Watching a hawk sitting on a nest takes patience! Tonight, at the Riverside Park nest near the Boat Basin, it took lots of patience. The female sat on the nest and almost nothing happened. All of this is a good sign, but it makes for a dull evening.
I finally got down to the Riverside Park nest today. Daylight Saving Time, sure helps make it easier to bird watch after work.
The female is already sitting on the nest, and I got to watch the male arrive and allow her to take a dinner break. After this pair's bad luck over the last few years, I hope this year goes smoothly.
The nest is the same as last year's and is along the river around 81st Street.
I've been away on weekends, and it's too dark in the late afternoon to visit Riverside Park after work, so I haven't been able to visit until this Saturday.
While I was away I received reports of the youngster being at the ballfields by the dumpsters south of the Boat Basin, and further north in the 90's and 100's. The youngster's being outside of the parent's territory is a great sign that it's growing up!
When I visited Saturday, I only found the two parents. They were together on a water tower at 81st and Riverside, and both few off towards the south. I found one, perching on various lamp posts above the highway.
I went looking for the youngster, without any luck. As I left the park, I saw a bird perched on a building at 90th and Broadway. I was hoping it was the youngster, but found that it was a Peregrine Falcon, a nice consolation prize.
When I finally found the juvenile Red-tail at Riverside Park it was on the Soldier and Sailors monument on top of one of the decorative eagles. By the time I got my equipment out, the hawk had left! The hawk then when up and down the Promenade a few times before roosting in an Oak tree on the east side of the Hippo playground.
I had a wonderful time watching the Riverside Hawks on Sunday. The juvenile caught two rodents, the mother a squirrel and the father was in his favorite tree by the swamp.
The photos of below and the video contain a great number of images of the rodents being eaten, so if this doesn't appeal to you, feel free to skip this post.
I seached all of the "regular" spots at Riverside Park on Saturday afternoon for a juvenile hawk only to come up empty handed. I decided to leave the park via the Hippo Playground and at the top of the hill at 90th Street discovered a juvenile hawk perched in a tree.
As it got dark, the juvenile moved a few times before settling into a Ginko tree as its nighttime roost. The tree was in the Joan of Arc park at 91st Street.
This is the exact area used by last year's juvenile.
The older juvenile hasn't been seen in over a week. It most likely has left the parent's territory to begin its life on its own.
The younger juvenile continues to hang out near the two ballfields south of the café. It is hunting on its own, but still begs for food when it sees its mother.
While I visited on Saturday, the juvenile eat a pigeon on the ground and later the mother came in an ate a bird on the backstop of one of the ballfields.
Update: After I wrote this, I got a note from another hawk watcher that says the older juvenile may have been seen Sunday. So I may have spoken too soon.
One of the juveniles and the father spent time around the playground by the river south of the small ballfield before the juvenile spend about an hour on a chain link fence that surrounds the ballfield.
The juvenile drew quite a crowd while it was on the fence. I have mixed feelings about all of the gawking. One one hand, it helps educate New Yorkers that we have hawks in the city, but I worry that the crowds stress the juveniles, interrupt their hunting and habituate them to humans.
My Saturday afternoon at Riverside had me finding one of the youngsters on a softball backstop, then had the youngster soaring high over the park, the mother returning to eat on the same backstop, and finally the mother on a streetlamp.
Finding all of the family in on visit is getting increasingly difficult as the juveniles are more independent.
Later this fall, we should expect the juveniles to take off to live their live's independent of their parents. It's one of the anti-climatic things about hawk watching. There's no goodbye party when the kids decide to leave home, they just disappear.
Tonight, I got to see a calm fledgling take it easy for about an hour before going to roost in a tree on the North Lawn.
(Since most of the action is taking place earlier in the day, I'll be visiting the nest less often on weekdays.)
Today, I arrived to see one of the young fledglings surrounded by people. The fledglings aren't scared by people, but that doesn't mean we can surround them and gawk at them like they were in a zoo.
