March 30, 2013

3/30, Washington Heights Red-Tails

Early Saturday evening found the Washington Heights red-tailed hawk pair in and about their 2013 nest. They have returned to the J. Hood Wright Park area, and seem to have built this year's nest quickly. They are again on a fire escape, and I don't recall seeing any sticks up there when I walked through the area three weeks ago.

In any event, Saturday's first sighting was of the male perched on a water tower on a building along Haven Ave. THen looking the other way, it was apparent the female was in the nest, as she was sitting up and preening. Her pale breast feathers gleamed in the late sun.

Washington Heights Hawk Nest

So the female is in the nest, but just sitting around. Hmmm.

Washington Heights Hawk Nest

Washington Heights Hawk Nest

And then taking off for a bit without the male taking over duty in the nest.

Washington Heights Hawk

I guess this means no eggs in the nest, yet.

As the female took off heading south, the male came flying up the avenue, past the nest and landing on a rooftop a block up.

Washington Heights Hawk

Then back down the avenue and into a treetop at P.S. 173.

March 30

Then back up the avenue. Then back down the avenue. Then over a rooftop to the south and out of sight.

I wandered about a bit. Then saw the male return, landing on the same rooftop north of the nest.

Washington Heights Hawk

Apparently he had caught something while he was away, possibly a mouse. But rather than eat on the rooftop, it was back down the street to the big tree.

Washington Heights Hawk

Must have been a mouse. He couldn't have spent more than five minutes gulping the meal down.

Washington Heights Hawk

And somewhere in the last 15 minutes while I wasn't paying attention, the female had returned to the nest. A little bit later, the male flew up to see how things were doing.

Washington Heights Hawk

Then he was back down to the big tree, and then off to the east somewhere.

Sunset approached, and the female laid down in the nest. She may not be brooding but she will be soon.

March 25, 2013

3/24, CPW Perchers

Another gray Sunday afternoon with dead air. Just the kind of day where if you spot a red-tailed hawk, it's just perching.

So first there's the juvenile RT hawk on top of the project houses at the corner of 100th St. and Manhattan Ave.

100th St. Hawk

And checking on the new nest at Central Park West and 92nd St. ... Dang it's quiet. Nothing happening.

Belatedly, I find that an adult hawk is perching across the street on the roof of the Ardsley.

Ardsley Hawk

And that was it for the day.

March 23, 2013

3/23, Martha in Her Nest

As expected after last weekend, Saturday found Martha brooding in her nest near the north end of Highbridge Park.

Martha in Her Nest

Luckily for me she was facing toward the hill rather than east toward the river.

Martha in Her Nest

I wondered if having the occasional pedestrian pass by on the park path helped make her day a little more interesting.

Martha in Her Nest

Or perhaps she was working on a list of local squirrels who were going to be prey one of these days.

March 21, 2013

Manhattan Red-Tail Nest Checklist 2013

Repeating an idea from last year, here's a run-down on the definite and likely red-tailed hawk nest sites in Manhattan as the 2013 nesting season begins. It looks like there might be 10 Manhattan nests this year.

Working mostly from north to south, the nests are:

Inwood Hill Park:
There have been hawks nesting here for a long time, but this year they have relocated their nest quite a bit. The nest from the past couple years was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and was also not far from an owl nest. The new site is 400 yards east in a more exposed treetop overlooking the Indian Road Playground at 214th St. The apartments across the street should have excellent views of the nest activity, but there is a decent viewing spot at ground level along the Seaman Ave. sidewalk for those with binoculars and long lenses. This has usually been one of the earliest nests in Manhattan to see a hatch each year, and 2013 looks to continue that trend as the female started brooding around March 15.

March 16

Highbridge Park/Swindlers Cove:
Another nest location that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and also re-located. The 2013 site is about 200 yards south of the 2010-2012 nest and directly across the Harlem River Drive from the Swindlers Cove boathouse gate. It's very viewable from a couple spots on a park path if you bring binoculars. This is also usually an early-hatch nest, but it might be running just a tad late this year, as the female was not yet brooding as of March 16. The nesting pair here are known as Martha and George as their nest locations in 2007-2009 were up the hill closer to George Washington High School.

