December 27, 2009

12/27, Juvie Red-Tail on the Great Hill

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

Finding a hawk on Sunday proved pretty simple. A brown-tailed youngster was perched in a tree close to the Central Park wall by the West 103rd St. entrance at 1:45, right where I usually enter the park.

December 27

He stayed in this spot for about five minutes.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

I may have approached a little too close for that last close-up as he quickly took off. But he didn't go far, landing in a tree perhaps 100 feet away.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

He was doing a lot of head-bobbing and looking around, as if he was hunting. But a side view revealed a full crop.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

After 5-10 minutes there, he moved to the top of a tree a little closer to the Pool. While maneuvering for a camera angle, I found further evidence that the hawk had recently eaten.

After the Hawk has Gone

The pigeon feathers couldn't have been there more than about six hours, given that yesterday's deluge continued well into the night and wasn't supposed to end until around dawn.

The hawk's new perch didn't allow for a good frontal picture, but the side view was okay.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

He stayed in this spot for another 15 minutes, ignoring the three kids playing below.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

Taking off, the hawk headed over the crest of the hill. But with the aid of a squirrel whining right next to a park path...

Hawk Alarm

I found the hawk in a shady spot on the southeast side of the Great Hill. The new spot lasted less than 5 minutes and then he was off again. More squirrel noises suggested he was temporarily on the east side of the hill, but he was not to be seen. Ditto about 30 minutes later in the North Woods overlooking Lasker Rink.

Epilog: The afternoon ended with an attempt to enjoy some owl-watching. Unfortunately, although at least one of the North Woods screech owls was seen, and I even heard her hoot for the first time, the "owl tour guide" was in the area. My hearing may suck, but even at 50 feet I could hear the tape he kept playing. And if it irritated me, I have to believe that it really bothered the owls.

December 12, 2009

12/12, North Woods Screech Owl

December 12

Above, an hour after sunset in Central Park's North Woods. The screech owl wasn't in her usual roost but we found her and her mate when they flew into the area some 15-20 minutes after sunset.

December 7, 2009

12/6, North Woods Screech Owl

December 6

Apparently right about this time of year, Central Park's screech owls go back to roosting in cozy tree cavities. This of course makes them easier to find at sunset. Bruce arrived at the usual spot before I did and got some nice pix while there was a bit more light.

November 29, 2009

11/29, Enjoying the Sunset Together

November 29

Twenty stories up at the Douglass Houses at 4:10 p.m., or 19 minutes before official sunset. The duo went to roost about 4:20.

November 11, 2009

11/11, Isolde?


Manhattan Ave. at 103rd St., 4:10 p.m. This adult red-tail was just finishing off dinner, and after a beak wipe on the edge of the roof, took off to roost for the night, perhaps somewhere near the Central Park Pool.

This makes only the sixth definite sighting I've made of a free red-tail since mid-June. Four, including the above, were in the Douglass Houses or very close by. A fifth, on Labor Day, was down by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and was either the Boat Basin baby or one of its parents. The sixth was perched on the Cardinal Cooke health center chimney, on the far side of Central Park, in early October.

October 11

Other than that, throw in a pair of kestrels who were in the Douglass Houses in early September, a couple other sightings of kestrels around St. John's cathedral, and several osprey fishing high mountain lakes when I went backpacking in August.

July 19, 2009

7/19, Bandshell Hawk

As I skated off the 72nd St. transverse and onto the walkway leading to Central Park's bandshell, angry robin chirping stopped me dead in my tracks. I wondered if one of the owls from yesterday's rehab release had flown across the lake. But no, it was a red-tailed hawk. It quickly shifted to a tree closer to the Summer Stage — a music lover — where it stayed for the next 20-30 minutes despite the continued efforts of a pair of robins to chase it off.

Bandshell Hawk

Of course, with Central Park red-tails, a common question is, who is it?

Bandshell Hawk

Well, the bandshell is probably in Palemale and Lola's territory, but it was quickly apparent that this hawk had light irises. It must be a young visitor. Indeed, a closer look at the two pictures above revealed that although most of the hawk's tail was adult red with light transverse barring, it still had a couple of its baby brown tail feathers. So it's a 15-month old.

