4/28, Grant's Tomb

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First sighting of a baby red-tailed hawk in the Grant's Tomb nest was apparently made this past Wednesday evening. On Friday evening, two nestlings were definitely spotted up there.

About 6:30, Mrs. Grant was finishing up a feeding. She remained perched on the side of the nest as I wandered around looking for better camera angles.

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Finally I settled on a spot a block away but from which a minimum of tree branches and leaves block the view.

At 6:50, there was some activity in the nest. Even from a distance of 200 feet, I could tell without a long lens that there was someone small moving about just to the side of her. But a closer look at photos revealed there was a second fuzzy baby hawk head directly in front of Mrs. Grant.

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Things quieted down again, but 15 minutes later, the babies were moving about again.

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And it would seem that the babies are big enough, you can even catch a glimpse of a flapping baby wing as they move about.

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Posted 4/28/2017 09:02:00 PM by Robert

4/22, Uptown Hawk Nests

Saturday afternoon I headed uptown to check on red-tailed hawk nests in the Washington Heights-Fort George Hill area. I hoped to find evidence of a hatch at one, and evidence of anything at two others. My luck was... mixed.

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At J. Hood Wright Park, close to the George Washington Bridge, the hawks know what they're doing. This is their sixth season at that location, and since the third they have been reliably one of the earlier sites in Manhattan to see a hatch. It's apparently such a good site that their average nestling count over the prior five seasons is, if I remember correctly, 3.0. Keep in mind that the first season, they only had two babies.

In any event, the JHW nest looked empty when I first arrived, although it was possible the female was nestled toward the back of the nest where she can be hard to spot. I wandered around the park to a spot that is distant but has a good angle and from there saw the female standing on the edge of the nest (photo above).

By the time I walked across the park, she was nestled in the nest, keeping eggs and/or baby hawks dry and warm.

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And there she stayed for the next half hour until I moved onward.

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Fifteen blocks north, the Fairview Ave./Gorman Park hawk nest is on the back of an apartment building overlooking the valley between Fort George Hill and Fort Tryon Park. It's a hard spot to get a good look at the nest. The best angle is from Overlook Terrace, but that's more than 300 yards away. But with a half decent telephoto lens, I could see someone was in the nest.

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Look closer. Mama is at home.

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The Fairview Ave. nest was empty when I checked the area back on March 18, so it's possible there has not been a hatch there yet. But it was an early nest two years ago (when it was higher up the fire escape), so who knows.

Anyway, there are some other spots much closer to the Fairview Ave. nest where you can watch for activity, although the angle isn't the best. Like farther up Fairview.

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But in a few weeks when there are baby hawks big enough to wander about the fire escape, it will be easier.

I finished the day on the other side of Fort George Hill, checking the area around the old Highbridge Park/Swindler Cove nest. It apparently went unused last year but I had found a possible alternative nest site in the area a few weeks ago. Also, I had seen a hawk in the area a couple times last month. Unfortunately, neither nest site was occupied on Saturday, nor were any hawks to be seen anywhere else nearby.

Posted 4/23/2017 12:25:00 AM by Robert

4/20, Grant's Tomb

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It's likely to be a few more days before baby hawk(s) are big enough and strong enough for ground-bound watchers to spot them, but circumstantial evidence piles up that egg(s) have hatched at the Grant's Tomb red-tail nest. Neighborhood birdwatchers have reported multiple occasions of watching feeding behavior this week.

Thursday evening I found the nest apparently empty. Apparently Mrs Grant was out getting some exercise and perhaps removing some inedible trash, as another watcher reported she had been there minutes earlier. She returned minutes after I arrived. She perched on the railings above the nest, preening and looking around and occasionally peering down into the nest.

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After 15 minutes of that, she hopped down and settled into the nest to keep the baby or babies warm.

Posted 4/21/2017 01:06:00 AM by Robert

4/20, St. John the Divine

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The situation at the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine remains confusing. One or both of the hawks has usually been in view somewhere in the general area when I have visited in the last couple weeks, but Thursday evening was the first I had seen one of them at the actual nest in a while. (Note: Pictures were taken Friday, 4/14.) However, it was just a three-minute visit, with no switch-off or fussing around in the nest bowl.

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Posted 4/21/2017 12:59:00 AM by Robert

4/12, Hatch at Grant's Tomb?

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Wednesday marked 33 days since the female red-tailed hawk at Grant's Tomb, known to some watchers as "Mrs. Grant", was observed spending the night in her nest, indicating that she was either brooding her first egg or soon would be. Red-tail incubation time is roughly one month, so this week meant it was time to start keeping an eye on her behavior.

Nothing interesting was seen during a visit to Grant's Tomb on Monday, but Wednesday about 6:45 I caught what might have been the end of feeding activity. Mrs. G was bent over the nest and fussing about for about two minutes before she got back in.

So perhaps it was hopeful thinking, but that short bit of activity suggests that an egg has hatched in the Grant's Tomb nest. If similar behavior continues over the next few days, then we can be sure. If there is a baby hawk up there now, it will likely be another week or so before it is big enough to poke its head up high enough to be visible.

About 25 or 30 minutes later, Mrs. Grant was back up for a few minutes, but apparently just looking around as there was no fussing in the nest bowl.

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Posted 4/12/2017 11:28:00 PM by Robert

4/6, St. John the Divine

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Even as it looked as if hatch watch should start at the red-tailed hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Thursday's hawk sighting suggested that we need to reset the clock back to zero.

No hawk was visible when I first checked the nest late Thursday, but walking up Morningside Drive, I spotted one flying by. Perhaps the male Norman on the hunt. But then I noticed a hawk perched atop Columbia's East Campus dorm at 117th St. and moments later, two of them up there.

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Uh-oh, hawks mating, four weeks after their behavior indicated that they had an egg in the nest. Mating can continue for a few days or a week after first egg is in the nest, but four weeks?

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They remained perched alongside each other afterwards. Norman scanning the skies, while Madeleine preened.

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Norman gave it another seven or eight minutes — the weather was pretty nice — but eventually flew off. Madeline was still up there a bit later when I departed to go check if there was anything happening at the Grant's Tomb nest (which there wasn't).

So assuming that there has been a failure of the first clutch at the St. John's hawk nest, and also assuming that the hawks are preparing for a second clutch, we are now looking at any possible hatch being delayed until mid or late May.

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Posted 4/07/2017 02:41:00 AM by Robert

4/3, St. John the Divine

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It's a few days short of four weeks since we observed behavior suggesting that the female red-tailed hawk at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine could be brooding an egg. So hatch watch is commencing. It's possible that we could see first feeding behavior come the weekend, although middle next week seems more likely.

The same story holds at the Grant's Tomb nest, where first brooding behavior was observed about the same time.

One note of caution: The current cathedral nest is much more exposed than the nest of 2006-2014, so one has to worry a bit that the nasty weather of the past couple weeks (the snow storm two weeks ago, but especially last Friday's deluge) might reduce the likelihood of success. By success, I mean a trio of three baby hawks, as the cathedral site has enjoyed so many times.

Meanwhile, no one has reported running into the lonesome bachelor hawk of Riverside in the 110s in close to two weeks. Perhaps he has decided it was time to move on and look for love in some other place.

Posted 4/04/2017 12:37:00 AM by Robert

3/22, Still Eligible

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The adult male red-tailed hawk who has made Riverside Park in the low 110s his home still seems to be living the bachelor life. He has been spotted numerous times over the past week, but always by himself. The only other red-tail reported spending any time in his area was a juvenile seen on the edge of the park at 114th St. on Monday.

Early Wednesday evening last week, after the blizzard, the bachelor was lurking at 113th St.

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While on Friday at the same time he was found a block and a half up the street.

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Today he was discovered up just above 116th St, not far from last year's nest (which apparently was not his).

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Shortly later he flew south and picked a perch overlooking Riverside's 115th St. stairs.

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Where he stayed put as sunset approached.

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Posted 3/22/2017 09:52:00 PM by Robert

3/14, Riverside's Most Eligible

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Even as nesting season gets into full swing at Manhattan's red-tail hawk nests (four mamas brooding eggs at last report), there are also adult hawks out there who are not yet attached. Riverside Park between 110th and 115th St. has been the haunt of an eligible bachelor since at least Christmas, and only within the last week has there been a hint that he may have found a mate.

Tuesday after the snow quit falling, and just before sunset, I encountered him at 115th St. He was apparently hunting and caught something small just as I found him. By the time I caught up to where he was eating, the snack had been consumed.

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After looking around for a few minutes, he flew north a bit and perched above the 116th St. sled hill. There he remained until sunset. If he had found a mate, as was suggested by one neighborhood birdwatcher over the weekend, then the new female was not around. However, there was a juvie red-tail seen in the area late last week, so maybe the second bird was an under-aged hawk.

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At sunset, he was off to what seems to have been the night's roost, overlooking Riverside Drive.

Posted 3/14/2017 08:35:00 PM by Robert

3/10, Around the Heights

Word has begun to roll in of Manhattan's female red-tailed hawks overnighting in their nests, an activity they will engage in not long before the first egg is laid. At one site, possible brooding has already been reported. On Friday evening, it looked like the two nests in Morningside Heights were among this group.

At St. John the Divine about 15 minutes before sunset, what appeared to be a hawk head was just visible above the edge of the nest. Possibly it was a piece of bark poking up, but there were solid arguments that it was actually a hawk.

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First, whatever was poking up also moved about — not just from side to side as you might expect in a breeze but also dropping down a couple times.

