April 30, 2007

4/30, Circling About

Again tried to check in at the Cathedral at a time when the hawks might be feeding the nestlings. I suspect I was just a bit late.

Arrived just before 5:25 to find the nest quiet. The only thing of interest was a long stick on the top of the north side which wasn't there yesterday. So someone is still feeling constructive.

Stepped into Morningside Park with the intent of making the usual pass past the dog run and the pond and then back up to Morningside Drive. Instead, a moment later I realized that Tristan was straight ahead, perched in a tree between the path and the dog run.

Tristan in Morningside Park

Not the easiest place to get a closer photo.

Tristan in Morningside Park

So what was on Tristan's mind? He was doing the usual looking about, often to his left and so I figured he might be casing the pond area for pigeons. Perhaps he had hunting in mind? Probably not, as the next bunch of pictures would reveal that his crop was so stuffed it looked like he's swallowed a cantaloupe.

Ten minutes after spotting Tristan in the tree, I had walked up to Morningside Drive, and then realized I couldn't see him anymore. Let's check that spot again. He's gone. Where'd he go? Oh!

Tristan over Morningside Park

Pretty much straight up from where he'd been. And check out that crop.

Tristan over Morningside Park

Oooh, nice healthy red tail.

Tristan over Morningside Park

He kept on circling and doing figure eights over the dog run area and the upper lawn...

Tristan over Morningside Park

...exposing himself for the world to see. And somehow the half dozen people right underneath him, enjoying the beautiful day, somehow failed to see Tristan.

Tristan over Morningside Park

More circling. C'mon guy, if you're trying to get some altitude to go the nest or to St. Luke's, you have to put some effort into it.

Tristan over Morningside Park

But no. He's not going upwards.

Tristan over Morningside Park

And finally after close to a minute and a half, he peeled off to the north.

Fifteen seconds later the pigeons down by the pond all burst into the air, and I thought perhaps he'd made a strike down there. (I hadn't looked at my pix yet to discover that full crop.) But there was nothing happening when I headed down that way.

Back up to Morningside Drive and still all quiet at the nest. Lots of people heading home from work or school. Many more on bicycles today than in a long time. it is, after all, despite the erratic breeze, a gorgeous late afternoon slash early evening.

6-10 DSC_0095.JPG

At 6:15 I'm looking through the field glasses at the nest, and lower them to find that Tristan has re-appeared perched on Gabriel's horn.

Tristan and Gabriel

He hung, looking around, preening just a bit, etc.

Tristan and Gabriel Perhaps he spoke a few words to Gabriel.

Ten minutes later he disappeared just as quietly.

Still no activity at the nest.


April 29, 2007

4/29, Lazy Sunday

I skipped out on hawkwatching on Saturday as the Yankees game was on when I would normally be doing so. Bruce Yolton watched two separate feedings (late morning and late afternoon) at the Cathedral hawk nest, so go there for pictures of Isolde and Tristan. His photos are zoomed in enough so that there's good question as to whether one can already see fuzzy nestlings through gaps in the twigs. Bruce also has Saturday pix of feedings at the Highbridge (three nestlings there!) and Inwood Hill hawk nests.

On Sunday, after a look-see inside the Cathedral — first time I'd been inside in about five years; so long that I hadn't realized that the renovation was going on — I arrived at Morningside Drive just before 4:55. There was sign that Isolde was moving about, and from the 112th St. overlook it seemed she was in her "scanning the skies" mode. But by the time I got my camera out and ready, she was already turning around to pay attention to the inside of the nest.

Isolde in Her Nest

Over the next couple minutes her tail feathers were visible poking out above St. Andrew's head, but she soon settled down with her kid(s). I then wondered into Morningside Park for 15 minutes, came back out to see still more of not much going on. Bruce arrived and we both kept an eye on the nest until about 6:30 and saw no great activity. Certainly no sign of Tristan, either hunting or delivering food. He might have been hanging out in a nearby tree, but with foliage really sprouting, it's become much harder to spot a tree-perched hawk.

