April 30, 2009

4/25, Red-Tail Mama's Lunch Break

On sunny Saturday the 25th, I arrived at the Riverside Park Boat Basin red-tailed hawk nest about a quarter to one and found the mother sitting patiently on her eggs.

Mama Red-Tail in Nest

She wasn't fussing about much, so it didn't seem like a hatch had occurred or was imminent.

Twenty minutes later, papa hawk showed up to spell her on the nest. Although I didn't note it at the time, he did not bring food for his mate.

There was the usual half minute of mutual examination of the nest interior.

Mom and Pop Red-Tails in Nest

Then mama turned around.

Mom and Pop Red-Tails in Nest

Took off.

Mama Hawk Takes Flight

And flew straight my direction.

April 25

Well, not quite straight. She passed by 7-8 feet to my right, then popped up into a tree alongside the highway, where she briefly worked out a cramp while pondering what to do next.

Perching Red-Tail

A couple minutes later she was off, leaving the nest to papa. It turned out that he had the old homestead to himself for the next 40 minutes.

Papa Hawk in Nest

About 30-35 minutes into his nest duty, papa started getting antsy. For a bit I wondered if a hatch had started because he was was standing up and looking down at the eggs. But apparently not, as it turned out that the hatch didn't occur until five days later.

In any event, mama hawk showed back up about 1:50, but did not return straight to the nest. First she buzzed over the head of the hawkwatchers -- obviously she's very used to people being about -- and I got a glimpse of her carrying some food in her talons. She popped up into a tree about 60-70 feet northeast of the nest and preened for a bit.

Mama Hawk Preens

Oooh, yeah, that feather right there.

Mama Hawk Preens

Her arrival had been obvious enough that many of the usually oblivious park users had gathered to watch.

Mama Hawk Preens

She stopped preening and then looked around for a minute. Then dropped to the ground where she had apparently dropped her lunch when she flew in a few minutes before.

Hawk Retrieves Prey

Grabbed hold and took off.

Hawk Prepares to Launch

Again passing by close to my right and landing in a tree alongside the highway. She plucked her meal.

Hawk with Lunch

And began to eat, occasionally looking around.

Hawk with Lunch

Her bites were not ladylike.

Hawk with Lunch

By this time papa hawk had decided that mama had the scene under control, even though she was still 75-100 feet from the nest. He quietly departed.

Mama finished up, wiped her beak on the branch a few times, then craned her neck about as she maneuvered her lunch into a more comfortable spot in her gullet. She switched to another tree nearby and perched for five minutes. Then finally, she went back to her nest, more than an hour after she had left.

Mama Hawk Returns to Nest

I made my exit, planning to head off to check on another hawk nest. But as I reached the corner of Riverside and 79th, I noticed a shadow falling down the side of a building several blocks north. Looked back up and there was papa hawk flying straight down Riverside Drive.

Papa Hawk over Riverside Drive

Just as he was almost overhead, he hit the brakes.

Papa Hawk over Riverside Drive

And landed on a top floor terrace railing overlooking the corner.

Papa Hawk over Riverside Drive

Where he stayed until after I left five minutes later.

Papa Hawk over Riverside Drive

April 25, 2009

4/18, Highbridge Hatch? And Inwood?

Saturday the 18th marked five weeks less a day since I thought that the Highbridge red-tailed hawk mama might have laid her first egg, so I headed uptown in the fine weather to see if she had a hatch.

I arrived at the best viewing point (relatively speaking) around 4:30 to find Martha fussing about in the nest. Within a minute though she had plopped back down in the nest. But it did seem that she might be sitting a bit high. The weather being so sunny, I suspected she had had a warm afternoon in the yet leafed-out treetop.

Highbridge Hawk Mama

She stayed put for about five minutes, but then was back up and fussing about again. It wasn't feeding behavior. There might have been egg rotation going on, but it seemed more like she was carefully viewing the bottom of the nest. Perhaps someone very small was in there with her?

Highbridge Hawk Mama

She gave me a stare, turned around and checked the other side of the nest, then sat back down. There was some more fussing about during the next 15 minutes, then she took off for a flight around the neighborhood.

A minute or two later George visited the nest.

April 18

Hhe stared at the bottom of the nest.

Highbridge Hawk Mama

Fussed about and sat down.

Highbridge Hawk Mama

Another 7-8 minutes later George took off again. The nest was left unattended much longer this time, perhaps as much as five minutes. Martha then returned And her return showed her paying careful attention to the bottom of the nest and fussing about a bit, but no feeding behavior.

Was there a hawk hatchling in there. Although my viewing really wasn't enough to claim so, it turned out that Bruce visited the site a day later and obtained video of a feeding in progress.

On leaving Highbridge Park, I walked up to Inwood Hill to see if the nest there had a hatch. It seemed likely, as Inwood was the first Manhattan red-tail nest with a hatch last year. But the first 15 minutes or so that I had the Inwood nest in view, there was no sign of a hawk at all. Finally, though, a blue jay raucus not far from the nest must have perked up the Inwood mama.

Inwood Hawk Mama

She too went through the routine of looking around the bottom of the nest, fussed a bit but didn't do an obvious feeding, then settled back down facing in a different direction. But the new position left her sitting quite high, much higher than one think she would be in if she was warming eggs.

Several days later I did hear of a feeding being observed at the Inwood nest. Looks like my timing was just bad.

April 13, 2009

4/13, Riverside Juvenile Red-Tail

Raptor sightings have been few and far between for me the last few weeks despite much walking about in what is supposed to be hawk territory. I watched the Riverside Boat Basin mama red-tail sit on her eggs a couple weekends ago and last weekend viewed a merlin that James had spotted on a Harlem steeple, and... that's almost it. Add to that just a 2-second glimpse last Wednesday of a red-tail being chased in upper Riverside Park by the neighborhood crows and that's all that's been definite.

The crow chasee apparently had not taken the hint, as this evening I had a 20-minute-plus viewing of a juvenile red-tail in the same area, hanging about the bird sanctuary in Riverside Park. He was easy to find, as three pedestrians were standing by the park wall at 119th St. looking up in a nearby tree.

Riverside Juvenile Red-Tail

And sometimes glaring back.

Riverside Juvenile Red-Tail

Very soon he took off.

April 13

And shifted to a tree a couple hundred feet south, then quickly to another in the heart of the sanctuary, close to the trailside sign explaining the sanctuary's history and listing last year's bird sightings.

Riverside Juvenile Red-Tail

And there he stayed until I departed about 10-15 minutes before sunset. There was plenty of bobbing and craning of his head for better views of the park floor below, but he didn't seem to be actively hunting.