The two fledglings need to learn to be great hunters before they leave their parents. If we trample the underbrush, whistle at them, and stand directly under them with our iPhone cameras, the fledglings are going to be spending their time worrying about us and we'll have scared away their prey.
I guess New Yorkers are sadly, just happy to love these hawks to death.
Although my schedule has prevented from seeing the hawks in the morning, fellow hawk watchers report that both fledglings have discovered the Boat Basin dumpsters, Riverside Park's Rat Machine!
The hunting seems to take place in the late mornings.
On Friday afternoon, when I arrived, I could only find one fledgling but saw both of the parents.
Both fledglings are hunting successfully and have widened their range. It makes finding and photographing them more difficult, but means they're doing just fine. I'm actually finding it easier to find the parents these days than the kids!
The whole family was together just north of the Boat Basin Café Monday evening, as a thunderstorm rolled through the city. I only had about ten minutes with them before I needed to leave the park.
On Saturday, we got to see one of the fledglings hunt and display the skills it will need to survive on its own. It isn't independent just yet, but nice to know that its getting close, especially with the colder weather arriving.
On some other hawk blogs and forums, there has been discussion about these fledglings and their survival chances being from a second clutch. Most of the arguments have been based on conjecture with no real data about second clutches. Before we jump to conclusions, we might want to just take our time and observe these two fledglings and see what develops.
The fledglings crossed the highway on Friday. They're in the exact same trees and places as last year, just south of the 83rd Street playground. This usually marks the period where they begin to do some hunting on their own, so it should be a fun few weeks.
Thursday night, I found the fledglings soaring above the trees learning how to ride the wind and use a tucked in position. One glided over the highway and attracted a falcon, most likely an American Kestrel, who gave it a warning pass. This attracted the mother, who kept an eye out for trouble.
On Wednesday night, a familiar scene unfolded. Dinner delivered with a fledgling dropping it to the ground and eating it there.
This evening one of the fledglings went down on the ground and into the bushes near the highway for a few minutes. In a move only a young fledgling would do, it flew right into a group of people.
The group of experienced hawk watcher knew not to force the bird up the hill and towards the highway, so the group gave the fledgling lots of room to roam. These young birds tend to do silly things when crowded and it was great to see such a responsible response.
One could have interpreted the birds behavior as proof that the young birds are fearless and undisturbed by people. But I don't think this is the case. We've seen year after year, fledglings just off the nest be unaware of danger, just like a toddler, only to be more sensible as they grow older.
The father brought a rodent in for the fledglings to eat this evening. Amazingly, he cried out in the same voice as the fledglings use to beg for food to announce that food had arrived! I never knew the parents could make that sound! (The mother did not participate in the feeding.)
It's nice to see that the two fledglings have been weaned from expecting food at the nest. The fledglings went to sleep in low branches near the 2009 nest and the parents went to sleep in their regular roosts.
The late afternoon started slow, with one fledgling on the nest and one in a Cherry tree at the water's edge. The one in the Cherry tree had been there for three hours, and the fledgling in the nest was making a liar out of me. (I had told everyone who asked about what would happen after the hawks left the nest, that fledglings don't normally go back to the nest.)
Once it started to cool down, the action started with both youngsters flying from tree to tree. As it got close to sunset, one played on the ground, while its sibling begged for food. Eventually the father arrived with a rodent, the mother prepared it, and one of the fledglings ate it. The feeding took place on a tree, nicknamed the picnic table, because it has a good level surface to eat on.
The fledgling did eat some of rodent before dropping it on the ground. The mother went down to look for it but came back empty handed. It was already fairly dark. Both parents stood guard while the feeding was taking place.
After the aborted feeding, each hawk then ended up going to the parents roosting trees, with one of the fledglings continuing to cry for food as darkness fell. (For those worried about the crying, this is normal at this stage. Even recently fed fledglings love to cry for more.)
When the Riverside Park eyasses were on the nest, hawk watching was relaxed. There wasn't much we could do that would bother the hawks.
But now that they're off the nest, we need to be responsible bird watchers. This means doing what we can to reduce the stress on these young hawks and keep them safe.
