December 26, 2008

12/26, Friday in the Heights

Gabriel and Red-Tail

No sign of the possibly injured juvenile red-tailed hawk today. I did see a hawk in the general area, but probably not the same one. Between 3:30 and 4:00 a hawk was moving about over the rooftops along Broadway between 104th and 109th Sts., occasionally perching on a water tower or elsewhere out of sight. It seemed like someone patrolling his territory.

After 4:00 I started over toward the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and thought I might have seen the same hawk moving east along 110th St. Given subsequent sightings, quite possibly so.

As I arrived at the West Front of the cathedral, I saw one of the resident adult red-tails perched on "Norman's chimney" atop St. Luke's hospital, although it looked more like Isolde rather than Norman. A moment later she dove off, flew around the West Front and then hooked left and into the cathedral close. A minute later I found a red-tail perched on Gabriel's horn at the other end of the cathedral (see above pic). But it might not have been the same hawk because there was another perched 600 feet away on the roof of the Cathedral Parkway Towers on 110th St. They were facing opposite directions.

Sunset was approaching and presumably both hawks would soon go to roost. The hawk on 110th took off first, just a few minutes later. The one on Gabriel's horn stayed put until I had walked around to Morningside Drive.

Gabriel and Red-Tail at Sunset

Exactly at sunset (4:35) as I looked another direction, the hawk atop the cathedral quietly disappeared.

A little bit later, I found Isolde gone to roost in what seems to be her favorite tree near the south end of Morningside Park. Norman apparently decided to sleep elsewhere tonight.

December 25, 2008

Christmas: MoHi Juvenile Red-Tail

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail
Juvie Red-Tail in Broadway median

My sister reported seeing a hawk over Broadway and 110th the weekend of Dec. 13 but I didn't know whether to believe her. But then on the 16th, I watched two red-tails interact right at that corner. One flew in from the north and looked as if it was about to perch on a high ledge, but then another leapt off the ledge, and both flew west toward Riverside Park. One of the pair was definitely an adult, and I'm now inclined to think that the episode was a territorial chase-off of a juvie.

Today's hawkwatching started with 45 minutes or so of looking around Riverside Park in the 100s, with the only result being a possible hawk sighting right at the start, flying high over the Henry Hudson and headed north. Realizing that the complete lack of pigeons in the area suggested I wouldn't find any hawk in Riverside, I exited. Around 12:15, I was in Morningside Heights at the corner of Broadway and 111th and wondering if that really was blue jays I dimly heard over the sound of light holiday traffic. And then a block up Broadway, a twisting burst of pigeons in the air. A moment later, something large landed on a lamppost in the median.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

A red-tail indeed. It quickly shifted to a tree closer to 111th St., where I could see it was a brown-tailed juvie, then clumsily turned around to face my way.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

Saw that I was watching and glared back.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

Glared a bit more.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail


MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

Then sat up a bit and looked around at the pigeons.

Then into the air, but only to land on top the 112th St. lamppost again. It was apparently looking my way, because just a few moments later it flew my way and landed in the center of the northbound lanes of Broadway about 15 feet away. Apparently a miniscule bit of roadkill had its attention. That's not a good sign... this must be a hungry hawk.

Seeing that the M104 was quickly approaching, I stepped out into the street to shoo the hawk out of danger. It glared but took off when I got even closer. It landed in a tree in the median and gave me the hairy eyeball for the next half minute.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

Take a closer look at the photo. Something I didn't realize at the time was that the hawk always perched on its right foot, never on its left foot or on both. Also, there were some straggly, matted feathers on its left side. And a real close look at the pix suggests more dried blood on its right foot than would be typical after a meal. It very much seems that this juvenile red-tail has had an injury on its left side and it can't put any weight on its left foot. One wonders if it's even able to use the left foot's talons to catch prey, as that would explain why it was interested in tiny morsels of roadkill on a major avenue.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

It finally sat up and looked around.

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

Another minute later it was off, heading south. A burst of pigeons around 110th, but I wasn't able to spot where it had gone.

But that wasn't the last sighting of the day.

Sitting in my sister's kitchen over the next couple hours, I'd see the occasional erratic activity of perturbed pigeons over Broadway. Just before 1:00, something big and brown flew by, headed north.

Then around 2:15, looking out the window... who's that on the lamppost at 111th St.?

MoHi Juvie Red-Tail

A minute or two later, he shifted north to a lamppost between 112th and 113th Sts. perched for a couple minutes, and moved somewhere out of sight.

Ten minutes later, there was the sound of crows cawing over Broadway, and I saw one crow land in a tree near 111th St. A minute later, the hawk appeared from somewhere close and headed south. The crows chased him for a half block, then flew back, satisfied that their job was done.

