March 19, 2012

3/18, Brooding in Inwood

On a very nice late Sunday afternoon I checked on the red-tail nest in Inwood Hill Park and was rewarded with the sight of a nest switch-off.

Mr. and Mrs. Inwood

Just a minute or so of activity as the female returned from a meal (check out that crop) and rest break and the male took off. The female gave me one dirty glare, and then all was quiet (except for the chirping cardinal and the whining squirrel)..

Mrs. Inwood

I hoped to also see one of the great horned owls who have also been in Inwood Hill Park this spring, and who were spotted there as recently as a day ago, but had no luck. Several neighborhood folk were about checking the tree tops, so I know I was at least checking the right area. Oh, well.

March 13, 2012

3/13, A Coopie, and Isolde Thinks About It

There was no activity at the cathedral red-tailed hawk nest when I first checked on it early this evening, but as I strolled past the pond in nearby Morningside Park, I was startled when a small hawk flew overhead.

Coopie in Morningside Park

A Cooper's hawk. Perhaps the same hawk that James watched being chased by peregrines in Manhattanville on Sunday.

Coopie in Morningside Park

The Coopie perched in a tree above the Morningside pond for 5-10 minutes and then moved north to a higher spot over the dog run. There it nervously preened, alternating between a stroke at its feathers and then a look around the skies. Apparently it knew it was in someone else's territory.

Well, one can only watch a bird preen for so long. It was time to leave, but i checked on the cathedral nest on the way out. Hmmm... that deeply shaded alcove seems just a slight bit paler than it ought to be.

Isolde in Her Nest


She remained perched up there for the next 15 minutes until I gave up because of darkness. (The above photo was shot at 1600 ISO and then highlights brought out using Photoshop.) Sometimes she was a bit hunched over the interior of the nest; sometimes she was looking around at the the skies and rooftops. It reminded me much of when I saw her up there mid-March last year, pondering things and just a few days away from egg-laying.

March 12, 2012

Manhattan Red-Tail Nest Checklist

I didn't have time to sneak over to the red-tail nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine today, but here's a checklist I've been thinking about posting for a while.

As the 2012 season starts, it would appear that there might be eight red-tailed hawk nests in Manhattan this year. If all prove out, this would be the highest nest count since there were eight in 2008.

Working from north to south, the nests are:

Inwood Hill Park: Likely one of the oldest nesting sites in town, if not the oldest. The nest is located high up a tree in the ravine just south of the soccer field by the cove and has been in its current tree since 2008. Often one of the earliest nests to have a hatch in the city, it would appear that the hawks here are running a little slow this year, as Bruce reported yesterday that it doesn't look like an egg has been laid just yet. If the hawks here have been named, I haven't heard what they are, but the staff who work at the nature center on the 'island' on the other side of the cove would know.

Highbridge Park/Swindlers Cove: Located at the far north end of Highbridge Park — a hundred yards or so down the park trail from the three-way intersection of Dyckman, Tenth Ave., and Harlem River Dr. and across the HRD from Swindlers Cove — this is another early-hatch nest. And as I reported yesterday, egg(s) have already been laid. This is another old-school tree nest, although it's only been in its current tree since 2010. Previously it was a few hundred yards further south and a bit further uphill, placing it closer to George Washington High School, which explains why some of us refer to the hawk pair here as George and Martha.

Update: I am belatedly informed that there may be a new (ninth) red-tail nest on an apartment building in Washington Heights near the medical center.

CCNY: There has been a nest located on a gargoyle high up the east side of CCNY's Shepard Hall for the past several years, overlooking St. Nicholas Terrace and upper St. Nicholas Park. It's been a tough nest to watch because it's so high up, and last year was the first time that it seemed a hatch of baby hawks was confirmed here. Sadly, the confirmation arrived as a report about illness and death at the nest. Frounce had struck, eventually claiming the father and, if I recall correctly, one of the babies. The mother hawk of this nest had attracted a new mate sometime last fall, but tragically, it appears that she died just last Monday, struck by a car on St. Nicholas Ave. a few blocks south of the nest. Park dogwalkers had several years ago named the hawks here Nick and Nora. Possibly there will still be a nest here in 2012; the new male hawk could yet find a new mate, as has quickly occurred at two nests further south.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine: A nest has been located since at least 2006 at the east end of the cathedral, high up the choir wall on the shoulders of a statue of St. Andrew and overlooking the south end of Morningside Park. It may have been constructed by the hawks who had a nest in Central Park's North Woods in 2004. I have yet to see evidence that the female is in the nest with eggs, but in the past this nest has usually run a week or two later than the Inwood or Highbridge nests in its timing. The female hawk here is known is as Isolde; she and her previous mate, Tristan, were said to have been named by students at the nearby Cathedral School. The current male is known as Norman, dubbed because he was young, hyper-active and "a little psycho" when he first appeared. You'll also hear him called Stormin' Norman because of his active hunting behavior.

