Posted tagged ‘urban hawks’

Black Snow and Nesting Red-tails

February 22, 2014

This morning, a stunningly beautiful, spring-like day popped out of a snowy winter.

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The sky is blue and the snow is, well, black.

How does the pristine and elegant substance of a week ago …

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… metamorphose into the dark, satanic mountain range of today?

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When urban snow reaches this stage, it doesn’t even melt. My theory is that there are now more solid filth particles than there is water in this Substance formerly known as Snow. As most New Yorkers know, these mini-Himalayan ranges will diminish only to a point.  The remaining black metor-like blobs hang around long after the surrounding street snow has melted. A particularly notable example was a giant blob that threatened to become a permanent resident of 108th Street in 2010.

Today was a good day for hawk-spotting. Over on Morningside Drive, one of the Saint John the Divine red-tailed hawks perched above a saint near its picturesque nest before sailing west out of sight.

Last winter, daily hawk sightings led me to found New York City’s Hawk-A-Day Club. This year, fellow New York nature blogger, Matthew Wills of Backyard and Beyond, has seen peregrine falcons for five days straight in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. But my Morningside Heights sightings have been surprisingly scarce this winter.  So I was delighted to see a red-tail on the Cathedral.

The Cathedral nest, which has been occupied since 2006, undergoes renovation each year by the nesting pair. Last year was an especially active year of redecoration, albeit with some questionable design choices. Long, dangling pieces of string kept me worrying all season long that one or another member of the growing family would become entangled. (Look to the right below.)

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But it was the sight last spring of a hawk wrestling with an unwieldy cardboard box or large paper bag that really led me to question the red-tail pair’s eye for design.Below the hawk flies toward the nest with its catch.

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For more on hawk cardboard-wrestling, visit last year’s How to Build an Urban Hawk Nest.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the nest, along with my trusty walking companion, who would rather be scrounging for food. (Mysteriously fallen street strawberries don’t count, in his book.)

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Next week I’ll once again have a camera that will allow me to take some more detailed shots than has been possible with the iPhone that has been my sole camera for the past six months.

That will be fun.

Fledgling Red-tailed Hawks in NYC (video)

June 19, 2013
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Fox and dog: the iron animal gate at St John the Divine

Oh my readers, I have so much to tell you, so much to show you. All through the spring, Esau the dog and I have been walking, looking and listening. I’ll try to catch you up on some of the curious, intriguing, and amusing things we’ve seen. But where to begin? Let’s start with the hawks that nest on the back of the Cathedral of St John the Divine.

Here is a fledgling hawk on the move this morning.

A fledgling hawk on the move in NYC.

A fledgling hawk on the move in NYC.

But let’s back the story up a little. In April, three eyasses (baby hawks) hatched.

About two weeks ago, one youngster could be seen practicing its flapping skills on the fingers of good Saint Andrew.

Almost fledged.

Almost fledged.

A second fledgling had left the nest too soon, landing on a ledge far below the nest. There it stayed for a few days, not ready to fly, calling to its parents.

Calling for food and attention.

Calling for food and attention.

 It called and called in its high voice, but appeared active and healthy. It’s not unusual for baby birds to fall out of a nest before they can fly.  Most of the time, the parents will continue to feed and care for their young, as they did with this fellow. (Morningside Hawks has documented visits by the parents, including the delivery of a dead pigeon to the hungry baby.)  On the day of these photos, the hawk stayed for a while in one spot, on the ledge.

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Nice pantaloons.

Then it started to move around. It studied the stained glass window.

Studying the art work

Fascinating.

It climbed the walls.

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It worked its way along the narrow window ledge to a difficult spot.

IMG_2205There it seemed to lose its footing, which led to some serious flapping.

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And then, after returning to a better perch, more yelling.

IMG_2174And yet more yelling.

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Here is a short video of the young hawk, listening to a siren from St Luke’s Hospital, looking around, preening, and calling.

More on the young hawks soon.

The View from my Window: Red-tailed Hawks and City Buses

November 1, 2012

Good morning, New York.

Up here in Morningside Heights, the sounds of the city have almost returned to normal.  It’s the traffic that does it, of course.  The quiet of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was lovely, but strange. The belch and rumble  of buses, back in service yesterday, brought the noise level close to its urban norm.