Washington Heights/175th St.:
A new pair of red-tails successfully fledged two babies from a nest on an apartment building fire escape across Ft. Washington Ave. from J. Hood Wright Park in 2012. The nest was later removed as the building did maintenance on the fire escape, but the hawks remain in the area. In the past couple weeks, I have seen them soaring or perching at several points around the neighborhood, from JHW Park down past the medical center to 160th and Amsterdam. Stick collecting and possible nest sites have been reported at 171st St. and at 175th St. Hatch and fledge here last year were about a month later than elsewhere in Manhattan, and it seems like the adult hawks are running a bit slow again.

Hamilton Heights/CCNY:
There has been a nest located on a gargoyle high up the east side of CCNY's Shepard Hall for several years now, overlooking St. Nicholas Terrace and upper St. Nicholas Park. It's a tough nest to watch because it's so high up, and it seemed that 2011 was the first time that a hatch of baby hawks was definitely confirmed here. The father of the 2011 clutch died from frounce and the mother may have been struck by a car in early 2012. Nevertheless, it seemed that one or two replacement hawks filled in, as there was nesting activity here in 2012, although again without a hatch reported. Two adults have been seen in the usual pre-nesting activities in 2013.
+ For more about this nest, follow the Origin of Species blog.

Morningside Heights/Cathedral of St. John the Divine:
Since at least 2006, a nest has been located 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 hawks who had a nest in Central Park's North Woods in 2004. Because the nest bowl has gotten deeper as the hawks add sticks each year, this has become another difficult nest to watch until three to four weeks after the babies hatch. Schedule-wise, the St. John's nest has tended to run a bit later than Inwood and Highbridge, but in 2013 it looks like they are on about the same schedule. The hawks here in 2012 were Isolde and Norman, but Norman is believed to have been the adult hawk killed in northern Central Park by Hurricane Sandy.
+ For more about this nest, also follow the Origin of Species blog.

Randalls Island/Icahn Stadium:
A site omitted from last year's list because it isn't on Manhattan Island (and perhaps because I just completely forgot about it), but technically it is in the borough of Manhattan. This nest is located at the top of a light tower just outside of Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island, not far from the Triborough Bridge and also not far from the peregrines who nest at the psychiatric center. The tower is not actually part of the stadium but overlooks the soccer field outside the north side of the stadium. I'm not sure of nest timing here, although I have a dim suspicion that it runs a bit later than the rest of the Manhattan nests.

Central Park West/92nd St.:
Reports came in in mid-February of a pair of adult hawks scouting out a nesting location on Central Park West in the 90s. The first reported site quickly fell by the wayside, but they are still in the area and sometimes seen carrying sticks. As of mid-March it appears they are working on a nest at the corner of 92nd St., a block from the Eldorado.
+ For more about this nest, also follow the Urban Hawks blog.

Riverside Park/Boat Basin:
I initially wondered whether the new CPW hawks might be from Riverside Park. The 2012 adult hawks in Riverside were both replacements for a pair who had nested near the Boat Basin and died of rat poisoning. In the summer of 2012, the replacements were spotted checking out a couple different nesting locations a bit farther up Riverside Drive but it was never really confirmed that they nested. But a report in late March 2013 suggests that there are still two hawks in Riverside, often seen near or atop the Normandy apartments and perhaps nest building somewhere around 84th St.

Fifth Ave./74th St.:
Probably the most famous hawk nest in the world, located on a ritzy co-op apartment building overlooking Central Park at 74th St. Although there has been rapid turnover in the female hawks at the nest over the past few years (a disappearance, a case of rat-poisoning, and who knows what else), the constant is that Palemale has ruled this area of Central Park for going on 20 years. The current female is Octavia. After a long dry spell, there were hatches here in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, it was reported that Octavia had started brooding about March 14.
+ For more about this nest, follow the website and Urban Hawks blog.

Fifth Ave./Crown Building:
A pair of adult hawks appeared at the southeast corner of Central Park in early 2012, but the female was apparently one of the victims in the streak of rat-poisoning cases that early March. It looks like the male stuck around, but who is it that he has been consorting with? Did he find a new female? Was Octavia from 74th St. two-timing Palemale? Inquiring minds want to know. Mating and stick collecting on the Plaza Hotel and the Crown Building have been observed in 2013, but no one has quite figured out what's really going on up there.
+ For more about this nest, follow the roger_paw blog.

NYU/Washington Square:
Nest first constructed in 2011 on a window ledge at NYU's Bobst Library, outside the office window of the university president and overlooking Washington Square Park. This site seems to have taken over as Manhattan's earliest hatch site, as in 2012 and 2013, the female started brooding eggs a week or so before Inwood. NYU should have a nestcam set up to watch the nest any day now. The female here since 2012 is known as Rosie. The male since the nest was first built in 2011 is Bobby, named for the Bobst library.
+ For more about this nest, follow the NYU Hawkcam, or the Urban Hawks and roger_paw blogs.

