April 28, 2017

4/28, Grant's Tomb

GT Hawk Nest - 2775

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.

GT Hawk Nest - 2800

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.

GT Hawk Nest - 2812

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

GT Hawk Nest - 2822

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.

GT Hawk Nest - 2825

April 23, 2017

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.

JHW Hawk Nest - 2433

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.

JHW Hawk Nest - 2452

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

JHW Hawk Nest - 2437

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.

Fairview Ave Hawk Nest - 2484

Look closer. Mama is at home.

Fairview Ave Hawk Nest - 2492

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.

Fairview Ave Hawk Nest - 2515

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.

April 21, 2017

4/20, Grant's Tomb

Grant's Tomb Hawk & Nest - 2226

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.

Grant's Tomb Hawk & Nest - 2242

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

4/20, St. John the Divine

Gabriel & Hawk - 2122

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.

Gabriel & Hawk - 2124

April 12, 2017

4/12, Hatch at Grant's Tomb?

GT Nest - 2051

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.

GT Nest - 2087

April 7, 2017

4/6, St. John the Divine


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.


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?


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


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.


April 4, 2017

4/3, St. John the Divine

Gabriel & Hawk - 1876

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.