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Friday, March 24, 2006

Meet the Ravine hawks

Ravine nest long view

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This afternoon I only had about an hour to spend watching the ravine Red-tailed Hawk pair. I brought my spotting scope with me.

It seems silly but, as I think back to previous year’s hawk nest vigils, I remember each species of tree that I used as my front row seat. The first year I had a hefty log to use as a seat at the base of a Norway Maple. The following year Big Mama and her mate chose a European Beech north of the zoo for their nest. I chose the trunk of a mature Black Cherry tree that came down during a storm. Each year the pair seemed to move higher up and, in 2004, they built a nest in the penthouse of a towering Tulip tree on Payne Hill. That season I found my best seat yet on a wide, sloping buttress at the base of an elm tree. The following year I gave my behind a rest as “my“ hawks didn’t breed. This year I’ll be monitoring the ”new“ Red-tailed Hawk family from the base of a huge oak tree.

Ravine Red-tailed Hawk male?

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As I walked up the hill towards ”the spot“ I heard a grey squirrel squealing an annoyance call. That usually means one thing and I scanned the trees for a predator. I spotted one of the red-tails perched in an oak about fifty yards south of the nest. With my bins I saw the head of his (or her) mate seated on the nest. I brushed away the leaf litter and old acorns at the base of the oak and plopped down. The sky was overcast for the hour that I monitored the nest so I couldn’t take any decent photos. I think I also arrived after their lunch break as both hawks were inactive from 1:30pm until about 2:15pm. At that time the hawk that the squirrel was concerned about took flight and made ascending circles over Quaker Ridge while gradually sliding north.

Ravine Red-tailed Hawk female?

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Last year I remember a few aggressive encounters on Payne Hill between the two pairs of hawk. Perhaps the Ravine pair won out in a territorial dispute that drove Big Mama and her mate to search for a new domain. Today was my first real introduction to the hawk pair with the penchant for pine trees. The light was terrible and I didn’t notice any distinguishing characteristics on the perched bird and all I ever saw of the other was her head.

For nearly an hour the hawk incubating the eggs sat motionless while staring off to the west. I sat nearly motionless staring off to the north, at her. There was a cloud of insects flying around in front of the nest. She snapped at one of the flies. That was the extent of her activity while I was observing. I wondered if she was thinking about her future family. Do hawks daydream and if they do what would it be? Maybe she was using her acute vision to follow the movements of a distant rodent. Perhaps she wasn’t thinking of anything, but merely meditating on her eggs. I pondered these world-changing issues until my butt told me it was time to leave. As I was standing I briefly stumbled and flushed a woodcock. Apparently, the entire time that I was watching the hawk nest, he was sitting camouflaged in the dried leaves about two yards to my left. He took off, wings twittering, flashing me his rusty, rear then disappearing near the Lower Pool.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) male flowers

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Prospect Park, 3/24/2006
Red-tailed Hawk (2. One on nest, one perched nearby.)
American Coot (2, Lower pool.)
American Woodcock (1, Quaker Ridge.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee (4 or 5 in Ravine.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Ravine.)
Brown Creeper (1, Ravine.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (4 or 5, Ravine.)
Fox Sparrow (1, Ravine.)
American Goldfinch (Several in Sycamore near Litchfield Villa.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rob: Just yesterday, 3/23/06 I saw what appeared like hawks circling high in the sky over Bensonhurst in the late afternoon. There must have been 10-12 of them circling, and wheeling towards Coney Island. With binoculars (12 power) I could see they had wide wing spans and wings that reminded me of the balsa wood rubber-band planes of childhood. Considering there were at least 10 of these birds, I thought it was odd that they were circling so incessantly in such a "large" flock?

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