March 27, 2009

3/24 & 3/27, Harlem Hawks and North Woods Owl

Still very little to report about hawk activity along Morningside Drive. No sightings at all on Monday. Close to an hour on Tuesday had almost no result, until just before 7:00, a hawk dove out of the hospital area and flew over Morningside Park.

Red-Tail over Morningside

And continue out over Harlem, descending all the way. I lost track of it around 118th St. and St. Nick, but the direction of flight made me think it could be headed for Marcus Garvey Park.

Friday I made my way over to Garvey Park for a look-see. Nice view of the cathedral from the top of the park.

Cathedral Apse

But no luck seeing anything else of interest. About a quarter to seven I started making my exit, and finally spotted a red-tail, perched atop a 20-story apt. building at 118th St. and Fifth Ave. Lousy light though, so I wasn't able to figure out whether it was immature or an adult. It stayed up there for at least ten minutes as I made my way sough along Fifth Ave.

Harlem Red-Tail

Before heading back to Morningside Heights, I decided to check in on the owlwatchers in Central Park's North Woods. I arrived to find that the female screech owl was already standing up, but barely had her eyes open. A minute later she seemed a bit more awake.

North Woods Screech Owl

Then began to look around more seriously.

North Woods Screech Owl

And a few minutes later was ready to exit her roost.

North Woods Screech Owl

Hmm, nice talons.

As she began her treetop peregrination, her mate showed up, and the two fluttered off to the east.

3/22, Boat Basin and Cathedral Hawks

Sunday I checked on a couple of red-tail hawk nesting sites.

To begin, I headed south to the Riverside Park Boat Basin. Even before getting there, I made one possibly two hawk sightings. First, just before 4:00, the pigeons were swirling over Broadway at 92nd St. and something hawk-like went soaring over the avenue and east on 93rd St. Then as I was standing alongside the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a red-tail popped up from the hillside to the north and ascended quickly on the stiff wind. Hardly a wing beat was needed. He hovered like a kite over the Normandy Apartments for a minute and then dove straight down into the park below. Evidently that was the male of the Boat Basin nesting pair.

When I reached the Boat Basin, the female was sitting in her nest. Discussion on the blogs suggests that she might have laid her first egg that day. She sat quietly, oriented so that her head was in the shadow of the tree trunk. But about 4:25 she stood up and fussed around for minute.

Riverside Mama Red-Tail Hawk

Looked around.

Riverside Mama Red-Tail Hawk

And dove out the other side of the nest and out over the river. Just like her mate had done a half hour earlier, she caught the wind and zoomed almost straight up. Then she turned and passed overhead.

Riverside Mama Red-Tail Hawk

Riverside Mama Red-Tail Hawk

And flew up toward the Normandy.

It was just a spin around the block. Within five minutes she was back. Fussed a bit.

Riverside Mama Red-Tail Hawk

And then sat back down.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, I made my exit. First a check on the upper Riverside area to see if the 110th St. hawk was around. Nope. No hawks visible on the Columbia campus either.

Then over to the Cathedral of St. John. Check the close first, and... the Coopie evidently hadn't left yet, even though it had been a couple weeks since I last saw him.

Cathedral Cooper's Hawk

Today he seems to be looking for a meal.

Cathedral Cooper's Hawk

Cathedral Cooper's Hawk

And then around to the other side of the cathedral to check for hawk activity along Morningside Drive. For an hour there was nothing to be seen. Maybe a glimpse of a Cooper's hawk flying over 122nd St. at one point, but nothing else.

At 6:45, a hawk appeared on Gabriel's horn. A minute later it took off, but just for a couple circles over the close.

Cathedral Red-Tail

And then back on Gabriel's horn.

Cathedral Red-Tail

That's plainly an adult hawk, not the juvie who perched on the roof the day before.

Perhaps it was the gusting wind, but a couple minutes later, the red-tail seemed to almost fall off the horn. But I soon saw it flying over the west end of the cathedral, apparently being chased by three or four smaller birds.

March 24, 2009

3/21, Three Red-Tails

I ran across three red-tails on Saturday when I planned to scout the north end of Central Park. As it turned out, noen of the three were actually in the park.

