May 29, 2014

5/29, St. John the Divine

Thursday evening at the St. John's cathedral hawk nest was quiet. The three nestlings spent their time sitting around and watching the skies.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (0881)

With some pecking at food and plenty of preening. But hardly any wing flapping at all.

Even after just two from the previous visit, the change in the darkness of their head feathers was noticeable. Even the youngest's head feathers were filling in.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (0922)

Cathedral Hawk Nest (0925)

If the cathedral nest sticks to its "usual" schedule, first fledge should occur the end of next week.

The Urban Hawks blog also has some video from this evening.

May 27, 2014

5/27, St. John the Divine

The red-tailed hawk nestlings at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are showing that the day is approaching when they will fledge the nest. They now sport varying amounts of head feathers according to their ages, and wing practices have started up. The only problem is that the nest has gotten so built-up that space for flapping wings is constrained.

Twenty minutes of activity early on a gray Tuesday evening found all three nestlings visible. One, presumably the eldest, was trying wing exercises.

Cathedral Hawk Nestlings (0771)

And each time would end up on top of St. Andrew's head as he tried to find a spot with more room.

Cathedral Hawk Nestlings (0773)

Meanwhile, the tail feathers of a second were poking out at the side. It looked one of the birds was probably pecking at the remains of an earlier meal.

Cathedral Hawk Nestlings (0776)

Anything flying over Morningside Park or southwest Harlem got their full attention.

Cathedral Hawk Nestlings (0838)

May 25, 2014

5/23, CCNY/Shepard Hall

Last stop on Friday's four-nest tour was the red-tailed hawk nest at Shepard Hall on the CCNY campus. We're still trying to figure out how many baby hawks might be up there.

First glimpse from down at the corner of St. Nick and 141st St. Mama is fussing about the nest, but no baby hawks in sight.

CCNY Hawk Nest (0562)

And she settled down on the side of the nest, where she stayed for the next 45 minutes.

CCNY Hawk Nest (0616)

And nary a sign of a nestling.

Finally, as shadows lengthened, the male came soaring up to Shepard Hall from across the campus, landing up on a tower out of site. The female must have seen some sign of him, as she promptly got up and soared out, circling around Shepard Hall a couple times.

CCNY Hawk (0665)

Then flew up to perch on the tower.

CCNY Hawk (0671)

CCNY Hawk (0673)

CCNY Hawk (0682)

Where she only stayed for 15-20 seconds, before taking off again and circling round to the other side.

There she perched close to the male as sunset approached.

CCNY Hawks (0693)

5/23, Washington Heights/Wright Park

Late Friday afternoon I passed by the J. Hood Wright Park nest. It seemed like hardly anything had changed since the previous visit.

Baby hawks sitting around the nest.

JHW Hawk Nest (0465)

And mama perched on the railing above.

JHW Hawk (0471)

Yes, I see you, too.

JHW Hawk Nest (0479)

Well, here's something new and exciting. The nestlings are starting to exercise their wings more deliberately.

JHW Hawk Nest (0480)

JHW Hawk Nest (0483)

JHW Hawk Nest (0485)

Not quite a vigorous flapping yet, but getting close.

One last look from mama, and then time to move on.

JHW Hawk (0501)

May 23, 2014

5/23, Fort George/Gorman Park

Just when it looked like there were ten red-tailed hawk nests in Manhattan this year came word from uptown birder Jason Huettner about an eleventh. Smack dab in the middle of the triangle formed by the Inwood Hill, Highbridge and J. Hood Wright park nests was a new one, overlooking Fairview Ave. near Gorman Park.

I checked the location Friday afternoon, wandering around the sloping terrain looking for a good angle. The nest was reported to be on the top floor of fire escape. The problem was that although the building is six floors, it's on the side of Fort George Hill and the back side (where the fire escape is located) is more like nine stories. From one angle I made my first baby hawk sighting, but from a little father way, I spotted two. Plus mama. It was feeding time.

Gorman Park Hawk Nest (0390)

The baby hawks looked in good shape and probably around four weeks old, like most of the others in Manhattan.

Gorman Park Hawk Nest (0394)

But look at those pictures again. Something I didn't think about right away was, the two nestlings are hanging about on the left side of the nest and mama is over on the right. What's that about?

Well, 45 minutes later when I found another viewing spot and the rain started to fall, the answer was obvious.

Gorman Park Hawk Nest (0453)

The photo is taken from 300 yards away on Overlook Terrace, but one can see there are three baby hawks lined up, looking out between the fire escape railings like prisoners in a jail.

Look closer. Mama's in the picture, too.

Gorman Park Hawk Nest (0453x)

The nest location does make sense. The Inwood and Wright park nests are each about a mile away. And while the north Highbridge nest is less than a half mile away, the bulk of Fort George Hill separates them. Also, the Highbridge hawks seem to spend a fair amount of time across the Harlem River hunting in the Bronx. So the Gorman Park hawks have found a niche where they can claim the Dyckman Valley and most of Fort Tryon Park for their hunting grounds.

5/23, Highbridge Park/Swindler Cove

Five days later, and the red-tailed hawk nest at the north end of Highbridge Park is even harder to see. Unless you happen to catch one of the adult hawks perching nearby, there's just not much to see there now.

Highbridge Hawk (0230)

From what little I could see early Friday afternoon, I was inclined to say there may be just one nestling up there.

May 20, 2014

5/20, St. John the Divine

The baby red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are big enough now that they can be seen on both sides of the nest, perching high and looking around. But their back and wing feathers are grown in enough that when they perch at the wrong angle, you could be excused for not seeing them.

