Monday, December 29, 2008

Tip of Manhattan

Its no secret that I love traveling up to the tip of Manhattan to observe all the wonderful raptor action there. This go around was no different, with the resident peregrines of Broadway Bridge providing a thrilling spectacle of their amazing agility.
From their perch on the south tower, they steadily eyed the thousands of starlings that made their way to the Bridge to roost, snapping them up as they vectored in. Here's one unfortunate birdy!

The pigeons wisely stayed out of the fray!

Here's one of the many groups of starlings as they make their way to the North Tower.

I also spied a RTH hunting over Kingsbridge to the east.
Over at Inwood Hill, there was this juvy making his way through.

He/she allowed us to get quite close, without taking any notice. This leads me to believe that its one of this year's fledges from the Park. One of the adults that cut through the Park, also let be in peace. As we wound through the Park, there was very limited songbird activity. Over near a cluster of pines, I found copious amounts of owl slices...but no owls! A quick check of the ground did reveal these!

These tightly packed pellets were still wet...probably cast off from that nights feeding. They were comprised entirely of staring feathers, further demonstrating how the huge neighborhood flocks are providing much needed sustenance to a wide-range of Urban Raptors. Last but not least, the warm air mass provided great wind for hundreds of wandering gulls.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Croton Point Park

With the Northern wind I've been expecting an Eagle or two to make their way over the City. So far no luck, so instead I ventured up to their stronghold at Croton Point Park. Here's what I found.
From the 125th St. MetroNorth, I spied this kestrel pair.

Upon arrival, it was clear this was Redtail country!

This adult has light eyes like Norman.

And was no less vigorous in defending it!

Bey found the pair perched together.

We saw this adult Bald Eagle making its rounds.

Also seen were this adult Cooper's,

this juvy Sharpie,

this group of Waxwings,

and this raft of Ruddies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Harlem Hawks

Over Harlem, great flocks of starlings and pigeons can be seen darting amongst the Brownstones. Usually in pursuit is one falcon or hawk of one kind or another. Today I had 2 different types of hawks and 3 types of falcons. Starting off with the Cathedral female on 115th.

She in the foreground and Tristan atop Wadleigh.

After about 30 minutes, she suddenly took off towards the east side, skimming the cornices, trying to snag a spooked starling. It was crazy watching such a large bird so gracefully ducking through the fire escapes, branches and odd wires in her path. As she reached the end of the block she swung around on some pigeons perched across the street. Here's some of that...

Yeah, I shoulda edited that, but Im a little backedup editing wise. From my roof I've also spotted the Riverside Church peregrines, a plucky male kestrel that runs up Amsterdam, and this juvy hawk, poaching over the Projects.

Norman vigilantly patrols his northern 125th St. border against this youngster. Here he is slicing across the Grant Houses toward Broadway.

I was also able to catch a glimpse of a Cooper's Hawk above the Lionel Hampton Houses on St. Nick. Approaching the Park, I spied this adult male!

He allowed me to get quite close (something a hawk in a more wild setting would never allow).

The murderous red eye!

At CCNY, I saw a fleeting glimpse of a redtailed hawk over Jackie Robinson. I also observed the reminants of this years failed nest. Based on the juvy in the area, I would say that like the Highbridge pair, they may have double clutched (a fairly common occurance in nesting urban raptor). I followed the hawk over 145th to the River where I observed several huge black-backed gulls, skimming the bridge. Eventually a very dark red tailed hawk circle over and then crossed the River, alighting on a building near the old Yankee Stadium. As I walked back to the train, I spotted this guy with a fresh kill.

An overwintering Merlin!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Harlem Hawk Walk

After many weather delays, and some sloth, I finally managed to get the lead out for my annual Hawk Walk tour of Harlem raptors. The morning was crisp, and Robert and I were rewarded with the Cathedral pair, making a pass on the Dwyer, then landing across the street!

The male,

who then flew out,

he and the female then and joined up over Morningside.

After they both flew off south, I noticed a peregrine on top of Riverside Church. I watched through my spotting scope as it dove off the antenna and quickly returned with a pigeon. It then de-feathered the bird, high above Columbia! So far we were off to a great start. We then wended over to the Hudson and walked North to Riverbank State Park. In the past few weeks I had seen both peregrines perched over the Manhattan Waste Transfer Station,

but they werent there today.
As we came to 145th, I noticed a huge flock of about 200 starlings rise from the trees. Pigeons were also darting about. Amongst the flock was a large juvenile Cooper's Hawk, trying to snag breakfast! It dove down towards us and broke at a pigeon under the walkway. We ran to the Park and saw it perched above, but were unable to immediately locate it. While scanning the rooftops for it, I noticed an adult male kestrel diving on something. Soon a large juvenile redtailed hawk emerged!

After loosing the redtaill, the Cooper's broke over the trees and just missed a pigeon about 20 feet from me. I was able to finally get a pic as it was perched.

The underside,

Video of it hunting!

After it flew hither and yon for a few minutes it dove into the Park. We were not able to relocate it, but we did come across another adult Redtailed Hawk at about 152nd St., perched on another watertower.
Continuing North, there was this strange construction...which I originally thought was a hawk nest!

Looking under it, I found droppings, a few sticks, and a pierced pigeon egg, with the yolk sucked out. Very curious. Leaving the Park at 155th soon brought the answer. Listen for the distinctive squawk as Robert goes up the stair!

It was a pair of Monk Parakeets!

So cute as they huddled above the Henry Hudson!

The next bird encountered was yet another adult Redtailed Hawk at 157th St., across from Boricua College!

Finally, we scoured Highbridge Park for birds, and saw 1 adult at 181st St. and as we were packing up to leave, Robert spotted this juvenile with a freshly caught rat!

It allowed us to get quite close.

Upon further examination, it appears to be a very young redtail, with the orangey breast and tolerance of human presence, characteristic of Urban Hawks. Without being able to prove it, it still appears very likely that this is a fledgling from a second Highbridge nesting attempt this year. We found a nest structure in the original tree from years past. will be fascinating in Spring to test this hypothesis! Strangely (and believe me, Highbridge attracts strange), we also encountered these religous slogans tacked to various trees throughout the Park!

Final tally:
116th and Madison Ave--1 juvy RTH
123rd and St. Nicholas--2 adult RTH
123rd and Riverside--1 adult peregrine
145th and Riverside--1 juvy RTH, 1 juvy Cooper's Hawk, 1 adult male kestrel
152nd and Riverside--1 adult RTH
158th and Broadway--1 adult RTH
181st and Harlem River--1 adult RTH
Dykman St.--1 juvy RTH