Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hawk Update by Donna

Mom and nestlings on 35th floor ledge of Trump-Parc Hotel
June 24, 2005
Photo by Cal Vornberger

Hi Marie,

I decided it was time to give some serious effort to finding out just what the Fifth Avenue and Central Park South Red-tails were up to these days.

1:05 pm Very quiet at the Hawk Bench. Rik seems pretty much on his own, but NO! He does have company! Pale Male is perched on the top crossbar of the scaffolding on Stovepipe, alert, handsome as ever, surveying his domain.

Earlier, I'm told, he'd been standing on the screened chimney on top of 927, wings spread, warming his under wings. Then with a number of dextrous hawk-moves he warmed his bottom, his chest, and lifted his feet replacing them on the grate in varying positions. After a time he shivered his feathers into place, and took off for his present position. A favorite, as he can see the nest and possibly keep an eye on Lola who often haunts environs to the west this time of day.

1:40 No Lola yet. I check spots I've found her before, but no luck. Time to pay the territory of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte a visit. I start south.

2:02 Just before coming abreast of the Sheep's Meadow, I see Orlando, a jolly employee of the Park department. He's looking up into a tree.
I call, "Orlando, what are you looking at?" He laughs and instead of telling me what's up the tree, he points to the small fenced area beside him. WHAT? It's an Immature Red-tail on the lawn, dining on a truly husky rat.

People hurry past, strollers grumble over the pavement , not a soul noticing. The young Red-tail is alert but unconcerned. She eats on the ground with only the slightest degree more attention to humans then the Trump Parc fledges did when they first came into the Park. From his side of the fence, Orlando is getting photos on his cellphone. The young Red-tail looks at Orlando briefly, then continues ripping off tidbits.

Orlando had seen her come in with the rat in her talons. At which time she proceeded to hop about with it, up and down, bam, bam, bouncing it on the ground. Then she began to prepare it and eat. And as we're both staring at her now, pedestrians do stop and take notice. The questions begin. "Is that your bird?", "What kind of a bird is that?" "WHAT is it eating?"

In the meantime a more knowledgable citizen comes by and informs us that at 1:50 he'd seen her in the south flying in our direction with the rat.

The Red-tail eats, people stop, I spend the next fifty or so minutes answering questions and still she stands on her kill, a bite taken now and again. She looks good, full crop, healthy, and in fine feather. I say "she", but I'm not sure of gender. I've just taken to using the feminine pronoun for a hawk of unknown gender as the medieval falconers used to do. Somehow calling a creature "it" seems to lack respect.

She IS remarkably tame and I wonder if she just might be one of the Trump Parc fledges half grown up. Is she Pale Male's grandchild or the offspring of another urban hawk who's traveled this way and feeling comfortable in a place new but familiar with food aplenty, has decided to spend the winter?

3:05 If I'm to have a chance of seeing Jr. and Charlotte I must go so start walking. I climb up Little Hill, and look up at the nest site. I am reminded just how challenging it is to take field notes of this nest. Even if there were a hawk up there, unless it was standing near the edge I wouldn't be able to see it from here. The twigs on the edge of the nest look very similar to those of last year, though I know from Veronica's view out her window that they aren't. Jr. and Charlotte have been very busy bringing twigs and other bits of things to build it up.

I check all their favorite perches, the chimney of the building next door, the ESSEX sign, clicking them all off in order. No hawks. This site has always been hard. Back down the rocks and to the street, west, toward home. Checking, looking, hoping for a glimpse. The carriage horses are having their afternoon oats and the pigeons cluster around on the sidewalk busily pecking up the bits that spill.

I'm about to enter the crosswalk which leads to my subway station, still scanning the sky over Columbus Circle. RED-TAIL! Circling north of the all glass AOL building. Who is it? Another RT comes into view. It's BOTH! Now circling in the same direction, then circling in the same plane in opposite directions. Coming so close together they could lock talons and twirl as they most probably will not so many days from now. They've begun preliminary dancing. Jr. angles up and the sun strikes his pale gold breast feathers, he brushes just the tip of a wing against the building as Pale Male so often does. Charlotte the dark lady, passes in another arc. Suddenly Jr. grasps the struts between two glass sections and beats his wings against the window. My guess at his reflection. Where did Charlotte go? Now where is Jr? Then I see him flash in the sun, wings folded to his body in a long fast dive toward the east and that sidewalk where all those pigeons have gathered to eat oats.

There are some pedestrians who are about to get a very big surprise.

The traffic light changes once again to WALK, and this time I cross. I don't need to follow and make sure he's captured dinner. If not this dive, then the next one. I'm not worried. How many times a day have I seen him bringing prey, one after another, up to the nest to feed his mate and eyasses.

Time to consider what my own family will be eating for dinner.
Donna Browne