2/29, Hiding on the Hospital Roof?

Red-Tail on Gabriel's Horn

Twenty minutes of hawk activity today, all of which got me wondering what was going on up on the roof of St. Luke's.

4:53 - From the corner of Amsterdam and 112th, a red-tail is visible circling over the east end of St. Luke's hospital.

4:56 - Nothing interesting visible from the corner of Morningside Drive and 113th.

5:00 - A red-tail dives off a hiding place on the hospital and makes a bombing pass through the Morningside Park dog run, then angles north through the lower part of the park. What do you want to bet that the Cooper's hawk is perched by the dog run?

5:04 - Sure enough. The coopie is perched in the exact same spot where I've seen it at about this time on Wednesday and Thursday.

Coopie Hiding in the Treetops

You can see why it's such a good spot to hide from the red-tails.

5:07 - From the lower part of the park at 114th St., a hawk is now visible perched atop the cathedral. (See first pic above.) Isolde?

5:08 - Meanwhile, there's a few mallards napping in the icy pond.

Sleepy Mallard

Only a half dozen today, but I've seen as many as two dozen mallards at a time here within the past few weeks. There seem to be more around this year, perhaps because there's been only one Canada goose in the park. (That goose can't leave because it has a deformed wing and so it can't fly a lick.)

5:09 - Hawk on Gabriel's horn dives off and flies across 113th St. toward hospital. I start up the long stairs.

5:10 - A hawk flies from hospital area over to nest, or very near nest. 10-15 seconds later another follows.

5:12 - Hawks exit nest and fly way up Morningside Drive. One goes high and far while the other seems to veer left at 116th St.

5:14 - One maybe two hawks visible high over Morningside Drive at 116th St. One circles about several times in the gusty wind.

Red-Tail over 116th St.

5:15 - Then soars down toward hospital roof. A few seconds a small flock of small birds bursts into air.

5:48 - ...


Haven't seen a hawk since 5:15 despite trying all sorts of viewing angles to see if I can spot anything on hospital roof. Exit.

Posted 2/29/2008 07:20:00 PM by Robert

2/28, Chilling on the AC

Red-Tail at St. Luke's

Brick cold today, with temps in the mid-20s when I headed over to Morningside Drive just before 5:00 to see what the hawks might be up to.

FIrst hawk sighting was of the Cooper's at 5:12, perched in the same spot by the park's dog run where I last saw it on Wednesday. It had a nice full crop. Its perch was deep in a mess of small branches where it would be difficult to photograph even if wasn't in the pre-sunset shadows.

A few minutes later I discovered an adult red-tail perched on an eighth floor air conditioner on the east side of St. Luke's, probably the same AC where new guy briefly perched last night before going to roost. That would be the last hawk sighting of the day, as it stayed there until I left a half hour later, and no one else was seen in the area, either perched or in the air.

The AC hawk perched the entire time with its back to the street, making it almost impossible to determine which hawk it might be. The eyes looked dark, suggesting it would be Isolde, but that might also have just been the viewing angle.

Late note: Five minutes after I left, Bruce arrived in the area. He didn't notice a hawk in the high hospital window, but after a few minutes saw one exit the hospital area and fly to the north end of Morningside Park, then turn around and head back. He then found Isolde roosting in the usual mid-park location.

Late, late note: Donna observed two hawks perching on the hospital air conditioners before I reached the scene.

Posted 2/28/2008 07:53:00 PM by Robert

2/26-2/27, New Guy in Town

Two Hawks at St. Luke's
The "New Guy" and Isolde at St. Luke's

Monday I saw two adult red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, but wasn't able to decide whether one of them was Tristan and whether all concern could be allayed about the injured hawk report from last week.

Wednesday, two adult red-tails were again seen, but this time both provided a good view so that identification could be made. One was Isolde. The other was not Tristan. It does indeed look like something dire has happened to Tristan, and that a new guy has already arrived to court Isolde.

Supposed to rain today, but it holds off for a while.

1:38 p.m. - Arrive at cathedral area and immediately see a red-tailed hawk perched on Gabriel's horn, ignoring workers putting up scaffolding along eaves perhaps 40 feet away. Sky is overcast and seriously dreary so it's almost impossible to get a sense of color and to decide what hawk this might be. Probably a medium-ish belly band, though, so it can't be Tristan.

