Sunday, May 14, 2006

NYC Audubon Bird Challenge

My focus was birds of prey, specifically mated raptors pairs nesting in Upper Manhattan. I began with the kestrels on 150th st who make their home in a building called, appropriately enough, Audubon Court. I located the male perched across the street on his favorite antenna.

He made sorties to and from the perch, at one point chasing a flock of House Finches. I was then treated to a nest exchange, here the female exits above the nest hole.

She alit on another antenna down the block.

I watched her preen and stretch for a good 20 minutes. Oddly enough, dozens of sparrows came and went seemingly oblivious to her.

She then took off...

and flew into the nest hole!

Bolstered by my good luck, I decided to scour Highbridge Park for the RTH pair I often see hunting over my hood. The commanding vistas of the Park are a great place to spot hawks. Eventually I picked up a large RTH making its way North up the Harlem River. I lost it as it dove North over the last section of the Park. As I crested the hill of 190th St., I spotted the hawk perched on the corner of a large residential complex. It promptely sailed off the edge and hovered motionless above me, supported by the brisk wind!

Suddenly it dove,

and crashed through a thicket just past me! As warning calls of all sorts sounded in the bush, the RTH recomposed itself and flew up on the breeze. Suddenly, there was another RTH and they joined up, high over the Park.

The dimorphism here is clear...the female is a large light phase adult while the smaller male is darkly colored in the breast as seen below.

I was amazed to watch as they both landed on top of this tall residential building, named the Isabella. After walking around the block, I found the entrance to the building was on Audubon Ave! I scanned it's towers for any sign of a nest but could find none, however there were many locations it could have been. But the questions remain unanswered...Is this the pair that I see hunting over Harlem frequently--based on cursory checks against my other photos, Im not convinced? Perhaps they are another pair, the Fordham hawks? Or the RTH's that nest in Inwood Hill? I am scouring the photographic literature for comparisions but it could be that they are in fact a new pair that I have seen only very rarely. After they both flew off, he to the North, she to the South, I wound my way down to Broadway Bridge.
I immediately found the male perched on the Bridge's North Tower. He orbited the tower numerous times. Here it I present two different versions; one stills, the other a movie.

His molt in the primaries is a little worrying, but it seemed to make no difference.
Here he lands on a beam which is near the scrape.

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