Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The King is Dead, Long Live the King! (Part 2)

The goings on at the Cathedral have been a dramatic and fascinating education. On the one hand is the passing of a great and noble creature. While the other reveals the resiliency and preseverance of nature. Rob had spotted another adult hawk on the Cathedral yesterday, so I have made observations to determine its identity. Early in the am I watched Isolde perch on the trumpet of Gabriel and then fly out high, high up and to the northeast. I lost her somewhere above 119th and 2nd Ave.

Later that evening I returned to the Park and again could find no trace of Tristan in the now bare and soggy ground. I caught up with Rob at the Cathedral and we witnessed the Cathedral female fly out from somewhere. She perched on St. Luke's

She almost reminded me of Lola on Linda 5. But she seemed to be looking intently out over Morningside. I pivoted around, but could not see what it was. After a few minutes, Rob again yelled hawk!

Soon after I saw it, I knew this was not Tristan. This was a much darker hawk!

At first she raised her hackles, but they settled into a silent tolerance of each other and watched the reflected sunset.

The male then flew over to an air conditioner, then to the stone urn that Tristan often used, then out eventually north over Morningside. I caught brief glimpse of it leaving down and to the north, out over Harlem proper. On the way back, I thought of the amazing resilience of nature while still silently mourning Tristan. That new hawk seemed to come from the Northeast and was much darker. I then began to think of the male hawk from 145th that I've photographed on CCNY for some time. I will begin a photographic analysis to see if I can make an ID.

888 7th Ave.

Cutting through mid-town today, I happened by the 888 7th Ave. nest for a few minutes. I was lucky in catching the male come out of then nest

He then circled around and

Whoa nellie!

Hopefully their will be a Ziggy 2.0!

Male back to nest.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Since checking up on a report of an injured adult Red-tailed hawk in Morningside Park, its has become clear that it is Cathedral Male. Myself, the Urban Park Rangers, two fellow bloggers and myself have all scoured the park with no trace of the bird. Their reports can be found at both here and here
Fearing the worst, I followed the female, watching her fly to all of the neighborhood perches in a slow tour. Starting out at Wadleigh and continuing on to the Cathedral, then to 301 CPN, then the Verizon building and finally the Projects on 105th and Amersterdam, she searched furtively but there was no sign of the male.

A group of pigeons started up,

but the female showed no interest. A Cooper's hawk that I've photographed being chased by the female, crested over the buildings,

Again the female was resolute.
In this situation I find it hard not to anthropomorphize. It seems clear that she was desparately searching for her mate. Based on my own observations, the Cathedral male, also known as Tristan (so named by the Cathedral School), is missing and presumed dead. At one point I watched her attack a group of crows on 114th. Through the trees it was impossible to get pic, but I could see the crows soaring above the hawk and then diving down to slam into the hawk. She deftly evaded and then departed...but watching their cavorting, it almost seemed a celebration.

Based on this, I would make a crow attack the most likely reason for the male's broken wing. I have watched the male take on crows numerous times in the past, as has the female, always able to hold their own and then some. I guess his luck finally ran out...its a hard fact of nature, but all animals live in a balance.

Till now there were 7 known Red-tailed nests in Manhattan (six now) with a new nesting pair being discovered on the LES. The prevalence of hawks and the young they raise here exist in a system that has reached its saturation point. With the 2 additional nests I suspect on Manhattan--that would have been 9--with an average of 2 eyass per year, producing 18 new hawks each season in addition to the 18 represented by the parents. Its clear to see why there seem to be hawks in every part of the city I travel to. My point here is that while I am sad that such a beautiful and noble animal is now gone, Manhattan is a saturated raptor place, and crows and peregrines draw out a balance with the hawks. What will happen to this territory remains unclear. No mating was observed between the hawks, so its highly doubtful the female will lay productive eggs this year. I also suspect its too late in the season to find another mature male, so this years nest will probably lie fallow. I will continue to follow the situation and look for the remains of the hawk, but til then I would like to commemorate the life of a bird who gave so much to us all. I will always have the fond memories, pix and of course my wildlife short about these very hawks "Harlem on the Rise!" I will remember him as a devoted father and fierce defended who fledged at least 7 young in his short time on this plane.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nest Number 6!

A fellow birder Rob, who blogs at Citybirder, passed along a tip from an area resident of a new nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks in Riverside Park. I took a quick trip to the location during my lunch hour to confirm. After scanning the sky and park for a few minutes, both the male and female crested over a large apartment building. The female alit on a water tower and was soon joined by the male. Luckily I had my camera ready!