Through Bruce's camera set-up we did see more little hints of something fuzzy through gaps in the nest, possibly a nestling although also possibly pale feathers on Isolde. We also caught her looking out through a gap at one point.

April 27, 2007

4/27, Cathedral Hawk Babies!

Circumstantial evidence, but it looks good enough to convict!

I was walking east on 113th St. toward the hawk nest viewing spots just past 5:20, and had barely waved hello to the guard watching the medical parking lot below the nest, when Tristan came buzzing overhead. He quickly hooked left and perched on a branch about 20 feet off the ground just inside the entrance to the adjacent (west) parking lot.

Yow, even though it's just a hundred yards from the nest, I don't think I've ever seen either of the adult Cathedral hawks come this far west. The exception might be when they were feeding fledglings perched on the side of the Cathedral last June.

Tristan's really close, but I'm concerned that I'm going to have trouble getting a decent picture as I'm miserable at handling backlit subjects, especially in overcast weather.

Tristan on the Hunt

Ah, but Tristan's a cooperative hawk. He shifts west a tree and now I have the Cathedral as a backdrop to ease the lighting problem.

Tristan on the Hunt

But what's he doing? Well, he could be hunting. His crop looks empty, and he is doing that little bobbing motion that suggests he's scoping out what might be on the ground. The problem is that except for a 10-15 foot wide verge of weeds and clutter along the edge of the parking lot, the ground is pretty much asphalt. Also, it seems evident that all the pigeons and squirrels in the area have figured out that he's there.

Tristan on the Hunt

Donna Browne and her daughter Sam have also arrived, but initially set up down at the corner where they could observe the nest. I hie my way down there to let them know what Tristan's up to. We observe the nest a little; maybe there're some signs of fidgeting from mama Isolde up there. Then we all head back west toward the hospital entrance where we can watch Tristan.

And so it goes for the next hour. Tristan is hanging out on his branch over the parking lot, not making a move toward any prey.

Tristan on the Hunt

No real activity visible at the nest, although for awhile we can see the tips of Isolde's tail feathers sticking out, like she's sitting in the back corner of the nest. We say hello to many passers-by and explain to the curious why we're hanging out at this out-of-way street corner.

Come 6:30 and I'm already wondering how much longer I'm going to wait for something interesting. Tristan has switched trees again, moving another two or three to the west and much closer to the stonecutters' shed, but for grue's sake all he's doing is preening. No, he only does that for a moment. He does some intent looking around, but I don't think he's fooling anyone. That's certainly a squirrel whine coming from close by.

Tristan on the Hunt

Well, hawkwatching does pass quicker when you have someone to talk to, so I'll stick it out a little longer.

It's 6:55 and after 90 minutes of not much really going on, I have just made a comment that Tristan is probably just bored and chilling out by watching anything that walks or flies or creeps by. Then Sam comes heading back toward the nest saying that Tristan has just caught a mouse. Soon we see him come flying our way, circling about a bit and popping up to the corner of the roof of St. Luke's, just below the vase that the family likes to perch on.

A minute later he carries the food across the street to the nest. But it's not a drive-by delivery. He's staying put, perched on St. Andrew's hand and Isolde's not coming out either. Interesting....

Tristan Brings Home Dinner

Three minutes later Tristan makes his exit from the nest and flies back west to the parking lot. Whoa, what's Isolde doing? She's standing on the edge of the nest, leaning into the bowl, head bobbing up and down a little bit. Yes, it looks like feeding activity! We have a nestling!

Isolde Feeds the Kids

Possibly two. Even though we can't possibly see anything white and fuzzy from down at street level, Donna swears that through her scope she can see Isolde feeding tidbits in two directions.

I quickly check back west to see what Tristan's up to, and find him perched about 20 feet higher than previously. Not much sound to indicate that potential prey are warning each other about the fiend in the tree.

