Saturday, June 10, 2006




Fine Weather for Flapping

It was a beautiful day for hawkwatching at The Cathedral. There were clouds certainly, but for most of the afternoon they were the white fluffy kind lazing across a bright blue sky. And as the day progressed so did the number of hawkwatchers. By late afternoon, there was quite a group assembled. News of a fledge at the Fordham nest raced through the observers like wildfire.

I spoke with two gentleman, car mechanics as it turned out, who said they'd never considered watching a bird. They'd parked themselves on Morningside drive and were giddy with every move of a Red-tail, young or old.

Excitement is beginning to build about the eyasses preparing themselves for the big leap. Mom and Dad went in and out numerous times with prey and the larger of the eyasses, had any number of bouts of mad flapping.

The younger eyass sun bathing while the elder, who will soon come and grab her spot, seems to be napping after lunch. When I arrived at 1PM, Larry Curtis, currently taping the hawks for an upcoming film, reported that the parents had been to the nest twice in the last hour with prey.

Mom rising from urn today.

I discovered a few days ago, that the parents aren't always readily visible when they are stationed to watch the nest from the decorative urn on the southeast corner of the roof of the Plant Pavilion. Divine Dad tends to perch on the edge, but I caught him rising out of it last weekend. Divine Mom who seems to be more attached to remaining unseen may well settle out of sight as a marked preference. If "inside", the Red-tail isn't particularly visible for viewers on Morningside Drive's sidewalk . Which is the area from which observers tend to view the roof when searching for the parents. Observers closer to the nest can't see anything but one chimney on that roof as all else is obscured by trees. Crafty, very crafty.

Elder Divine flaps while Younger stays out of the way.

Mom arrives on the east side of the nest.
I'd noticed that the eyass sitting on that edge kept looking up at the sky and I wondered if one of the parents was about to make a delivery. I saw nothing, but from the neck straining of the eyass, I'd say Mom must have circled a number of times before zooming in.

St. Andrew offers the advice that love and patience are the best ways to deal with one's younger sibling as opposed to stealing her perch by pushing her off every five seconds.
Whether Elder is completely convinced is as yet unknown, but it seems unlikely.

No baby face here, the eyasses are beginning to have true "hawk" expressions.

New positions

Touched by King Midas? Or does the whole place, particularly St. Andrew have a liver disorder?
I used a different camera today and early on while shifting positions I seem to have pushed a "special effect" button accidentally. And as you've probably noticed it's rather unbalanced most of the batch. Who knew there was one for "Jaundice"?

But then's only documentation. Or so I keep telling myself.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Native Sidewalk Wonder

Another moist day moving through to evening is coming to a close viewed from the St. John's Sidewalk.

There had been some momentary nailbiters. One eyass jockeyed with another for a prime spot on the nest's edge. The first teetered, then wings up for balance, got her grip again. But now clouds low, light dimming, the hawks are quiet. The passers-by are few, and the hawkwatchers even fewer.

When suddenly I see a strange little splash of light beside the sidewalk. Something that seems to glow warm yellow in the gloaming.

I walk down Morningside, and there between the sidewalk and the chainlink fence...what?Evening Primrose? A stalk of petaled suns warming up a corner. Amazing. Here among the ice cream wrappers and tattered plastic bags, an actual living breathing native plant.

Did it grow here on it's own?

Had it's ancestors prospered and reproduced quietly on the grounds of the Cathedral running back a hundred, two hundred years. Back to the time when the plants that grew in what we call Manhattan, were the plants that had lived here for thousands of years? And their forebearers back and back and back? And after all those years of safe harbor, did this little seed jump the fence and begin to sink it's sturdy taproot, down and down and down, to make more seeds and start a colony of it's own?

Or is it even Evening Primrose?

Oenohera biennis

It has been a while. But then again, this is one of those sturdy native plants that one sees often enough growing in roadsides, in fields, in disurbed earth in parts of the country where plants have leave to do what comes natural, that one might remember. But I've never seen it in Manhattan merrily growing on it's own. A part of some horticultural native plant display, if then.

Perhaps some Manhattanite, with a packet of "wildflower" seeds, a few seasons back is the cause.

It's possible.

And this is a plant whose seeds are dearly loved by birds. And birds can fly from a long way away, where they had eaten their fill of Evening Primrose seed and then stopped for a rest in St. John's rose bushes. And perhaps one of the those previously eaten seeds made it all the way through the system without being pulverized. And what does a bird often do just before it takes flight?

It's possible.

But I'd rather think that this yellow adventurer, out to start it's own colony of hardy adventurous plants, is the product of a long line of local primroses that have grown on Cathedral Hill for millennia upon millennia. And in the bad times of monocultured lawns, flower beds, herbicides, and weekly lawn mowing, that these plants with the sturdy taproot, whose yellow blossoms do not open until the evening, knew how to wait and bided their time.

