March 31, 2008

3/30, Highbridge Three

Sunday was spent checking on the Highbridge Park red-tailed hawk nest at a time of day when the light would be better than when I visited a week before. Time permitting, I'd try to check a few places to the south for red-tail activity afterwards.

Just as I walked up to the best nest-viewing spot, the Highbridge male, aka George, swooped overhead a couple times before perching in a treetop back up along the upper level of the park. I looked up at him; he looked down at me.

Highbridge Hawk

He disappeared as soon as I turned around to check on the female, aka Martha, in the nest.

The light was definitely better than last time, but she was hunkered down in the nest, with only about two-thirds of her head visible, and that sometimes obscured by a projecting twig. She alternately looked this way, that way, and up.

Highbridge Hawk

And for about 45 minutes that pretty much summed things up. The one time she stood up to rotate her eggs, she took just a couple seconds to do so before plopping back down.

Rotating the Eggs

Meanwhile, except for a brief glimpse of him flying north, George went unseen after the initial mutual stare.

Around 4:45, shadows began to creep across the path, so I headed out. I ended up walking south along Amsterdam, vaguely headed in the direction of the Highbridge tower. As I was passing through Yeshiva University and admiring the architecture on one hall, George showed back up.

Washington Heights Red-Tail

He circled around over Audubon Ave., a block to the west, in the area between 186th and 188th Sts. for about three minutes before disappearing somewhere to the northwest.

Washington Heights Red-Tail

I turned around and headed south again and only made it another five blocks before spotting another red-tail circling about high up and straight overhead.

Washington Heights Juvie Red-Tail

George again? Obviously not. This hawk was missing one or two feathers on its right wing.

Washington Heights Juvie Red-Tail

The new red-tail drifted south, its circles shifting toward the Highbridge tower down about 173rd St. As it got further away, I wondered if it might be the same hawk I had seen two weeks ago over J. Hood Wright Park, five blocks west. If not, perhaps it was the juvie that I'd seen the same day at 161st St. Well, no way to know, but a close look at the pix did reveal that it definitely was a juvie. I lost track of it as I dodged traffic while crossing a street, but the last sighting looked like it might be crossing the Harlem River and heading into the Bronx.

And that was it for hawk sightings on Sunday. None was to be seen at J. Hood Wright or down along Riverside Drive as spotted a couple weeks ago, and none around Trinity Cemetery.

March 29, 2008

3/29, Riverside

Saturday I decided to visit the new Riverside Park nest in the late afternoon, and then if time permitted to scout northward and then check on the cathedral. Finding the nest between 80th and 81st Sts. proved no problem. Just look in the same direction as the policeman on the sidewalk along Riverside Drive who was looking into the park with binoculars. Sure enough.

The pic that I took then from a distance turned out to show the Riverside male standing in the nest as he made a food delivery. As I approached closer, he flew out and perched briefly in a tree 50 or 60 feet away.

Riverside Red-Tail

Then he flew off north through the treetops. With him gone and the mother hunkered down in the nest on her eggs, several incipient hawkwatchers wandered off. I chatted with a couple other hawkwatchers for a bit, meanwhile wondering about that cardinal chirping overhead who kept changing its call. Oh, that's the mockingbird! Then I wandered down by the boat basin. On my return, all was quiet. Hmmm, time to head north. And verily, as I turned around, a red-tail popped out of the tree behind me and took off toward the corner of Riverside and 84th. Drat.

That was about as exciting as the day got. No sign of juvie red-tail(s) near Riverside and 110th, although the pigeons at that intersection kept circling about, and no peregrine falcons visible at the Riverside Church. Well, there was this really big eagle across the street:

Stone Eagle

Checking on the cathedral red-tail nest at 6:30, there was no sign of hawks anywhere.

The day ended in the cathedral close. As mystifying as the behavior of red-tail hawks can be sometimes, it doesn't approach the strangeness of the cathedral peacocks as sunset approached. Two of them seemed to be running laps, one in a path amongst the bushes and the other on the walkways. It was almost as if there was something in the area that disturbed them but they couldn't decide whether to rush at it or run away. I guess that's what they mean by pea-brained behavior.

