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Monday Evening at the Cathedral

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The adult male on the Archangel Gabriel.

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The adult female on a water tower with a Robin.  The mother soon flew off and did circles above the southern grounds of the Cathedral.

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Only one fledgling was spotted in Morningside Park, just inside the 110th and Morningside Drive entrance.

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Will the fledglings be exploring Central Park by August?


Sex determination of Red-tailed Hawks

Kara C. Donohue and Alfred M. Dufty, Jr. wrote an excellent paper about using size measurements and weight to determine sex in Red-tailed Hawks, Sex determination of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis calurus) using DNA analysis and morphometrics, J Field Ornithology, Vol 77, Issue 1, pp. 74-79.

This paper shows how hard it is to tell a Red-tail's sex.  I would caution anyone who thinks they can quickly tell a Red-tails sex by simple observation to think twice before declaring the sexes of our two Cathedral fledglings.

Update: This note sparked a discussion between Donna Browne and John Blakeman about this year's fledglings sexes on Donna's blog, palemaleirregulars.  My comments above were to start a discussion about the sex variations beyond just height.  I think Donna and John are exploring this very well on her blog.


Rainy Sunday

I went up to the Cathedral early Sunday afternoon during the break in the rain.  I was able to find one hawk before a downpour occurred.  The fledgling was on a chimney on the Cathedral School.  After the rain started, the fledgling flew into the scaffolding on the southern section of the Cathedral School. I bet it was looking for a dry spot.

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Lazy Summer Afternoon

Summer Friday's allowed me to get out of work early and go up to the Cathedral around 2 p.m.  I was the only one hawk watching when I arrived, and looked high and low for the hawks.  I searched the Cathedral exterior from Morningside Drive and 113th Street, the St. Luke's building, the Cathedral grounds, and Morningside Park but came up empty.

I parked myself on a bench overlooking Morningside Park, hoping to at least see the parents fly over the park.  I started drinking some iced tea, relaxing on a hot, humid summer day, and then looked up.  I was pleasantly surprised to see both fledglings within 10 feet of each other. Finally, I could hawk watch from a bench!

The fledglings, who have become difficult to tell apart, stayed in the tree until the early evening when their father brought them a rodent for dinner.

When dinner arrived one of the fledglings, who I assume was the precocious first fledgling, went directly to the Cathedral to be fed.  The other fledgling, who I assume is the second to fledge, still seems to be having troubles gaining altitude and took a sensible route.  It went downhill (south) to cross the street and then worked its way up north.

As I was leaving, Fledgling I was eating the rodent, which looked to be a rat. It was then joined by its sibling, Fledgling II, who looked to have gotten a bite or two before Fledgling I mantled over the prey.   Robert Schmunk reports that Fledgling II got second pickings later in the evening.

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The white area seen on the back of a Red-tailed Hawks had has a great name, the Cryptic Occipital Spot.  There is an excellent paper written about the spot, The Cryptic Occipital Spot in Accipitridae (Falconiformes), published in 1977 by John C. Hafner and Mark S. Hafner.

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The adult female on a building on 108th or 109th, which I think is a Verizon switching office.  The standard 301 W. 110th perch had a construction crew working on the roof all afternoon.

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The adult male on the St. Savior cross delivering dinner.

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Fledgling II in a tree.  The fledgling less than a week off the nest still isn't well practiced when it comes to flying.

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Fledgling I, two weeks off the nest, is now an accomplished flier and gets to dinner first.


A Fledgling Goes To School

Up at the Cathedral this evening, we got to see both of the parents and at least one of the fledglings.

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The adult female on a cross on the edge of the St. Savior chapel.

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The adult female from another angle.

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A fledgling on the roof of the St. Martin chapel.

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The adult male arrives and stays briefly on the Archangel Gabriel.  He heads off towards Central Park after about fifteen minutes.

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The fledgling preens for awhile...

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...before moving back and forth from one corner to another...

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...and after a few minutes flies to the Cathedral School building.  When it moves to the Cathedral building it appears to land perfectly.  Another hawk follows, and it misses the roof and glides down a step slate roof to a gutter and stays out of sight.  We think we've seen two fledglings but can't be sure.  The mother had left the cross on the St. Savior chapel and one of the hawks could have been her.

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We walk around the Cathedral, and find the adult female on a water tank on South 110th.

