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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hawks preparing for spring

This week I received the following email from Leslie Day:

From: Leslie Day
Sent: Tue, 19 Feb 2008

Subject: Riverside red tail nest

A pair of red-tails are building a nest on a large honey locust tree that hangs over the W.79th Street on ramp to the West Side Highway. Lots of people are gathering each morning to watch them carry twigs to the nest. We're a bit worried that it is being built over a busy street leading to the northbound West Side highway. Amazing and wonderful to see this process.

It reminded me of the hazardous choice that Big Mama and Split-tail made for their first nest near the 3rd Street playground in Prospect Park. Located directly above a crosswalk and busy road, they somehow managed to avert tragedy and raised two healthy offspring. In the years that followed her first family, I guess Big Mama has figured out that life is much less stressful when her nursery is located farther from the flow of traffic. She never reused the 3rd Street nest.

Leslie's email motivated me to check in on Alice and Ralph's nest in Prospect Park. I am still not certain if they've decided to stick with the Ravine location. I walked up to the park at around 4:45PM. From the 5th Street parking lot entrance, I had a clear view of the 17 story apartment building across from the park near Grand Army Plaza. It's the building that the pair "Slingshot" and "Walnut" have been frequenting for the last year. Anyway, I spotted a pair of red-tails circling the roof and quickly took out my binoculars to watch. One of them disappeared from view over the park and into the trees that border Prospect Park West. Moments later, I followed the second one in my bins as it abruptly dropped to treetop level and headed towards the Litchfield Mansion on my right. The first hawk had apparently flown to the building's roof while I was looking the other way. The second hawk joined his mate and they circled the building a couple of times. The one that I presume is the male because of his small size flew over my head, then out of the park and down 5th Street. His mate followed.

They traveled in a direction that didn't make much sense, at least if I were a Red-tailed Hawk looking for a nesting location. I live on 5th Street, so when I returned home, I went up to the roof to scan for the two hawks. Apart from the low brownstones that dominate the area, there are only 4 large buildings in the direction that they flew. Also note that there aren't any parks in that direction. If they are building a nest within that several block area it could only be on Methodist Hospital, its housing across from the hospital, St. Savior's Church & High School or John Jay High School. It may still be winter, but I should start spending more time on my roof scanning for them. I'm not a Red-tailed Hawk, so it's impossible for me to know why they left the park. There is a fairly large flock of pigeons that roosts on top of Methodist Hospital, so maybe they just had a dinner date at the hospital.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

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