From the pix, you can clearly see that the male is missing one of his secondaries on his right wing. Definitely these are two different hawks than all of the previously known nesting adults, which are: Charlotte and PM Jr., PM and Lola, The Cathedral Pair, The Highbridge Pair and the Inwood Pair. In addition to these six confirmed nests, I anticipate there are at least 2 other nests on the island of Manhattan. I had long suspected another resident pair in this part of the Park, but after searching all winter I was unable to locate the nest. After today, I now know the reason...the nest is situated across the park, right next to the West Side Highway!

It definitely looks like a 1st year nest, but I suspect that there have been previous nests in other locations due to the fact that I've seen juvenile and adult hawks in that area for years. In addition, they are copulating early in the mating season, indicating an established pair. Like other Manhattan red-tailed hawks, the male is a lighter shade, while the female is more rufous with a dark belly band. This is some welcome great news in what has been an anxious beginning to NYC nesting season 2008. I look forward to watching this pair and learning even more about this impressive species.

In other news, I have also been spotting a lot of birds in mid-town too! Here's a male kestrel hunting on 56th St.

I thought he might be after some sparrows, but upon looking down I realized it was probably the extended family of this poor mous-icle!

While on the M2, I spied a huge feather storm emanating from the New York Public Library.

A peregrine had come low and killed a pigeon on the ledge of the library!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Harlem Hawks

Despite the challenges that living in the City brings, predatory birds of all kinds are irresistibly lured here, due to the concentration of prey. The clear weather over the weekend gave me a great opportunity to survey the raptors in Harlem. I started out on 110th St., where the juvenile hawk with one tail feather missing swooped in from behind me, trying to grab a pigeon on a cornice. By the time I got my camera out, it had flown across block.

It then went after the nook on 301 CPN, where pigeons sometimes sun themselves!

I would love to see the view from this apartment!

It then flew to a cell phone antenna, directly in front of the Cathedral pair's nest!

I watched it assume a defensive posture,

Just then the Cathedral female rocketed in at the youngster!
It dove down behind the brick buildings, as the dominant hawk flew directly over me.

She wheeled above her territory, scanning for the offender!

The male too was there...I felt like there were hawks everywhere!

More images of the nest,

and the female.

Watching the two hawks amongst the beautiful architecture, I remembered the pair of red-tailed hawks that I used to watch on 145th St. that used to hang around Aaron Davis Hall all the time. I decided to pay them a visit. When I came up to St. Nicholas terrace, I spotted the dark female the same Church where I took those pictures of an attacking kestrel pair.

She was then off and flew directly to her favorite perch!

Sooooo similar to the pix I took on February of 2006!
After marveling at the beauty in the crisp air, I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye. A second RTH had take up the same perch!

I watched as it too soared off and over to Jackie Robinson Park. I love the scenic overlook from this can see far off into Queens on a day like this. A flock of pigeons suddenly broke in familar fashion.

And a juvenile accipter crested over the buidlings!

it circled high into the air where I could barely follow it with my bins. I lost it somewhere over 130th and 1000' up.
The pigeons settled in,

and I decided to check up on the kestrels in the hood. As I walked down Convent Ave. admiring the beautiful architecture, I spied a familiar silouette tucked down behind a soon to be obsolete t.v. antenna. I thought it was the female kestrel feasting on a recently caught sparrow. But once I got the camera on it, I realized it was something else!

A merlin was having lunch!
Upon seeing me, it flew out, and my camera choose the perfect time to die. I got it working again just after it returned and finished its meal.

Wiping its beak.


It gently let this feather fly loose

I felt so lucky and thankful to be able to see this amazing bird, let alone photograph it. The human part of me hoped it was just passing through because of the resident kestrels. In other parts of the country, notably the northwest, merlins have supplanted kestrels as the dominant small falcon. This is one of the reasons why kestrel numbers are dropping. At Edgecomb Ave. I spied the antenna of the low lying buidlings for a familiar shape. It was the male with a kill. After some time it flew off, but I did not photograph it. Instead I watched its precise and determined frame soar above me in the shadows of the projects.
I had decided it had been enough for one day. 5 species of raptors in one quick outing, totaling 8 individual birds was more than I hoped for, and I was almost out of space on my CF. As I walked home, another juvy RTH swooped in on some starlings, directly above my head! I fished out the camera and took a quick pic.

As I moved to get closer, the juvy dove off his perch toward me with a squawk. It leveled out a treetop and dove into the park. As I swung around, I discovered why, the Cathedral female was again asserting her ownership!

She eventually flew out and high over Mt. Sinai, she jousted with her mate!

They then flew low over the tennis courts and disappeared.
Taking a last look around, I spotted one of the kestrels. I then heard the familiar klee klee klee attack call of another kestrel. The female dove at the male...

and chased it off!

It was the end to an amazing day of highs and lows. Seeing nests in jeopardy while at the same time seeing such hope and diversity, is hard to process. I continue to believe that the right things will be done.