Bandshell Hawk

The hawk did a lot of head-bobbing as it cased the joint for mice and what-not foraging in the undergrowth, but it also tried some occasional preening. The robins seemed to have figured out that the latter were good times to divebomb the hawk.

Bandshell Hawk

The hawk occasionally eyed the people around too. With irritation.


And elsewhere.

Bandshell Hawk

June 17, 2009

6/17, Flying Across 120th St.

Checking in again on Riverside Church for falcon fledging activity, I initially found things pretty quiet. Two baby falcons were perched on the scaffolding around the NW corner of the tower, and soon after a third showed in the same area. Those three would remain generally in the same area for the next 45 minutes, although it was variable whether one, two or three were visible at any time.

Mama showed up soon after I did. She first alit on a gargoyle below where her kids were hanging out, but after fussing about there and then on a near-by plank for a couple minutes, she flew up to a corner scaffolding pipe that seems to be a favorite vantage for keeping an eye on the kids as they wander around.

And so things stayed for some time. Two of the baby falcons engaged in some wing flapping, often right on the edge of the walkway, but did not fledge. The third spent most of the time perched quietly in one spot, making me wonder if it had already fledged and no longer to engage in this silly flapping business. Recall that one of the young falcons had fledged yesterday and ended up on the scaffold level 30 feet lower. This quiet youngster would seem to have been that fledgling, although another falcon watcher had said that he thinks there are four baby falcons and that two have fledged.

As light was getting dimmer in the cloudy skies I finally decided to make my exit, but as I neared 120th St. I looked back to see two falcons flying out of the area where the four had been hanging about. One seemed to be a poor flier, stroking its wings quickly for all it was worth, while the other followed along. Ah, a youngster is in the air and mama was flying guard!

The fledgling seemed as if it was going to try to return to the scaffolding on the SW corner of the tower.

Falcon Fledgling and Mama

But it overshot its mark and had to keep flapping. With encouragement from mama, it headed south and made it across 120th St. to the roof of the Inter Church Center, almost 400 feet from where it started.

Meanwhile a third falcon had appeared in the air, but that it turned out was papa. Apparently he'd been lurking around the tower the entire time.

Both mama and papa did a bit of flying about over the next few minutes, perching here, perching there and disappearing around the back of the tower, making it difficult to figure out which was which.

Then there was another moment with three birds in the air, as it seemed baby wanted to return from the ICC roof to the church tower. But one of the parents appeared to herd it back, and presumably that was where it spent the night.

June 16, 2009

6/16, Riverside Falcon Fledge

One of the three Riverside Church baby falcons made its first flight on Tuesday about 6:15 in the evening, with raptor watcher James there to witness the event. Unfortunately, I didn't get there until about 7:00, by which time the new fledgling was staying put on the level of scaffolding about 30 feet below the level where the scrape is at.

Falcon Fledgling

Moments after I got there, one adult landed near the scrape with food. Soon after that the other alit on a pipe below the fledgling.

Falcon Parent

Some changing of positions took place on the lower level, with one adult in flight and the fledgling instead trotting about the scaffolding walkway. One parent got an earful from the fledgling (about the exciting first flight or just about food?).

Baby Falcon and Parent

That was followed by a few minutes of the adults flying about.

Falcon in Flight

Falcon in Flight

One circled about many times, was briefly joined by the other, and then one (presumably dad) disappeared whilst the other (mom?) hung around the vicinity to keep an eye on things.

Falcon in Flight

June 16

During the circling one adult made a pass by the scrape and alit for a half second by the two upstairs kids, who pretty much stayed put during the entire time I was there.

Falcon and Two Kids

As 8:00 approached, things were very quiet. The two kids by the scrape were still in their same spots, the fledgling had returned to the same corner location where I'd first seen it, and the mother was perched directly above where she could keep an eye on both locations.

June 15, 2009

6/15, Five Falcons in the Family

Walking over to Riverside Church after Monday's rain I first noticed a falcon perched on the edge of the scaffolding walkway 20 feet away from the scrape. It seemed likely that it was a nestling as the adults have been more likely to perch on the scaffolding railings. As I changed viewing positions, I lost track of the nestling, but then discovered an adult on a pipe at the NE corner of the walkway. And then four other falcons progressively appeared, making it three babies and two proud and protective parents.