It also means that those of us who are experienced bird watchers must act as role models for all the new hawk watchers this year. Please politely reach out to those who get too close, encircle the hawks when they are on the ground or draw too big a crowd.
I know it's hard for New Yorkers to be diplomatic but each of us can easily influence a few people. Simple statements can get great responses, like "Did you know this is the fledgling's first week of flying. We really should stay on the path. Do you want to use my binoculars?" or "Aren't these hawks wonderful. You know if we don't stay still and relatively quiet, they'll fly away. Do you know their history?".
Saturday was a big day at the hawk nest. The parents started training the fledglings that food would be delivered outside of the nest. The mother first ate a mouse in front of the fledglings, and then an hour later let them beg and beg until one of them grabbed a rat from her as she sat on a nice level branch. One of the fledglings eat a rat on the ground and had an encounter with a squirrel, before its sibling joined it. While all of this happened both parents kept watch.
For the hawk watchers present to see the morning action, it was pure bliss.
The second eyass fledged on Friday in the early morning. Both hawks are flying well and are exploring their new world. Unexpectedly, both eyasses are returning to the nest looking for food, something I don't normally expect to see. It will be interesting to see how long this goes on.
The parents are still bringing food to the nest, encouraging the fledgling to stay close to its yet to fly sibling. The fledgling is getting really good at getting around, flying quickly and comfortably. Its sibling has gotten very good at branching the nest tree, so it should be flying by this weekend.
When I arrived at the Riverside nest this evening, the fledgling had returned to the nest to eat but soon returned to the tree it fledged to, a tree to the south of last year's nest tree. The fledgling flew very well, and did a good job at landing. It slept in new tree, which is between the nest tree and the parent's favorite roost trees.
This next phase of hawk watching should be really enjoyable.
The eyasses haven't left their nest tree yet, but they sure have left the nest. The only seem to spending time in the nest to eat food brought by their parents. They spent Tuesday evening exploring various far flung branches of their nest tree. The youngest eyass seems to be the most active now, so we won't be surprised if they fledge in reverse age order!
Tonight, I managed to make it to the nest just before dusk to find two very active youngsters. They both were moving all around, mostly outside the nest and by the end of the evening both fell asleep on perches outside the nest!
Their parents slept nearby in trees a few hundred feet south.
These kids are ready to go. I suspect one will be in a different tree the next time I see them.
Between breaks in the rain, I was able to watch the eyasses for about an hour and a half around noon on Sunday. A young squirrel tried got close to the nest upsetting on of the eyasses, the adult male delivered a rat which one of them ate, and there was lots of branching. They are now spending most of their time on branches outside the nest.
Both eyasses are doing more and more branching. A few days ago, the oldest hadn't figured out how to turn around on a branch and would hop backwards back into the nest. Now they can both branch fairly well, and both can turn around on a branch.
Branching has advanced with the two hawks going further away from the nest. The older one can finally turn around on a limb, rather than get back to the nest by jumping backwards!
The parents are feeding them lots of food. Their crops look like they've swallowed a peach! They're being so spoiled, the talk around the nest is "Why would they ever want to leave the nest?".
The eyasses are both looking ready to fledge. Until they do, they're putting on a nice show, jumping and branching around the nest. If you haven't been down to the nest or haven't been down lately, now is the time to make a visit.
In some of the pictures and in parts of the video, you'll see one of the eyasses take too big a piece of food. It is left with a wing feather stuck partially swallowed. It took about 10 minutes for it to get it all the way down.
The eyasses continue their exploring of the branches around the nest. They're getting awfully close to fledging!
The eyasses have begun branching and have found an easy branch to hop onto. Eyasses usually fledge after 42-46 days. I think they hatched around July 10th, so this would put the window anywhere from Saturday, August 21st through Wednesday, August 25th.
Saturday was a wonderful day at Riverside Park. Sunshine with low temperatures. It was a perfect summer day. The eyasses were active, being well fed, and the parents stayed close to the nest.
Fledging may be as soon as next weekend.
I had come early on Friday afternoon hoping for some action, but I found two well feed eyasses intent on doing nothing but lounging around!