December 14, 2008

12/14, Roosting Red-Tails

Tipped off that a red-tailed hawk had been regularly appearing on a particular fire escape near the north end of Morningside Park just before sunset and then apparently going to roost in the trees below, I had the corner staked out late this afternoon after 4:20. Ten minutes came and went, with no sign of a hawk. Then a minute or two after sunset, a hawk flew in from the north and landed in a tree top.

Morningside Red-Tail

The spot looked pretty exposed so I figured the hawk would move before going to roost. Indeed it definitely did. With at least six short flights of a block or two, it proceeded to hopscotch down the length of Morningside Park. Each time it moved I would get a general idea of where it went and then go looking. Each time I wouldn't find it until it took off again.

At 111th St. I saw the hawk head for the other side of the park, but as I began walking around to see if it finally gone to roost, there was the other Morningside red-tail perched on a chimney at Columbus and 110th, catching the last rays of twilight.

Twilight Red-Tail

Possibly I missed a switch-off there, and the hawk on the chimney was really the first one I'd seen and the other the other.

In any event, the chimney hawk soon dove into the park trees along 110th. A minute later I located the "first" one. Definitely roosting, as it was doing some pre-bed-time preening. A few minutes later, the "second" flew into the same tree, perching about 40 feet away.

Roosting Red-Tail

At that point it was 25 minutes past sunset and almost the only light was coming from street lights along Manhattan Ave.

An odd place to roost, as there's a fair amount of street noise at the spot from traffic along 110th and buses on Manhattan Ave., while the other side of the park is much quieter. Then again, I'd seen one of the Morningside hawks roost in or near the same tree a few times before.

Night, night.

December 6, 2008

12/6, Uptown Hawk Walk

I joined James for his annual early December Uptown Hawk Walk this morning, and the results were great. Ten red-tailed hawk spottings of at least seven distinct birds, plus one peregrine falcon feeding, one Cooper's hawk actively hunting, two monk parakeets trainspotting, and one kestrel harassing.

No birds visible when I passed the Cathedral of St. John on my way to the start point. Around 9:30 James and I were on the roof of his co-op overlooking Hancock Park at St. Nicholas Ave. and 123rd St.

First hawk spotted was a probable red-tail way off on a chimney cover atop project housing around Madison and 115th. Elsewhere the air is fairly still and sky quiet.

9:42, a red-tail comes flying up Manhattan Ave.

Isolde over Manhattan Ave

Circles around a couple times.

Isolde over Manhattan Ave.

And comes in for a landing atop the Manny Wilson Towers apartments directly across Hancock Park. Yay! It's Isolde.

Isolde atop the Manny Wilson Towers

And then who's that sneaking in from a low angle and then popping up to the same rooftop?

Norman Arrives

Norman Arrives

Norman Arrives

It's Norman come to perch near his sweetie.

Norman Arrives

They perch about 20 feet apart and watch the area, perhaps paying more attention to the north end of Morningside Park a block away. For hawks, this is practically like holding hands while watching a movie together.

Norman and Isolde atop the Manny Wilson Towers

Norman's perched in profile, so we see bit more of his face.

Norman atop the Manny Wilson Towers

But sometimes Isolde looks over a shoulder.

Isolde atop the Manny Wilson Towers

Meanwhile, I check back toward the projects at Madison Ave. and there's still a hawk perched up there. Hmmm, a juvie red-tail hanging out in SE Harlem?

The cozy scene atop the Wilson Towers lasts just 10 minutes and then Norman and then Isolde are into the air and headed south.

Red-Tail over Morningside

And then hooking left so that they're both circling over southernmost Harlem.

Norman and Isolde over S. Harlem

They "dance", circling in toward each other 4-5 times. Then break and go their separate ways. One of them dive bombs the gulls and pigeons hanging around near St. Nick and 110th St. as a couple flocks explode into the air down there.

Things quiet down and we see that one of the hawks has perched atop the Wadleigh School.

Checking back over toward Riverside Church, James finally spots a peregrine falcon hiding on the other side of the antenna at the very top of the church. A moment later the falcon dives off and almost instantly returns to one of the corner finials. Through a telescope it's obvious that the falcon is plucking feathers from fresh-caught prey. Someone wasn't paying attention as they flew by the church.

We head out, taking 125th St west to see the new Harlem Piers. Then heading north we pass the treatment plant beneath Riverbank State Park. At 11:20, just as we approach the stairway at the north end, starlings and pigeons are everywhere and James is crying hawk. I can't make heads or tails of what's going on, but apparently we just missed getting buzzed by a juvenile Cooper's. A minute later I spot the Coopie perched in a tree upstairs in Riverbank.