Tuesday evening found one of the nestlings fussing in the nest. It became apparent after a little while that he is now old enough to peck food off a meal on his own, as every now and then he'd come up with a red tidbit.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9966)

He was also doing some early wing work. But as previously noted, the cathedral nest is now so built up there's not a lot of room for it.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9981)

Glimpses of a second nestling were also made at the time, and then both settled down for a while.

A look up Morningside Drive revealed that both parents were in the area. Norman was atop the Scrymser Pavilion at the hospital.

Cathedral Hawk (0004)

And Isolde was perched on the cornice at 44 MSD.

Cathedral Hawk (0083)

Norman flew up to 50 MSD.

Cathedral Hawk (0015)

But bailed out quickly because of kestrel attacks. He perched close to Isolde for a couple minutes and then took off back toward the hospital roof. Isolde stayed put even though robins from Morningside Park flew across the street to harass her.

Cathedral Hawk (0058)

A stroll back to check on the nest found the nestlings moving about again. One on the left, one on the right. And for just a few moments, the third popped up, trying to suggest it was someone else's turn to sit in the back of the nest.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (0122)

The nest quieted down again, with just one young hawk moving about.

As the light got dimmer, mama Isolde was still perched up at 44 MSD.

Cathedral Hawk (0110)

And papa Norman was hanging out closer to the nest, perched on the construction netting around the hospital's Minturn Pavilion.

May 19, 2014

5/18, Washington Heights/Wright Park

Early Sunday evening at the red-tailed hawk nest in Washington Heights found the nestlings sleeping off a meal while their mother perched on the railing just above their heads.

JHW Red-Tailed Hawk (9859)

Curious that she stays so close when she's watching as, for example, Isolde at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine will perch 50-60 yards away across the street when she monitors her nest.

There was a little activity from the three nestlings. One sat up and did some idle sleep-preening before opening its eyes.

JHW Hawk Nestling (9788)

After it settled down, another perked up.

JHW Hawk Nestling (9825)

JHW Hawk Nestling (9826)

And stood up, showing off wing feathers that are couple inches long.

JHW Hawk Nestling (9832)

Note the tawny breast feathers beginning to show.

JHW Hawk Nestling (9834)

And then settled back to sleep also.

All the while, mama was on guard.

JHW Red-Tailed Hawk (9893)

May 18, 2014

5/18, Highbridge Park/Swindler Cove

The hawk nest at the north end of Highbridge Park, near the intersection of Dyckman St. and the Harlem River Dr., is a pain in the neck to watch. It's up in a tree in the woods and alongside a steep, rocky slope. Good sight lines you find at the start of spring are wiped out come mid May when the foliage has grown in. Which is all to say, I know there's a red-tailed hawk nestling up there. I'm just not sure whether there's another.

Eye Spy With My Little Eye (9636)

One nestling was plainly visible when I checked on the Highbridge nest Sunday afternoon, even if he wasn't sitting very high. Eventually he sat up just enough to get a good look back at me.

Highbridge Hawk Nestling (9646)

There was another spot a foot or foot and a half to the left where something pale was visible through the nest sticks, and at one point there was a spate of movement there that lasted 5 or 6 seconds. Just enough to suggest the presence of a second nestling, but not enough to be sure.

May 15, 2014

5/15, St. John the Divine

The red-tailed hawk nestlings at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are big enough now that even without binocs or a long camera lens, a ground observer can probably see one of them sitting up and looking out of the nest, if not two of them jostling each other in the limited space.

A gray Thursday evening first showed just that before the nest quieted. Mama Isolde was perched across the street, taking heat from a pair of blue jays.

Cathedral Hawk (9504)

The blue jays eventually disappeared, and a little bit later Isolde flew over to the nest. There was a very quick feeding, just three or four minutes.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9558)

Isolde then took off, and the nestlings moved about for a bit.

Cathedral Hawk Nestlings (9569)

Note the brown wing feathers growing in.

The nestlings began to settle, leaving just one in sight.

Cathedral Hawk Nestling (9591)

And eventually it too laid down, its head just visible over the edge of the nest.

May 14, 2014

5/14, Local Nestcams

For those looking for a local raptor nestcam to watch, we have learned of two:

The Queens Court House red-tails are back in the courthouse complex where the old nestcam has been re-activated. Watch the feed here. Three nestlings are in the nest.

Peregrine falcons have returned to the scrape atop 55 Water St. in the Financial District. News about their return is here and the nestcam page is here.

May 13, 2014

5/13, St. John the Divine

First sight of a nestling at the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine came last Wednesday. But it was a bit unsure whether a second was also visible. Plus, the cathedral nest has a history of three baby hawks almost every year, even if it sometimes took 4-5 weeks to spot the third.

So when would we be sure how many were up there this year? How about today?

First hawk in view early Tuesday evening was an adult on the tall chimney at St. Luke's hospital.

Cathedral Hawk (9197)

All looked quiet at the nest, but a few minutes later one of the babies could be seen moving about. A moment later, Isolde arrived to start a feeding.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9252)

Obviously two up there getting their evening meal.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9223)

No, there's additional movement on the other side of Isolde's right leg.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9304)

Yep. A bit hard to see, but definitely three baby red-tailed hawks at the cathedral.

The feeding lasted 17-18 minutes, and then Isolde took out the trash.

Cathedral Hawk Nest (9348)

She may have dumped it in the middle of the construction site, as a moment later she was perched on the protective netting around the hospital's Minturn Pavilion.

Cathedral Hawk (9361)

And the father had appeared, too, as he was hanging out on the tall chimney.

Isolde returned to the nest 20 minutes later and fussed about a bit. But no new feeding began. Just time to begin settling down for the evening.