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.

1 comment:

  1. Love the shot of the keening gull. Notice the young redtailed hawk is missing its second primary on the right wing. Good for id purposes. To be continued...