5/30, Second Fledge at St. John the Divine

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Monday afternoon I headed over to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to check on Friday's hawk fledgling, and perhaps see if one of its siblings had also made its first flight. I found a fledgling red-tail almost immediately, perched on the roof of the Cathedral School, on the back side of the building overlooking Morningside Drive. Although a couple robins were acting sentry, there was little noise.

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The fledgling was relatively content to stay where it was. Although it several times tried to walk up the 45-degree pitch of the stone eave of the roof, it never made it more than half way up, sliding and fluttering back down to the gutter. Nor did the fledgling try to navigate around the edge of the school roof to another position.

So except for some preening, things weren't too exciting.

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But was that Friday's fledgling, or a second one. Something about the bird suggested to me that it was a second one, but where was the first?

Checking about the area I got a couple glimpses of a hawk's head in the nest, so there would seem to be one baby hawk still in the nest. The only thing weird about that was that mama Madeline flew into the nest a couple times, and even had part of a meal there once, but the nestling did not get up.

Eventually I realized that there was a pretty sizable bird perched on the north side of the cathedral's roof, way up atop on the brick structure above the Baptistry and St. Ansgar Chapel.

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That was almost certainly fledgling #1, who has now had three days to work on its flying. As events would show, it's developed some strength, but needs to work on steering.

The fledge had seen mama flying around and begged for some food and/or attention.

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Since mama had been hanging around down toward the nest, the fledgling moved that way, popping up on one of the turret gargoyles.

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Eventually Madeleine flew over to the gargoyle and gave the fledgling part of a pigeon, then turned around but stayed close.

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The fledge tried to start its meal, but was finding the perch precarious.

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And then suddenly the fledgling was in the air, carrying the pigeon parts. But where was it going? Initially it seemed like it might be headed over toward mama,but couldn't make the sharp right turn. Instead it was was angling left and flying across 113th St. The hospital roof would make a good spot for a baby hawk to have a meal, but no, it was too far to the east and was going to miss the hospital. And then it descended down towards Morningside Park, disappearing into the trees above the dog run.

Despite the assistance of various robins and sparrows, I didn't find the fledgling until it started thrashing around in the undergrowth, popped up into a small tree and looked around nervously. Then it was back down into the bushes and trying to walk uphill.

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Crossed the walkway and the steps.

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Perched alongside the steps for a few minutes.

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Darn those robins are awful distracting.

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And darn, the pigeon meal got dropped somewhere, too.

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Up into a small tree with a better view. Try to ignore the robins.

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Look around and get oriented. Ponder what to do.

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And then the fledgling took off sort of toward the cathedral. It went about 75 years and perched in a park tree across the street from the cathedral. The footing there being precarious, it soon opted to move a little deeper into the park where it perched on a good solid branch on a dead tree. The robins might still harass it there, but it least its new perch was good and steady.

And meanwhile the other fledgling was still on the corner of the school roof.

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Posted 5/30/2016 11:43:00 PM by Robert

5/27, Fledge at St. John the Divine

Although I wasn't expecting one of the three red-tailed hawk nestlings at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to fledge until mid next week, one of them made the big jump Friday morning and was discovered by cathedral staff in the area between the Cathedral School and the residence garden. Some fluffiness on the new fledge's forehead suggest it might have fledged a day or three early. Given all the mad flapping that has been going on up in the nest in recent days, it's possible it was caught by a gust of wind and carried out of the nest. The nestlings have been getting some good air and a bit of hang time when they exercise.

For much of the morning the fledge hid in the bushes of the bishop's residence garden, but around noon it apparently sought out a new hiding place and was out of sight. Some robin chipping suggested that it hadn't gone far, although later in the day the same area was very quiet except for the occasional call of a cathedral peacock. One or both of the parents could sometimes be seen perched on the cathedral roof or on the roof of the Avalon condo building, keeping an eye on their baby down below.

(Photos in this post are both credit Cathedral of St. John the Divine staff.)