Mass transit has returned to upper Manhattan.

But even from my perch six stories above the street,  it’s the recurrent rumble of the Number One train up and down Broadway that gives the city soundscape its essential ground-note.  The subways started early this morning Now the only sounds missing are the constant squeals and screams of schoolchildren as they cycle all day through the playground behind my building, and the sharp  hollering through a megaphone of the drill sergeant, er, I mean, teacher, who minds them.  (For those of you not from NYC, school has been cancelled for the rest of the week.)

We did see and hear trick-or-treaters on the street last night.

Trick or treaters head out in search of a sugar fix.

With my mobility still limited by recent foot surgery, I’ve been feeling a bit like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window as I work by the window with camera and binoculars at the ready.

Jimmy Stewart watches the city in Rear Window.

I’ve witnessed no crimes yet. But I’m happy to say that urban nature is everywhere, even outside my window. The pigeons that use my air conditioning unit as a boudoir have come through the storm just fine.

Pigeons outside my window

And at least two of our local red-tailed hawks also seem to be healthy if, perhaps, hungry.  For two days now, I’ve watched red-tails out my window.  Yesterday at around 4 pm, I was drawn to the window by loud and persistent cawing.  Sure enough, several crows were dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk that perched on a tall building across the street. The crows gave up surprisingly soon, and the hawk sat there, surveying the city, for well over an hour.

NYC red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk surveys his domain

The view must be marvelous.

The hawk is on the corner of the tallest part of the pink building.

Gulls filled the skies to the east, calling and soaring, before sailing off toward the Hudson.

Gulls circle over Morningside Heights.

A lone starling perched atop the school just east and south of the hawk.

Starling on roof of school.

No other small birds were visible. I scanned the water towers for more hawks. Nothing to the north.

Water towers.

Nothing to the northeast.

More water towers.

And nothing to the west, where on Tuesday afternoon, I had watched two red-tails briefly perch before taking to the skies, one heading north and the other south.

NYC water towers on the Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy.

As for other NYC red-tails, Urban Hawks reports that Pale Male is fine up on the Upper East Side as is Rosie of Washington Square down in the Village.

Hope the rest of the urban raptor population has done as well.

NYC Raccoons and Red-tails in Winter

February 22, 2011

Snow frosted the city yesterday.

Broadway and Riverside split at 107th Street, looking lovely

The water towers wore white skull caps.

A crow surveys 109th Street from atop a water tower

Esau was on the alert for wildlife

Prey?

but the park was quiet

Steps lead toward the river

The retaining wall is always beautiful, and especially so with a dusting of snow.

Raccoons live here.

The entrance to the large raccoon den is once again piled with snow.

I once saw six raccoons emerge from this hole in the wall.

It’s been over a month since I’ve seen a raccoon here, and I’m starting to worry. Raccoons in northern climates pack on the fat in autumn so that they can spend less time foraging in the coldest days of winter and more time curled up in their den. They don’t actually hibernate, but they may sleep away several weeks of bitter weather, living off their fat stores and waiting for milder days. It’s been a cold and snowy winter, so maybe my Riverside Park raccoons are just dozing away the cold and dreaming of spring. But still I worry. (Check back soon for an update on raccoon rabies in NYC.)

Sledders were out

Traipsing up the hill

as were walkers

A man strolls in an only-in-New-York fuchsia faux-fur coat

ice dancers

Olympics pairs, they are not

and a single cross-country skier

Heading south

as well as a passel of happy dogs.

Happy but headless snow dogs

No birds to be seen yesterday.

Branches empty of animals

Unlike Sunday, when a hawk devoured a songbird on the bare ground beneath the retaining wall

Red-tail takes a break from pulling entrails

The snow had finally melted in parts of the park

Back to work

and the hunting was good

Do you mind? I'm eating here.

After a few minutes, the hawk soared over my head, so low that I ducked to avoid contact with the carcass gripped in his talons.  He swooped up to a branch high above the ground in search, perhaps, of privacy from paparazzi like me

Alone at last

And there, finally taking the hint, I left him to his meal.


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