I had come early on Friday afternoon hoping for some action, but I found two well feed eyasses intent on doing nothing but lounging around!
I finally got a chance to see the Riverside Nest for about an hour on Thursday and was amazed how much the eyasses had developed in only a few days.
The weather cooled off this weekend, which made for an enjoyable time hawk watching. These pictures are from Saturday and Sunday.
After not having had a chance to visit the Riverside nest since Monday, I was rewarded on my Friday evening visit by lots of activity by both eyasses, and wonderful views of the both parents who perched ten feet from each other for over an hour.
Having both parents together allowed me to confirm a wonderful field mark for telling the two apart. The female has only a hint of a black band at the end of her red tail feathers, while the male has a dark black band.
I arrived on Monday just after a feeding to find two hot and sleepy eyasses. Not much happened except for a brief visit by the parents. As I left the park, the mother was on a nearby tree and the father was on a lamp post above the Boat Basin Café.
The eyasses have begun to get aggressive about who gets each piece of food. They're so well fed by their parents, they don't need to fight for food. But instinct is instinct, giving us a few comical tug-o-wars!
I've had lots of hawk watchers as what's next for the nest. Eyasses have to be as big as their parents to fly, so we'll see rapid growth over the next few weeks. The eyasses will begin to practice flapping their wings and will explore branches in the tree.
The young fledge at 44 to 46 days of age, and the parents continue to feed their fledglings for another four to seven weeks. During this time, the young gradually move farther from the nest, improve their flight abilities, and begin to hunt on their own.
This puts the fledge date for this nest somewhere in the third week of August, and the exploration of the park by the fledglings through to October.
The two eyasses were very active in the early evening. The mother left them alone most of the time I was watching. (Red-tailed Parents feel comfortable leaving there kids alone, once they are as old as this pair is. I haven't figured out triggers the change in behavior. Is it a change in coloring, the size of the eyasses, or something else?)
If you haven't visited the nest yet, make a point to see it this weekend. It's about two blocks north of the Boat Basin Café.
Chances that there is a third eyass in the Riverside nest decline with each day. Feeding behavior and other signs make twins rather than triplets the likely situation.
The eyasses are starting to grow their flight feathers. I love this period of time, because if you watch closely you can figure out how all the major tail and wing feathers are arranged. Something that is much harder to study once they've grown in.
I've been busy with work commitments and finally got back to the Riverside nest this evening.
The Riverside eyasses have grown a lot bigger in just a few days. The two eyasses are hard to see together, but I definitely saw two today. (In the videos second section you'll see a beak down at the butt of the eyass in the foreground for about half a second.)
I like watching eyasses at this stage. They're big and active enough to get good glimpses, yet they're still really cute and fluffy.
The nest was blown from side to side this evening in high winds. It looks like this new one is built very well. The hawks didn't seem to mind the wind too much with the mother doing a feeding while the nest rocked back and forth!
The eyasses are getting easier to see. I was able to see them from a number of angles today and saw them every twenty minutes or so.
While the two eyasses aren't yet easy to photograph, due to the foliage around the nest, they are getting easier to see during feedings (about every hour and a half). They can hold their heads up and compete for food while being feed. They should be very visible by next weekend.
A second eyass was visible today at the Riverside nest. (Eyasses don't hatch all at the same time, so it's common during the first few days for observers of a nest to see one, then two and hopefully three eyasses, after seeing just one initially.)
The winds were high along the river, so the video is a bit jumpy. Despite the poor quality of the video, it was great to see two healthy and hungry eyasses.
It's still really hard to get a glimpse of an eyass at Riverside. Expect to spend an hour or two to get just a brief look. The number of eyasses is also still unclear.
This pair has had such a difficult time with only one youngster having made it out of nine in the last three years makes this new nest extra special. For those unfamiliar with the story, in 2008 three eyasses died due to secondary rat poisoning, in 2009 two out of three fledglings died after being hit by cars, and earlier this year three eyasses were killed when the nest collapsed in strong winds.
So this second clutch brings with it new hopes for this pair of hawks.