March 28, 2008

3/25-3/26 & 3/28, Disruption

We've had our concerns about the scaffolding erected around the clerestory at the Catehdral of St. John the Divine, and James reported on Monday that the concerns seem well-founded. Isolde and her new mate were apparently very disturbed by the noise and activity near their nest and would not enter when the workmen were close by.

Since then I've been over to Morningside Drive three times, but after regular work hours were over. So I haven't witnessed the disruption myself. In fact, I haven't seen a lot of red-tail activity at all.

Tuesday as I was walking over at about 6:00, I got a glimpse of a hawk flying toward the nest, and a few minutes later when I reached Morningside, I saw the hawk (presumably the same one) leave the nest area and head south. The only other hawk sighting that day came about 30-40 minutes later when a red-tail flew in from the north, scattered a flock of small birds atop the hospital, and perched on the tall hospital chimney. It disappeared a few minutes later as I was walking closer but had my view obstructed by another building.

Wednesday I didn't see a hawk at all, except maybe one glimpse of something large flying south along Douglass Boulevard, just above rooftop level. More positively, I definitely did see a great egret exiting the Morningside Park pond and head southwest just as I was approaching the area.

Friday there was a hawk perched on the Wadleigh School tower at 5:40 but it quickly disappeared. After an hour of looking around I had about given up for the day when I realized that a hawk had alit on the tall hospital chimney while I had my back turned. Whoever was up there was perched so that it could an eye on things to the north and northwest. It stayed for 10-15 minutes and then took off to the north.

So aside from the sighting Tuesday at 6:00, I haven't seen a red-tail near the cathedral nest. It's entirely possible that Isolde is up there, hunkered down on a clutch of eggs. But if so, you'd think I might have caught a glimpse of the male flying in with dinner or to make a switch-off. (Wednesday, by the way, was March 26. That was the date last year that Isolde started staying over in the nest and began laying the three eggs.) And of course there's the issue of whether she'd stay in there atop eggs while workmen tromped around near-by.

Instead I am left to wonder if the hawks have made a very belated decision to build a new nest elsewhere.

After reading Jim's Monday report, I made another attempt to contact the cathedral executive in charge of construction projects. This time I finally got an answer, although it didn't come through until Thursday. The message was short, basically acknowledging that the cathedral authorities are well aware of the hawk nest and that they would "carefully monitor this as the re-roofing of the Apse proceeds." There's been no further response to my follow-up e-mail. I hope that if NYC Audubon looks into this that they find it easier to establish a dialog.

March 24, 2008

3/21-3/23, Here and There

Over the past three days, I checked on five red-tailed hawk nests in Manhattan. Somehow I managed to only see four actual hawks while doing so, all females and three brooding their eggs.


Friday was just the usual check-in at the red-tail nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Isolde finally flew in around 6:30 and stayed in the nest for about five minutes, then flew over to the hospital roof and perched past sunset, outlasting those of us watching. James was also there to check on the hawks and reported seeing Isolde's new mate hunting starlings over on 114th St.

Saturday I began by checking on the new red-tail nest on Shepard Hall at CCNY. Wow, is that nest high up. And unfortunately the height means it's a hard nest to monitor, as a mother hawk might be brooding eggs up there and you'd never be able to tell unless you caught her and her mate doing a switch-off. In any event, I saw no hawks in the 15 minutes that I was there. There were, however, several crows on the campus quad on the other side of Shepard Hall.

Next up was a walk on the nature trail at Van Cortlandt Park. No plans and no hopes to see hawks here, as I have no idea where the VC nest is at. One part of the trail was noisy with red-wing blackbirds calling faker-abe, but this nuthatch was the most cooperative bird when it came to photography.

Van Cortlandt Nuthatch

Back to Manhattan to check in at Inwood and see the new nest and also the hawk momma reportedly sitting on eggs since last weekend. The nest proved easy to find, although not so easy to view. Although it is very close to a trail, it is also high up and the closest half-decent vantage point seems to be from another trail about 300 feet away. Of course, even as I was viewing the hawk, she was viewing me.

Inwood Red-Tail Nest

Next was a look at a possible new nest site for the Highbridge Hawks. The new site had been found a day before but I hadn't gotten directions yet. The place I did check wasn't it. Drat.

Saturday ended up with a sunset check on the cathedral nest. No hawks around that I could see.