1:40 - Hawk exits Gabriel's horn and flies south east, circles over Douglass Circle and Great Hill area several times. No sign of a missing tail feather as it flew overhead, so it evidently wasn't the juvie who's been hanging around. Isolde?

1:42 - Red-tail seen flying eastward over Morningside Park and into Harlem at about 114th St. Probably a different hawk.

1:45 - A hawk back on top of Gabriel's horn. Although perched facing south, it is looking over its shoulder at the workers on the scaffolding.

Red-Tail on Gabriel's Horn

1:47 - Hawk flies off. I leave, too. Rain starts.

Headed over to Cathedral area at about 4:30 p.m.

4:40 - First hawk sighting of day... something large just landed on the roof of the Verizon building at Manhattan Avenue and 108th.

Red-Tail in Manhattan Valley

4:42 - Red-tail exits Verizon building and flies west across Columbus Ave. and keeps going, disappearing behind an apartment building. Maybe it's taking the long way around and will fly up Amsterdam Ave. to the cathedral?

Red-Tail over Manhattan Valley

4:50 - From down in Morningside Park, no one visible atop the cathedral or hospital.

4:59 - Second hawk sighting of day. After reading the species sign nailed to an osage orange tree north of the Morningside Park dog run, I look up thinking "oranges?" and see the visiting Cooper's hawk is perched 20-30 feet up.

Cooper's Hawk in Morningside Park

5:03 - Coopie exits osage tree and flies south to tree overhanging dog run.

5:07 - A red-tail flies out of the cathedral/hospital area, passes over the dog run and continues out over Harlem. It circles several times in the area around Douglass Blvd. and 116th St. before I lose track of it.

5:10 - Red-tail spotted perched atop Wadleigh School on 114th St. Within seconds it leaps off and flies south toward Great Hill in Central Park.

5:12 - Cooper's is still perched by dog run.

5:14 - Having exited dog run area, I spot two red-tails perched atop the Towers on the Park building at 301 West 110th St. One is on the support rod for a chimney, where I've never seen one perch before.

Red-Tails on 110th St.

5:16 - While I'm trying for a spot with a better view, I see one red-tail leave 301 and fly south. Other red-tail is no longer up there either.

5:25 - I'm across street from cathedral, killing time until I figure the red-tails would go to roost, when James walks up.

5:27 - While James is reviewing pix on my camera's screen, a hawks flies from cathedral (Where was it? It hadn't been on the roof.) across 113th St. and perches on a sixth floor window railing on the Morningside Drive side of St. Luke's Hospital.

Isolde at St. Luke's

5:28 - Hawk at the hospital railing looks like Isolde. Pix reveal blood on her beak and talons, so she's recently eaten.

5:30 - Yowzah. A hawk just came flying straight across Morningside Park and alit next to Isolde. But he's got his back to us so we can't see if it's Tristan, only that he has a bright red tail.

Two Hawks at St. Luke's

5:31 - He's turned a little, and it looks like he and Isolde are checking each other out.

Two Hawks at St. Luke's

5:32 - Second hawk now in profile.

5:33 - Second hawk completes turning around so that his front is to the street. Both James and I immediately say, "New guy."

This hawk has a medium-heavy belly band and cannot be Tristan. Tristan's belly band was lighter than Pale Male's.

Two Hawks at St. Luke's

Furthermore, after later reviewing pix on my computer screen, I decide that he's also got relatively light eyes (see first pic above). He may have an adult's red-tail, but this hawk is fairly young, maybe even just two years old.

5:34 - New guy flies over to a rusty air conditioner in hospital window 60-70 feet north. Leans over like maybe there's food stashed.

5:35 - New guy changes spot again and flies over to decorative urn on southeast corner of hospital roof, "Tristan's urn".

5:40 - New guy flies to an air conditioner near the one he was on a few minutes ago. Isolde hasn't budged from her perch on the window railing.

Hawk at St. Luke's

5:44 - Official sunset time at LGA.

5:48 - New guy takes off, flies north up Morningside Drive.

5:52 - I can't find anyone perched in usual roosting tree, so maybe new guy has his own preferred roosting spot. (Then again, if he's that new, he hasn't had time to establish a preference.) James says it looked like the hawk flew eastward into Harlem.

