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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Red-tailed Hawk fledge news

Marge and Joe kept an eye on the youngsters in Green-Wood Cemetery while I looked in on the trio in Prospect Park. As of last Thursday, the Nelly's Lawn hawks still seemed to be sticking close to the nest, but I received good news from the cemetery (that just sounds too weird).

Marge told me that they scanned the nest tree and surrounding area for a long time, but couldn't find the two young Red-tailed Hawks. Presumably, they had both fledged, but where were they hiding?

Very early Friday morning I began feeling the effects of the flu, but tried everything to fight it. I had to co-lead a trip on Saturday and didn't want to cancel. I put on my best face and pulled it together. When I got home in the afternoon I went to bed. My body felt like it had been trampled by a herd of wildebeest, and I probably should have stayed in bed, but the allure of just-fledged Red-tailed Hawk is so strong that it could probably pull me away from Death's door. On Sunday, against my better judgement, I dragged myself over to Green-Wood Cemetery.

Marge met me at the entrance and we drove over to Linden Avenue. She parked just to the east of the nest. As soon as I got out of the car I noticed something moving near the top of the tree. Sure enough, one of the youngsters was still in the tree, but had climbed nearly to the top and several yards from the nest. The tree is a mature Littleleaf Linden with lots of dense foliage and flowers, it is very easy to loose even a large hawk within the crown. The silly bird didn't seem very interested in flapping his wings, but did spend a lot of time snapping at bees feeding on the fragrant linden flowers.

We spent about thirty minutes circling the nest tree looking for the fledgling and scanning the nest tree from different angles. The pair's father, Junior, was perched in a Cedar tree to the east of the nest, making occasional, brief forays towards Ocean Hill. Big Mama, spent most of her time standing guard from a pine tree on the west side of the nest. Marge had to leave and I continued the search alone. I followed the trail of alert calls from robins and other birds, but couldn't find the missing fledgling. Instead, they just kept leading my back to Big Mama or Junior. Finally, I decided to stop and just listen for a while. At this point in a young Red-tailed Hawk's development the parents begin to withhold food deliveries. It may sound cruel, but it forces the youngsters to start to explore their surroundings and hunt for themselves. Eventually, the fledgling will get hungry and start to make a high-pitched begging call.

Within about 30 minutes I heard the first high, "klee, klee, klee" and it was coming from directly over my head! The young hawk had fledged, alright, but only made it to a planetree that was about 50 years from the nest tree. I set up my scope to shoot some videos just as a tour group appeared over the hill behind me. They were a group of birders from the Audubon Society, so I offered them looks through my scope...not that you really needed a scope, as the bird wasn't very high up in the tree.

At about 2pm the hungry fledgling took off from her perch and headed, North, towards the Drummer Boy. She looked healthy, confident and made an impressive landing. A short while later, and after a lot of whinning, she took off again, heading directly towards me. This time she landed in a maple tree on the opposite side of the road from, and very close to, her nest tree. She caught the attention of a few Blue Jays, several robins and even a chickadee. The poor thing seemed out of her element and completely overwhelmed by the small flock of irrate, mobbing birds. I suppose she felt like there was only one place that she would be safe, so she headed right back to her nest tree. She landed a few yards below her nestmate, who just stared down at her from his perch at the top of the tree.

I stayed for as long as I could, hoping to see the other hawk fledge. He never did. I think it's safe to say that, though, that after two more days, he probably has taken his maiden voyage.

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