6/26, A Fledgling on Its Own

E-mail from hawk rehabber Bobby Horvath has confirmed that the injured female red-tailed hawk fledgling was found on West 114th St. near Morningside Ave., just east of Morningside Park. The fledgling has lead poisoning, and a right foot problem which might be the result of the poisoning or of some trauma. The location seems to make it pretty sure that she is one of the fledges from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. If not then she's a long way from her home nest. Although I have heard one report of both cathedral fledglings being seen Tuesday evening, it's not backed up by a second observer or any photography.

I headed over to the cathedral late Thursday afternoon to see if either fledgling was about. It seemed pretty quiet, but at 5:45 I found Lincoln on Morningside Drive across from the Cathedral School watching a fledgling in a Morningside Park tree. The fledgling was quiet, and so were the birds near-by. I suspect that I wouldn't have found it on my own.

Red-Tail Fledgling

It stayed there until I had to leave at 6:30.

Red-Tail Fledgling

There was a fair amount of sparrow twittering just up Morningside Drive from the fledgling, but in the 45 minutes I couldn't spot any other hawks in the area.

Later in the evening, the fledgling apparently made its way across Morningside Park and perched for a bit on the lower roof of the Towers on the Park at 301 West 110th St. From there it flew into Central Park and went to roost for the night.

Posted 6/26/2008 11:03:00 PM by Robert

6/25, Quiet

With family in town, it's been tough getting over to the cathedral to check on the hawks. Apparently I missed a bunch of peregrine v. hawk action.

Wednesday evening I was there from before 7:00 until just past 8:00. Checked all around, with help from Susan, but no sign of either the fledglings or the parents.

Unfortunately, word comes on Thursday morning that an injured female red-tailed hawk fledgling was rescued on 114th St. on Tuesday morning and taken to the Animal Medical Center. Although the rescue location wasn't clear, it was apparently within a couple blocks of the cathedral, possibly near Morningside Ave.

The word is that the fledge is suffering from lead poisoning and a lame foot. Another hawkwatcher has said he's seen the two fledglings playing with construction material on the cathedral roof, so one might have consumed some lead there.

Posted 6/26/2008 04:47:00 PM by Robert

6/27, Solstice Hawks

Friday hawkwatching began around 6:30 with a trip back into the close at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Good choice, as I immediately found an adult hawk in the midst of dinner above the statue of St. Bartholomew.

Norman Dines

Based on the eyes, I'd say it is papa Norman.

Norman Dines

He finished up a couple minutes later and dropped the remainder of the meal over the edge. A second later I heard it go bang! on the aluminum catwalk on the chapel roof below. He wiped his beak.

Norman Apres Dinner

And looked around for a minute or two. Actually, even while eating he had occasionally looked to the northeast, around the corner of the cathedral. Make a note of that.

Norman Apres Dinner

Then he turned around.

Norman Apres Dinner

And flew about 250 feet west, where he perched on the eastmost buttress of the nave.

Norman on the Nave

Birds in the garden below immediately started twittering about the intruder, and two blue jays quickly flew up to greet him.

Norman and the Blue Jays

They tried some double-team dive-bombing...

Norman and the Blue Jays

But Norman was staying put.

Norman on the Nave

Hmm, now why is that? Is there some particular reason Norman should be hanging around back here and taking abuse?

Norman on the Nave

Silly me. I didn't think to ask that question. Instead, I exited the close and walked around to Morningside Drive to see if any of the other hawkwatchers were around. I found Lincoln and Susan keeping an eye on a fledgling perched on the scaffolding above St. Savior Chapel. This would explain why Norman was looking this way.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

Apparently both parents had been there about 20-30 minutes earlier, when a food delivery was made.

A few minutes later, Lincoln spotted the other fledgling, perched atop the chimney on the south side of the transept.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

D'oh! Norman flew right by that spot while I was watching, and his perch on the nave is less than 100 feet away.

Lincoln and I hied our way back around to the close. Sunset light was beginning to come on.

Norman on the Nave

Unfortunately, the cathedral is now paying more attention to shooing visitors out the close at closing time, so the only half decent spot where we could watch the fledgling was out on the sidewalk along Amsterdam Ave.

Norman Watches One of His Kids

After 20 minutes of that, I went back to Morningside Drive to check on the other fledgling. Still there. It did some hawk yoga.

Hawk Yoga

Hawk Yoga

And stayed put.