5:58 - Back at corner of Morningside Drive and 113th St. Isolde's still perched in window. We chat with a dogwalker who described some hawk activity (a juvie chase-off?) a week or two ago

6:06 - Time to leave. Isolde's still perched in the same hospital window. Maybe she's going to roost there rather than a tree?

So there it is. Tristan seems to be gone and a replacement has already arrived. As James noted, the city is crawling with red-tails these days, so even though isolde would find a new mate sooner or later, we shouldn't be surprised that it happened so darn quickly.

Posted 2/27/2008 09:22:00 PM by Robert

2/23-2/25, Weekend of Worry

Red-Tail atop St. Luke's
Lonely Isolde atop St. Luke's on Sunday

The last few days have been stressful for those of us who follow the red-tailed hawks who nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, but (knock wood) we may have reason to hope. One of our feathered friends has been missing but may have returned.

Saturday, Feb. 23
I was out of town much of last week and never got over to the cathedral or Morningside Park. On Saturday, I found a message from Bruce in my mailbox detailing an e-mail exchange on Thursday and Friday about an injured red-tail, unable to fly up into the trees, seen at the south end of Morningside Park on Thursday about sunset. But the dogwalker who saw the hawk could not re-locate it a bit later when he returned sans dog. Then we got six inches of snow that night and a park ranger who visited the park on Friday saw nothing.

I reached Morningside Park around 4:30 on Saturday and was quickly met by James O. who had already been there an hour or so. He had seen Isolde flying about the park, and also the juvie red-tail with a missing tail feather. But no sign of Tristan.

Gulp... oh, no.

After wandering around for an hour and seeing no sign of any hawks, I headed up Morningside Drive in the direction of the favored roosting spot. But on reaching 115th saw the Cooper's hawk fly into a tree a bit north of the dog run.

Cooper's Hawk in Morningside Park

And then a minute later the juvie red-tail popped off a branch not far away and flew into a tree top almost over my head. But before I could even get a decent look at and a picture of him, I realized there was another hawk across the street atop 44 Morningside.

Red-Tail on Morningside

That was Isolde and she was not happy with the juvie. First she chased him out of the tree above me, then out of a tree at the corner of 116th St., and finally all the way past the cluster of treetops up at 118th St. Just when I reached 118th St. myself, Isolde came flying back, but much higher than the tree tops. She blew past the trees where she and Tristan like to roost and kept going south. At about 5:50 I was back by the cathedral and just about to call it a night, when Isolde popped out of some nook of the scaffolding and dove into the park. A few minutes later I found her preparing to roost near the south end of the park, in a noisy spot.

Sunday, Feb. 24
This time reached the park about 4:00 and soon bumped into Bruce. But we quickly split up so we could cover more territory and didn't see each other again. I believe he saw Isolde briefly, but I didn't find her myself until 45 minutes later when I realized she was perched on the roof of St. Luke's hospital.

Red-Tail atop St. Luke's

She was up there until around 5:15, then disappeared while I was looking around the bottom of the park again. Twenty minutes later I decided to check the roosting tree in the middle of the park and just as I reached the overlook, she flew into the tree.

But damn, two days now and no sign of Tristan. This is really beginning to look bad, very bad.

Checked the cathedral twice today. First in the early afternoon, I found that there was a hawk perched on one of the cathedral finials, directly above even more scaffolding being erected. (More about that below.)

Red-Tail on Cathedral Finial

I suspect that this was Isolde, but am not sure. The belly band is heavy enough to be that of the juvie whos' been around, and only one distant shot suggests that the hawk had an adult red-tail.

The hawk disappeared from the finial within 10 minutes, but another 15 minutes later, there was a hawk perched atop the cathedral on Gabriel's horn and looking to the south. Barely had I got into position where I could decide that this was likely Isolde than she leapt off the horn...

Isolde Takes Flight

... and flew south. Ah-hah, another hawk circling around down about 109th St. And even though I'm three blocks away, the camera captures that the second hawk is missing a tail feather.

Red-Tail over Columbus Ave.

So Isolde is once again chasing the juvie off. Within a minute they are both out of sight, one apparently to the east and Central Park and the other to the southwest.