But more importantly, on Thursday at about the same time, the two St. John's hawks performed what looked like a switch-off at the nest. That is: a hawk who had been perched on the hospital roof flew over to the nest, the other hawk then got up from the nest and left, and the first hawk plunked down into the nest. If it was indeed a switch-off, then it also means that the St. John's nest likely has egg(s) in it — a week earlier than it has in the past.

Up at Grant's Tomb, there have been reports all week about the female either being busy in the nest or else lurking close by. Friday at sunset, it wasn't immediately clear whether she was up there. Something like tail feathers were poking up from the nest, but I've seen that before and it turned out no hawk was there.

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But 15 minutes later after darkness was setting in, and the cold had prodded me to head south, I looked back to see that the female was definitely up there. She had stood up to make some adjustments to the nest contents.

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If the Grant's Tomb nest was on the same schedule as last year, then this weekend was about the right time for an egg to be laid. Possibly that's already happened, but possibly the female is still just doing an overnight.

Elsewhere, the bachelor hawk of Riverside Park was spotted by a couple people early Tuesday evening, lurking about his usual haunts in the 113th-114th St. area.

Posted 3/10/2017 08:47:00 PM by Robert

3/1, St. John the Divine

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it's two months into the year, so about time for a post about the hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, no? Conveniently enough, I made my first sighting in 2017 of the red-tail couple on Wednesday about 15 minutes before sunset, and they left no doubt that they were getting ready for nesting and egg-laying.

Madeleine was perched across 113th St. on one of the rooftops of St. Luke's hospital. Initially I was a little confused about who it was up there because I had forgotten how dark her coloring is compared to many of the other adult red-tailed hawks around Manhattan.

About five minutes later, Norman flew in from the east, and within two seconds, a mating commenced.

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That lasted about 9-10 seconds.

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Norman hopped off and perched along Madeleine for a bit. But then, 59 seconds after he arrived, he took off, heading southeast in the general direction of Central Park.

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When will eggs be laid in the nest in the cathedral turret about St. Peter? No idea. Best guess is sometime between March 10 and 17, with the earlier date occurring if the relatively mild winter has prodded the hawks to start early.

Posted 3/01/2017 08:50:00 PM by Robert

2/22, Neighborhood Gossip

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It's getting closer to egg-laying time at the city red-tailed hawk nests, and word is coming in about nest-building activities in progress all around town.

One second-hand report came in that hawks (plural) were adding sticks to the nest on the Grant's Tomb light tower this past Saturday. However, neighborhood hawkwatcher Jeff indicates that the female at Grant's Tomb does not have the coloring of last year's female. In fact her coloring seems more like that of last year's 116th St. female, and there is some belief that the 116th male died before either of his progeny was ready to fledge. So the hot gossip is that a widow and widower hawk who lived next door to each other last year may have linked up for the 2017 nesting season.

Meanwhile, the male hawk who has been hanging round the 110th-115th section of Riverside Park was found at dusk on Wednesday, as shown above and below, perched in a typical spot close to the park wall around 114th St. Apparently he'd fed well enough for the day, as he didn't seem to be hunting, nor did he seem all that bothered by a squirrel who kept approaching to investigate and/or chastise the enemy.

This 110s male hawk also seems to be a bachelor still. No one has reported spotting him in company with another hawk nor even a definite sighting of a different adult hawk in his little territory. It's getting late for finding a season's mate, so one wonders how much longer he'll lurk about the area.

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Unfortunately, no reports received in the past month or more of hawk activity over on Morningside Drive. In all likelihood the cathedral hawks are around, but Morningside is a tougher locale to hawkwatch than is Riverside.

Posted 2/22/2017 08:33:00 PM by Robert

2/11, Riverside Park in the 110s

An hour-plus of looking for hawks on the Riverside side of Morningside Heights late Saturday afternoon looked to have been futile. The usually reliable "Mr. 116th St." didn't seem be around and the Grant's Tomb hawks were elsewhere. But as I was headed back south and toward home, the 116th St. bird put in an appearance.

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Note: Although I call him Mr. 116th St., there's no way to be sure that he was the male of last year's 116th St. nest. Also, no one I've heard from has reporting seeing a "Mrs. 116th St" in the area.

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He'd been perched by the Riverside Park wall at 112th St. But when I caught up to him, he had just flown across the road, into the strip between the main part of Riverside Drive and the neighborhood access road.

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It didn't seem like much of a spot for hunting, but there was a small area of ground clear of snow. Perhaps he thought he'd catch a mouse sneaking out come sunset, which wasn't far away.

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And there's the brief bit of "urban alpenglow" as the setting sun colors the apartment buildings.

Ten or 15 minutes go by, and he finally swoops at something on the ground but comes up with nothing.

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Stared intently at the ground for a bit longer.

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Flies over to another tree and perches briefly.

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And then quietly disappears whilst I look the other way.

Posted 2/11/2017 06:48:00 PM by Robert