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

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