Riverside Park/Boat Basin: Located in a tree close to the Hudson River just north of the Boat Basin Cafe, this is another nest which has lost both adults in the past year. The father last spring to rat poisoning and the female just this past Friday to unknown causes (but poisoning suspected). But as hawkwatchers are learning, life can go on in an awful hurry. The new male hawk who arrived here late last summer was seen today mating with a newly arrived female. The Riverside hawks have apparently never been named, even though the Riverside Park Fund tried to hold a contest a few years ago.

Update: A couple weeks later, word is that the two new Riverside hawks have given up the old nesting site and may be working on a new nest on an West End Ave. apartment building's fire escape.

Fifth Ave./74th St.: The most famous hawk nest in the world apparently, located on a coop apartment building overlooking Central Park at 74th St. Tragedy also struck here in recent weeks, as the young female hawk who raised a clutch last year was found dead without injury (again, poisoning suspected) in late February. But another female showed up within a day and so it looks like egg-laying will happen, just a bit late. Whether there will be a hatch remains to be seen, as hawkwatchers will recall the long dry spell of 2005-2010. Pale Male is of course the male hawk here and he's been king of this section of Central Park for close to 20 years. I have yet to hear that hawkwatchers have agreed on a name for the new female.

Fifth Ave./57th St.: A pair of adult hawks appeared at the southeast corner of Central Park this spring and have been reported trying to build a nest on the Crown Building. They seem to be young hawks inexperienced in nest building, as hawkwatchers with convenient upper floor office viewing points have said that the duo have picked what looks to be a poor spot for a nest. Mysteriously, another dead adult red-tail was found not far away in Central Park recently but it's not clear if it was connected with this potential nest. Certainly there have been at least two adult hawks seen here since then. Long-time hawkwatchers will recall that Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte used to nest near southern Central Park but apparently gave up the territory a year or two ago due to conflicts with peregrine falcons. Time will tell how things work out for this new pair.

NYU/Washington Square: Nest first erected last year on a window ledge at the Bobst Library, outside the office window of the NYU president. Brooding is well under way here, as it was reported just today that the female had laid a second egg. A nestcam monitoring the nest should be active any day now. The female here is new and is known as Rosie for reasons I have forgotten; she replaces Violet, who died in December during surgery related to a necrotic foot caused by a troublesome leg band. The male is Bobby, named for the Bobst library.

March 11, 2012

3/11, Brooding in Highbridge

The Highbridge Park red-tailed hawk nest near Dyckman St. has over the last few years usually been one of the first two nests in Manhattan for egg-laying and hatching. I'd seen Martha fussing about in the nest a week ago, and late Sunday afternoon I headed up there to see if she might now be on eggs. The evidence of it was pretty convincing.

George and Martha in the Nest

Just a few minutes after I arrived, George flew in. Another couple minutes later, Martha flew off to a treetop 70 or 80 yards away and a had a short meal, leaving George back hunkered down in the nest. Then she switched around the treetops a bit, went for a quick flight up to the three-way intersection of Dyckman, Tenth Ave., and Harlem River Dr., flew back and settled down on a high branch for a solid half hour of preening.

Martha in the Air

Martha Examines the Photographer

Finally she returned to the nest and after a long confab with George — both were low in the nest and I could barely see either of them for three or four minutes — George departed, his job of egg tending done for the day. He perched across Harlem River Dr. for a bit, apparently watching something he didn't like atop Fort George Hill, before taking off and flying somewhere across the river in the Bronx.

George Scans the Skies

March 10, 2012

3/9, Almost Spring

Spring is just about here, and the city hawks are going to their nests. On Friday, after a futile week, I finally caught one of the cathedral red-tails in action, circling over Douglass Ave. in southern Harlem.

RT Over Harlem

But then a happy day turned into a very sad day. The last year has not been good for Manhattan red-tails, but somehow in the past three weeks, three adult females have died.

Update: One other adult red-tail and a youngster have also died recently.