Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fordham Red-tailed Hawk update

Hawkeye on the nest (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Christopher Lyons)

I just received my first report of the season from Chris Lyons, the Fordham hawkwatcher:

"From: "Christopher Lyons"
Date: March 21, 2007 10:04:48 AM EDT
Subject: Hawkeye and Rose--incubation has begun

I've known since early March that Hawkeye and Rose were going to use the same nest as last year--the one inside the pediment on top of Collins Hall, on the Fordham Rose Hill Campus, here in the Bronx.   It was around then that I started seeing fresh pine boughs, and other new material added to the nest, and co-workers told me they'd seen the hawks engaged in pulling branches off trees and adding them to the nest.   I never really thought they'd change the location, after getting off three chicks last year--they have found a spot easily as amenable to their breeding objectives as Pale Male and Lola's 5th Ave. Townhouse has famously been, and they haven't had to deal with people carting their nest away and otherwise meddling with their business--though they had their nest and their chicks taken from them at a nest-site outside Fordham, almost three years ago, as I managed to learn during their last breeding cycle.

Rose on cross (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Christopher Lyons)

Rose and Hawkeye (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Christopher Lyons)

Rose typically begins incubation sometime around March 20th, and she's right on schedule this year.  On Monday, March 19th, I saw her copulate with Hawkeye on the crucifix on top of the Martyr's Court dormitory, which is immediately adjacent to Collins Hall.  I'm sure they've been exchanging genetic information for weeks, but this was the first time I'd caught them in the act, and I even got a few (bad) pictures snapped.  Hawkeye had just seen off another Red-Tail, which may have been one of their fledged young, judging by the plaintive calls it made.  Rose was waiting for him on the cross, and they finalized the year's nuptials.  Later, I saw her on the nest. 
 
Yesterday, March 20th, they caught me napping--I went over to check the nest after leaving work, and saw one of the hawks (presumably Rose) squatting high over the nest--in the kind of posture that may indicate she was in the process of laying an egg.  If she'd been incubating a finished clutch, she would have been lower, and difficult to see.  I didn't have my camera out and ready (stupid, stupid!), and it took me a few minutes to set up the tele-extender, which gives me about 18x magnification, with image stabilization.  Out of the corner of my eye, while I hastened to get my equipment up and running, I saw that there were now two hawks on the nest--then one flew off, and the other settled in low.   I managed to get one good shot of the remaining hawk's head, before it disappeared--the dull coloration, and white streaking on the crown clearly indicate that it was Hawkeye, but that's not all--I got pictures of the other hawk, back on the Martyr's Court Cross--and the metal band on the leg (evident when I digitally enlarged the image), along with the richer coloration on the head, clearly proved this was Rose. 
 
So I feel quite confident in saying there must be at least one egg on the nest, and that laying started in the last few days, perhaps even yesterday.  Rose leaving the nest doesn't prove anything, one way or the other--female Red-Tails frequently leave their eggs unattended in the early stages, particularly when they aren't finished laying, since they delay serious incubation until the clutch is finished. 
 
However, I can conceive of no reason why Hawkeye would swoop in to give her a break if there were no eggs in the nest.  He had already seen at least one egg, and his instincts told him it was time to let Rose stretch her wings and preen a bit, while he held down the fort.  Quod erat demonstrandum."


I was glad to learn that the most famous pair of Red-tailed Hawks are back on their 5th Avenue nest. D. Bruce Yolton has some info and great photos on his blog, "Urban Hawks".

1 comment:

Pamela said...

oh wow... those are great shots.

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