Tristan on the Hunt

Then back to the nest. Isolde's still in a feeding posture.

Isolde Feeds the Kids

At 7:10 Isolde finishes up the feeding and climbs back down in the nest.

Isolde Feeds the Kids

Quieting down here at the corner, so back west again at 7:15, just in time to get a glimpse of Tristan dropping off the tree branch, and then 15 seconds later fly back up to perhaps the same branch where he'd been at 6:00. And it looks like he's got his own dinner in talon, something with a long skinny tail, a big mouse or a small rat.

Tristan Prepares to Dine

He turns his back on the observers, that being a couple of us hawkwatchers plus many passers-by who can't help but see what's happening, and digs in.

Tristan Prepares to Dine

Nothing dainty about it, and no small bites either.

Tristan Begins to Dine

Ugh. New York may have one less rat, but that was in retrospect pretty gross.

After ten minutes, he turns back around. His crop is looking full. He stretches just a little bit, looks around just a bit, then takes off to the east. He disappears around the corner of the Cathedral for a moment, then a minute later comes flying back north to the vase on the roof at St. Luke's, perches a minute...

Tristan on Hospital Roof

...then back across the street to the nest.

This was apparently a fly-by food drop-off, as this time Tristan stayed a minute at most before taking off, and no new further activity can be seen at the nest. He flies up Morningside Drive to perch in the top of a tree at the little hill at 114th St. He stays for another five minutes, letting passers by admire his fine red tail feathers. Then at 7:40 it's apparently bed time, as he dives off to the south, presumably to a roosting spot at the southeast corner of Morningside Park.

Looks quiet at the nest. Exeunt the nest area to the soul-food restaurant on 110th St.

Finally: In addition to vicarious joy at there being new hawk babies in the neighborhood, I enjoy a smug sense of self-satisfaction as it seems I was either spot on or just a day off on predicting first hatch at the Cathedral. Back when it looked like Isolde was spending her first night in the nest for the season, I picked April 26 for the hatch.

Oh, but one last thing. When will the nestlings become visible? Well, the Fordham babies also hatched in the last couple days, and watchers there are suggesting May 4. So perhaps we'll see little white fuzzy heads just visible at the Cathedral nest the end of this coming week.

April 26, 2007

4/23-4/26, Waiting, Waiting

Based on when it looked like Isolde might have spent her first night on the red-tail at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, I had estimated first egg hatch to occur around April 26, today. It doesn't seem to have happened yet, although the depth of the Catehdral nest is such that one can't be sure until the adult hawks' behavior is seen to change appropriately.

A four-day report. Almost all of the fun stuff is on Thursday...

Donna Browne posted a report on watching the Cathedral nest which covers the 4:30 to 6:00 afternoon timeframe. Although she doesn't reveal any magic moments, there's activity from both Isolde and Tristan, and even a glimpse of the hard-to-see nook at the right rear of the nest.

Because of stuff at work, I didn't get there until past 6:30. First look at the nest through glasses revealed Isolde moving around, but while I then fumbled to get the camera out of the pack and then fumbled some more to replace its battery (hey, I least I was comparing a spare), she quit doing whatever she was doing. A minute later I found her standing on the south side of the nest scanning the skies.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Cathedral Nest

The combination of my viewing angle and the brow of her head made it look like Isolde was concerned about something. I anthropomorphized a, "Where's Tristan?" But Donna's report revealed that Tristan had been there an hour earlier. Just before 6:45, Isolde gave up on that and ducked down into her nest.

After watching the nest for another ten minutes, I wandered into Morningside Park and encountered, in sequence, the no-longer-lonely male cardinal and his new girlfriend by the upper lawn, Hedda Gobbler the turkey foraging on the flowery hillside north of the dog run...

Hedda Gobbler

...and two great egrets at the pond. Actually, one flying in...

Great Egret over Morningside Park

...then the second appearing from hiding behind the island and flying out to the southwest, then the first following after. The first one looked like the same "green face" that was there on Saturday. Both left to the southwest within minutes of my arrival.