Sunday's first nest was the new site on PS 188 on East Houston St. It was my first time down there and the nest was dead easy to find, even before I met the other three hawk watchers already there. However, the Houston momma was tucked back on her nest where all one could sometimes see was tail feathers poking up. I did get a glance at the rest of her once as she changed position and perhaps rotated her egg(s), but that was it.

The Houston hawk watchers, one photographer and a couple of neighborhood folk, have been keeping a close eye on the nest and could recite all the activity for the past couple days. They were mildly concerned that they hadn't seen the male at all on Sunday.

Sunday ended with a return to Highbridge, this time with detailed instructions on where to find the nest. Indeed, it was easy to find.

Highbridge Hawk Nest

And in fact, it proved so easy to view that it was evident that it will be one of the best nests to monitor in May, a week or two after the eggs hatch and the nestlings are big enough to look out of the nest. But as the pic shows, it gets shady early at Highbridge, and optimal viewing means getting there at least a couple hours before sunset.

March 20, 2008

3/20, Feeling Broody? And, What's His Name?

Isolde in Her Nest

Isolde spent at least 45 minutes in her nest when I checked on the cathedral hawks today. Perhaps she's beginning to adjust her behavior to staying in the nest for long stretches. But at 6:20 she took off flying east into Harlem, so she hasn't laid her eggs yet. Last year her first night over in the nest was March 26, and adjusting for the leap day, that's only five days away.

Meanwhile there was no sign of the new male.

And speaking of him... the question has arisen as to what to call him. There's a school of thought that we shouldn't anthropomorphize the hawks by giving them names, but an opposite rejoinder is that calling the new male the "cathedral male" all the time doesn't differentiate him from the previous male (i.e., Tristan) at all. I tend to lean toward the latter argument, plus it's quicker to type a short name. Finally, it's getting a little old calling him "new guy" or "new male".

Names I have seen suggested have included some reasonably obvious ones like Andrew and Luke. And riffing on the idea of "the king is dead, long live the king" that James used for a couple posts on his blog, the names Arthur and Elvis have also been mentioned.

Any names strikes your fancy? Please post your thoughts in the comments.

March 18, 2008

3/17-3/18, Still Waiting

Word is that three Manhattan red-tailed hawk nests now have mothers brooding eggs. The Morningside nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is not one of them*. As I indicated previously, last year the Morningside nest ran a week later than those elsewhere in Manhattan -- the eyasses were born 6-7 days later after those at Highbridge and Inwood -- so even were things "normal", I wouldn't be expecting Isolde to start brooding for a few more days. Things are, of course, not normal because of the late change in who Isolde's mate is.

Isolde in Her Nest
Isolde Visits the Nest, Monday

In any event, checking on Isolde and her new guy on Monday and Tuesday in the late afternoon/early evening, I witnessed a couple nest visits and one episode of mating. There's been a lot of perching on hospital chimneys, but apparently no pre-brooding sleepovers in the nest.

Hawks Mating atop the Hospital
Mating on a Hospital Chimney, Monday

As James has noted in his blog, the new male has a different personality from the missing Tristan. It also has seemed to me that his influence is effecting some changes on behavior and range from what we've been used to. The last few times I've been over to Morningside, there's been a lot more activity to the north of the nest than I've ever seen before. This is not particularly unprecedented as neighborhood residents have reported such behavior before, but their reports always seemed to be about morning behavior while what I've been seeing has been at the end of the day.

Dressing Dinner
Preparing Dinner at 116th Street, Tuesday

Another possibility is that with all the red-tails in town these days, Isolde and mate have felt like they needed to put up more of a display on their northern flanks in order to maintain their range. There was the juvie hanging around the area a few weeks ago, perhaps the same juvie as seen on the Columbia campus not long ago. Further, there is a new red-tail nest located about 26 blocks to the north on the CCNY campus, so perhaps it has been necessary for the Morningside red-tails to let the new neighbors know that good fences make good neighbors.

Morningside Drive View
The Morningside Drive View, Tuesday

PS: Hedda was out and about both days also.

Hedda Foraging
Hedda Gobbler, Tuesday

* Also no brooding yet at the Seventh Ave. nest nor as of a couple days ago the new one on Houston. Not sure about CCNY, and the Highbridge hawks have upped sticks and their new nest site is unknown.

