February 19, 2010

2/14, Harlem Hawk Walk

Red-Tail over South Harlem

James's annual winter uptown hawk walk was on Valentine's Day this year. A good crowd attended and plenty of raptors were spotted. My personal "for sure" count was five different red-tailed hawks, including two mated pairs and one juvenile; one turkey vulture; one peregrine falcon; and one Cooper's hawk. Others in the group may have spotted as many as three more red-tails, including the mysterious pair believed to live between the GW Bridge and the Cloisters.

The day began with rooftop hawkwatching in south Harlem, with very sunny but windy skies. What would seem to be the cathedral red-tails were soaring about to the south, including the one in the photo above, or chasing pigeons around 116th St. Meanwhile, two other red-tails could be seen to the northwest, including one perched on a water tower in the General Grant Houses. Although that bird was just south of 125th St., it seems to have been one of the CCNY hawks but its presence was apparently tolerated by the cathedral pair.

After we walked over to the Harlem River and started north, one of the (presumed) CCNY hawks was found quietly perched on a television antenna at 139th St. Its partner was busy to the north, bombing pigeons around 143rd St and soaring high and far, up to Trinity Cemetery and perhaps beyond. About the time we headed up into Hamilton Heights at 145th St., it returned to the area, too.

Red-Tail over 145th St.

As we crossed Broadway, a quick-eyed spotter noticed behind us a turkey vulture flying north over Riverside Drive.

After a quick lunch, we walked over to Jackie Robinson Park, where two red-tails provided the closest viewing of the day. First, an adult was hopping about in the tree tops between 152nd and 154th Sts.

Jackie Robinson Park Red-Tail

Its odd behavior may have been because it was unaccustomed to being closely watched by humans, and it didn't like it.

Jackie Robinson Park Red-Tail

After about ten minutes, this adult red-tail, likely one of the CCNY birds, took off to the east, where it traded attacks with a crow before sailing out of sight. But moments later, as we headed back south along Edgecombe Ave., a juvenile red-tail was found quietly perched around 149th St.

Jackie Robinson Juvenile Red-Tail

The other CCNY red-tail was found a few minutes later, perched at the top of a fire escape overlooking St. Nick near 145th.

Most of the hawkwatchers having peeled off after a couple hours of walking, a few of us returned to James's rooftop overlooking 123rd St. From there, one of the Riverside Church peregrines was spotted atop a finial at the top of the church tower, and that was followed by a sighting of a red-tail on the ATLAH church cross near Marcus Garvey Park. The latter dropped several times down to chase pigeons before returning to the cross. The other cathedral/south Harlem hawk appeared in the southeast, circled up and flew over to Morningside Drive, turned around and drifted back toward Central Parks' Great Hill. As we watched it in the distance, a Cooper's hawk popped out of the north end of Morningside Park and soared over our heads.

Cooper's Hawk over Harlem

Circled once or twice.

Cooper's Hawk over Harlem

And then drifted off in the direction of the state office building on 125th St.