Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pale Male and Lola Switch

Pale Male
Fifty-seven degrees on a Monday in December, now isn't that interesting. The sun is shining brightly on and off and not having to wear a muffler and long underwear can't be beat. But there is that ever present niggle in the brain. The thought of why it's fifty-seven degrees in December is hard to get away from. Tough to be in the moment.
The hawks don't have that problem. They are the moment. Lola, sits on the Oreo grate, warm air undoubtedly fluffing her under side. She watches the sky, there's something to be examined it seems everywhere she looks. Taken in, filed for later, or perhaps something to be dealt with immediately. She will. She does. She is.

1:45 Lola on Oreo grate.

When I turn from the path to the Hawk bench, there are the sounds of small engines and a rasping sound. Men in orange vests, with a variety of strange contraptions, are scraping the bottom of the Model Boat Pond. It's almost dry now, just a little puddle in the middle. I asked after the fish a while back when they'd begun to drain it and yes, they have been taken to The Lake. Not so many this year to be moved, I'm told, as the gulls and the Cormarants have been busy this summer making them into lunch.

Rik Davis, nature photographer, is alone on the bench. That's rare. Perhaps the sounds of machines and the faint fragrance of fishiness has caused the less than stalwart to avoid the Model Boat Pond today, or to be correct, The Conservatory Water. That's the official name and it's still on the maps. They just never quite got around to building the Conservatory.

1:46 Lola to Oreo antenna.

1:47 Lola off the grate, to north then reappears, circles above Oreo then to...?
It's a strange sort of day and for a few minutes unexpectedly and rather to our chagrin, neither Rik nor I can remember the name of the place where she's going. CEDAR HILL! Yes that's it.

We exchange the news. Having watched the Monks the day before, I think I've no doubt missed something big here. It usually never fails, but not this time. Yesterday had been about waiting for a glimpse and many didn't even get that. Rik tells me a family drove in with their children from New Jersey just to see the hawks but the hawks didn't appear for them. It is a gamble everytime one makes the trip from home. And I think again that perhaps the folks in casinos and those on the Bench have more in common than one would think. The "not knowing", the anticipation, the rush of adrenalin when the hawks appear and you "win". But there is always the next time when you may or may not.

I sit on the Bench, something I rarely do. The trees have now grown enough that the view while sitting, is now obscured by twigs here and there.

WAIT! There's a hawk.

2:03 Lola has returned, and is on the far side of the Oreo grate, hunched down a little and
not the easiest to see.

2:04 She watches gull go by. Later in the spring that kind of fly-by will not be tolerated. No not one little bit. She'll be up and chasing with vigor anything remotely near the area.

2:29 Lola off to Oreo antenna.
I click the camera just in time to catch a a leg and a few tail feathers. She's onto the antenna but is back off in a flash and back to the higher and warmer grate. Though still watching the direction in which she'd begun to go before turning around. Whatever is was seems to have gotten the message.
Rik mentions that the kids have done their yearly scavenging of collecting the coins from the bottom of the pond.
The Ginko fruit is ripening. Their odor reminicent of dog poop wafts about the park, and elder Asian women sweep the windfalls into piles and carefully collect them to make delicacies.

2:31 Lola back to Oreo grate.
2:37 I'm distracted. 10 gulls wheel high over Oreo, first the gleam of white wing, then white belly and back again. I watch the gulls. By now I've moved the scope out to the edge of the empty pond for the better view and there have been a trickle of watchers making their way to the Hawk Bench. It seems for whatever reason to be a "guy day" at the bench. There they are in all shapes and sizes talking about guy things sitting on the Bench.
Then without even realizing I'm doing it, at the sight of dark wings coming from the north, I call out, "Hawk up!"
2:43 A Red-tail comes from the north, circles over Lola on Oreo, then flies south over Fifth Avenue buildings, lands on fence post on downtown roof line of Linda Building.
The voices stop and we watch that beautiful flight, seen many times before, but somehow fresh each time.
A voice calls from behind me, "Is it his Nibs?" And indeed it is.

Pale Male does have a good bit of charisma there is just no doubt about it. And he stays on that perch for a good while, checking all directions, all levels, encompassing the all.
3:19 Pale Male turns, sees, and leaves. He flies west, then curves north round the west edge tree line of the Model Boat Pond.

Pale Male was perched on a fence pole on the roof at the point where Linda on the left and Squished Building next to it meet. That's Ugly White Condo on the far right.

Pale Male's fence pole perch-closer.
See the white vent pipes, the "leggy mushroom" capped items? Just to the right is a pole holding several rows of barbed wire which anchor to the roof.

3:33PM Lola is back on the grate and now her feathers pick up the orange of the angled sun. Golden Light time comes very early this time of year.

3:36 She looks toward the Ramble.
3:41PM Then she looks up, fixedly toward something in flight.
3:46 A very large low flying plane heads towards Lola. Though the air is reasonably still near the ground it's quite gusty at hawk height.
3:48 Lola, still sitting on the grate of Oreo, focusing on an area Pale Male was particularly interested in earlier.
3:52 Suddenly she's gone. Perhaps part of the gamble is that everytime you see them go out of sight, you expect to see them again, No not this minute necessarily, or even tomorrow as one's timing might be bad--but sometime. But when will that sometime be?
4:07 Exit. It occurs to me that Lola will now hold the record as Pale Male's mate of longest duration...knock wood.

Donegal Browne

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