June 23, 2012

6/23, J. Hood Wright Fledgling

I headed up to Washington Heights on Saturday to check on the fire escape red-tail babies. I'd learned that only one was still in the nest Saturday a week ago and expected that both would be lurking about the treetops of J. Hood Wright Park, near the George Washington Bridge. Something I forgot to factor in beforehand was that playground noise would make listening for robin alarms and other noisy clues juste a bit difficult.

After making a pass around the park and returning close to where I originally entered, there were definite robin alarms coming from somewhere close by. Then a quick glimpse of a hawk flying away to the east. But the robins kept complaining. One of the fledglings was perched 60 or 70 feet above the handball court.

J. Hood Wright RT Fledgling

He was engaged in most of the gamut of fledgling activity. Staring at robins.

J. Hood Wright RT Fledgling


J. Hood Wright RT Fledgling

Staring at people and dogs below.

J. Hood Wright RT Fledgling


J. Hood Wright RT Fledgling

And more staring at robins.

J. Hood Wright RT Fledgling

The only thing missing seemed to be eating.

There was no sign of the other fledgling despite a couple about tours around the park. Another sighting of one of the parents was made, but that was it.

June 22, 2012

6/21, Even Paranoids Have Enemies

A hot Thursday evening found two of the cathedral red-tailed hawk fledglings coping with their hostile neighbors in Morningside Park in the trees around 114th and 115th streets. Robin alarms first alerted me to the location, but blue jays, a kestrel and a mocking bird were also involved in the mix.

While initially trying to figure out where a hawk might be in the all the tree-top noise, I was startled when one bombed past, fleeing a harassing kestrel. He ended up perched in an exposed treetop below the 115th St. overlook fountain.

Morningside RT Fledgling

After six or seven minutes of harassment there, the fledge took off and disappeared into the tree tops near the park's dog run. While trying to figure out where he had gone, I realized from the noise that there must be another young red-tail somewhere close by. Within minutes, both ended up perched next to each other.

Morningside RT Fledglings

They hopped about a bit, with one heading over to a nearby treetop for a moment.

Morningside RT Fledgling

But back together.

Morningside RT Fledglings

Hmmm, there seem to be some distinct physical differences.

Shortly after the second or even third blue jay joined the harassing chorus, one of the pair bolted south and perched near the park's upper lawn. As I headed down to see where he had gone, I could hear the ching-chig-ching of the kestrel returning to add to the overhead din.

The fledge was not far from the park's 114th St. entrance.

Morningside RT Fledgling

He wasn't happy here, but at least the only harassers were robins. And people with cameras.

Morningside RT Fledgling

And damn, the air was warm and muggy.

Morningside RT Fledgling

June 20, 2012

6/20, Summer Solstice

On a hot Wednesday evening, the cathedral red-tail fledglings had apparently given up on the exposed hospital roof and moved to shadier locales. Robin alarms clued me into the location of one fledgling, perched 20 feet up a tree about 100 feet inside Morningside Park. Similar sounds suggested another might be across the street around the chapel rooftops or perhaps by the Cathedral School.

Morningside RT Fledgling

The fledgling looked well fed and curious.

Morningside RT Fledgling

Although panting a bit and wings slightly spread because of the heat.

Morningside RT Fledgling

The robin noise wasn't as bad as when two of the fledglings made their maiden forays into Morningside Park, but it was still irritating.

Morningside RT Fledgling

Hmmm, so many things to stare at.

Morningside RT Fledgling


Morningside RT Fledgling

I made a quick pass around the lower level of the park and was again fooled by the fake owl on a rooftop on Manhattan Ave. Returning to the upper level, I found the one fledgling perking up. He hopped over to another tree and then worked his way up the branches, all the while staring at robins. So close, and yet so far.

June 15, 2012

6/15, Hanging about the Hospital

At least four and possibly all five members of the cathedral hawk family were in view on a very fine Friday evening, all found perching on the St. Luke's hospital roof or atop a hospital-owned building.

Immediately after and I and another hawkwatcher walked up to the corner of 113th St and Morningside Drive, Isolde landed on the chimney overhead but then immediately took off to the south.

Isolde Leaps

It was another 20 minutes or more before another member of the family was found, but finally I spotted one fledgling perched on the roof of St. Luke's Travers Pavilion, overlooking 114th St. And 20 minutes after that another was found sneaking about the top of the Minturn Pavilion on 113th St.

RT Fledgling on St. Luke's

Definitely different fledlings, as a quick check of the Travers Pavilion revealed the first fledgling still in the same spot, preening.

While angling about for a better view of that first fledgling, I decided there had to be another hawk way up at the top the hospital roof, somewhere near Norman's favorite chimney, as the neighborhood kestrels were in full attack mode. Sure enough, Norman was there, perched on a large air circulation unit where a railing would protect his head from the kestrels. Ten minutes later he tired of the assaults and shifted to the east end of the hospital, perching on a chimney on the Scrymser Pavilion.