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We walk around to Amsterdam and into the Cathedral grounds.  Walking behind the school building we find a fledgling on the gutter it slid into earlier.

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As we leave the Cathedral grounds, the adult female has returned to the Archangel Gabriel.


Relaxing On A Hot Day

The two fledglings relaxed on a hot, 90 degree day.  I was at the Cathedral in the early afternoon on Sunday.  Fledgling I was sitting on a fifth floor windowsill of a St. Luke's building half way between 113th and 114th Street on Morningside Drive.

Fledgling II was heard begging periodically, but took over an hour to find.  It was in a tree on the south side of 113th about 20 feet in from Morningside Drive.

Both hawks looked to be doing nothing more than just trying to stay cool.

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Fledgling I trying to stay cool.

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The adult female landing on 301 West 110th Street.

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Fledgling I.

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The adult female circled the area of the tree which had Fledgling II, landing on St. Luke's, in the tree and on the Cathedral.

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It looked as though she was trying to coax the fledgling  to come out to an easier place to feed.

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All attemps to get the fledgling to move failed.

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Fledgling II.

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She kept trying to coax the fledgling to move.

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But Fledgling II stayed put.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts about the St. John the Divine nest.  It has been fun bringing a near daily report of the activities in Morningside Heights.  Work commitments and vacations in June and July will prevent me from keeping up this daily pace.  Expect to see posts only around the weekends for the next two months.


More from Saturday

After taking a break in the early afternoon, and a detour to Riverside Church, I returned to the Cathedral.

The hawk watchers up at the Cathedral compared their estimates for fledge dates today.  The question of the day was, Did we have a precocious fledgling followed by a normal fledgling?, Or a regular fledgling followed by a reluctant one?  The general consensus was that we had a precocious, first fledgling.

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A photograph I forgot to post from earlier in the day of the adult female being bothered by a Mockingbird.

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Three Peregrines come to attack the adult female.  They were so fast, I couldn't get a picture of all of them.

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The Peregrines leave.

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A fledgling on the scaffolding.  At this point, I can't tell them apart for sure.

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The fledgling disappears, and after awhile one appears on St. Luke's.  This looks to be the new playground for the young hawks.

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Still preening.

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The young hawk experiments with the strong breeze.

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The adult female.

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Who soon leaves...

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...picks up some left over prey from earlier in the day...

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...and heads off to St. Luke's

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The young hawk continues to play in the wind.

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It soon moves about 15 feet on St. Luke's after having some troubles finding solid footing.

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The mother returns to the Cathedral, near St. Matthew.


Riverside Church Peregrine Falcons

Seven blocks north and a few blocks west of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is Riverside Church.  A pair of Peregrine Falcons have two fledglings there, who on late Saturday afternoon made the worst racket imaginable begging for food.

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A fledgling on Riverside Church.

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Fledgling and adult in flight.

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Fledgling in flight.

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Fledgling in Peregrine diving mode.
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Adult Peregrine preparing food for a fledgling.  It rained feathers.

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The adult on the Interfaith Center, which everyone refers to as the "God Box".

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A fledgling (right) comes in to eat.

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Even with food it still yells.

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A little calmer after eating.


Empty Nest

At around 10:20 a.m, the second fledge occurred leaving the nest empty for the first time in over two and a half months.

I missed the fledge by about 15 minutes, but Barrie Raik was there to photograph the event.  She has graciously provided these three photographs of the fledge.  The feldgling left the nest and landed in a tree on Morningside Drive.  I was soon mobbed by some catbirds and the adult female with the help of some prey, moved the feldgling to the Cathedral.

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Photo Credit: Barrie Raik

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Photo Credit: Barrie Raik

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Photo Credit: Barrie Raik

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I arrived to an empty nest.

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The adult male keeping a close eye on the new fledgling.

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The adult female was perched on the Archangel Gabriel.

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The new fledgling.

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Eating something.

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The father stayed very close.

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Before...

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...flying off to 114th Street and Morningside Drive.

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The fledgling.


Still Won't Budge

The second eyas continues to stay on the nest, although it's finally looking like it wants to fledge.

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The adult female returns to the nest.

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The two hawks have lunch together.

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Soon, the adult female moves to the Archangel Gabriel statute.

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Leaving the eyas on the nest, first to doze off for awhile and then later in the day, to engage in more wing flapping.

