Saturday, March 29, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk update

When I arrived in the woods at 3:45PM on Thursday, Alice was sitting on her nest in the pine tree. She barely moved, except for an occasional glance beneath her reposed body. When I departed at 5:10PM, she was still sitting on the nest. It was the first time this spring that I've seen either adult hawk spend an extended period of time on the nest. That would indicate that there is probably at least one egg in the nest. If all goes well, we can begin counting down the days towards hatching.

Despite the cold weather there appeared to be plenty of insects emerging. Arriving Eastern Phoebes were hawking for flies from low perches throughout Quaker Ridge. Several were also actively feeding from high in the canopy. I counted a total of ten. A Brown Creeper methodically probed the deep ridges in an oak tree's bark a few yards from where I stood. Small flocks of juncos were foraging their way north through the woods. Several Golden-crowned Kinglets were following along with the sparrows.

I've been fighting off a nasty cold and today I felt well enough to spend some time watching the nest. It was just past noon when I focused my scope on the pine tree. My view is a little better from a new spot I found at the southwest side of the nest.

Alice was in the nest, looking out over the ponds and into the bright sunshine. Unlike late Thursday, the woods were nearly devoid of birds. Strong northwest gusts scouring the woods on the west side of Quaker Ridge was the likely reason. At 2:05, the bulky, dark Red-tailed Hawk stood up, straightened her back and stretched. She remained standing until 2:21PM, when I heard her mate calling. Alice took off, flying south. I lost her in the sun, but heard the pair's greeting chirps. After a minute or two Ralph flew into the nest to resume incubation duty. A few minutes later, she called and I spotted her just above the trees near the lower pond. He left the nest and the two hawks circled close together above Quaker Ridge. Carried by the strong wind, they gradually soared out over the Nethermead Meadow and out of my sight.

I packed up my gear and I birded the woods on the east side of the two ponds before heading home. The wind had died down a little and there was a small, mixed flock of songbirds feeding in the woods near the Lower Pool. Among them was my first sighting of a Pine Warbler for the year. Before I left the Ravine I looked back at the nest. At some point while I was looking at the little birds, Alice had returned and was sitting on the nest. Tomorrow I'm going to Green-Wood Cemetery to check out Big Mama and Junior's new nest.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

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