March 17, 2008

3/16, Washington Heights

Juvenile Red-tail Over Riverside Drive

Sunday afternoon I decided to check on a known red-tailed hawk nest site and on a possible nest site in the Washington Heights area.

James reported a week ago that the Highbridge Park hawk nest, close to George Washington High School, appeared abandoned. Reluctantly, I have to agree. The nest is, if anything, half the size that it was a year ago. If they are still around, then George and Martha, as they have been called (although I preferred George and Isabella), would seem to have decided to re-build somewhere else in the neighborhood.

I did spot one red-tail in the GW High neighborhood. A few blocks northwest of the old nest site, a hawk circled for some time over the area around the Dyckman St. subway station before disappearing in the general direction of the Cloisters.

After fruitlessly checking the south end of Fort Tryon Park, my second red-tail sighting of the day came to the south at J. Hood Wright Park, at Fort Washington Ave. and 175th St. There a hawk circled over the end of the park a few times before disappearing to the east.

Finally, I headed further south to check on the possibility of a red-tail nest in Riverside Park north of Riverbank State Park. A red-tail was indeed in the area, and it was a sneaky hawk. I had passed through Lily Brown Playground at 162nd St. and was heading south along RIverside Drive. But it was getting late and as I debated whether to head for the nearest subway stop, I turned around and...

Juvenile Red-tail Over Riverside Drive

...there was a red-tail hovering a half block behind me.

It held up there for 20-30 seconds, and then dived down across the highway and seemingly into the park alongside the river. But it popped back up fairly quickly, hovered out over the shoreline for a moment, and then headed back my way.

Juvenile Red-tail Over Riverside Drive

That pic clued me in that it had light-colored eyes... ergo, probably a juvie.

Juvenile Red-tail Over Riverside Drive

And indeed, a close look at the tail feathers reveals transverse barring.

Juvenile Red-tail Over Riverside Drive

After all this adept hovering in a stiff but fitful breeze, the juvie briefly perched on an apartment building at the corner of 161st St.

Juvenile Red-tail on Riverside Drive

Then it took back to the air and drifted north. When last seen it was up around 164th St. and heading into the Columbia Presbyterian complex.

So... no active nests found today. Looks like I'll have to check back again, and soon, before the trees staring leafing out.

March 13, 2008

3/13, A Twilight Quickie

First Morningside hawk sighting today was the Cooper's hawk zipping past the cathedral apse at about 5:30 and ducking into the close on the south side. No luck figuring out where it went, but 20 minutes later, a blue jay was complaining just inside Morningside Park across the street. While I was angling around to see what had the jay's attention, a red-tail appeared from the south and started circling about overhead.

Red-Tail over Morningside

It disappeared behind the trees to the east and I thought it might be heading over toward Wadleigh School, but it reappeared after a minute or two to the north. A close look at pix reveals that it was the new male.

Red-Tail over Morningside

As he circled he drifted west until he disappeared somewhere in the general area of Amsterdam and 116th St. A moment later I looked up at the cathedral roof to espy a hawk perched on Gabriel's horn. And there's Isolde.

She quickly took off north and a few minutes later I found her perched atop the East Campus building, a tall Columbia U. dormitory on Morningside Drive between 116th and 117th.

Red-Tail on Morningside Drive

She stayed there for ten minutes and then flew back south, where she alit on the tall chimney in the NW section of St. Luke's hospital.

Red-Tail atop St. Luke's

And there she stayed for quite awhile. I was about ready to leave when James walked up around 6:40, and related some of his sightings since two days ago.

As 7:00 approached, Isolde took to the air, circled about over and to the south of the cathedral. I briefly lost track of her, but then a hawk flew into the nest, followed a moment later by another carrying food. The pair stayed in there for a couple minutes before, in sequence, both took off and disappeared around the north side of the hospital.

A few minutes later isolde re-appeared and landed on the hospital roof. A moment later the new male also arrived and they copulated in the twilight.

Red-Tails Mating

The male then flew over to the nest. Isolde then flew down into the park, apparently going to roost in the south end. A minute later the male popped back out of the nest and poof was gone.