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The adult female moves to 301 West 110th Street.

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Although the fledgling could be heard most of the afternoon, we only were able to see it after about 6:00 p.m.

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Still Waiting

The eyas on who is still on the nest seemed to be in no hurry to leave on Thursday evening.

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Nor do the parents seem to be in a hurry to get the eyas to fledge.  Food continues to be regularly delivered to the nest.

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The fledgling spent a good portion of the early evening perched within 20 feet of its sibling.

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The fledgling then moved over to a cross on the eastern portion of the Cathedral.

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As I left for the evening, the adult female was on 301 West 110th, which has new scaffolding.

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The adult male was on St. Luke's in the warm glow of the setting sun.


I Won't Grow Up!

The second eyas refuses to fledge.  Its sibling left on Sunday, but it still remains on the nest. 

We had lots of discussions up at the nest tonight, about dates (I had originally estimated the fledge date would be June 15th), if the first had fledged too early, and if there had been three chicks with one dying prematurely could these two hawks be four days apart in age, etc.

The delayed fledging of the second eyas and the return of the fledgling to the nest the first night make this a very unusual fledge.

I arrived around 6:20 p.m. to learn that there had been a very noisy encounter with a pair of Peregrine Falcons.  The action was over, however, and everything seemed peaceful when I arrived.

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The reluctant eyas.

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It alternated between being very active and preening.

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It looks like Thursday might be its fledge day.

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The fledgling alternated between the London Plane trees on the west side of Morningside Drive and the chapel roofs.

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There are still lots of downy feathers falling off each day.

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The adult female alternated between St. Luke's and...

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...the Archangel Gabriel.

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As we left, we saw the father on 110th Street below Morningside Park.


1 Down, 1 To Go

After work I made my way up to the Cathedral, and I was delighted to see so many friends from the 5th Avenue and Central Park South nests mingling with the locals from Morningside Heights.

Almost as soon as I arrived the fledgling left a tree and moved onto an angel statue at the top of the St. Savior Chapel roof.

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The fledgling's sibling is still on the nest.

Ellen Rockmuller reports seeing two eyasses in the nest early Monday morning (90% certainty), so it's likely the fledgling returned to the nest to sleep last night.

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The father leaves a nearby tree and moves to a favorite St. Luke's perch.

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The mother after flying to the St. Luke's building at 114th Street, returns to the nest.

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There's a bird foot on the prey.  Is it part of a pigeon?

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The fledgling moves to a London Plane.  It is almost impossible to see.

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The father flies into the same tree.

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Another shot of the father.

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The mother leaves the nest and makes a sweep south before returning to a tree near the fledgling.

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She then moves to a cross on the east end of the St. Savior chapel roof.

When I left after 8 p.m. the fledgling was in a tree close to the nest, the eyas was still on the nest, the adult male was in the same tree and the adult female was on the St. Savior chapel cross.


Fledge Day

The afternoon started out with a Great Egret flying high over Morningside Park.  It concerned the parents enough that both of them returned to the Cathedral.

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The adult male on the Cathedral.

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The adult female.

Then without warning at 12:20 p.m. on Sunday, one of the birds fledged (left the nest for the first time).  I was changing shooting locations at the time, and unfortunately missed capturing the moment. 

James O'Brien, who blogs at yojimbot.blogspot.com, was shooting video of the nest, so the moment was recorded.  James was kind enough to share these stills of the fledge.  (The fledgling is on St. Andrew's head and the adult female is on the right.)

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Photo Credit: James P. O'Brien

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Photo Credit: James P. O'Brien

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Photo Credit: James P. O'Brien

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Photo Credit: James P. O'Brien

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Photo Credit: James P. O'Brien

Like parents who've lost their child in a department store, we looked high and low for the fledgling.  I love fledge days.  The hawk watchers who've been standing around for days looking at the nest, all seem to come magically together and work as a team to find and keep track of the location of the new fledgling.

Around 3:40 p.m. Jacquie Connors and James O'Brien, with the help of a squirrel, found the fledgling in a small Ginkgo tree, just across Morningside drive from the nest.  We had hunted all around Morningside park, and the fledgling turned out to be within 100 yards of the nest.

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My first picture of the fledgling outside the nest.

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The Ginkgo tree had really small branches and the fledgling struggled to stay put.

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The fledgling looked so perfect with wonderfully clean white feathers.

