Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Prospect Park with Mary, Sean and Gail

It felt like the temperature was close to 90 degrees when I walked up to the park this morning. Looking south along the Long Meadow the air had the viscous, hazy appearance of an August afternoon. I thought about the hawk nestlings in their towering tree exposed to the unyielding sun and wondered how they were managing. An early morning call from Steve about a mystery bird near the Fallkill Falls temporarily lured me away from my responsibilities. I sent out a few e-mails regarding a possible rare bird before leaving the house.

I met Sean next to the wildflower meadow where Steve had heard the bird singing. We stood in the shade of a mature elm tree and set up our equipment. Sean put together his camera gear while I plugged a pair of portable speakers into my CD player and cued-up the Swainson's Warbler track. Gail and her loyal four-legged companion, Pippi, joined us in the search. Today must have been a city-wide field trip day as legions of noisy school children marched passed...right next to the wildflower meadow. The noise and stifling heat was a bad combination of ingredients for locating a furtive bird. Mary, who was on her way to work, joined us for a short time. We walked the paths behind the pools and into the Ravine, the whole time playing the bird recording. House sparrows and catbirds seemed to be the only birds attracted to the song. We gave up and walked up to Payne Hill to check on the hawk nestlings.

The two young hawks have finally lost all their downy feathers. Their heads and necks are now covered in fresh, brown feathers, completing their metamorphosis into adolescent hawk-dome. One of the hawks was standing tall at the edge of the nest while its sibling appeared to be eating something in the bottom of the nest. When it stood up it was obvious that he (or more likely, she) was much larger than the one at the edge of the nest. Is it possible that one is male and one female? The size difference seemed much more striking than between "Itchy" and "Scratchy" from the 2002 brood. While Sean, Gail and I stayed relatively cool in the shade of the forest, the hawks must have been roasting. Both birds panted constantly while they periodically stretched their wings or hopped across the nest. After only about 20 minutes the young birds settled down in the nest.

Initially, I thought that they might fledge by Friday. However, we didn't witness any climbing around on the limbs outside the nest yet, so it may be a little longer than I estimated. This pair is probably the youngest of all the known Red-tailed Hawks in New York City.

On the way out of the park, Sean and I checked on the Wood Thrush nest. It seemed like we had just missed a feeding but, as the adult left the nest, we could see at least two tiny chicks. Last year they had four in their brood.

While we were watching the hawks today we began discussing names. In 2002 we had "Itchy" and "Scratchy" and in 2003, due to an illness that plagued the brood, we never came up with names. So far this year's kids have remained nameless. We began tossing out possible names; Lucy & Ricky, Bart & Lisa, Frankie & Johnny, Linus & Lucy, Ike & Tina, Holmes & Watson, Heckle & Jeckle, Jeeves & Wooster, Thelma & Louise, Beavis & Butthead and Jack & Seven. We don't know the sex of the young hawks so maybe genderless names would be more appropriate. If you would like to help us find names for our hawks please drop me a line. Sorry, there's no cash prize but I'll let everyone know the winning names.
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Prospect Park, 6/9/2004
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Wood Duck (Lower pool.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Lower pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 nestlings.)
Chimney Swift
Great Crested Flycatcher (2, lower pool.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Singing on Payne Hill.)
Tree Swallow
Wood Thrush (1 adult and at least 2 chicks in Rick's Place nest.)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing (Several, lower pool.)
Common Yellowthroat (2 singing at edge of Sparrow Bowl.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (Singing in trees above Ravine,)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee (Quaker Ridge.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

1 comment:

Rob J. said...

Here are some suggestions for some names for the red tailed hawks: Coney and Isla; Brook and Lynn; Floyd and Ebbets; Dodger and Nathan.

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