5/14 & 5/17, Too Damn Quiet

It's been two weeks since apparent feeding activity was observed at the red-tail nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and things no longer look good.

Empty Nest?
An empty nest?

Because of the location of the nest, it wasn't expected that any nestling would be visible until this past week. My presumed sighting of a squirt of defecation from the nest on Tuesday seemed to indicate that there was a baby hawk up there. But...

Earlier on Tuesday there had been a confrontation between hawks and a construction worker on the cathedral roof. Word of that incident even made into the Daily News in a hawk news round-up.

The nest day James witnessed another attempt by mama Isolde to scare the construction workers off. He also noted that she would not spend more than a moment or two in the nest at a time whilst the workers were up on the roof.

I visited the nest area later on Wednesday, after the workers were gone and the hawks should have been willing to visit the nest. But from 5:50 to 6:20 there was no sign of an adult or a baby at the nest. As it was turning into a chilly evening, I started to head out, but then found that one of the adults had just landed on the tall chimney at St. Luke's. It perched there for five minutes, then swooped off. But not toward the nest. After some circles over Morningside Drive, it returned to the top of the hospital. And there I found that both adults were perched on the chimney.

Red-Tails atop St. Luke's

By 6:40 I was getting chilled and decided to leave. A few minutes later from over on Amsterdam, I could only see one hawk still on the chimney. And a moment later, none.

I was not able to visit the nest area on Thursday or Friday (Friday the weather was terrible anyway), but one of Donna's correspondents wrote in that he visited the site (apparently Thursday) and was disturbed by what he saw over the next two hours. Isolde was perched on the hospital roof and watching the construction workers walking back and forth above the nest. Not once did she fly over to the nest. And as the writer noted, a nestling that long away from a parent's body heat spells trouble.

I arrived at Morningside Park today at about 4:00. A few minutes later I belated realized that there was a hawk perched atop the Towers on the Park at 301 West 110th.

Red-Tail on West 110th

A few minutes after that, the other adult flew over, going east to west.

Red-Tail over West 110th

From the belly band, my guess was that the second hawk was Norman. He was drifting northward, but I lost him in the trees and did not see if he flew to the nest. In any event, by the time I walked the three blocks up there, the nest was quiet.

Isolde (presumably) stayed atop 301 until about 4:30 and then quietly disappeared while I was checking on the goose nest in Morningside Park. I checked on the hawk nest every 5 to 10 minutes over the next hour as I walked up and down Morningside Drive for a sighting of the adults, but there was never a sign that either of them at or near the nest. Then about 5:30, Isolde (presumably) re-appeared perched on her favorite antenna at 301.

Soon after I parked myself on a bench in the park to keep an eye on Isolde, James came by and reported (IIRC) that he had just seen the other adult flying toward the new apartment building at Morningside Drive and 110th. It might have perched there or gone into the close. We discussed the week's sightings and the likelihood that the construction workers had so completely freaked the hawks out that they had abandoned the nest and any baby that might have been up there. Neither of us felt at all positive.

We headed back uphill to the nest area at 6:00. Isolde flew off 301 as we did so, but not to the nest. When we both exited just after 6:15, it was still too damn quiet at the nest.

Posted 5/17/2008 10:44:00 PM by Robert

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