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Preening continued to be a major activity.

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Oh, how this reminded me of the innocent faces of last year's Central Park South fledglings.

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The mother returned to the Cathedral, but there wasn't a feeding of the new fledgling in the afternoon. (Reports are that a feeding did occur in the early evening.)

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The fledgling had trouble staying in place.  It tried to navigate the top of a tree as though it was a nest, with very poor results.

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It found a more solid tree.

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But for some reason moved back to a thin branch.  After a few minutes a squirrel moved past, and the alarmed Red-tail gave out a cry.  This happened a few times as the squirrel moved up and down the tree.

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As I was leaving the second eyas was alone on the nest.

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It should fly out soon and join its sibling in Morningside Park.

I think all of the Cathedral hawk watchers felt like proud parents today.  Let's toast with some Champagne the success of these amazing parents and their new offspring!


Sunday Morning

I had arrived early on Sunday morning hoping to get some good light after all of the rain.

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Using St. Andrew's head as a perch continued.

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The female adult spend over an hour on the nest in the morning.

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She watched her children stretch and flap their wings.

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She also helped them finish eating a meal.  The eyasses can eat on their own, but she seems to be helping them eat the last 20% of the animal.

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The adult male flew towards the Cathedral.

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The adult female on the Archangel Gabriel.

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More flapping with a sibling getting out of the way in the lower right corner.

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The father on the Cathedral.

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I want to fly.

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I sure do.


The Nest and Morningside Park

It was an enjoyable day up at the Cathedral on Saturday.  We got to see both parents, around the nest and in Morningside Park frequently.  We also had great views of the eyasses who will be fledglings any day now.

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The female adult perched above the nest.

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An eyas flight training.

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An adventuresome eyas out on St. Andrew's hand.

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Some waste removal.

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More waste removal.

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The siblings

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The male adult in Morningside Park.

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The adult female

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The mother on 301 West 110th.  Does the lower perch hide her from the Mockingbird?


Jumping Around

On Friday, the two eyasses were jumping all over the place.  They're now able to hop on to St. Andrew's head and hand.  They've also gotten a lot more daring.

I didn't see the mother this afternoon, just the father briefly on the Archangel Gabriel.

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It Stopped Raining

We've had a wet week and it finally stopped raining, although it continues to be cloudy and gray.

I'm sorry to say that it has become clear that we have only two eyasses in the nest now.  They're too big for a third one to be hiding.  Either my photographs deceived me and we never had three eyasses, or we had a death of an eyas about a week ago.

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An adult with two eyasses

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The two eyasses

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They're stepping farther out now.

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Wing flapping continues and they now can run around the nest quickly.

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The adult female


Don't Believe The Newspapers!

An A.P. wire-story about Pale Male and Lola, picked up nationwide, stated that the Red-tail pair have abandoned their Fifth Avenue nest and have switched to the Beresford building at 81st and Central Park West.  I'm sure a naive reporter after seeing reports of the nest/egg abandonment at 5th Avenue, pictures of Pale Male carrying twigs on Lincoln Karim's website and reports of the hawks spending their time on the Beresford, jumped to an improper conclusion in order to have an excuse to write a story about the rich and famous.

It's important not to mix these three concepts, perches, roosts and nest,  when discussing Red-tailed Hawks.  The dictionary defines them as:

perch, noun, a thing on which a bird alights or roosts, typically a branch or a horizontal rod or bar in a birdcage.

roost, noun, a place where birds regularly settle or congregate to rest at night, or where bats congregate to rest in the day.

nest, noun, a structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young.

For Red-tailed Hawks, these are three very distinct things. 

Pale Male and Lola have a number of perches, including two favorite places on the towers of the Beresford.  For years, they've spent many an afternoon at the Beresford, especially during the winter months.

Pale Male and Lola usually roost overnight in trees.  The exception is during nesting season, when Lola will sleep on the nest from about a week before she lays her eggs until a day or two after her children fledge.

For Red-tails a nest is a place to raise their young.  Outside of nesting season, they will check up on it daily, but it is not a place they will usually perch or sleep in.

Pale Male and Lola's increased use of the Beresford is just business as usual.  We'll only know if they're going to switch nest sites in February.  Until then, don't write off 5th Avenue.

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Pale Male and Lola on opposite towers of the Beresford in early February.