hill into the Ravine I thought I saw something with the correct shape of wings soar north, but a run back to the Bench didn't reveal any hawks in the air. And hmmm, is Isolde gone from the Cooke tower?

Back into the Ravine. There's another photographer staking out the seed log. Not much seed around but the sparrows and cardinals are active and checking out the scene.

Northern Cardinal in Central Park Ravine

Up the Ravine and then hang a right at the wood bridge to begin the climb up to the North Woods. Almost there and I hear squirrel whining. Where's the hawk? A minute later a hawk flies across the loop road from the Great Hill area and into a treetop 30 feet away. Looks like a juvenile.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park North Woods

The juvie perched for only a minute or two before turning around and flying back over to the Great Hill. I follow along. A helpful skater skating down the road points, "He went that way." Then on to a park path across the road and I can see where the juvie should be.

Time for the confusing part...

A pedestrian coming toward me says, "There's two of them. One low and one higher up."

I angle southwest so that I can get up-sun from the one hawk I'm seeing, who is not staying put. Then indeed there are two hawks in the high branches, and I'm too busy trying to see who's flying where that I get only one pic.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park North Woods

The flying about doesn't seem hostile for a minute, but then one hawk swoops in the direction that the other is perched. The latter takes off and heads down toward the Ravine. A moment later the other follows.

Following right along, I reach the Gapstone Bridge and see nothing.

So, what was that? Was one of the resident adults chasing off the juvie? Seems like the most likely explanation.

Well, if someone was being chased off, you sort of have to hang around and guard things to make sure he doesn't come back. So I head back uphill to see if one of the hawks returned.

Yes, there's a hawk perched on the south slope of the hill, maybe 75 downhill from where I'd seen the juvie ten minutes ago. And whoever it is is not sitting still. Swoop. Went after a squirrel on the ground and missed.

Now I get a better look. What the hey? It's the juvie.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park North Woods

She makes another swoop, although not at the ground but toward a bird feeder. Hmm, what was she going after? Then she settles onto a branch and stays for awhile.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park North Woods

Ah, doing the old "I'm just innocently sitting here. I'd never, ever think of attacking a squirrel" routine. But a squirrel is whining uphill. And I see that on the backside of the tree where the feeder is mounted, another squirrel is sitting deathly still.

After 6-7 minutes, sunlight has left the branch where the hawk is perched, and she takes off, swooping down into the Ravine.

It's almost 5:00 and rather than chase after again, I opt to head north. If the juvie was there, maybe there's still an adult around in the usual area near the Blockhouse. Besides the light is beginning to go anyway.

One last circuit around the path by the Blockhouse, pass by two police vehicles watching the area. The light is almost shot and I'm almost back onto the loop road and ready to leave the park. But you know, there's something sort of hawk-shaped in that tree overlooking the path. Small and sort of skinny, but still, hawk-shaped.

Oh. A Cooper's.

Cooper's Hawk in Central Park North Woods

Looks like the Cooper's is ready to settle in for the night. Her crop is stuffed and the light is getting dim. But she changes trees a couple times. Finally it looks like she's settled on a good solid branch that won't wave so much in the breeze.

5:30. Exit.

Posted 2/11/2007 09:49:00 PM by Robert

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