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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hatchlings in the nest?

Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis?)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This afternoon I dragged my scope, camera and beach chair up the hill to my hawk watching spot. I had 90 minutes to spare and needed to find out the progress of the Ravine Red-tailed Hawk nest. When I arrived the female was standing at the edge of the nest. Her behavior at the nest is very different than that of Big Mama. Big Mama would take frequent breaks from incubating her eggs and perch nearby, in clear view of her nest. The Ravine female seems to sit or stand at the nest for long stretches of time, nearly motionless.

The spring migration has stalled somewhere south of New York City. Yellow-rumped Warblers were still the dominant species in the woods. A Prairie Warbler’s simple, climbing whistle in the woods to my left was the first that I’ve heard since June of last year. High up and to my right a hormonally driven Tufted Titmouse repeated “peter, peter, peter” over and over and over. Far to my left, a Baltimore Oriole seemed to have claimed the territory at the edge of the Lower pool. His loud, rich whistles and chatters resonated throughout the Ravine. On the opposite side of the audio scale was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the oak tree above my head. The thin, sibilant, wisp of a song from this 6 gram creature was barely more than a breath.

In Rome, on the Aventine Hill above the Circus Maximus, is the Keyhole of the Knights of Malta. If you look through the 1 inch wide keyhole you’ll see a perfectly framed view of the distant St. Peter’s Cathedral. As the shrubs and leaves have grown out in the Ravine my view of the hawk nest has become much like that keyhole view. The nest is completely vignetted by the foliage. If I moved even a few inches to my left or right, the nest would be obscured.

I think I finally figured out how to tell the adult Red-tailed Hawks apart. When the male dropped off some food at the nest, and they were side by side, I noticed that his head is much whiter than her head. It made me wonder about the pale-headed juvenile that’s hanging around the park. Are they related? Also, the female has a very large white patch just above her rump. The white patch may not be a permanent marking. Over the years that I watched Big Mama and her mate I noticed that she developed a patch in that area. It would grow out over time and I eventually assumed that it was the result of her being mounted by her mate.

During most of my watch the female (I’ve got to find a name for her) stood like a statue. The only thing moving in my camera’s frame was the swaying nest tree. I started looking around at other animals in the area. Two very young squirrels ventured out of their tree and began sniffing around me. One kept sneaking up behind me then hiding behind the oak tree when I’d move. Then, as young animals usually do, the two began chasing and playing with each other. For a small squirrel, carelessly playing in the shadow of a Red-tailed Hawk nest is probably not the best idea. They’ll learn...or not. I think the park’s squirrels and chipmunks breed in the winter as, nearby, a young chipmunk popped out of his hole to check me out. He was close enough to pet on his head, but I resisted the temptation.

Young Eastern Chipmunk

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At about 3pm the Red-tailed Hawk’s mate returned to the nest. They both dipped their heads down in the nest for a moment, then he flew off. When she straightened up she had a dead chipmunk dangling from her beak. She looked around then dipped her head down back into the nest. Moving to the south side of the nest, she continued either feeding herself or feeding her chicks. From my perspective, it looked as if she was tearing off pieces then placing her head into the bowl of the nest. I’m fairly certain that she has at least one hatchling that she’s feeding. Young Red-tailed Hawks grow very rapidly so I should be able to see their fuzzy, white heads soon.

Feeding sequence

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/2/2006
Red-tailed Hawk (2, at Ravine nest.)
Belted Kingfisher (Ravine.)
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo (1, Ravine.)
Warbling Vireo (1, Ravine.)
Tree Swallow (Several Ravine flyovers.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1, Ravine.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray Catbird
Northern Parula (1, near Nethermead Arches.)
Yellow Warbler (1, Ravine.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Prairie Warbler (1, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (Fairly common.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2, Ravine.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (1, Ravine.)
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow (Several.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole (1, near Lower pool.)
American Goldfinch (Several in Oaks above Ravine.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Black Jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Unknown flowers at the Picnic House

(Photo credit - Rob J)

1 comment:

Marge said...


Could those flowers be "Spider Mums"


As always a great site!

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