First, barely two blocks from home, I looked up in a gap between a couple buildings and saw a very suggestive shape on top of a chimney cover.

100th & Amsterdam Red-Tail

That hawk was perched along Amsterdam between 100th and 101st Sts. My first impression was that it was a juvenile, but after staring at pic and manipulating them with Photoshop, I'm no longer sure about that. It could well have been adult.

The chimney hawk didn't look inclined to move, so I turned around to head east on 100th St. Almost within seconds, I saw another come soaring along and over the street, between Manhattan Ave. and CPW.

CPW & 100th Red-Tail

Note the missing primary in the right wing. This is almost certainly one of the two red-tails encountered in the Ravine last Wednesday, and I think it was the juvenile.

CPW & 100th Red-Tail

Then disappeared to the south. A couple minutes later it made the return trip and headed back north.

After a fruitless hour on the Great Hill, in the North Woods and the Ravine, and around Harlem Meer, I headed over toward Morningside Park. Partway up Morningside Drive, I realized there was a hawk perched on the scaffolding just above the nest. It looked a little small, but it was definitely a red-tail.

Cathedral Juvie Red-Tail

Besides the brown tail and light eyes marking a juvenile bird, note this hawk also seemed to have a relatively light colored head.

The juvie perched on the railing for the next 12-15 minutes, then took off and flew low over the hospital. It briefly perched on a ledge along 114th St., then quietly disappeared.

March 18, 2009

3/18, North Central Park Red-Tails and Screech Owl

No sign of hawk activity when I passed by the cathedral just after 6:00. What with the beautiful weather, I decided to mosey over to Central Park. But alas, it seemed, for no hawks were to be found as I made a circuit past the Block House. I was on the verge of turning around so that I could make a late look-see in Morningside Park when I bumped into Bruce on his way to do some owlwatching. He easily talked me into tagging along.

But as we approached the area where the North Woods eastern screech owls roost, a big brown shape buzzed across the park road, about 5 feet off the ground and 50 feet ahead. It perched in a tree along the slope of the Great Hill and I angled to get a better vantage.

Central Park Juvenile Red-tail

A brown tail and two good eyes, so it's a juvenile, but not the one-eyed hawk I ran into a couple weeks ago in the nearby projects. Perhaps it's the juvie who's been hanging about Morningside Park the last week?

But hold it, while I was approaching the young hawk, Bruce had realized there was an adult perched in a tree just the other side of the road.

Central Park Adult Red-tail

Note the fairly light colored eye. That and the posture indicate that this is not Isolde from the cathedral, and the eye color seems too light for it to be her mate Norman. Looks like we have a visitor.

A moment later, both hawks were in the air. The juvenile landed in a tree high over the stream, not far away from the road. The adult headed toward the bridge over by Lasker Rink, but turned around and ended up in a tree about halfway back.

We watched the pair from the edge of the road for the next 10 minutes. I then made a pass through the woods and found the juvenile in a tree near where the adult had been. A minute later he took off south. As he flew overhead, it looked like he might have been missing a primary from his right wing.

By then, it was just about sunset, and owlwatchers were gathering. Soon they were rewarded with the sight of the gray female poking a sleepy eye up.

The Sleeper Awakes

She stayed quiet for about 10 minutes, moving no more than was necessary to view the world with both eyes.

March 18

And then about 20 minutes after sunset, she stood up in her roost.

Central Park Screech Owl

And within a couple minutes took off on her nightly rounds. The other owlwatchers began their trek to see if they could her movements, and perhaps spot the red male.

March 17, 2009

3/17, Morningside Mockingbird and Juvie Red-Tail

No sign of the adult nesting pair of red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine today. Sightings of interest in Morningside Park were...

A mockingbird was noisily looking for companionship near the park's flagpole.

Morningside Eastern Phoebe

Morningside Eastern Phoebe

And the juvenile red-tail who's been hanging about recently was perched in a tree near Morningside Ave. and 114th St.

Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

The juvie seemed to be quietly hunting, that is, lots of head bobbing and looking around but no actual attacking anything. It did have a "what's that?" look on his face briefly as it craned its head to look uphill at the cathedral, at which time something large did pass by Gabriel's horn. Large enough to be a hawk, but conceivably just a crow.

March 16, 2009

3/15-3/16, Upper Riverside and Morningside Red-Tails

Sunday: In the late afternoon I checked on three locations which seemed ripe for spotting a red-tail. Oddly enough, the only place where I actually spotted a hawk was the one without a nest.

After finding that the Riverside Boat Basin hawks were not yet brooding and were seemingly nowhere to be found near their new nest, I headed back north. Although a passer-by told me she had seen a hawk at 103rd St., I didn't find it until I reached 110th, and there it was about as obvious as could be.

Hendrik Hudson Red-Tail

Viewing that pic really large revealed an adult's red-tail.

The hawk stayed atop the Hendrik Hudson apartments for just a few minutes before shifting north a couple blocks to the Strathmore. There it met up with the neighborhood crows and dived down into Riverside Park and out of sight.

Finishing the day, no sign of the cathedral hawks.

Monday: A quick check over at the cathedral for hawk activity revealed a juvenile red-tail perched on a chimney at Columbus and 110th St. Within a minute it took off and began working to gain some height.

March 16

For a moment it seemed like it might commit a great intrusion by landing on Gabriel's horn, but another circle around and it headed west. And that was the last sign of a hawk for the day.

March 14, 2009

3/14, Red-Tail Nesting Season Begins

I've been meaning to get up to Highbridge Park to see how the red-tail pair there are doing. James beat me to it, visiting yesterday and finding the female making a visit to her nest.

Late Saturday afternoon when I finally made it up there, Martha was in the nest, and sitting lower than when James saw her. It leads one to suspect that if she hasn't laid her first egg yet, then it's likely to occur within the next day or two.

Highbridge Red-Tail Mama

The Highbridge nest location, by the way, has returned to where it was two years ago. Unfortunately for hawk watchers, that means it's 80-100 feet from the closest point with any sort of decent vantage. Even then, there are twigs in the way, and when trees leaf out in mid April, it will be very difficult to see.

Highbridge Red-Tail Mama

I watched the nest for about 15 minutes. There was no sign of her mate, George, in the area during that span. It was just Martha and me and a bunch of starlings.

Highbridge Red-Tail Mama

Afterward, I headed down to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. There was no sign of either Norman or Isolde in the area, and in fact it's been 11 days since the last time I saw either of them in the vicinity of the nest area despite having checked the area six or seven times. But Isolde has been a late brooder compared to the other red-tail mamas about town, so it could be another week or two before she starts.

Elsewhere, it's been reported that Mama at the Briarwood Queens started brooding this past week. Other hawks such as the Riverside Boat Basin pair have been diligently working on their nests.

March 11, 2009

3/11, Double-Hawk Wednesday

A twofer of hawk spotting today.

First, in mid-afternoon as I was walking along Broadway, I spotted a red-tail perched on top of 301 West 106th St.

106th Street Hawk

Oddly enough, it seemed to be intent on watching over 106th St. when it could have turned 90° and had West End Ave., Straus Park and Broadway below.

Although the bird was high up and the skies very gray, pix seemed to reveal that the 106th St. hawk was a red-tailed but light-eyed adult. I suspect it was the adult whom I have been seeing in nearby Riverside Park recently.

Later in the day, no sign of Norman or Isolde near the cathedral nest. But as I was entering Morningside Park, a red-tail flew out of it and into the trees by the hospital.

Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

Looks like the same young bird who was here two days ago, hunting just before sunset. It was doing so again today, and having equal luck.

March 11

I watched from a sidewalk bench for awhile, wondering if Norman or Isolde would show up and chase the intruder away. But they didn't.

After about 10 minutes, the juvie flew into the Morningside Park trees a block north.

Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

Again it seemed like the hawk was anxiously looking for food, and it shifted branches several times in the next 5 minutes. But once it reached a very tall tree by the dog run, it settled down. There it remained 15 minutes later when I left at about sundown.

