Friday, May 20, 2005

Another Fordham update

This hasn't been a great season for city Red-tailed Hawk pairs. I spoke with Joe Borker recently about the Green-Wood Cemetery pair. Apparently, after a long run of consecutive successful broods this year's nest remains empty. As you know, Big Mama and Split-tail have also abandoned their nest. In Central Park, Pale Male and Lola have also failed, although their cause may be more easily explained. Thankfully, Fordham University's Hawkeye and Rose are on track with their family. I've been able to live vicariously through Chris Lyons' hawk reports, making Prospect Park's loss more bearable:

"When Hawkeye and Rose, the nesting pair of Red-Tails at Fordham University, chose their nest site this past winter, they would have seen that people often walked directly under the oak tree they had picked out. They clearly didn't consider that a major problem at the time. However, they could not have anticipated that a huge tent would be erected almost directly beneath their tree in late May for various festivities related to the graduation of the Class of 2005. Nor, I would assume, could they understand the concept of graduation ("It's kind of like fledging, but they don't actually learn to fly; they just get a piece of paper, and move back in with their parents for a few years.")

As I type this, there is a huge tent about twenty feet from the nest tree, and another one by the library, and hundreds of chairs set up not far away, and several portable restrooms parked on the basketball court over to the west of them. Hundreds of cars will pass by the tree. Thousands of people will be in the immediate area, though some of the events are scheduled after dark, and won't have much impact on daytime feeding activities. Plus, most of these people will have no idea the nest is there, and as I have reported in the past, the adults are remarkable blase about people, and the young are still weeks away from fledging. The young look extremely well fed, and even if the parents don't want to feed them during periods of peak human activity around the nest, that only amounts to a few hours per day. But I am going to spend the weekend worrying, anyhow. Not much else I can do.

There seem to be only two eyasses--I think if there were more, they'd have been spotted by now. Their body mass has been increasing exponentially, probably hastened along by the fact that they have no other siblings competing for food with them. They're about half the size of their parents, and dirty-grey, with the beginnings of dark feathering on the edges of their wings, which they are exercising more and more often, to the delight of passersby.

There was a lengthy feeding session early this afternoon. Hawkeye was feeding them at first, until Rose showed up and took over. Nearby observers didn't seem to bother either parent too much.

Rose has found yet another cross to perch upon as a look-out, this one on top of the University Chapel, and I often see her there (it might be Hawkeye sometimes, hard to tell from that range). The previous favored lookout spot, a crucifix on top of Martyr's Court, is used less often now, perhaps because of a pesky Mockingbird that keeps flying up to harass the adults whenever they perch there. Mockers are common breeders on campus, and this bird obviously has a nest in one of the bushes around the building below. I have had two separate people ask me if that little bird they saw flying around the adults was a baby hawk, learning how to fly. There have been lots of other questions in the same general vein of late. I see now that I was ill-advised to let people here know I was a birdwatcher. (g)

I'll keep my fingers crossed that the turmoil of graduation weekend doesn't put too much stress on the pair. I doubt very much they'd abandon their nest at this point, so as long as the babies stay in the nest, and the nest stays in the tree, I think they'll survive. I'll be looking to see if the eyasses are wearing mortarboards on their tiny heads this coming Monday.

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