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Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Fledgling Hawks

Yesterday I met up with Marge at the end of the day and we took a drive over to Green-Wood Cemetery to see if Big Mama and Junior's two offspring had fledged.

We parked on Linden Avenue beneath the towering Little Leaf Linden tree that holds the red-tail nest. Over the last few days I've noticed that the air swirling around Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery and the surrounding neighborhoods has been heavily perfumed with the honeyed scent of these huge trees. We did a quick scan of the nest, but the young red-tails were gone. I walked around to the south side of the tree to see if they had hopped out on the limbs adjacent to the nest. They weren't there either. Then we noticed the sounds of robins and jays calling from a spot just behind us, so we began scanning the trees as we walked towards the alarmed songbirds. Within a few yards we spotted one of the fledglings flying low across the field and out of view behind a ginkgo tree. I looked in the direction where he had flown from and found a second fledgling perched atop a large, sandstone monument. A minute later this small red-tailed took off flying east then perched in one of the numerous cedars that dot this area of the cemetery.

For the next several minutes we tracked the squealing calls of the two young hawks as they flew around within about a 100 yard radius of their nest tree. At one point, the smaller of the two flew into a large spruce tree next to the monument where he had started. Big Mama was perched higher up in the tree. A few minutes later, the second fledgling joined them. All we needed for the complete family portrait was for Junior to come by. We would learn later on, that he had been perched nearby all along.

One of the fledglings seems much smaller in comparison to his nest mate, so I'm guessing it is a male. When the second youngster flew into the tree, she perched next to Big Mama. She was nearly as large as her mother and, in all likelihood, a female.

There were three people nearby who looked to be doing some historical research. I think they were taking photos of Clarence MacKenzie's drummer boy monument, which is directly below the hawk nest. When they found out about the raptor family right under their noses, they dropped what they were doing to join Marge and I. The smaller of the fledglings was fairly low in the tree and, maybe I'm projecting, but he seemed curious about these five humans who were watching him.

Things got more interesting when Junior suddenly appeared out of nowhere. He flew over our heads, passing close to his family perched in the spruce, then continued through the trees and out of sight. What none of us noticed at the time, was that he dropped off some food for the youngsters ... literally. He didn't bother landing in the conifer and handing it off, but rather let go of it in front of the fledglings. The meat that dropped to the ground near the base of the tree appeared to be the hind section of a pigeon (drumsticks). The small red-tailed fledgling immediately flew to the ground in front of us to retrieve it. Here's a short video:

It took the inexperienced hawk a few minutes to figure out how to fly to a low perch with the food. His short flight across the road looked labored. Legs dangling, he struggled to keep a firm grip on his meal and stay aloft. A few Blue Jays noticed the predator and, despite a lot of squawking, the hawk seemed unperturbed and quickly gobbled down the meal.

Now the fun begins.

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