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Monday, June 12, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk updates

I went away for the weekend and it looks like there was a lot of excitment surrounding the city hawks. I'm hoping that I didn't miss any of the fledging of the Prospect Park offspring. I'm working this morning and I may have some time late today to check on "my" hawks. I will also try to write a report from my New York State sojourn.

Here is the latest report from Chris Lyons on the Fordham Red-tailed Hawks:

"Subject: First Fordham Fledge of 2006
Date: 6/9/06 6:16 AM

(Photo credit - Chris Lyons)

Last year, I had to guess the exact date of fledging for Rose and Hawkeye's offspring--could have been the evening of the 14th, or the morning of the 15th. This year, much to my surprise, I happened to be present at the occasion--which transpired around a week earlier. I had earlier wondered if Hawkeye and Rose were on an earlier schedule this year, and that definitely seems to have been the case.  

I had brought the scope and camera in to work yesterday, and had checked the nest in the morning, and then again at lunch. I noticed throughout the day that the largest of the chicks was always standing up, always looking around very alertly, grasping sticks, restlessly gnawing at leftover scraps of meat, and spending a lot of time looking out into the world beyond the cornice she'd spend her entire life on to date (judging by size, relative to the other two eyasses, this was almost certainly a female). She wasn't doing a lot of practice flapping, though. She was ready for something new. When Rose came with some food--well, looking at the photos afterwards makes it hard not to anthropomorphize, look for some glimmer of recognition passing between them. I don't think Rose was saying "You go, girl." But it's not too unscientific to say she might have sensed a change coming. You'd think that after millions of years of nest-tending, birds would know more about this kind of thing than we do, even if they only know it on an instinctive level.    

(Photo credit - Chris Lyons)

I debated whether or not to stay after work, since it was drizzling a little, but I knew I wouldn't have the chance to photograph them again for a number of days. I wanted to try and get a good picture of the three Collins Hall youngsters, while they were still on Collins Hall. I also wanted to know how that sluggish eyass I mentioned in my last report was doing (seemingly better, though I can't figure out when he gets fed--he excreted over the side today, so obviously he's not missing out entirely). Rose came by, but not with food--she brought a fresh oak branch, covered with bright green leaves--then flew off. The restless chick grasped and gnawed at the branch intently. 

It's an old birder axiom that you're either birding or photographing, and I was intent on photography, my head down, my attention diverted--and then there was a commotion over me--Mockingbirds squawking and diving at something tangled in an oak branch in the tree I normally use as shelter from the elements. A hawk dangling upside-down from the branch, looking most confused. My first thought was that an adult had made a pass at something--but then I remembered seeing photos of fledged Red-Tails after their first flight, and saw the orangey chest color. A closer study revealed this to be that same chick that had the faraway look in her eyes all day. She made it at least 150 feet away from the ledge. I had assumed they'd go for one of the trees immediately adjacent to the front of the building, but she had gone a bit further. It was around 5:35pm, 6/8/06. 

It took her some time to right herself, but she managed eventually. She didn't seem too bothered by me and several passersby trying to snap some decent photos of her in this embarassing posture (and mainly failing, due to bad light). Once she was right-side up, she preened some, and then began to climb, managing to jump to a slightly higher branch while I was there. Her siblings watched curiously. The adults were around, and I wondered if I was keeping them from attending to her. One had just flown overhead, calling fiercely, while pursued by a harassing kestrel (first time I'd seen a kestrel on campus since Rob's visit to the old nest, last year). Now one of the parents, probably Rose, was perched in a nearby tree, and I decided to leave mother and daughter to sort out a changed relationship. Maybe that's anthropomorphizing too, but how else would you describe it? An oak branch lay on the ground under the tree. I wondered if it was the same branch Rose had brought to the nest a short time before."

I also just received word from D. Bruce Yolton regarding the Cathedral of St. John the Divine Red-tailed Hawk nest. He has kindly allowed me to post his words and photos here:

Fledge Day

The afternoon started out with a Great Egret flying high over Morningside Park. It concerned the parents enough that both of them returned to the Cathedral.

(Photo credit - D. Bruce Yolton)
The adult male on the Cathedral.

Then without warning at 12:20 p.m. on Sunday, one of the birds fledged (left the nest for the first time). I was changing shooting locations at the time, and unfortunately missed capturing the moment.

James O'Brien, who blogs at, was shooting video of the nest, so the moment was recorded. James was kind enough to share these stills of the fledge. (The fledgling is on St. Andrew's head and the adult female is on the right.)

(Photo Credit - James P. O'Brien)

Like parents who've lost their child in a department store, we looked high and low for the fledgling. I love fledge days. The hawk watchers who've been standing around for days looking at the nest, all seem to come magically together and work as a team to find and keep track of the location of the new fledgling.

Around 3:40 p.m. Jacquie Connors and James O'Brien, with the help of a squirrel, found the fledgling in a small Ginkgo tree, just across Morningside drive from the nest. We had hunted all around Morningside park, and the fledgling turned out to be within 100 yards of the nest.

(Photo credit - D. Bruce Yolton)
My first picture of the fledgling outside the nest.

(Photo credit - D. Bruce Yolton)
The Ginkgo tree had really small branches and the fledgling struggled to stay put.

(Photo credit - D. Bruce Yolton)

The mother returned to the Cathedral, but there wasn't a feeding of the new fledgling in the afternoon. (Reports are that a feeding did occur in the early evening.)

The fledgling had trouble staying in place. It tried to navigate the top of a tree as though it was a nest, with very poor results.

It found a more solid tree.

But for some reason moved back to a thin branch. After a few minutes a squirrel moved past, and the alarmed Red-tail gave out a cry. This happened a few times as the squirrel moved up and down the tree.

(Photo credit - D. Bruce Yolton)
As I was leaving the second eyass was alone on the nest.

(Photo credit - D. Bruce Yolton)
It should fly out soon and join its sibling in Morningside Park.

I think all of the Cathedral hawk watchers felt like proud parents today. Let's toast with some Champagne the success of these amazing parents and their new offspring!

1 comment:

Yojimbot said...

Thanks for the link/posting. Hopefully the second eyass will make the leap soon!

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