Norman on the Hospital Roof

Meanwhile, another fledgling was spotted on the north side of 114th St., atop a former apartment building now housing the hospital's outpatient services. Was it the third fledgling, or one of the first two we had seen? No way to tell.

RT Fledgling on 114th St.

As evening drifted to a close, Norman took off for parts unknown, leaving just the one fledgling still to be seen.

RT Fledgling on 114th St.

After a long spell of mildly unpleasant weather, let's hope the streak of the last two days keeps up.

West Front

6/14, Hard to Find

On a fine Thursday evening, the cathedral red-tail fledglings played very hard to find. No crying for food, no robin complaints. Finally I found one of them perched on the clock tower — where the dome used to be — above the entrance of St. Luke's hospital.

Fledgling on the Hospital

Mama Isolde paid a couple brief visits to the location, spending about ten minutes in between somewhere on the Columbia campus./p>

Isolde in the Evening Light

June 11, 2012

6/11, The Entire Family

Monday evening along 113th St., the entire red-tailed hawk family put in an appearance, and at one point all five of them were within 50 or 60 feet of each other.

Two of the fledglings were immediately visible when I first arrived. One fledge was on the roof of what there is of the cathedral's north transept, just 20 feet or so off the ground.

Begging RT Fledgling

He was loudly begging.

Begging RT Fledgling

Turning around to see what he might be looking on the hospital roof, I found another fledging perched outside a high window on the plant pavilion. He was also begging a bit, just not quite so much.

After I made a quick peek in the park to see the third fledging might be there, I found that the fledgling at the cathedral had disappeared but there were now two on the hospital roof. And then Mama Isolde popped up behind one of the two. Isolde and one fledgling were on one roof section and eating; the other fledge was on a rooftop 10 or 12 feet below and begging Isolde to bring food down.

After several minutes of this, the fledgling next to Isolde started wandering around. But then the third fledge popped up on yet a higher section of the roof.

Four Hawks

Kestrels could be seen zooming around toward the other end of the hospital, and when I went to see if papa Norman was perched down there somewhere, he came soaring over. A few circles and then he landed next to the fledgling on the high roof, hung about for a minutes, and then took off. A bit more soaring around, and he was gone.

Isolde took her time finishing her meal, by which time the begging fledgling had finally flown up beside her and also started feeding. Isolde didn't hang around much longer before also taking off for the evening.

Isolde in the Air

June 10, 2012

6/9, Washington Heights Nestlings

Word circulated in late March that a pair of red-tail were working on a new nest in Washington Heights, but when I located the site in April, it looked deserted. I should have looked closer. On Saturday, I was asked to check on the site again after word that a nestling had been spotted on the fire escape nest. I didn't find a nestling; I found two.

Washington Heights Red-Tails

The nestling duo looked to be about five weeks old, i.e., born around the first of May. The younger had head feathers but was still boasting a pair of fuzzy white eyebrows.

Washington Heights Red-Tail Nestling

The location, as you can see, is on a fire escape that looks like it's in need of a good scrape and re-painting.

Washington Heights Red-Tail Nestling

The elder of the pair has his head feathers and is exercising his wings a bit.

Washington Heights Red-Tail Nestling

To be sure, some of the wings flaps came from maintaining balance while trying to step about the nest sticks.

The nest faces west, and Saturday's sunset gave it good color.

Washington Heights Red-Tail Nestling

One last look.

Washington Heights Red-Tail Nestling

June 8, 2012

6/8, One Seen, One Heard

The third nestling from the red-tail nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine apparently fledged on Friday. The nest looked deserted in the early evening, and there were third- or fourth-hand reports of someone seeing it make the jump earlier in the day.

Robin alerts revealed the location of one fledgling, perched just inside Morningside Park in the same tree where the second fledge had spent much of Wednesday. It was studiously preening and generally ignoring the robins.


Given its location, was this Friday's fledge?

There seemed to be almost no sign of the other two fledglings, the exception being that every now and again, there were squeeping begging noises coming from the vicinity of the south-side chapel roofs. But robins in that area didn't seem too perturbed.

The one visible fledgling did move around a bit in its tree, and at one point revealed what looked a full crop.


Otherwise, the only bird of note was a black-crowned night heron perched in the willow tree by the pond in the park.


June 7, 2012

6/7, Not Much to See

Hawkwatching at the cathedral of St. John the Divine was difficult on Thursday, as other than the one remaining nestling, the rest of the family remained out of sight for most of the evening.

Well after the rain burst had ended, some isolated robin alarms hinted that there was a hawk at the east end of the hospital roof. Eventually I found one of the fledglings, presumably the first, preening on a chimney top in a spot visible only from a small area near 114th St.