Falcon Family

Of the four along the walkway, mom was second from left. She soon took off and returned to land on a pipe 10 feet above her mate's head. Then he took off, apparently to perform familial duties as he did not return in the next 20-25 minutes.

The scene seemed to be the falcon version of branching. The three youngsters wandered around the walkway, sometimes almost all the way back to the scrape and sometimes to the corner right below mom's perch.

Riverside Falcons

At least two of them did some vigorous wing flapping. A couple times I thought I might witness an inadvertent fledging as one of them flapped while right on the edge of walk.

The flapping indicated that the two and possibly all three had not fledged. A neighborhood falcon watcher who passed by said that in the past, the Riverside falcons have been very regular about fledging on or very close to June 21. So in all likelihood it's just a few more days.

June 12, 2009

6/12, Riverside Falcon Nestling

Checking on Riverside Church on Wednesday, I determined that there must be a peregrine falcon nestling hiding on the scrape ledge some 300 feet up. There was an apparent food delivery, and while both parents were in view away outside the scrape, there was a spate of vigorous motion on the ledge, including a couple possible wing flaps.

There was less activity at Riverside on Friday, with neither parent to be seen in the area during the hour that I was in the vicinity. The scrape itself looked very quiet, but belatedly, I discovered that there was a nestling perched on the back of the lion's head gargoyle that marks the scrape site.

Falcon Nestling

June 10, 2009

6/8, Riverside Falcon

The Riverside Church peregrine scrape is so high up that it's just about impossible to tell if there are baby falcons up there. You almost have to wait until fledging time. As James had reported a falcon fledge from the Broadway Bridge over the weekend, I decided to check on Riverside on Monday evening. I found an adult perched on a scaffolding railing alongside the scrape site, where it stayed for the next 20 minutes, preening and enjoying the sun. Eventually it took off...

Riverside Peregrine

And circle around several times.

June 8

Before perching on an eave perhaps 50 feet from the scrape. Another 10 minutes later it took off again and after a few more circles returned to its perch by the scrape.

"White wash" on the ledge below the scrape site indicates that the location had been occupied this spring. But the adult was the only falcon that I saw in the course of about 45-50 minutes. Perhaps there's a nestling or two up there, but if so then they were taking a nap the entire time that I was watching.

June 6, 2009

Empty Nest

June 1

Reading between the lines, you've probably figured out by now that there was nothing happening at the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. What happened is a mystery.

In early March, the signs all seemed to indicate that Isolde and Norman would return to their nest on the cathedral apse clerestory. At the end of the month, when she would have been expected to start brooding, there was no sign that Isolde was in the nest yet, but due to the nest's location in a high niche, that was no surprise. She'd only be seen when there was a nest exchange. One would have expected to see Norman around occasionally, perhaps perched on the hospital roof on sentry duty once his hunting duties were fulfilled. But no, no sign of him.

As April began to progress, the idea that Isolde and Norman had abandoned the nest began to take hold. Recalling the various sightings in March of a juvie red-tail atop the cathedral, along Morningside Drive or in Morningside Park, and the Cooper's hawk that roosted in the close one night in late March, it seemed that the two adults' hadn't been protecting the territory.

So where did they go? James had reported hawk activity toward the north end of Morningside Park, but I wasn't too sure that they would have nested up there, as it would place them closer to the Riverside peregrines and to the CCNY red-tails. I considered whether they might have tried Marcus Garvey Park and checked over there a couple times, once sighting a red-tail of unknown age perched a couple blocks south of the park.

Then on April 16, I walked over to Morningside Drive and found two red-tails perched on the high chimney on St. Luke's hospital. The smaller one, Norman, dove off and flew down to Morningside Ave but returned five minutes later. He took off again ten minutes later and didn't return. The larger, Isolde, stayed a bit longer, but perhaps a half hour after I'd first seen the two, she took off south.

April 16

With buildings in the way, I couldn't tell if she headed for the old nest site or flew past it and into the close or beyond.

