Hints of spring are in the air. The park has some Snowdrops and Forsythia in bloom and the city's Red-tails have begun to copulate. Today, I caught up with a Cooper's Hawk, and both of the Fifth Avenue Hawks, Octavia and Pale Male.
I started my raptor watching in the North Woods and then worked my way around the reservoir. My first raptor was a Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk at the Wildflower meadow, who then flew around the Compost Heap. Then it was off to the reservoir, where a Peregrine Falcon has been seen for the last few days near the North Gate House. Then after looking at the nice selection of waterfowl using the open areas of reservoir, I ran into two adult hawks at the South Gate House. By then it was too dark to I.D. the hawks, but it looked like one of them was an intruder and the other was either Pale Male or Octavia.
Today, I got to watch two lovely Peregrine Falcon Fledglings, on the Precipice Cliffs, at Acadia National Park in Maine. The had fledged a few day earlier. They clearly aren't Urban Hawks, but were fun to watch just the same!
The young Peregrine Falcons on Central Park West are big enough to see finally. I saw two of them on Saturday and both the parents. My understanding is there might be a third youngster.
The pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting on the The Century on lower Central Park West supposedly have three chicks this year. I studied them for an hour and only saw signs of a parent. I suspect I'll need to make a number of visits to see the youngsters.
I went to Central Park South tonight to figure out where the Sheep Meadow Red-tailed Hawk pair have relocated only to see the male briefly at 64th and Fifth Avenue. I saw them copulate last week by Tavern on the Green, but that was the last time I saw the female. So, this is still a mystery. If anyone has figured it out, please let me know.
While looking for the Red-tails, I saw The Century Peregrine Falcons again on Central Park West. They were on both The Century and the Zeckendorf buildings.
Thanks to some great detective work by Melody Andres, we now know that both the Grant's Tomb (1) nest at 123rd Street and Riverside Drive and the 116th Street and Riverside Drive nest (2) are both active with two different pairs of hawks. These are close by to a Peregrine Falcon scrape (3) at Riverside Church, and close to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine nest site (4).
I had always thought Manhattan Hawk and Peregrine nests were like a checkerboard, with each taking different squares, but these three nests are so close together that it defies all that I had believed about nest positioning in the city.
116th Street and Riverside Drive
Two years ago, a Peregrine Falcon nest box was installed on The Century building at 25 Central Park West. It was installed by the owners without permission of the Coop board on a landmarked building without a permit. At the time, I thought it was outrageous that the owners of the apartment then cried foul, knowing full well that they had intentionally gone behind the back of the Coop, which at the time was having the facade repaired. The box was removed that year by the Coop.
So, I was upset today seeing what must be the same pair hanging out on both towers of The Century today. The falcons certainly seem to be planning on using the same ledge a scrape this year. I hope either the city DEP or state DEC can get involved and mediate a solution. It would be great if this Peregrine Falcon pair could be supported somehow, while the regulations of both the Coop and city's building department are both respected.
I spent the weekend trying to figure out what was happening with our three pairs of hawks in Central Park.
- The Sheep Meadow pair continue to be seen in the SE corner of the park, but don't seem to have settled on a nesting location just yet.
- The pair that tried to nest on the Beresford last year, are bringing twigs to the Beresford and San Remo this year.
- Pale Male and Octavia are doing just fine. Pale Male gave Octavia a long break on Sunday afternoon.
- A Merlin was a nice extra bonus near the band shell.
It was sixty degrees in Central Park today. The Great Horned Owl continued to be present and an Accipiter, either a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen nearby.
After the fly out of the Owl, it cleaned its talons and then broke off a branch and chewed on it. This has happened on previous nights. I've looked for any mention of this behavior on the internet and haven't found anything that gives a clue about the reason for this interesting behavior.
This afternoon started a little slow. The Great Horned Owl was in usual spot around 2:30, and I was thinking what am I going to do until fly out at dusk? Luckily, a mature Cooper's Hawk arrived and the owl decided to fly over to it to show it "who was boss". Then the Cooper's Hawk started calling and decided to try and show the owl who was boss. They ended up shifting from perch to perch a few times. There was no contact and it just a lot of bluster but fun to watch.
The Cooper's Hawk left but returned about an hour later to make it's presence known. This time the owl just ignored it.
While preening, the owl broke off a branch and chewed on it. It might have been using it to clean it's beak. It was hard to tell.
Central Park was delightful this afternoon. After visiting the reservoir to see the Ring Necked Duck that's been hanging around the southeast corner, I found a Peregrine Falcon perched on the south tower of The Eldorado.
Soon after, I found a Red-tailed Hawk in the Pinetum, who was joined by a second hawk. They circled over Seneca Village before moving out of sight.
My last bird of the day was the Great Horned Owl that has now been in the park for three weeks.
At the top of a tall pine this afternoon by the 79th Street Transverse north of the maintenance building, was an American Kestel eating what looked to be a house sparrow. This small falcon is one of New York City's most beautiful birds.
The fall and winter months bring Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks to the park. On Halloween day, it was a Cooper's Hawk that I saw in Central Park. An immature bird that was born this year.
I took a look at Riverside Church to see if the young Peregrine Falcons were visible. There was no sign of them. I was probably a week or two early, but did get to see one of the parents visit the scrape and then leave.
When the Hudson River is frozen upstate and ice floes form, wintering Bald Eagles ride the ice up and down the lower Hudson. With the cold weather we've been having, conditions are near perfect to see eagles from the Dyckman Fishing Pier in the southwest corner of Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan. Today, we saw three adults and five juveniles drift by the pier. Locals say the best times to watch are early in the morning from 8 to 10 a.m.
I went up to Ulster County, NY to see the Gyrfalcon that has around for a few weeks. The bird, which depending on the day has been easy to find or hard to find, was very cooperative today.
In addition to the Gyrfalcon, I was able to photograph a Short-eared Owl. Definitely worth driving for four hours!
There is a Peregrine nest box on the northern building of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center complex on Randalls Island. Both resident Peregrines were perched near the nest box at dusk on Saturday. While I was getting my camera gear out to photograph them, one took off and the other had moved to a new perch to eat prey.
Red-shouldered Hawk aren't at all unusual in New York City, but we only see them a few times a year in Central Park, so this was another nice winter surprise.