March 20, 2013

3/19, Tail Feathers

With the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as high up and as deep as it is, a tail feathers sighting is about as good as it gets during nesting season unless you happen to catch a nest switch-off.

Tail Feathers

Not sure what I mean? Look closer. That's not a bit of bark poking up above the nest.

James reported the same view last Friday. This suggests that the cathedral nest is a week ahead of its usual schedule, and that hatch might occur around April 16.

March 17, 2013

3/17, A Juvie by the Pool and a Cathedral Note

Sunday hawkwatching looked to be almost a bust. I tried to check on two new Manhattan red-tailed hawk nest sites but had no luck finding either.

Late in the day as I was packing it in, I ran across a juvenile red-tail just south of the Pool in Central Park.

Juvie RT by the Pool

He was doing some head-bobbing, although whether it was because he was hunting or he was staring down all the little birds chirping about his presence it was hard to say.

March 17

The skies were gray and the day seemed over. But as I was heading up the hill to Morningside Heights, I was startled to spot a Cooper's Hawk in Morningside Park, perched just across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Morningside Coopie

And speaking of the cathedral, what about the red-tail nest there? Well, it turns out that it's in use and the female is brooding. James reported Friday that he could see the tips of some tail feathers poking above the lip of the nest. I saw the same late Sunday, but it turned out that earlier in the day, James had also seen a nest break. It seems the season at the cathedral nest has started a week early this year.

March 16, 2013

3/16, Egg-nant in Highbridge

Reports are beginning to come in of Manhattan's female red-tailed hawks brooding eggs in their nests. On a snowy Saturday afternoon I again checked on Highbridge as it's usually one of the first. To my surprise, Martha was not brooding, but it very much seemed she will be soon.

Approaching the nest site from along Dyckman St., I found both Martha and George perched in a tree close to where they nested last year. Martha was perched high up.

Highbridge Martha

While George was about 30 feet down in the crook of a branch and digging into a meal. It seemed he had just started because ten minutes later he was still working on it. Martha, meanwhile, just sat quietly, watching the snow I guess.

George seemed to slow down, but then picked up the carcass and flew south toward the nest site. I found him standing on the edge of the nest, where he had resumed eating.

George Visits the Nest

Martha flew past a few minutes later, alighting in a treetop perhaps 40 yards from the nest. A minute or two later, George again picked up his food and took off, this time landing even closer and again resuming his meal.

Highbridge George

Ah, it's squirrel.

There they stayed, Martha quietly perching and George tearing off bits of food. It's been over a half hour and he's still eating. I can't recall ever seeing a hawk spending that long on a meal.

A third time he picked up the carcass and took off, this time returning to the nest. No, it looks like he's not trying to eat any more of it. (I wondered if he had spent so much time on the meal because he wanted to line the nest with a bit of fur.) Martha joined him a minute later.

Marth and George in Their Nest

Nest inspection time?

March 16

Another minute and George was off, landing in a nearby tree where he could watch Martha and the nest. Martha stayed put.

Martha in Her Nest

And stayed put.

Martha in Her Nest

And stayed put some more.

Martha in Her Nest

Close to an hour after I first spotted the pair, another burst of snow started coming down. I left them to their contemplations.

March 10, 2013

3/10, The New Neighbors, and an Unexpected Encounter

It seems another pair of red-tailed hawks have taken a liking to Central Park. Bruce reported a couple weeks ago that two adult birds were scouting nesting sites along Central Park West in the 90s. They're definitely still in the area, although where they're actually building a nest remains in question.

On a scrumptious Sunday afternoon, I headed over to Central Park and began looking about for the new birds. First caught a glimpse of one flying through the trees at 96th St. near CPW, then five minutes later another carrying a stick toward somewhere around 93rd St. Another look at a hawk heading toward the Eldorado at 90th St. Finally some good overhead soaring.


And yes, both birds, high up and enjoying the afternoon air.



And then it seemed they disappeared behind the Eldorado and gone from sight.

Aside from one brief sighting around 94th St., there was no sign of the duo for the next 20 minutes. But as I was thinking of heading north toward the cathedral, they re-appeared, soared about some more, and headed toward the Eldorado. The female alit first, on the north tower, while the male soared about a bit longer.