No sign of the Coopie once we go up, but after 10 minutes of looking around, we see a red-tail coming in for a landing on the cornice of an apartment building at Riverside and 145th St. It quickly shifts to the water tower.

Juvie Red-Tail at Riverside & 145th

Brown tail, so it's immature.

While I've been checking out the young red-tail, James has been casting about in a different direction, and zip! Coopie overhead. It's now hunting pigeons along Riverside and we get an eyeful as it barely misses a pigeon flying over our heads. It alternately makes a few passes and perches, the latter always in typical Coopie places, halfway obscured by branches. (James did get a pic, though, so see his blog.)

Finally the Coopie is gone and we continue north. Another red-tail sighting, this time five blocks north.

(And sometime during the past 20-30 minutes there was also a kestrel sighting, but darned if I can remember exactly when during all the excitement.)

Water Tower Red-Tail, Riverside & 150th

Peering closely at the pic, it seems its tail gleams red a bit, so it's an adult. Maybe one of the CCNY pair?

It's still there when we pass by below 10 minutes later.

Water Tower Red-Tail, Riverside & 150th

Time for lunch, so we take the enclosed stair-bridge-tunnel pedestrian access at 155th St. There are some talkative birds atop the walkway. They flush but land atop a lamp post not far away.

Riverside Monk Parakeets

Monk parakeets, in the wild. Snuggled together and almost over the train tracks. They don't even take off when a train goes rumbling by below.

And that would explain the big ball of sticks we just spotted in a tree top.

Almost at a diner for lunch, but hey, another water-tower red-tail watching over Broadway at 156th St.

Water-Tower Red-Tail, Broadway & 156th

We can't see its tail feathers, but it seems to be an adult. The same one as at 150th St. 15 minutes ago? Maybe not.

After lunch and heading east at 1:20, James looks up and spots a hawk on a TV antenna at Amsterdam and 158th St. Definitely a red colored tail. Same adult as the last one? And again, one of the CCNY nesting pair?

Pretty quiet for a while as we walk up the south end of Highbridge Park. We admire the new paved path that Parks put in for people to reach the High Bridge itself.

2:15 comes and we've made it all the way up to Laurel Hill Terrace and are closing in on Martha and George's nest near GW High. Dropping back down into Highbridge Park, we almost immediately spot an adult red-tail flying up the Harlem River Speedway below. It lands in a tree overlooking the highway, perches for a couple minutes, and then is headed north again and gets lost in the trees.

A couple blocks further north in a fairly clear spot, I look across the river and hmmm... I'd say about 80% chance that I just got a look at a red-tail about a half mile away doing two circles over Undercliff Ave. and 176th St.

We reach Martha's nest from this past spring and it looks really run-down, maybe about half the size as when I last saw it (back when we were trying to figure out why the two babies disappeared). But 100 yards up the trail it looks like there's a fresher red-tail nest way up a tree, quite possibly in the same tree that Martha and George used in 2007.

No sign of George or Martha, and we head toward the Dyckman St. 1-Train station to end the day. But hmmm, jeez, the blue jays are pretty noisy along Dyckman St. Is there a raptor up on top of Fort George Hill? Well, we can't see anything.

2:45 and we're almost to the subway. James is saying something about the hunting Coopie being the best sighting of the day when, wow, something big is sitting in a tree just 40 feet away. It's a red-tail and it's pecking at something in its talons. We have a juvie red-tail who's having a late lunch.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Mouse, it's what's for dinner.

Starting with the yummy stuff in its head. Ooooooh.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Even as it's eating, the juvie red-tail is looking about. Is it worried that one of the nighborhood adults will show up and chase it off?

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

It's only a mouse, so five minutes is all it takes before the red-tail is scraping its beak clean on the branch.

It swoops low into the bushes and trees just uphill. James and I follow, and a couple minutes later along what seem like suspiciously clear areas (I later realize it's part of the mountain bike trail), the hawk flushes off the ground and lands on a branch not far away.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Checks out Dyckman St. once or twice, then tries another branch 50 feet further east.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Looks back my way.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

And a minute later takes off across the street and into the Dyckman Houses projects. Pigeons flush.

Okay, looks like show's finally over. Off to the subway.

But wait, there's more. While we wait for the train, James says there's a hawk amongst the many seagulls overhead. Sure enough. It soars higher and higher, heading northwest toward Inwood Hill Park. I lose track for a moment, but catch sight again when it must be up near Broadway and Isham, possibly even further, circling, circling, circling.

It drifts back our way, and then a couple seagulls start pushing it further south.

Harassment over Dyckman St.

The seagulls apparently don't claim the top of Fort George Hill, and whoever this red-tail is (the juvie we just watched?) finally comes in for a landing on the apartments right at the top of the hill.

And that finally was it.