Posted 5/27/2016 09:39:00 PM by Robert

5/21, City College Shepard Hall


What seemed bad luck in finding the 1 train shut down north of 137th St. (scotching plans to visit the hawk nests way uptown) instead turned out for the best as it led me to visit the campus of CCNY. Brief observations of the nest at Shepard Hall in recent weekends had led me to think that there had been a nest failure, but Saturday afternoon I found a 4-week old baby red-tail perching in the nest.


Looking slightly miserable perhaps, but definitely there.

Meanwhile, mama was perched close by on the top of one of the tower's four ornate spires.


And not too many minutes later, papa came flying by.


Rising out of the treetops of St. Nicholas Park and circling higher.

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And then swooping off towards the south end of the campus.

Casting about for a better look, I found a spot with a flatter angle but at twice the distance or more from the nest.

Mama still on the spire.


And baby sitting quietly in the nest.


Preening a little bit, possibly trying to nap, but no wing flapping.


A bit later, papa returned and alit on the Shepard Hall flagpole, taking over nest watching duty as mama took off and flew down toward Harlem.

Posted 5/21/2016 10:42:00 PM by Robert

5/16, St. John the Divine

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Early Monday evening I headed over to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to see if I could get a better count of how many babies were in the red-tailed hawk nest overlooking Morningside Park. A couple days earlier using a small pair of binocular I thought I had gotten a couple glimpses of a third fuzzy head.

It was initially quiet, but one nestling got up and looked around for a bit, then settled back into the nest.

Then a bit after 7:00, mama Madeleine returned to the nest.

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She didn't start in on a feeding as you might expect but perched there for a bit. IT seemed that perhaps he had brought food, but with the nestlings getting a bit older, it's time for them to figure out how to pull off some tidbits for themselevs.

Meanwhile, I cast about for better viewpoints and wasn't having a lot of luck.

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A real feeding finally did start, and it went on for some time. In the midst, Bruce arrived with his much better camera set-up and started shooting video. It only took a few minutes before we got our first glimpse of a third baby hawk in the nest. Much better looks came along not long later. You can view the video on Bruce's Urban Hawks blog.

Eventually Madeleine left the nest and headed over to the hospital roof to finish her own meal, where she was also harassed by blue jays. While she was eating, papa Norman flew in and perched on the cathedral roof close to the nest.

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Posted 5/17/2016 12:52:00 AM by Robert

5/9, St. John the Divine

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The nestlings in the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are now visible from the street below, and the confirmed count stands at two. It's possible there is a third up there, but it's also possible that with the more exposed nest site, the count will stay at two. In past years there was often a third "runt" hidden by the elder siblings for a week or more, but that was in the previous nest where it was easier to remain hidden in the depths of an alcove.

I made my first sighting of a cathedral nestling a week ago, and this past Saturday while standing on the terrace at Manhattan Ave. and 112th St and using a pair of mini-binoculars, was able to see that there were two. One looked quite large and was already doing some excuse-me wing flapping as it toddled about the nest.

Monday evening it was occasional possible to see from below the nest along Morningside Drive that there were two and to get occasional looks at one or the other.

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One obliged by getting up on the side of the nest to look around.

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And also showed off her new wing feathers, now plainly several days into growing in.

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Mama Madeleine was also up there the entire time, and provided the babies a couple quick snacks. Papa Norman dropped in at one point, but was there and gone in less than a minute.

Posted 5/09/2016 09:30:00 PM by Robert

5/1, J. Hood Wright Park


On a wet Sunday afternoon, I headed uptown to see if I could figure out how many nestlings were in red-tailed hawk hawk nests. But with the bad weather and bad light, success was mixed.

At the J. Hood Wright Park nest, papa flew up with dinner just after I arrived.


After the drop-off he flew across the street and perched in a tree near the subway entrance.


So how many babies are up there. We already knew there were two, but would the feeding reveal a third?


Unfortunately, despite two baby hawk heads being visible getting fed and watching mama, there was never any clear sign of a third. One never knows, though, as the babies were in regular motion and viewing angles not that great.


And it was a long feeding, going on a half hour before the rain and increasingly poor light convinced me it was time to leave.


The entire time, papa had remained in the tree across the street. In weather this murky, no need to travel around the neighborhood unless there's a real need.

Posted 5/01/2016 10:35:00 PM by Robert