Eldorado Hawks

It seemed he had mating in mind, but as he made his move, the female took off. They ended up perched separately on the two towers of the Eldorado, the female on the south and the male on the north.

Eldorado Hawks

At 5:30, both took off to the south and out of view. Uh-oh. I hope they weren't going south to pick a fight with Palemale or his mate.

It was 5:30 and I still wanted to visit Morningside Park and the cathedral to see if Isolde and her new male were about. They were seen mating along 114th St. on Saturday, so I knew they're around.

But I never made it there.

Heading up the Great Hill, I saw a red-tail soaring around. A juvenile. Then at the top of the hill, a large shape perched in a tree just 50-60 feet off the road. The juvie? Hmmm, the bird seemed a bit small for a hawk and it seemed to be wearing... a hoodie?

Great Hill Barred Owl

Oh, my. A barred owl!

Great Hill Barred Owl

Out in plain view in front of God and everybody, a full hour before sunset.

Great Hill Barred Owl

No blue jays or other harassment except for one tufted titmouse who briefly chirped at him.

March 10

Well, this being an owl and it not yet being sunset, he wasn't in an active mode. Some 50 minutes later, he was in the same spot, still alternating between light snoozing and slowly looking around.

Great Hill Barred Owl

And dang, I'd love to stay for fly out, but Sunday dinner does not wait when someone else is doing the cooking.

Great Hill Barred Owl

3/9, Almost Nesting Time

Word is that the Washington Square red-tailed hawk nest already has eggs. The two way uptown nests should have mama hawks in the nest any day now, but apparently not quite yet. I checked on the Highbridge nest on Saturday afternoon and found it empty. After some casting about I discovered George perched on a chimney cover on the far side of the Harlem River at Sedgwick and Tremont, about 450 yards from the nest. Martha joined him there a couple minutes later.

George & Martha & Jet Blue?

A couple minutes of quiet perching, an (ahem) quickie, and a couple more minutes of perching. Martha then took off to the north and soared about, George followed a half minute later. Then they dropped down into the trees at Bronx Community College and out of sight.

March 3, 2013

3/3, Relocated Nests and a Juvenile's Sunday Dinner

As mentioned here previously, the two northernmost red-tailed hawks nests were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. With egg-laying time just a couple weeks away, it seemed that both sites ought to have new nests by now. Sunday I headed up town to check.

I entered Highbridge Park at my usual spot at 190th St. by the Wallenberg playground and headed downhill toward a likely nest site near Harlem River Dr. that I had spotted a week ago. Before I got that far, George soared overhead and landed high up a tree near where he and Martha nested 5-6 years ago.

Highbridge George

He had spotted me, too.

Highbridge George

But there were plenty of other things for him to watch, also.

Highbridge George

Since George looked set to stay where he was for a while, I continued down toward Harlem River Dr. Sure enough there was a new nest, and in a much better spot for hawkwatchers than three of Martha and George's last four nests (they've moved around bit). The new site is about 200 yards south of last year's nest, located directly across HRD from the gate to the Swindler's Cove dock and boathouse. The interior is easily visible from a couple spots along the park path, and may even remain so once the leaves start coming in on the trees.

It was getting late and it didn't seem like I had much time to check out Inwood Hill, but I had gotten a tip where the new nest there was located so shouldn't need to spend any time searching. I headed west along Dyckman St., my attention wandering as I got closer to the subway stop at the base of Ft. George Hill.

Hold it. There's something large moving around on a broken tree branch next to the playground at the very tip of the park.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

A big juvenile red-tail, almost certainly a girl. In fact, I first thought she might be Highbridge Martha, but it was apparent soon enough that she was a year-old bird.

She was also digging into something tasty and didn't care much about me moving around below taking pictures.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

One less neighborhood rat.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Her eating habits reminded me a bit of a young child.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

After ten minutes she's starting to slow down a bit.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Again, not too concerned about me walking below her branch, less than 20 feet away.

March 3

One last picture and it's time to go.

Dyckman St. Juvie Red-Tail

Fifteen minutes later I was inside Inwood Hill Park walking past the baseball fields. Sure enough, there was a hawk nest exactly where I had heard it was. It was located on the edge of the park, overlooking the Indian Road playground and right where some residents of 214th St. might be able to look out their apartment windows and see all the comings and goings. The locations was also almost a quarter mile east of the old nest site in the park ravine. I've already heard it suggested that the hawks re-built so far away because the great horned owls are nesting in that area again.