March 9, 2009

3/9, Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

No sign of the adult red-tailed hawk in Riverside Park around 112th St. when I checked on Monday, although I had seen it the area again on Sunday.

But with daylight savings time now in effect, there was still plenty of time to wander over to Morningside Drive and Morningside Park for a look-see. Unfortunately, or fortunately as it proved to be, neither Norman or Isolde seemed to be anywhere around the nest area.

About 6:25, while I was standing by the park pond thinking that I had seen a great blue heron there about this time last year, a big, long-winged, but skinny bird parachuted into the back of the pond. Good, lord, a great blue heron!

While I checked the camera screen to see if any of the pix in the dim light were coming out, a shadow swept overhead. I turned around to find that the heron had flown to another section of the pond, and.. A hawk was sitting in the willow tree overlooking the pond.

Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

And as you can see from its posture, the hawk was checking out what was on offer in the water below. That would be one heron, sixteen mallards, and two Canada geese.

About the time that I realized that this hawk had a brown tail and ergo was an immature red-tail, it made a swoop down and across the pond. Much quacking and wing-flapping ensued, as the hawk flew up into another tree, no prey in talon.

Another minute or two later, same procedure going the opposite direction. This time it seemed like the hawk was specifically going for the heron. But catching nothing, it left the pond area and flew high up into a tree by Manhattan Ave.

There the hawk stayed for another 10 minutes, allowing me enough time to assess that it had both eyes,and wasn't the one-eyed juvenile seen 10 blocks away a week ago. Then it made a swoop at something near the park fence. Missed. Perched in another tree for a moment, then took off down the park and then across and up toward the Cathedral School.

That seemed to be it for the day, and I began to leave. But just as I reached the top of the park stairs leading up from the pond, whooosh! The hawk was flying up the path from the south and landed in a tree 15 feet away. Half a minute later, it headed for the trees along Morningside Drive by St. Luke's hospital.

Morningside Juvenile Red-Tail

And there it stayed until after sunset. It moved about three or four times, including one fruitless attack at a squirrel.

Ten minutes past sunset, I exited. The juvie red-tail was still there, and with the exceedingly dim light due to the cloud cover, perhaps it ended up roosting there or close by for the night.

March 9

March 6, 2009

3/4, 3/6, Upper Riverside Red-Tails

More activity by red-tailed hawks in Riverside Park in the 110s, but it's not clear yet whether the adult hawks from the nest to the south are keeping watch up here now that they might be moving their nest to 94th St., or if the cathedral hawks are coming west to do likewise, or if there is perhaps a "floating" adult in the area.

Wednesday around 5:00 I walked over to Riverside at 112th and a few minutes later spotted two red-tails in the air over the corner at 110th St. They soared and circled about several times, working their north toward 113th. There were several near collisions, and it looked like one was claiming territorial rights and trying to chase the other out of the area. Unfortunately, tree branches kept intruding and I wasn't able to get pix even as they passed almost overhead.

The two hawks disappeared behind buildings as they passed over 113th, but several minutes later, I found a red-tail perched in a tree overlooking the curve where 110th St. descends to meet Riverside. It was an adult.

Riverside Red-Tail

No sign of hawks in the area on Thursday, but on Friday around 5:30, a hawk in the same tree. Again an adult.

Riverside Red-Tail

There's a bit of lightness to the irises of those angry eyes, so it's not Isolde from the cathedral. And the beak is intact, so it's not the female from the south Riverside pair come north.

Whoever it is, the impression gained from Wednesday's aerial show seems to indicate that this adult hawk has claimed the area. Its perching in this tree comes across as guard duty to ensure the juvenile seen roosting near here a couple weeks back doesn't return.

March 3, 2009

3/3, Chillin'

A brick-cold Tuesday late afternoon found Isolde perched on what seems to be one of her favorite air-conditioners at St. Luke's hospital.


By pure happenstance, I managed to spot Norman soaring about well to the east. It looked like he was harassing the pigeons along St. Nick Ave.

