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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Green-Wood Red-tailed Hawk Update

I went into Green-Wood Cemetery the other day to check in on the nesting Red-tailed Hawks. It is around the time when we should be seeing signs of hatchlings.

This year's nest is in a pine tree at the opposite side of "The Flats" from the previous year's. Also, "Junior" has a new, as-yet-to-be-given-a-name mate. I was excited at the prospect of a new hawk generation. My optimism turned to disappointment when I found an empty nest. Earlier, as I walked across the cemetery towards the nest, I spotted a pair of adult red-tails soaring together over Central Ridge. It seemed too early in the breeding season for the pair to be out hunting together and I got a bad feeling about the sighting. I sat on the hillside opposite the nest tree for over 30 minutes hoping that, perhaps, the parents felt it was safe enough to leave their offspring for just a short period of time. In the past I have observed the parents leaving the nest for 10 or 15 minute intervals, but at this early date 30 minutes could only be a bad sign. I won't speculate why they might not have been successful as there are lots of reasons. Maybe next year.

On my walk to the nest I had had a very funny experience. There has been at least one immature Red-tailed Hawk (a "Brown-tailed) hanging around the cemetery and I crossed paths with what looked like a small male hawk near DeWitt Clinton's statue. The hawk was standing in the grass on the hillside above the monument. There were several nearby robins making nonstop alarm calls. At first I thought that the young raptor had just caught a robin as its head was down, its bill busy with some unseen prey. Then it jerked its head up and tossed a piece of wood into the air. The hawk ran over to where it landed and jabbed it with its razor-sharp talons. Grabbing what looked like a chunk of bark, the hawk repeated the move, throwing it into the air, then running over to retrieve it. This play went on for a few minutes until it got a little too close to me for comfort and the red-tail flew off, toy held firmly in its talons. Here's a series of shots I took of the action:

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