Monday, April 18, 2005


Most of the time you know when a baby is born. You hear the cry in the delivery room. You see the kittens or puppies in their litter box. You watch the butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. But when, as in the case of the Fifth Avenue Redtails, the baby is in an egg in a nest 12 stories above the ground, and you cannot see into nest from the roof [the overhang is too big] or from any nearby window on a neighboring building [there are setbacks that prevent a direct view] then you have to go by indirect signs to tell when that baby has cracked its shell and come out into the world.

Yesterday, April 17th, 2005, at a little before four in the afternoon, the hawkwatchers gathered at the Model-boat Pond saw a very telling though indirect sign. Instead of sitting low in the nest as she has been doing for the last 30 or so days, Lola began sitting higher. While earlier only the top of her head, her beak, and her very alert eye were visible to the watchers below, now her entire head and some of her body were plainly seen. And every once in a while she would spread her wings and seem to be holding them over something in the nest -- mantling, that behavior is called.

Of course it was an exceptionally warm day, with the temperature up in the 70"s for the first time this year. It could be that this change in behavior was brought about by the heat. But we have learned from experience that the higher sitting position, and the act of mantling an unseen presence in the nest always means that a chick has hatched. The newborn is still too small to be seen over the top of the nest. But we can be reasonably sure that it is there, by the changed behavior of the female.

So that's the news. We can't say with 100% certainty, and yet we are almost certain that at least one of the chicks has hatched. As Charles Kennedy, the beloved hawkwatcher who died last October used to say at such moments: Hallelujah!