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Monday, June 14, 2004

"Alto" takes a big leap

Sometimes I have dreams about birds. They're usually not about birdwatching, but rather situations where a bird or birds play a central role. I guess it's no surprise that I've been dreaming about hawks lately. Last night I dreamt that when I went to check on the hawks one of the nestlings had fledged and was perched on a stretch of red, wooden snow fencing below the nest. As I approached him he hop-flapped over to me and allowed me to pet him on the head. When I woke up I checked to make sure that I still had all my fingers.

I rushed home from the city this afternoon so I could check on "Bebe" and "Alto". I ran into my neighbor, Ivana, and her two young sons on their way up to the park. They've been to see the hawks twice in the last week and, by the look in Ivana's eyes, I think she's been infected by the Red-tailed Hawk bug. Lucas may be a little too young to get excited about nature but his older brother, Sebastian, has a keen eye and seems to enjoy being in the woods.

We quickly spotted the sweet, baby-faced "Bebe" perched on a limb a few feet west of the nest. But where was "Alto"? I searched the branches surrounding the nest. Nothing. I walked to the base of the Tuliptree and looked straight up, scanning the surrounding trees. Finally, I found the missing young hawk perched about 20-30 feet west of the nest in an adjacent Tuliptree. She leaned over and twisted her head around as she watched me watching her. Looking almost straight up isn't easy so, after a while, I walked back to where I had set up my scope. Suddenly, I heard one of the young raptors making a whining noise. Sebastian shouted, "There goes a big one." I turned and caught a quick glimpse of one of the adults leaving the nest and flying north through the woods. "Alto" began turning around on her perch and faced the nest. Then, with the agility of a child riding without training wheels for the first time, she flew 50 feet to a bare branch on the north side of the nest. I was so excited that I began clapping and cheering. "Bebe" didn't share in my exuberance and merely glanced over his shoulder at his daring sibling then went back to staring off into space

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