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Friday, May 14, 2004

Prospect Park hawk chicks

I took a walk over to Payne Hill to check on Big Mama's nest. It has been a little over a week since I confirmed a hatchling on the nest. I thought that perhaps they'd grown enough that I'd be able to get a better look at them.

I almost passed the hill that I usually walk up to the elm tree viewing point. The park's department has dumped large amounts of compost and dried leaves on the hill to try and combat soil compaction and erosion. In addition, all the bare shrubs and saplings on the hillside seemed to have been replaced with an explosion of dense, green foliage. The black cherry saplings where the Least Bittern humorously tried to camouflage himself on Good Friday would now easily hide the tiny wading bird.

The leaves on the trees surrounding the hawk's nest have almost completely enveloped it. I set up my scope on the south side of the elm tree where I found a small window in the leaves that frames the nest. Big Mama was fawning over her weeks old chicks. Using a razor sharp bill that easily tears through the tough skin of a squirrel she gently preened the downy feathers on one chick's head. I could only make out part of the young hawk's head but when she finished grooming it stood and waddled over to the west edge of the nest. It climbed to the edge of the nest, turned itself around and expelled a long, white stream onto the sidewalk below. I hope nobody was walking underneath. It sat back down and rested its chin on the edge of the nest. Mother hawk was now preening an unseen second hatchling on the east side of the nest. I could see her slow, gentle movements and, through openings between the sticks on the nest, wisps of her offspring's downy feathers.

On the chick that I could see clearly its hatchling down is now a light gray color. When it was waddling about with its "chicken wings" held out for balance I could see the emergence of dark feather shafts at their edges. Its stub of a tail was also showing four or five distinct shafts. I never observed more than just the head of the second chick but it seemed like its down was still much whiter.

I spent about one hour watching the nest and never observed any feedings. A fairly large mixed flock of songbirds on Payne Hill kept distracting me from the hawks. This year's nest is located along a prime stretch of park woods. As I expected, lots of birds move through this area making it a little more of a challenge from previous years for me to stay focused on the nest. In the short time I was stationed below the nest I saw or heard Red-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Blue-winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Common Grackle and Baltimore Oriole.

Before the trees began to bloom I noticed that I could see the Ravine Red-tailed Hawk nest from the Boulder Bridge. I brought my scope over to the bridge today to see if I could find an opening in the leaves. The view is now mostly obstructed but I was able to find a spot where I could view the nest. I focused my scope just in time for a lunchtime feeding. There are two chicks on that nest. With the two nests so close together I can't wait to see the interaction between the fledglings when they inevitably cross paths. I hope they play well together.
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Prospect Park, 5/14/2004
Red-tailed Hawk (3 adults, 4 chicks.)
American Kestrel (Chasing red-tail above Center Dr.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Acadian Flycatcher (Calling & flycatching in the Ravine.)
Red-eyed Vireo
Tree Swallow (Pools.)
Barn Swallow (Pools.)
House Wren (2, Payne Hill and Ravine.)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing (4-6, Ravine.)
Blue-winged Warbler (Payne Hill.)
Tennessee Warbler (Payne Hill.)
Northern Parula (Several.)
Yellow Warbler (Next to Litchfield Villa.)
Magnolia Warbler (Several on Payne Hill.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Fairly common.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Payne Hill.)
Blackpoll Warbler (Common.)
Black-and-white Warbler (3 or 4, Payne Hill.)
American Redstart (Fairly common.)
Ovenbird (4-6.)
Northern Waterthrush (3; Payne Hill, Ravine, Litchfield Villa.)
Common Yellowthroat (Ravine.)
Scarlet Tanager (Ravine.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (2; Payne Hill, Ravine.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (Payne Hill.), Blue Jay, American Crow, Tufted Titmouse (2 copulating on Payne Hill.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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