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Friday, June 19, 2015

More on Brownsville Hawks

I promised Bobby that I'd check on the pair of young hawks that he just released in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He was a little concerned as he hadn't seen any of the adults after he turned them loose.

I headed over to Brownsville this morning. The closest train stop is Saratoga Avenue on the "3" line. From there it is about a 1/2 mile walk to Frederick Douglass Academy. The Rockaway Avenue station is actually closer, but it is currently closed for major renovations. The block on the south side of the school holds some basketball courts and an under-construction playground. There are lots of mature deciduous trees on that block, so I checked them all for the hawks before getting to the High School. No sign of adult or fledgling red-tails.

Standing across from the High School I began scanning the edge of the roof for the young raptors. I even checked the nest, in case they decided to go back in search of their parents. No sign of them there. One block to the east is the grade school. That is where I spotted the first of the two youngsters. The building is about half the height of Frederick Douglass Academy's roof, so it must have been an easy glide for what appeared to be the less developed of the two hawks. He still needs to grow in a lot of head and neck plumage, so looks very funny in a gangly kind of way. On closer look he seemed to have a full crop, which means he is eating. I doubt he is hunting on his own yet, so the adults must have found him and brought him food. After a few minutes I headed off to search for his sibling.

I decided to continue walking east, reasoning that the first bird took off to the east, so maybe the second one did, as well. As I walked along Blake Avenue towards Rockaway Avenue I caught a glimpse of the chimney on the abandoned PS 125 building (found an intriguing article about this huge structure built in 1900 here). Perched on the south-west corner was an adult Red-tailed Hawk. The fenced off property at the back of the building is an overgrown understory shaded by several massive deciduous trees. It seemed like a really good hunting ground.

There is a small workout area and playground adjacent to the hunting ground. Two teens were working out and I walked towards them to get a better view of the adult hawk above. We started talking, I told them about the hawks and gave them my bins to look at the parent perched on the chimney. After a few minutes one of the teens mentioned that they had seen one earlier in the low branches of the trees. He also said that it looked like it was having trouble balancing on the branches. Hmmm, sounds more like one of the youngsters. I had to convince them that just because they are huge, doesn't mean that they are the adults. Then he said, "I think that's him across the street."

Across Rockaway Avenue, in the parking lot for Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center was the older of the two fledglings. He was doing a decidedly unbalanced young raptor impression of Philippe Petit on the telephone line that runs along the back edge of the building. Three mockingbirds were doing their best to try and knock the hawk from his clumsy tightrope performance. Despite his ungainly style, he seemed unperturbed by the aggressive songbirds. Once he made it to safety of the telephone pole bracket he relaxed for several minutes. Unfortunately, the mockingbirds continued their assault:

He eventually took off flying west and I found him wandering around on the roof of a two story home on the corner of Blake and Chester. As I was watching, the owner of the home and his wife came and walked to their car. I told them about the hawks and pointed out the youngsters. They didn't seem to care, but not in a bad way. More like in a New-Yorker-so-what-else-is-new kind of way.

From Chester and Blake Avenues I could actually see the nest, both fledglings and the adult on PS 125 without having to move (If you pause the video at 00:07 you can see the adult on the chimney in the background):

When I was heading back to the train station I passed some teens playing basketball across from the High School. One of them spotted my bins and asked me if I knew about the hawks. I said yes and we had a brief discussion about Red-tailed Hawks in Brooklyn. He seemed really excited about this little bit of wildlife in Brownsville. After I put away my bins, showed him some of the photos that I took that morning. I also reassured him that the hawks were only a danger to rats, pigeons and the like. The raptors actually had more to worry about us humans than the other way around. I also explained that the young hawks aren't very wary when they first learn to fly and that if he ever saw them walking around near the street he could just gently herd them away. It's an interesting neighborhood for a family of Red-tailed Hawks, but there seem to be several areas where trees are concentrated, plus I noticed a good number of pigeons on the apartment buildings. It could be a fun experience for the residents of Brownsville if they choose to pay attention.

1 comment:

Akira Kurosawa said...

nice work you hawk ambassador!

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