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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Amorous Red-tailed Hawks

Thursday morning Big Dave and I went into Prospect Park to check on the new hawks nesting at Nelly's Lawn. It brought back memories of 2002.

I met Dave in Prospect Park during the 2002 nesting season. He was wandering around the park looking to take photos of the local hawks and was unaware of the nest. Big Mama and her mate Split-tail were breeding for the first time and picked an unlikely location; a small linden tree above the crosswalk next to the 3rd Street playground. The two Red-tailed Hawks were oblivious to the park's human activities and, over that season, I had many memorable close encounters with them and their two offspring. This new pair at the northeast corner of the park are behaving similarly unfazed by human presence.

A male Merlin swooped in and perched in a beech tree at the edge of the Long Meadow, but overcast skies in the morning made decent photos nearly impossible for me. At Nelly's Lawn the male Red-tailed Hawk busily gathered branches for the nest, frequently disappearing into the trees to the north. His mate made several forays from her perch in the giant Tuliptree to the nest tree, examining the growing nursery. Big Dave and I spent an hour watching.

The sun eventually broke through the cloud cover, so late in the afternoon I went back to nest with Louis Vega. We found the large, pale female perched near the top of the Tuliptree. The male was spotted a few times as he continued his search for construction materials. As Lou and I were preparing to leave, the female flew down to a tree near the Aralia Grove. Lou packed it in, but I decided to follow.

Climbing the muddy hillside east of the nest tree, I found the hawk perched in a Black Cherry tree and quickly set-up my camera. I have my little Canon set to automatically take three consecutive exposures. It was late afternoon and I only had a few minutes before shadow crept over this hill. I snapped the first three photos. After I adjust my tripod, I pressed the shutter for the next set. As I did, the male flew in, mounted the female, then flew off. If I had tried a million times, I don't think I would ever been able to capture this unexpected moment intentionally.

Ah, Spring is in the air.

1 comment:

Starz723 said...

Rob! A once in a lifetime photo. My fav expression" Being in the right place at the right time to see great nature experiences and in your case "having your gear set up" Bravo!
Marge Raymond

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope