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Friday, February 27, 2004

Prospect Park with Sean S.

Sean and I went looking for the Red-tailed Hawks today for photo-ops and to try and confirm this year's nest location. We were successful on both counts.

We started off at the Vale of Cashmere and I lead Sean on a tour of some of the hawk's favorite north end hunting spots. On Wednesday Sean noticed one of the hawks at the nest near Rick's Place so we headed over towards Payne Hill to check it out. This is the nest that I noticed them building back on January 17th.

The nest was empty when we arrived but Sean spotted one of the hawks perched nearby. It appeared to be scanning the ground below for prey. Sean found a good spot to set-up his camera and I walked to a location where I could watch both the hunter and his nest. When the hawk obligingly dropped down to a lower perch we moved a little closer hoping to see a kill. I've been seeing and hearing a few chipmunks around the park lately awakening from their winter nap. Perhaps these little rodents were the object of this hawks intense, searching eyes. He didn't seem to mind our proximity or another person who walked almost directly beneath his low perch. After about 30 minutes his mate returned to the nest and called for him. She also made a low, muted peeping sound that reminded me of begging hatchlings. She slowly walked around the top of the growing stick construction as if she were a building inspector. She then flew to a tree nearby where she began pulling on a large, dead branch to add to her nest. The piece of wood was so large that she had some trouble getting it to the nest. She briefly landed in a small, adjacent tree. It looked like she was trying to figure out the easiest path to take and eventually dragged it up to the nest and carefully weaved into her new nursery. She then joined her mate below. They flew to a branch above the sidewalk, quickly copulated then sat side by side for a few minutes staring off at the Long Meadow. I've tried to illustrate in words the extreme difference in size and shape between these two birds and I think that Sean was able to snap off some shots of them together before they took off. Hopefully, he got some nice comparison photos.

The pine tree nest, which is only about 100 yards from "Big Mama's" nest was empty today. It should be interesting to watch the interaction between these two closely nesting pairs, it's a wonder that they tolerate each other at all. The only other Red-tailed Hawk we observed today was an immature over Breeze Hill. It looked like it had taken quite a beating as it had many missing or broken feathers on its left wing. As we were watching it the adult pair, which had been soaring over the Nethermead, began approaching. All of a sudden the adult male tucked in his wings and accelerated at tremendous speed directly towards the young bird. He appeared to slam into the bird near the Oriental Pavilion then casually returned to his mate, still circling nearby. The immature bird flew slowly along the Lullwater below the treetops and perched near the Terrace Bridge to lick its wounds. He has unusually dark, practically black, facial feathers and his left wing looks pretty beat-up. While he appears to be able to fly just fine, he seems to be having trouble "getting the message".

Two other bird sightings of possible interest today were four Ring-necked Ducks dozing on the lake near the "Thumb" and a naked women wrapped in an American flag being photographed near the upper pond.
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Prospect Park, 2/27/2004
Brant (28, Prospect Lake.)
Mute Swan (2.)
Northern Shoveler (Abundant, Prospect Lake.)
Ring-necked Duck (4, Prospect Lake.)
Hooded Merganser (2, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 1 immature.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow (Breeze Hill feeder.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (1, Lullwater.)
American Goldfinch (18, Lamppost #249.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (2.), American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove (~12.), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.), Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow (2.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird

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