Oh, and of course, daffodils!


Checking back at the hawk nest from 7:15 to 7:25, no activity, and no sign of Tristan making his usual near-sundown visual inspection of the area.

Donna again did a late afternoon monitoring of the nest and caught a little activity. Work again prevented me from coming by until 6:30 and I saw zip. No egrets in Morningside Park either, although Hedda the turkey was in the same area as on Monday.

Despite the light drizzle, I headed over to the Cathedral at about 5:30. Again no sign of activity from the hawks in the next 40 minutes when I bailed out because the rain was getting steadier. Hedda the turkey again put in an appearance, but this time first sighting came when she was ambling on the Morningside Drive sidewalk near the 114th St. entrance to the park.

A cool but much nicer day, albeit often overcast. A quick look-see at 2:00 didn't reveal any hawks doing anything interesting. I came back to the Cathedral about 5:10 to find Donna had also just arrived. Five minutes later Tristan also appeared, popping up from the Cathedral close to land on Gabriel's horn.

Red-Tailed Hawk atop Cathedral

All was then fairly quiet for about the 20-25 minutes, although we did get an occasional glimpse of Isolde fussing about in the nest.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Cathedral Nest

Just before 5:40 the excitement began...

Tristan dropped off Gabriel's horn, circled about once or twice over 113th St., flew back toward the nest, circled about again and then flew back up to land on one of the finials around the periphery of the Cathedral roof.

Red-Tailed Hawk atop Cathedral

A moment later he took off to the southeast and, I thought, toward Central Park. But no, within another minute or so, Tristan circled about overhead again and then made a swoop toward the nest.

Red-Tailed Hawk over Morningside Drive

Then a hawk came flying back, disappeared over the roof of St. Luke's hospital, then re-appeared around the northeast corner of the hospital and landed on the roof. Dark belly feathers revealed that this was Isolde.

Red-Tailed Hawk on Hospital Roof

Head bobbing suggested she might be eating, and indeed, pics revealed she had a chunk of something.

Red-Tailed Hawk on Hospital Roof

But it was a quick nosh, as at 5:45 she flew back to the nest, carrying some leftovers.

Red-Tailed Hawk over Morningside Drive

Hmmm, is that for a late night snack, or is there a nestling we can't see?

Tristan came flying right back out, but this time fluttered into the top of a tree at the 114th St. entrance to Morningside Park.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Morningside Park

After swiping his beak on a branch a couple times, he looked around a little bit...

Red-Tailed Hawk in Morningside Park

...and began to groom as best he could in the breeze.

All was quiet again for the next 15 minutes, although I did again encounter Hedda in Morningside Park when I wandered in to see if I could get a better viewing angle of Tristan's perch.

Hedda Gobbler

Bruce Yolton arrived around 6:05 and, when Donna and I walked down Morningside Drive to check the nest, saw when Tristan took off down and to the east. That seemed like it might end things for the day, but we all hung about for a bit. Then an Audubon friend of Donna and Bruce's passed by and no one showed any hurry to leave. So we were still around when Tristan again popped up on Gabriel's horn at 6:25.

I hung around for another 10 minutes but finally had to leave. Check Bruce and Donna's blogs for any activity that might have occurred after I left. Donna should also have a few nest activity pix taken via her infamous Swarovski scope.

April 23, 2007

4/22, Riverside Reds

I opted to take it easy on Sunday, especially afternoon a quick afternoon nap wasn't so quick. Word was that the red-headed woodpecker was still in Riverside Park, and after checking that out I figured if time permitted I'd walk north to the Riverside Church and see if there was any peregrine activity.

There was no immediate sign of the woodpecker, now reasonably well-known as Riverside Red, but after I'd been looking around for his territory for 10-15 minutes I had thought I'd seen him flick into a near-by treetop. A passing pedestrian (A binocular-less birdwatcher? Or a knowledgeable neighborhood resident? I didn't find out.) asked about then if I was looking for the woodpecker and suggested the same bird I was trying to track. Sure enough. A minute or two later, Red flitted over to a branch above the sidewalk and halfway cooperated for some photos.