A bit later I found Mama Isolde perched on a spire on the side of the unbuilt north tower of the cathedral's West Front. A good place to perch and keep an eye on 113th St. but have some defense against attacking kestrels, blue jays, et al.

Isolde Near west Front

Around 7:45 the fledgling on the chimney flew across the street toward mama, but not all the way there. It landed on the railing along the eave of the nave and settled in for more preening.

Fledgling on Nave Rail

While looking for the hawks, I did encounter either Jim or Harry hanging about near a small party on the landing of the old orphanage.

Cathedral Peacock

6/6, Second Fledge Meets Un-Welcome Wagon

The second youngster from the red-tail at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine fledged from the nest around 1:00 or 2:00 Wednesday afternoon. As Jeremy's video shows, it went off the top of St. Andrew's head and down into the trees below, apparently getting enough glide that it ended up in a tree across the street in Morningside Park.

When I managed to make it over to the area after 6:00, I found that the first fledgling was again lurking about in the turret above the nest, while the third baby was still in the nest.

Fledgling and Nestling

Robin chirping directly across the street indicated the second fledgling was still close to where he originally landed. He was out on a branch cluster, swaying in the breeze. His flapping for balance revealed his position.

Frightened Fledgling

The robin's were chirping like crazy, a cardinal occasionally joined in, and another bird whose call I didn't recognize also chimed in. Not quite a cacophony, but not what one wants to hear for the first 5 hours after leaving home for the first time. The new fledgling was looking weirded out.

Frightened Fledgling

Even the sight of the photographer way down on the ground seemed to frighten him.

Frightened Fledgling

Back up at the nest, Norman apparently made a food delivery and Isolde also made a visit. The neighborhood kestrels were also about, and buzzed Isolde numerous times when she perched on the hospital roof.

The remaining nestling did make some suggestive wing stretches, but remained in the nest.

Wing Stretches

After checking on the nestling, I turned around to find that the second fledge had disappeared from its wobbly perch. Robin alarms indicated it was still in the area, but where? It seemed it might have dropped from the high perch down to a lower tree top just a bit farther into the park, but it took over 30 minutes before anyone magaed to get a glimpse of where it was hiding in dense foliage. Bruce managed to get some pictures of it cowering from the robin's hostile welcome.

June 6, 2012

6/5, Everybody Gets Fed

There was plenty of activity in the nest area at the cathedral on Tuesday as the red-tail parents flew around with food and the fledgling had to follow in order to get fed. But at the end of the day, both fledgling and mama had big dinners.

The fledgling apparently made its first trip across the street to the ledge around the roof of the Plant Pavilion at the hospital late Monday evening. Hawkwatchers found it moving from perch to perch along the hospital roof Tuesday morning, but by the time I cam by early in the evening, it had returned to the cathedral and was perched on the turret immediately above the nest.


He was making begging noises and trying to get a look into the nest alcove. It turned out that Mama Isolde was in there with the two nestlings.


The fledgling flew over to the turret above the statue of St. Matthew (an "hour" counterclockwise), then tried to fly into the nest. He couldn't make it in and instead fluttered down to the tall spire on St. Ansgar chapel.


Isolde popped out of the nest and flew over to the corner urn on the roof of the Plant Pavilion, where she looked back toward the nest and the fledgling. Was she trying to get the fledgling to fly over and join her?


Moments later, Papa Norman came zooming past the nest, obviously carrying food, and landed on the chimney just above Isolde.


After a couple minutes, Norman flew back to the cathedral. He almost went into the nest, but changed his mind and instead landed on the turret above the statue of St. James the Great (two hours clockwise from the nest). Isolde followed. The fledgling also tried to tag along, ended up perched at the feet of St. Andrew and disappeared from view.

Tree cover along Morningside Drive prevented me from getting a good look at what was going on, but glimpses were enough to show Norman taking off (he did stay somewhere in the area, as he was seen soaring over the park 15 minutes later) while Isolde headed over to the turret above St. Matthew.

But where did the fledgling go? Back over to the hospital roof.


Isolde made another visit to the nest that lasted five minutes but again returned to the turret above St. Matthew.

The fledgling could see Mama had food so he flew back to the cathedral.


His navigation system apparently still needed work, as he ended up on the turret above the nest. But he quickly flew over to where Isolde had food and lunged at it so ferociously that Isolde had to leap out of his greedy way. He settled into a very long meal. Isolde remained with him for a little while.


Isolde was ready to eat but needed room to eat her meal. She flew over to the roof of the hospital's Minturn Pavilion and started chowing down on a rat.


It was a good long meal for her, 15 minutes before she got down to the last morsels.


Satiated, Isolde remained perched where she had eaten, watching over the area. Amazingly, more than a half hour after he's started his meal, the fledgling was still pecking at his food.