March 11, 2008

3/10-3/11, Waiting

Sunset time is now an hour later and it's even easier to go check on the cathedral red-tailed hawks. However, despite the change in resident male hawk, their behavior seems much like last year, when they hung out for much of March, and Isolde didn't begin brooding until the end of the month.

Monday both hawks were briefly seen together at 6:00 atop Wadleigh School on 114th St., then the new male took off and Isolde followed 10 minutes later.

Back in Morningside Park, the great blue heron put in another appearance, but was shy and stayed behind the island much of the time. It seemed to have a disapproving look on its face, as if it was thinking, "This pond would be nicer if someone would remove all the trash." Or maybe it just didn't like the six geese.

Great Blue Heron in Morningside Park

Both red-tails were later found perching along Morningside Drive. A Columbia security guard said that one had been busy devouring dinner just before I arrived on the scene. That was the new male, and he soon took off, disappearing around 115th St. east of the park. Isolde remained behind, perched atop the Cathedral School until after I left, close to 7:00.

On Tuesday a red-tail dove out of the nest just as I reached Morningside Drive around 5:30 and it wasn't until around 6:10 that I made another sighting, of Isolde perched on a hospital chimney, on the tall part of the building rather than her usual chimney.

In the meantime I watched Hedda the turkey take a leisurely stroll down the Morningside Ave. sidewalk...

Out for a Walk

... and also got a glimpse of the Cooper's hawk south of the pond, where a blue jay was loudly complaining about its presence. However, no sign of the great blue heron.

Isolde remained perched on the hospital chimney until at least 7:00. Around 6:40 while I was checking to see if the Cooper's had gone to roost in its usual spot (it goes to roost 30 minutes before the red-tails do, and yes it was there), James witnessed the new male red-tail buzz over the park to the hospital roof and mate with Isolde. I returned just in time to see the male exit the scene.

March 10, 2008

3/9, Riverside Juvie

Following up on a rumor of another red-tailed hawk nest in Riverside Park, I opted to check the area around 108th St. on my way to Sunday dinner. There was no sign of a pair of hawks, but it did turn out there that there was a juvie busy hunting the area.

I first spotted her perched in a tree in the park at 110th St., head bobbing and twisting around as she considered the area prey. A few minutes later she took off and went after some pigeons along Riverside Drive. No luck, and after buzzing the little playground along the street she perched almost overhead.

Juvie Red-Tail in Riverside Park
Juvie Red-Tail in Riverside Park Juvie Red-Tail in Riverside Park

Then back to the air for some circling around, a dive or two through the pigeons, etc.

Juvie Red-Tail over Riverside Drive

Then some in-place soaring in the stiff breeze. She hung over Riverside Drive, perhaps 50 feet off the ground...

Juvie Red-Tail over Riverside Drive

...again looking this and way and that for prey.

Juvie Red-Tail over Riverside Drive
Juvie Red-Tail over Riverside Drive

Then disappeared south around 106th St. Several minutes later after I'd look around for a bit and had decided to call it a day, she fluttered into a tree at 111th St, just fifteen away from me.

Juvie Red-Tail in Riverside Park
Juvie Red-Tail in Riverside Park

She didn't stay long, and was last seen diving into the park around 110th.

March 6, 2008

3/6, Hawk and Heron

Last Sunday's hawkwatching led to a head cold, so I skipped visiting Morningside for a few days. Today's walk over there was quickly met by the sight of a red-tailed hawk exiting the nest area and flying north. It apparently circled around a couple times to gain some altitude and then flew back to perch atop the hospital.

Hawk on Hospital

That was at 4:50, and the hawk -- looks like Isolde -- was still in that spot when I left 40 minutes later.

In the meantime, I wandered down into Morningside Park to check whether the Cooper's hawk or another red-tail as about. Despite interesting robin chirps near the water fountain, the answer seems to have been no. But while checking out the mallards at the pond, I belatedly realized there was a great blue heron also there.

Heron in Morningside Park

It was enjoying great success, catching five goldfish during the ten minutes that I watched.

Heron in Morningside Park

Otherwise, the goose count was up to four. A couple seemed to be checking out the island like it might be a good place to lay eggs.