Riverside Red

Riverside Red

Riverside Red

But his best and closest poses were made in shady spots.

Riverside Red

There was also a five-minute episode where Red seemed to be in a standoff with one or two blue jays. No outright squabbling, but a lot of staring going on.

Uh-oh. It's after 6:00 and I need to head toward my sister's for Sunday dinner. At least I can walk along Riverside Drive on the way there.

On reaching 103rd St. I was startled when a big black bird flopped into a nearby nest. Not big enough for a hawk, but it was sort of hawk-shaped. Ah, a real crow's nest.

Crow's Nest

A couple pedestrians exiting the park stopped to ask what I was watching, and a moment later said they'd seen "a hawk or a falcon" sitting in a tree further north watching the squirrels. Well, if it's watching squirrels, sounds like a hawk to me.

But there's enough tree cover in Riverside that even when the leaves aren't grown out, it would be tough to spot a hawk sitting in some nebulous area. I was almost to the point where I needed to turn and figured I wouldn't see it, when of course there she was in plain view close to 109th St., quietly doing the hawk thing and watching all the activity in the park.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Riverside Park

A stripey tail, so just a juvenile. But she's a red-tail anyway, so that's two "Riverside reds" today.

Perhaps not too fond of photographers, either. I get a dirty look even though I'm the only person paying attention to her.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Riverside Park

...before she returns to looking around.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in Riverside Park

A last look at her from profile reveals a full crop. So even though she's casing the park, the squirrels are temporarily safe.

April 22, 2007

4/22, Inwood, Too

Despite spending an hour watching the nest yesterday afternoon, it turns out that we missed spotting a pair of red-tailed hawk nestlings at Inwood Hill Park. Via Donna Browne, we learn that a birder and a park ranger visited the location around 1:00 Saturday and observed two nestlings. Bruce returned there today and spotted them also.

A review of my own photos from Saturday still doesn't reveal any sign of the nestlings. A few photos taken at 3:41 do show the Inwood mama looking into her nest, and one can imagine that she is examining her sleeping nestlings. The Inwood nest is further from the closest viewing point than is the Highbridge nest (perhaps 250 feet compared to 175), so it's easy to see how one could miss signs of nestlings unless they were moving about.

Addendum: Bruce has posted his Sunday pix. I may be relatively knew to the hawhwatching game, but it strikes me that the Inwood babies are probably older than those in Highbridge.

April 21, 2007

4/21, Hawk Babies at Highbridge

Because of the storm which hit the area last Sunday, I thought today would be best spent checking whether Manhattan's two uptown red-tailed hawk nests — Inwood Hill Park and Highbridge Park — had survived. The hawks up there are old school; they still build nests in trees. Not only were they still there, but one nest even included one new nestling that I could definitely see and likely a second.

Although I got out and about earlier than I usually do on weekends, the long subway ride and walk meant that I didn't get a first look at the Inwood Hill Park nest until after 3:15. And that was from below. By the time I managed to ascend the path (part of which had been seriously damaged by the storm) to where the best viewing point should be, it was close to 3:30. There I broke out in laughter, because Bruce Yolton had beaten me there by just a few minutes; apparently he had had the same idea about checking nest conditions.