Second Monday visit close to 5:00 began with a sighting of a hawk on the hospital chimney, one of Isolde's favorite spots. And indeed it does seem to be her up there.

Red-Tail atop St. Luke's

Ten minutes later I realized she wasn't up there, but then another 5-10 minutes later, she was back.

Lost track of her again around 5:30, but then at close to 5:40 realized there was hawk perched on a cathedral finial. Moving into better position to take a picture... oh, hey. Two hawks!

There was one hawk on the finial above the statue of Saint Matthew (one statue counter-clockwise of the nest)...

Red-Tail on Finial

and another about 30 feet to the right near the top of the scaffolding.

Two Hawks atop Cathedral

Sunset is officially at 5:42 but despite bad light and grainy photos, I later decided that there are two adult red-tails up there. It very much seems that the one on the scaffolding is Isolde, but the one on the finial is perched looking south, so I couldn't get a look at his front side.

So is it Tristan up there? If so where has he been for the past four days? Was he the injured hawk, and if not, then who was it? Well, despite the sucko weather forecast for the next two days, I'll have to check back.

After sitting quietly for about 10 minutes, the hawks briefly shuffled positions, with the mystery hawk moving over to scaffolding a couple statues to the left, and Isolde moving up to the scaffolding near the nest and then the nearby rooftop.

Red-Tail and Finial

Then it was roosting time. Mystery hawk dove straight down into the park and perhaps went to roost at the south end. A couple minutes later Isolde took off to the north and was last seen over Morningside Drive near 115th St.

The Scaffolding
My previous two posts I didn't mention the scaffolding. I'd been hoping to learn more before saying anything.

In any event, there is now scaffolding surrounding the entire clerestory, i.e., all of the stained-glass windows at the east end of the cathedral. The first section went up just over two weeks ago, immediately to the right of the hawk nest, and for a time that seemed like it was it. Apparently it was just a matter of waiting for good weather, as more scaffolding went up a week later along the south side of the clerestory. Today the scaffolding was almost completed, with just the top 10-15 feet of one section to be added. The hawk nest is, of course, sandwiched between two sections with scaffolding with perhaps 3-5 clearance on each side.

I tried e-mailing the cathedral's general info address two weeks ago to find out about the work that was to be done and how long the scaffolding would be up. They never answered. A cathedral tour guide that I contacted, however, suggested that before organ pipes can be re-installed later this year, the cathedral must plug leaks in the roof.

The scaffolding itself is no threat to the hawks, and indeed if it were sitting there unused, it would turn into a birdie-playground. Of more concern, obviously, will be what the workmen are doing, how noisy they are, and how close they get to the nest. There's potential for injury on all sides.

Posted 2/25/2008 10:13:00 PM by Robert

2/15, Roosting Together

After a half hour of wandering around Morningside Park and seeing no more than one goose and a score of mallards, I finally found Tristan perched just across Morningside Drive from the cathedral.

Hawk at Sunset

I probably should have spotted him earlier, as there had been a single robin chirping in an obvious way near-by for at least five minutes.

But how could one be sure it was Tristan? The light was going and he was perched in an awkward place for photos. I made the early decision on seeing that the hawk had a red (adult) tail and that the feathers on his back were relatively light. Isolde seems to have a darker back.

Tristan in Morningside Park

Looking at pix on the computer later also revealed the light belly band indicative of Tristan rather than Isolde.

Ten minutes later, Tristan flew off to the north, generally in the direction of his usual roosting spot. I trotted up to the 117th St. overlook and spotted a light blob in the expected treetop. But hmmm, two blobs?

Roosting Together

Yep. The first blob I saw was actually Isolde, perched on a lower branch, and then Tristan shuffled out into clearer view on a higher branch.

As grainy and as poorly lit as this picture might be (it was 5:27; sunset was officially at 5:30), the occasion turns out to be the only time where I have viewed both Tristan and Isolde from the side or even above. Their coloring differences are very obvious. Isolde has a heavier belly band and dark shoulders. Also, Isolde seems to have deep, mournful eyes.

Reviewing pix afterward revealed that the couple were doing a lot of looking around, peering this way and that, looking over shoulders, etc. Perhaps they were making sure that pesky Cooper's wasn't around.

