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Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Offspring for Alice & Ralph?

Alice and Ralph have always made it difficult for me to tell if and how many chicks they are raising. This year is their eight season at the Ravine nest and I didn't expect anything less. However, what I observed of Alice's behavior yesterday seemed ominous.

Nelly and Max's family at the Nelly's Lawn nest seem to be progressing as expected, but I haven't been able to confirm any young in the Ravine nest. Yesterday I spent forty-five minutes watching that nest, hoping to see some activity. Unfortunately, I did not. One thing I've noticed over the years about an active Red-tailed Hawk nest is the presence of flies. There is an abundance of food in our city parks and the young don't usually finish off their prey in one feeding. The leftovers that sit in the bottom of the nest attract flies. My thinking is that, if there are flies, there is food, and if there is food, there are young mouths to feed. Alice and Ralph's nest didn't show any signs of flies or movement. Then, as I was packing up to leave, something unusual occurred.

I heard one of the adults calling from somewhere near the Midwood. It was making the non-typical, chirping call. Then I saw that it was Alice as she circled the Nethermead Meadow, still calling. She flew into the Ravine and perched in a tree above me. A Blue Jay began harassing her, but she ignored it and continued calling while scanning the woodlands. After a couple of minutes she flew up to the nest. Usually, the young would flock to the adult, hoping for some food or preening. I didn't see any young. Instead, Alice stuck her head down into the nest, as if looking for something. She kept calling, but I didn't see any movement in the nest and, after a few minutes, the female Red-tailed Hawk flew off towards Quaker Ridge. As I walked out of the Ravine, I could still hear her high-pitched chirps in the distance.

I had a totally different experience at Nelly's Lawn. The three young Red-tailed Hawks at the nest are growing quickly. They now have emerging dark feathers covering the whole upperside of their wings. Their stubby tails are also growing in. When Nelly flew into the nest they began walking over to her from their respective corners. I guess they were hoping for some food, but she seemed to be just checking in with them. Also, Marge called that afternoon to let me know that the two chicks in the Green-Wood Cemetery nest seem to be doing well. She said that one is considerably larger than the other, which is fairly typical as the eggs can sometimes be laid a few days apart.

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