Back to Amsterdam. Norman still in the same spot. Can't quite see the fledgling.

Time to leave, but first take some pix of the West Front of the cathedral. Turns out it's less than 10 minutes to the moment of summer solstice.

Rose Window at Summer Solstice

And from down 112th St.

Rose Window at Summer Solstice

Posted 6/26/2008 04:30:00 PM by Robert

6/19, So Many Hawkwatchers...

...and just one hawk to watch.

Thursday's hawkwatching at the cathedral began about 6:00 when Bruce and I both arrived at the corner of Morningside and 113th. A few minutes later as I scanned the scaffolding for the source of a begging noise, there was some movement in the crenellations above the red-tailed hawk nest. Indeed, there's a fledgling up there.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

But was it the source of the noise? It seemed happy to sit there and preen.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

A half hour later, it became more active. It shifted over to the other side of the little turret, then it jumped over onto the scaffolding.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

First landing on a short pipe a bit above the nest level.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

But it seemed to be thinking about moving somewhere lower.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

Did it want to go all the way down to the chapel roofs? Or just to the same level as the nest?

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

It reached a pipe at the nest level.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

And there it stayed. The only thing now on its agenda seemed to be preening, and then some more preening.

Hawkwatchers gathered along Morningside Drive. The baby hawk stayed where it was.

Finally at 7:15, it was on the move again. It hop-flapped across the scaffolding 30 feet to the left and onto the turret above the statue of St. Peter. It looked over the south side of the turret but turned around and came back.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

And then hopped onto the closest scaffolding pipe.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

And there it stayed.

Down below the hawkwatcher count had reached eight, plus passers-by. Everyone gazed up. Everyone scanned the chapel roofs to see if they could spot the source of the occasional fledgling begging noises. Everyone scanned the rooftops and the trees to see if an adult red-tail was also keeping watch.

But it was just the one fledgling way up there, hiding in the scaffolding shadows. And finally hawkwatchers began to drift off.

Posted 6/20/2008 02:51:00 AM by Robert

6/18, Out in the Rain

Hawkwatching at the cathedral on Wednesday started close to 6:30 with Stella pointing out an adult red-tail perched on the roof of the old orphanage in the cathedral close. Although getting from Morningside Drive into the close takes a five-minute walk, I opted to check if the adult was watching over a fledgling. Apparently so. I barely got back there and realized the adult was gone when a fledgling fluttered onto a finial atop St. Jame's Chapel.

Red-Tail Fledgling

It perched for a couple minutes, possibly watching a parent in the trees to the west.

Red-Tail Fledgling

Checked out the local scenery, with St. Bartholomew looking on.

Red-Tail Fledgling

And then decided to switch finials. Perhaps it was curious about the peacock perched on the scaffolding about 50 feet away.

Switching Finials

Switching Finials

Perfect landing.

Switching Finials

It didn't stay on the new spot long. There had been some fluttering up atop the statue of St. Thomas or of St. James the Great, presumably an adult headed the other way, and the fledgling first flew over to the scaffolding above St. Ambrose Chapel.

Red-Tail Fledgling

And then hopped around from pipe to pipe. Eventually it worked out a system for ascending the scaffolding.

Red-Tail Fledgling

And after 10 minutes had gotten even with the pedestal on which the statue of St. Thomas stands.

Red-Tail Fledgling

But then it tried to hop over onto the slim ledge atop the pedestal. Ooops. Unable to find a grip, it fluttered and hovered in the air for a few seconds. Then it parachuted downward, out of sight.

I headed back around to Morningside Drive, passing through the cathedral on the way in order to get out of the rain which had started to fall. I found Bruce watching the chapel roofs, but with all the tree cover, he'd apparently missed the action a few minutes earlier. Another minute later, I spotted a fledgling on the walkway above St. Columba Chapel.

Red-Tail Fledgling

It only stayed in that spot another minute or two. Then despite the rain, it flew out on the roof of Columba Chapel and perched on the little angel statue. And as the rain began to fall harder it stayed there, and stayed a little longer.

Just past 7:30, the rain began to let up and the cloud cover began to break up. The fledge was still on the little angel.

Red-Tail Fledgling

And now, with the rain almost stopped, it finally decided to move. A hop, skip, and a jump and it was into the treetops over Morningside Drive. It took until 8:00 before Bruce spotted the fledgling still perched at the very top of a tree near Columba Chapel. In the interim, Lincoln had pointed out an adult red-tail perched on the hospital roof, and we had watched a kestrel taking dives at it. There was also intermittent fledgling begging which led us to believe that the other fledge was close by, perhaps on a chapel roof.

Posted 6/19/2008 03:32:00 PM by Robert

Cathedral Nest Area Landmarks

When trailing red-tail fledglings around the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, it helps to know what the landmarks are. Here's a map for reference — click on the map to see the larger version.

Ed. note: This map was created in 2008 and does not reflect all the changes in 2014-2015. The nest moved in 2015 to above the statue of St. Peter, and the cathedral parking lots are now apartment building construction sites.

Cathedral Nest Area Landmarks

To see a much bigger, and more readable, version, click here.

Posted 6/18/2008 09:41:00 PM by Robert

6/17, Everyone Accounted For

There was a veritable flock of hawkwatchers at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Tuesday evening. I counted nine people at one time or another with camera and/or binocs. Those who were there late got to see the entire red-tail family.

Donna, Sam and Adam were there in late afternoon and reported seeing one fledgling being coaxed over to the hospital roof for a meal. But they hadn't seen the other and were a little concerned.

When I arrived just before 6:00 and met up with Stella and Lincoln, just one adult was visible on a chimney of the Cathedral School. It looked like Isolde and she took off almost as soon as she was pointed out to me.

Red-Tail Take-Off

After that, no more hawk sightings for about 45 minutes. There was a suspicious burst of sparrow twittering around the chapel roofs, but no visible sign of a hawk.

After making a circuit of the cathedral to check in the close (no one here but us peacocks)...

Cathedral White Peacock

I spotted an adult hawk atop the Towers on the Park. Whoever it was took to the air a minute later. It initially seemed it was headed toward the hospital, but it circled around and then headed east, disappearing in the area of the Wadleigh School.

Ted-Tail over Manhattan Ave.

Back up on Morningside Drive below the nest, I found Stella, Lincoln and Winkie gazing up at the scaffolding. They had both fledglings in view.

One, presumably the youngest, was on the temporary walkway connecting the chapel roofs. When I got there it started moving around on the walkway, then fluttering about on the sill below the stained glass windows above St. Columba Chapel.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

And up on the crenellated turret above the family nest was presumably the older fledgling, watching its sibling's antics below.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

It may have been 15 minutes before the lower fledgling settled down, perched on the scaffolding below the nest.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

Now and again, it eyed the hawkarazzi along the sidewalk.

Cathedral Red-Tail Fledgling

There was a fair amount of intermittent begging calls, first from the fledgling up top. But eventually both were in on the action. Around 7:30 one hawkwatcher noticed that an adult hawk had recently landed on the hospital chimney. But it was sitting with its back to the kids, so apparently it wasn't a meal delivery.

The fledgling on the statue turret shuffled around to where it could get a better look at the parent, and begged for food or attention.

At 7:50 there was some action. An adult hawk flew into the nest, then the other.

Red-Tail Fledgling and Parents

I think that's Isolde at left and Norman at right. Then Isolde took off...

Mama Takes Off

Followed 20 seconds later by Norman. But Norman didn't go far, just over to the hospital chimney.

Red-Tail atop St. Luke's

Down below the younger fledgling started shifting around from scaffolding pipe to pipe. Then a few minutes later, both parents were in the air. One passed overhead and then turned, disappearing around the cathedral apse and into the close. The other almost did likewise, but no, it flew to the crenellated turret above the statue of St. James the Great, between St. Savior Chapel and St. Martin Chapel. (That's about 60 feet and two statues clockwise of where the older fledgling was perched.)

Papa Norman

Hmmm, the eyes suggest that that is Norman.

Papa Norman

Yep, those are Norman's eyes.

The upper fledgling made an effort to go visit papa, hopscotching along the scaffolding to the turret above the statue of St. Peter, halfway between St. Andrew and St. James. But having got there, it turned around and headed back to St. Andrew.

Meanwhile, down below, the other fledgling had returned to the same pipe 30-40 feet below the nest where it had been 15 minutes earlier.

Finally I had to exit. Three hawkwatchers -- Lincoln, WInkie and Susan -- remained just in case something interesting happened in the last 20-40 minutes before sundown.

Posted 6/18/2008 12:10:00 AM by Robert