It took 5-10 minutes to locate the nest, as some of the useful little landmarks seemed to be missing. But finally it was found, the characteristic clump of tree-top branches, with the pale splash of feathers on the Inwood mama's back marking the top the mass.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Inwood Hill Park Nest

She also seems to have a palish beak/face, so also became a bit more visible whenever she looked our way.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Inwood Hill Park Nest

So the nest was in good shape and the Inwood mama looked healthy. But apparently egg-hatching time is not nigh, as she spent almost the entirety of the next hour sitting quietly in the nest. The only exception was a moment early during our visit when she made some nest adjustments or, perhaps, rotated her eggs. The rest of the time she spent observing her neighborhood, perhaps glaring at the small group of jays that twice set up a ruckus near-by.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Inwood Hill Park Nest

The weather, of course, was gorgeous, but the exposed location of the nest made me wonder if the Inwood mama was overheating a bit. She'd open her beak now and again, but there were no vocalizatons.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Inwood Hill Park Nest

There was no sign of the Inwood male the entire time we were there. We did wonder if the jay noises might have been provoked by their spotting the male, but if so then he was well hidden from human eyes.

Highbridge Park
Bruce and I decamped from Inwood around 4:30 and headed for Highbridge. As we walked down 190th St. just after 5:10, I had my eye on the antennas atop the Isabella seniors' apartments. Ah-ha, the Highbridge male is keeping an eye on things, watching the southern approaches to his territory from the look of it.

Red-Tailed Hawk on Antenna

Five minutes later we were standing across the street from the back side of George Washington High School looking at the hawk nest. And what is going on? Mama is standing the edge of the nest, occasionally leaning down in...

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

...but it seems mostly just looking around.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

(Looks, and glares, our direction may have been prompted by the muffler-less motorcycles racing up and down the top end of Amsterdam Ave.)

Although the leaning in would suggest a feeding, the more frequent lhe looking around part was making me think it was something else. And all these branches and twigs and new leafs in the way aren't helping me figure it all out. This behavior goes on for over ten minutes, until about 5:30 when the Highbridge mama settles back down into the center of her nest.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

Not long thereafter, Bruce announces that he thinks he can see a nestling. A look at a sequence of pix on his camera's LCD does indeed show something fuzzy like the top of a nestling's head moving about in front of mama's breast. Although my own camera set-up doesn't have as much zoom as Bruce's, a review of my own pix two hours later revealed likewise.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

Yeah, I know. Where's the nestling in the pic, you're asking. If you click through and then click the "All Sizes" icon on Flickr, you'll see a larger version of the pic. The nestling's head is the little bit of fuzz in the twigs to the right of mama's beak.

Another 10-15 minutes later, Bruce announced that he thought he could see a second nestling. Although my own photos aren't so hot in that regard, I'm inclined to agree with him. But check his blog for better pix which provide better evidence. (Ooooh, ahhhh, isn't that 4th picture of his cute.)

So the Highbridge mama spent the next half hour alert and looking around.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

And then just past six hopped back up, and started a feeding. This time I was dead certain there was a nestling as it was plainly visible through my small field glasses.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

And perhaps that's a twig, but I think I can even see an eye or a dark beak.

Red-Tailed Hawk in Highbridge Park Nest

This feeding went on until about 6:15, and then mama settled back down. Bruce soon announced he needed to leave to meet someone, and I left with him.

But wait there's more...

After another subway ride and a stop to get a snack, I walked up to the back side of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 6:55. No activity at the nest, and no one perched on Gabriel's horn up top. A few minutes later I stepped into Morningside Park, and before I had gone 30 feet, Tristan flew up and settled into the top of a close by tree.

Hawk and Moon

After 15, it was apparent he wasn't going to go anywhere until bedtime, so I mosied down to the lower level of the park. Ah, a geart egret, but not the same one as last time. It looks smaller and a greenish... that part of a bird's face behind the beak that's sort of part of the beak. Also very white eyes, not yellowish at all.

Great Egret in Morningside Park

And then at 7:30, the bats come out. At first it's just one, but later a second is visible at the same time.

Bat over in Morningside Park

The weather is nice and light is good, so Tristan seems to be showing no sign of going to roost as early as a few days ago. Just after 7:50 the egret takes off for the night, and finally five minutes later, Tristan decides to find a better spot to sleep. But this time I'm watching, so when he opts to not go north I at least see where he does go. It's turns to be close to the southeast corner of Morningside Park, a spot from where he can even see the nest.