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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Red-tailed Hawk Nest Update

Yesterday I checked in on the one remaining Red-tailed Hawk nest in Prospect Park. For several years there were two pairs of red-tails nesting relatively close to each other in the park. Nelly and Max had a nest in a spindly Japanese Black Pine at the edge of Nelly's Lawn. That tree eventually died and the pair moved their annual family rearing operations directly across Flatbush Avenue into the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This year they have two nestlings. The pair I named Alice and Ralph rebuilt their nest every year for 9 years at the top of a tall conifer in the park's Ravine, approximately 1/4 mile south of Nelly's Lawn. Unfortunately, in 2012 they were forced out of that prime location by a pair of Great Horned Owls. The owls left the park by the end of the year, but Alice and Ralph never returned to the Ravine nest tree.

Alice and Ralph eventually found a another conifer to their liking near the south end of Prospect Park. It is in a narrow stretch of trees bordered by West Drive to the south and the baseball fields to the north. It seems like an odd location given the availability of more densely wooded areas on Lookout Hill, in the Ravine and in Midwood, but never having been a Red-tailed Hawk it's hard for me to judge what they consider ideal conditions for raising a family.

I spent about an hour watching the nest. During that time Alice vigilantly watched her single offspring from the east edge of the nest. I don't remember her being so nervous in the past, especially since the nestling is pretty well developed and moving around a lot. It could be the presence of large earth moving equipment and numerous workers renovating one of the ball fields right below her nest. That would probably make any mother a little jumpy.

Perhaps one of the draws to this area for the hawks is an abundance of fat squirrels, including this unusual leucistic individual. Apparently someone has been feeding them as evidenced by a huge pile of roasted peanuts at the base of one of the trees. I don't suppose these Eastern Gray Squirrel's benefactors realize that they are merely fattening them up for the weekly lunch special. The white individual seems much more wary than the other squirrels in the shadow of the hawk nest. Maybe he has learned that he is a much more visible target than his tree mates. I was amused to see him climbing up the trunk of the nest tree and recalled images of "Squirrely Knievel", a character I encountered while watching Big Mama and Split-tail's nest in 2002.

I highly recommend checking out the nest soon as the nestling is quickly approaching fledge time.

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