March 2, 2009

3/1, It's Tough Out There

Watching a possibly injured young hawk inspecting tiny bits of roadkill for a morsel to eat, back on Christmas Day, was a reminder that life can be tough for wild animals. Sunday provided another example.

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail

While heading over toward Central Park for a quick end-of-the-day look for hawks around the Great Hill and North Woods, I instead came almost face-to-face with a juvenile red-tail perched alongside the sidewalk in the middle of the Frederick Douglass houses, between Amsterdam and Columbus where 103rd St. would be. Before I'd even had a chance to express any surprise, another hawk flew past, just missing the juvie and alighting in a tree about 175 feet away, close to 104th St.

Something seemed a bit odd about the young red-tail's appearance, but somehow I didn't realize until much later how very odd it was. But take a closer look at its face...

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail, Close-Up

I thought at the time that it's right eyebrow was strange, but the problem wasn't the eyebrow. This young hawk didn't have a right eye at all. And as best I could tell, it wasn't a recent injury at all. It's somehow survived for some while as a one-eyed raptor.

But at the moment I was mostly just thinking how very odd it was that this hawk was perching just a few feet off the ground, right next to a garbage deposit spot where people were walking by fairly frequently.

One-Eyed Red-Tail in the Projects

The board it was perched on was part of some half-assed structure half covering, or shoring up, a hole in the ground, apparently dug to repair some pipes. At least one rat could be seen scurrying around the hole and over to the garbage bins. Occasionally the juvie hawk would look down to see what the rats were doing, but mostly it was looking to the north where the adult red-tail was perched.

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail

So I was quickly getting the impression that the young hawk was more scared of the adult hawk than it was of any of the humans.

After a few minutes I wandered over to see who the adult red-tail might be.

Red-Tail in the Projects

My first thought was that it was Norman, but I eventually decided it was more likely Isolde. Dark eyes and extra large "epaulettes" were the deciding factors.

But Isolde didn't seem to be paying any attention to the juvie hawk. She seemed to be more intent on the ground below. A couple passers-by said that they had seen a rat scurry under a big dumpster alongside 104th St.

After walking back over to check on the juvie and the people who were watching him, I turned around and discovered that there was another red-tail in the area. The third, Norman, was perched on the chimney screen atop one of the buildings on 104th St. But within a minute he shifted across the street to a water-tower ladder.

The juvie was, of course, watching the adults.

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail

And so things remained for about another 10 minutes. Juvie hawk perched very quietly. One adult hawk perched high up where it was in command of the entire scene, and the other adult perched lower and apparently ignoring the juvenile.

But finally Isolde showed signs of moving on...

Red-Tail in the Projects

But when she took off, she only flew as far as a fire escape across the street.

Red-Tail in the Projects

Another few minutes of the "stand off".

Red-Tail in the Projects

And then about 20 minutes after I first arrived, the juvie apparently decided that it might be time to make a getaway. It took off flying to the east above the sidewalk. But one of the adults was hot on its tail, and about 150 feet away there was a near collision as it gave the juvenile the heave-ho from the territory. (Of course, someone walking along just 10 feet below them didn't notice at all, so intent was he on his cell phone conversation.)

The juvenile then got to Columbus Ave and quickly sliced right and headed south, not to be seen again.

The adult flew up onto an air conditioner, perched for a minute..

Red-Tail in the Projects

Briefly switched to a tree, then flew back around to the area where the two adults had previously been. I followed and found one of the two on the roof of a project building on 104th St. and the other apparently gone.

The day's light was ebbing quickly and I decided to leave. But as I was headed east, both adult red-tails came flying over my head. One turned north at Columbus Ave., while the other landed atop a water tower at the corner. It stayed just a minute or so, log enough to gain the attention of a kestrel, who made four or five strafing runs to chase off the big intruder.

The red-tail took off again and headed north, but then alit on a cell phone antenna on 107th St. The other adult was there too.

Red-Tails on 107th St.

And another minute or two later they both took off, seemingly headed in the direction of the west end of the cathedral.

After that, no further sign of red-tails, but I did find the Cooper's hawk roosting in its usual spot near the cathedral.