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.

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