Two days later, James took a photo of two hawks mating atop the cathedral, and the day after that I spotted a newly leafed out branch on the old nest. Another few days later, James shot some video of an adult hawk flying over the north end of Morningside Park. It began to seem as if Isolde and Norman hadn't abandoned the cathedral site, but that their nesting schedule was badly awry. Had they tried nesting elsewhere and failed, and were trying again at the old spot?

But after those sightings, quiet returned to the cathedral nest. I haven't spotted a hawk in the area since those few days in April. James has made the occasional sighting but rarely close enough to distinguish the bird's age, or identity.

Meanwhile, the cathedral has finished the renovations to the roof and took all the scaffolding down about the first of May. The nest is easily visible, as the above pic from June 1 shows, but there's never a sign that a stick has been moved.

May 31, 2009

5/30, Highbridge at Six Weeks

The Highbridge red-tail nest is usually one of the first two in Manhattan for eggs to hatch, and that means one of the first two for a fledging. Saturday marked six weeks, possibly a day less, so the fledging window was just about to open.

But once the trees leaf out, the Highbridge nest is hard to view. After some wandering around I finally found a couple spots on the mountain bike trail where the sightlines weren't too bad.

May 30

Shortly after I arrived, one of the parents briefly visited the nest (which helped me find the nest). Then there were a few minutes of wing flapping from the two kids. One of them stepped out onto a branch supporting the nest and perched for a minute. Then the two settled down, and for the next 45 minutes to an hour, the above pic of a nestling perched on the south side of the nest was the only thing to see. Preening was about as exciting as it got. Just as I prepared to leave, the second also popped its head up for a moment but settled back down.

From the looks of their headfeathers I figured that the two Highbridge nestlings were probably several days away from fledging. Perhaps one will still be there next Saturday. Maybe not.

May 16, 2009

5/16, Riverside Peregrine

Although I've been around Riverside Church many times in the past few months, today was the first time I managed to spot one of the resident peregrines since late last year.

Riverside Church Falcon

It did two or three circles around the church tower and 30 seconds later was gone.

Riverside Church Falcon

The spot where the peregrine scrape on the tower was located two years ago is obscured by the scaffolding that's been up for over a year now. So it's difficult to tell if the peregrines are still using that spot or have shifted to a different ledge to raise their family.

5/16, Highbridge at Four Weeks

The trees are all leafed out now, so viewing the Highbridge Park red-tailed hawk nest from the usual vantage point is now all but impossible. It doesn't help that Parks have apparently decided to renovate the adjacent dog run, so a chain link fence has appeared and finding the vantage point is a trick in and of itself.

In any event, checking in on the nest approximately four weeks after hatch (or possibly a day or two less), about all I could see at first was...

Highbridge Red-Tail Nest

Martha was in the nest and it looked like a feeding was in progress. The two kids acted like ravenous wolves.

And with the kids being (almost) four weeks old, that means that they're now big enough that they'll be looking over the edge of the nest. I made my way down to a spot that I recalled from two years ago where one can stand on the park path and peer up at the nest and possibly see someone looking back.

Highbridge Red-Tail Nestling

Sure enough, one of the kids was in a curious mood. But after one more sideways look...

Highbridge Red-Tail Nestling

He and his sibling apparently settled down for a nap. After 15-20 minutes of no further activity, I made my exit.

May 13, 2009

5/10, Mother's Day at Riverside

I arrived at the Riverside Park red-tail site around 4:15 on Mother's Day to just catch the tail end of a feeding. A couple little heads bobbed up and down a few times, and then they promptly lay down for a nap. Dad flew in soon after with a rat for their next meal, and he and mom mutually checked over their kids for a few minutes.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama and Papa

Dad then shifted out to perch on a branch almost overhanging the promenade.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama and Papa

And shifted again.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama and Papa

He perched in that breezy spot for five or ten minutes.

Riverside Red-Tail Papa

And then took off to the north.

Mom stayed in the nest for a bit, but then also took off. At first it looked she was going to perch in a tree 100 yards or so to the north, but when next spotted, she was way overhead, circling hundreds of feet up with her mate.

Eventually Riverside mom returned, but not directly to the nest. She perched for a while on the same branch that dad had been on earlier.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

A very gusty spot on this windy day.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

Then after a good scratch.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama

Went back to the shady nest.

Riverside Red-Tail Mama