Posted 2/15/2008 06:42:00 PM by Robert

2/8, Two Hawks and a Turkey

One hawk immediately in sight when visiting Morningside Park late this afternoon. Someone is perched atop the tower at Wadleigh Secondary School on West 114th.

Red-Tail at Wadleigh Red-Tail at Wadleigh

Brown shoulders, so that's Isolde. She looks happy to sit there in the sun, so back into the park for me so see who else might be around. No one near the south end, so try around and past the dog run where maybe a Cooper's hawk was at last night.

And moments after I'd been thinking I hadn't seen Hedda the turkey in months, there she is by the upper drip.

Hedda Gobbler

Then across the path into the brushy area.

Hedda Gobbler

And after I've been watching Hedda for for seven or eight minutes, the Cooper's comes flying up and lands atop a near-by tree.

Cooper's Hawk in Morningside Park

He's busy looking around, perhaps even sizing up the turkey. "Hmmm, if I could take her down, that would be dinner for a month!"

Cooper's Hawk in Morningside Park

Ten minutes later it's 5:20 and the light in the area is going. Time to leave. The Cooper's is still on the same branch, but Hedda has apparently wandered down the stairs to the lower level of the park. A few minutes later, from the corner of 113th St., I see that Isolde is still perched atop Wadleigh. No sign of Tristan or the juvie red-tail today.

Posted 2/08/2008 06:50:00 PM by Robert

2/7, Trespass

Sorry for the lack of posts. I haven't been able to get out on weekends to look for hawks, so the only one I'd seen in the past few weeks was a red-tail I spotted along Broadway between 102nd and 105th the middle of last week. But with the sun setting later I can now get over to Morningside Park to look around at the end of the afternoon.

No luck yesterday, but today while walking by the Morningside Park ballfields at 5:00 I looked up to see a red-tail quietly perched just ahead.

Morningside Red-Tail

Belatedly I realized there was another almost directly overhead.

Morningside Red-Tail

There seemed to be a size difference, so I initially thought the first one...

Morningside Red-Tail

...was Tristan and the second Isolde.

Six or seven minutes later the first one flew off to the north, and while I was tracking its progress the other quietly disappeared another direction. I found the first one again just where I expected, perched in one of Tristan's favorite roosting trees over the playground. But wait, its shoulders are dark, this is Isolde.

Morningside Red-Tail

She changed trees a couple times. After 5:20 it was getting dark in the area and I figured Isolde would stay where she was and roost for the night. Time for me to leave.

But wait! The fun was about to begin. Just when I got back to the corner of Morningside Drive and 113th, I realized there was a hawk flying over the upper lawn of the park. It headed south and then hooked over the street and landed on the cross atop St. Savior chapel.

Red-Tail atop Saint Savior Chapel

And again belatedly I realized there was another hawk in the area. About 40-50 feet away on a branch directly over the center line down Morningside Drive was this girl looking toward Isolde (?) on the cross.

Juvie Red-Tail over Morningside Drive

Barely had I taken that picture then the hawk on the cross jumped off, flew up toward the nest and... a third hawk popped out and the two of them flew around the cathedral apse and into the close. Whoa, three hawks. So assuming two of them are Tristan and Isolde, then there's one interloper. And indeed, the hawk still perched over Morningside Drive is not one of the cathedral couple. It has a very dark belly band, and despite the poor light it's apparent it has barring on the tail and light eyes: a juvie.

But were the two who disappeared around the corner really Tristan and Isolde?

Again I prepared to leave, but this time I spotted an adult red-tail alighting in a treetop north of 113th near the dog run and another one disappearing into the trees nearby. A minute later what seems to be the second one flew back up at the one perched, and they both took off south over the upper lawn in what looked like a chase-off. The red-tail kept going south and the second one turned back and disappeared near the dog run. Hey, that second hawk looked kind of small and skinny. Was that the Cooper's who has been hanging around Morningside Park lately?

At 5:35, the juvie red-tail was still perched over Morningside Drive but the light was almost completely shot. I left, my head buzzing with questions about what had just transpired and how many hawks were involved. Three? Four?

P.S.: Red-Tail over Morningside Park I wonder if the juvie with the heavy belly band was this juvie seen over the north end of Morningside Park during James's bird walk in late November.

Posted 2/07/2008 06:43:00 PM by Robert