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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk update

I've learned over the last 5 years that it's very difficult to detect chicks in the Prospect Park nest soon after hatching. Unlike many of the other Red-tailed Hawk nests in New York City, Alice & Ralph had chosen a very private location for their nest. The steep viewing angle makes it impossible to see any chick heads poking up for a week or two after hatching. I decided to give them a little time this year, before staking out their nest. I went over to the nest yesterday at about 5pm, when the light illuminates the more exposed side of the tree.

I ran into Peter along the way and he accompanied me up the hillside opposite the Ravine nest. When we arrived Alice was standing up on the nest. The wind was blowing fairly hard, but she barely moved as the tree swayed from side to side. While we were watching, I heard a loud, metallic "chink" chip note from behind us. The bird that was calling was somewhere close to the ground. I told Peter that it reminded me of a Hooded Warbler. Peter is hearing impaired, but makes up for it by having incredibly acute eyesight. As a birder, he's one of the best spotters that I know. I sometimes forget that he's deaf and will say things like, "Listen to that, it sounds like a hooded." Usually, he'll just humor me and reply with something like, "Yeah, I think you're right." Then he'll roll his eyes. We forgot about the hawks for a minute and tracked down the bird making the simple call. Peter spotted it and it was female Hooded Warbler. ("Hoodless Warbler"?)

We monitored the nest from 5pm until about 5:30pm. At one point Alice appeared to be feeding chicks in the bottom of the nest. I was hoping to be able to see signs of chicks on the photos once I uploaded them to my computer. I couldn't, but after spending several minutes going back and forth through the images I've come to the conclusion that there are probably three chicks in the nest. Here is my reasoning. Peter and I were standing south of the nest. When Alice began, what appeared to be feeding young, she was dipping her head down into the base of the south side of the nest. After a few minutes, she turned around and continued the same movements, but into the bottom of the north end of the nest. She then turned and faced in the direction of the Midwood, east. Again, she appeared to be taking small bits of food and dipping down into the bottom of the nest. Three turns, three different sections of the nest, three chicks? I think I should be able to see for sure in the next few days. I'll also pay a visit to the Green-Wood Cemetery nest.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

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