4/26, Hatches at Highbridge, Inwood and Riverside

This past week was the hatch window for at least four Manhattan red-tailed hawk nests, and on Saturday I visited three of them and saw evidence of nestlings at all of them, including one clear view of and one glimpse of a fuzzy baby hawk head.

Highbridge:
Bruce reported on Thursday that he found both George and Martha perched on the edge of the nest and looking inward like they had a new nestling to raise. I arrived at Highbridge Park just before 4:00 on Saturday and found Martha sitting high in the nest. I also found that they'd been doing some re-decorating as there was a leafy stick messing up the view a bit.

Highbridge Red-Tail Mama

WIthin a couple minutes of my arrival, Martha stood up on the far side of the nest and began what was obvious feeding behavior. But try as I might, it seemed like I could not find a spot from which I could see a fuzzy little head reaching for food. The hawks had woven a bag into the nest which blocked the view.

Red-Tail Feeding

Red-Tail Feeding

But on reviewing pix on my computer, and on the second and third passes at that, I realized that a few pix revealed a nestling. A couple, inconclusively, showed a fuzzy edge to the left edge of the obstructing bag, but one revealed a little tawny head just sticking out to the side.

Red-Tail Feeding

And that pic also demonstrated that there must be at least two nestlings. The fuzzy head is to the left, but mama is looking at a baby to the right.

The feeding went on for close to 15 minutes. Sometimes mama would take a momentary break and look around while the babies digested their meal.

Red-Tail Feeding

And she'd look down to see how they were doing.

Red-Tail Feeding

Look up again, and stare at the photographer 75 feet away.

Red-Tail Feeding

And although I know it's just the camera angle, once it sure looked like she was smiling.

Red-Tail Feeding

TIme for a few more bites for the kids.

Red-Tail Feeding

And as the breeze picked and ruffled the bag, feeding slowly came to a close.

Red-Tail Feeding

At 4:12, Martha sat back down on the edge of the nest, where she remained for the rest of my visit. At least this week it was relatively peaceful, the usual traffic noise from down the hill, and the cardinals chirping in the trees. But thankfully no helicopters! Just one half noisy Circle Line boat passing up the Harlem River.

After 4:30 I was pondering my escape as a homeless guy who apparently hides his stuff somewhere in the area passed by and wanted to talk, and talk, and talk. (He was one of only two passers-by the entire time.) But I was able to elude his attention when George, the red-tail papa flew over, and I jumped to shoot some pictures. George circled once or twice over the river, but then retreated to circling the park area at the top of the bluff.

Red-Tail over Highbridge

And after a minute he was gone. Just past 4:45 I left also.

Inwood:
I wasn't quite sure whether I'd visit Inwood Hill Park, but on exiting Highbridge and heading toward the Dyckman street subway station, it seemed that the weather was good enough that I could spend a bit of time at Inwood and still be able to get an hour of decent light down at Riverside. I arrived at what seemed to be the best Inwood viewing sight just past 5:20, and despite the distance could see without binoculars or camera that the Inwood mother was sitting up in her nest.

Inwood Red-Tail Nest

I angled about for a few minutes to see if anywhere else had a good view, but unless there's a spot out in the middle of the soccer field with an angle, this was the spot.

Inwood Red-Tail Mama

And then at 5:30 while I was watching the nest with binoculars, mama looked down on one side of the nest and then at the other, and a moment later a fuzzy baby poked up!

Inwood Red-Tail Mama and Baby

I was stunned enough that it took me a moment to think I should grab for camera hanging on the fence post and shoot some pix. Thankfully, the baby kept its head up for a half minute. It even turned just a bit so that its little beak was visible.

Inwood Red-Tail Mama and Baby

And then it sat down, and only a glimpse of white fuzz through the branch sticks provided any indication that it was up there.

Riverside:
Stepped off the subway to find that the skies over the 80s were much gloomier than the 210s. But luck was with me, because even as I approached the nest to find seemingly all quiet, the female was deciding to get up and look around.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

And after looking around for a couple minutes, and then staring at the bottom of her nest, she began a feeding.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

WIth the usual pauses to look around.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

And even an open-mouthed stare upwards. Did dad fly past behind me?

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

The feeding was shorter than that at Highbridge, no more than six or seven minutes, and then she sat back down. Sitting high, of course, so she's now more visible to the scads of potential hawkwatchers passing by.

Posted 4/26/2008 11:52:00 PM by Robert

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