March 2, 2008

3/2, Whole Lotta Perching Going On

Red-Tail on Elevator Pulley

The red-tailed hawks on Morningside engaged in domestic activities on Saturday, including visits to the nest and an episode of mating. See Bruce and Jim's reports for more. Sunday while I saw two red-tails at or near the cathedral, they were never very close to each other. Mostly they were just sitting around, watching the world go by and perhaps digesting mid-afternoon meals.

3:36 - First hawk sighting of day. From west end of Central Park's Pool, near CPW and 103rd St., I can see a red-tail in the air over toward the Loch.

3:37 - Another glimpse of the red-tail further south, over edge of North Meadow. Maybe it's the juvie that James saw late yesterday.

3:44 - Now in Wildflower Meadow area. No more signs of hawk. Instead, it's all cardinal girls, and almost nothing but. Easily a half dozen female cardinals in the area chirping for masculine attention, but just one male that I can see.

Cardinal Girl

4:00 - In North Woods near Blockhouse #1, squirrel whining noises suggests a hawk in the area. However, it could also have been distant seagull mewing. Also, some of the North Woods' more unsavory element seem to be out and about today, despite the one unmarked police car parked on the loop road.

4:10 - Enter Morningside Park at SE entrance.

4:13 - Walking up east side of Morningside ball fields, realize there is hawk circling low over roofs near Manhattan Ave. and 113th St. Possibly a set-to with some pigeons, or maybe a gull. After several circles, hawk disappears east, possibly toward Wadleigh School.

4:15 - Two bursts of pigeons around rooftops at Manhattan Ave. and 114th, but no sign of hawk. Take picture of non-pigeon looking bird landing on TV antenna.

Kestrel and Prey

Yep, it's a kestrel, and pix also reveal he's got a mouse for dinner.

And now that I've reached 114th St., indeed there's a red-tail atop Wadleigh School.

Red-Tail atop Wadleigh

Not really sure who that is, but the belly band doesn't seem heavy enough for the new male. So probably Isolde.

4:27 - Hawk exits school spire.

4:28 - Hedda the wild turkey is foraging in Morningside near the water fountain.

Hedda Gobbler

There are also several ducks out on the lawn checking out some bread, plus a feral cat. Cat seems interested in ducks and not turkey.

4:38 - There is again a hawk atop Wadleigh School. Good place to get some sun at this time of day.

4:41 - And another red-tail is now atop apartments at 301 West 110th St.

4:49 - Hawk at 301 dives and flies my way.

Red-Tail over Morningside Park

Passes by cathedral and disappears over hospital roof.

5:06 - This is getting boring. Hawk on Wadleigh hasn;t budged. No sign of the other -- there has got to be a perch atop the hospital where they hide.

5:11 - Hawk on Wadleigh is gone...

5:12 - but I realize that the TV antenna atop 300 West 110 looks bigger than usual. Within seconds, the red-tail exits and flies south.

Red-Tail Exit

5:13 - Hawk appears over hospital roof and pops into nest.

Isolde in Her Nest

Based on the shoulders and deep dark eyes, that looks like Isolde.

5:14 - Just under a minute and already she exits the nest, disappearing into close on south side of cathedral.

5:20 - No hawks in sight. Let's check the close.

5:27 - A peacock is showing off. Well, not really. It's eating leaves off a bush.

Cathedral Peacock

5:30 - Some nice light on the clerestory statues, e.g., Saint James the Less and Saint Philip.

Cathedral Statuary at Sunset

5:31 - And a red-tail on the other side of the close, perched where I had long expected to see one but hadn't until now... the top of the AvalonBay apartments. Specifically the construction elevator.

Red-Tail on Elevator Pulley

Admittedly I'm a distance down, but looking at pix suggests to me that it has light eyes, and is presumably the new male in town. Belly band also looks a bit heavy.

5:38 - Head back around to other side of cathedral.

5:43 - Drat. Hawk has disappeared from elevator pulley.

5:47 - Oh, but now there's one on the finial above the nest.

Roosting time about to start. Let's check on Coopie and then head up to red-tail roosting spot in mid-park.

5:48 - Something big just flew up into a tree along Morningside Ave., really big.

Turkey Roost

Indeed, it's the turkey going to roost.

5:49 - And yes the Cooper's hawk is in its usual spot.

6:00 - No red-tail going to roost where I expected, but a gorgeous sunset.

ESB at Sunset