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 area...you 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.

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