And why not? What with the crafty adaptations and the arrival of the amazing Urban Red-tailed Hawks, why not a bid from the botanical world on the part of the amazing Urban Evening Primroses?

Why not indeed.

More Flapping Photos, Maybe Later

Well this was going to be a post about More Flapping from the Divine Eyasses and another Sidewalk Wonder I ran across, but is having so many difficulties that there is a scheduled outage coming up at 8:23AM PST. For how long, I don't know. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I just thought I'd let you know what was going on as I've been having trouble posting and from I hear you've been having trouble getting the site up.

So keep checking in, it shouldn't be too long.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Whole Lot a Flappin' Going On

The eyasses are in full swing when it comes to the "flapping"behavior that is preparation for fledging. They have also started looking down off the nest and taking an interest. If you haven't seen them on the nest and wish to, I'd suggest a visit very soon.

Temperatures mid-70's
Mostly cloudy
Wind variable

All times PM unless otherwise noted.

10:45AM One eyass visible.

10:51AM Second Eyass appears.

Second eyass begins flapping mid-nest.

1:28 Dad on Gabriel, one eyass visible.

1:52 Eyass preens mid-nest.

2:15 Eyass begins running back and forth across nest, east to west, west to east flapping madly.

Flapping coming from the other direction.

Eyass flaps facing out.

Finished flapping?

NO, more flapping.

2:18 Eyass roots around in nest and discovers pigeon remnant. She bends to eat, pulls, tears, chews, up, down, up, down. Then attempts to eat pigeon flight feathers. Many gyrations attempting to swallow them, feathers sticking straight out of both sides of beak.
2:30 Now it's Mom on Gabriel's horn.

Mom preens.

Oblivious sparrow lands on roof finial near Mom.

Mom notices the sparrow.

Sparrow notices Mom.

Mom menaces sparrow.

Sparrow turns to take flight.

Satisfied Mom watches the sparrow fly out of sight.

2:37 Mom off Gabriel and toward NE. Eyass watches Mom go, yawns, gives focus to honking car, preens chest.
2:40 Eyass preens "long feathers" of wing.

3:00 Eyass peeks through twigs.

3:17 Eyass stands, preens center, flaps, wing tips visible.

3:48 Dad on south urn of Plant Pavilion.
4:12 Dad off to the SE.
4:25 Mid-area Eyass preens.
There is a gap in the notes here because we had many visitors. People leaving work in the neighborhood, residents returning home, locals walking their dogs, budding hawkwatchers all, stop by on their way for an update on the nest. Unfortunately, once again as with the Trump Parc viewing area, there is no "Hawk Bench" where people can sit, watch the hawks at their ease, and get to know each other.

6:00 Divine Dad on Gab's horn, Divine Mom on The Plant Pavilion and Eyass in the hand.

Sidewalk Wonders

I'm partial to the little wonders, which being so common, are rarely noticed. These sidewalk beauties, just in from Eleanor Tauber.

From Eleanor-
“While at St. John’s taking non-ending photos of the hawks, once in a while my eyes strayed to other things. I found myself looking at the grassy edges of the sidewalks, filled with debris, but also with teeny-tiny, delicate flowers. I focused on them, and my wonderful zoom lens camera and it’s “macro” eye managed to capture for me the details and beauty within these small blossoms. I would think a magnifying glass would do the same thing for anyone willing to explore these sidewalk worlds. I don’t know the names of any of them — so what.”

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Play Day at the Cathedral 04 JUN 2006


When the eyasses are not eating and sleeping they have begun to engage in "play". Activities that help them learn skills that will be used in life after fledging. Beyond beak fencing and the like, they very often engage in stalking each other. Not untypical of carnivore mammals with one difference. In Red-tail young if the sibling being stalked notices, makes eye contact, the stalker acts as if she isn't stalking. Whereas in young mammals that is the moment when the pounce may be made.
I have many times seen Pale Male engage in the exact behavior while stalking rats. He will sit in a tree on the same branch for several days in a row for an hour or so watching a rat hole and it's inhabitants. Though seemingly not watching them. Eye contact is a big deal with birds. Then when the rats have grown generally used to his seemingly innocuous presence, he'll wait until they are distracted by something and move quickly to a branch closer to the hole and then go back to quiet repose quickly while they aren't looking. He then continues watching their behavior, their travel patterns, the things they do with "sameness" which makes them vulnerable. This behavior continues until he decides to make the grab. He is very successful with this strategy.

Mom on Gabriel's head, a rare perch.

After napping.
Is this one of the same eyasses
as the previous two?

Dad and Gabriel.

(Yes, yes, I know it's a vin arc and I could easily crop it out but I like the thought of Gabriel and Dad in a bubble of cloud and sky. D.B.)

Peering over the edge watching a squirrel.

Just try it.
(At this point the "stalker" will stop
and feign innocence, ie. look at anything else but her "prey".
And continue to look elsewhere until the stalkee
releases eye contact and goes on to something else. )

Distracted by an itch.
In fact they are all
very itchy. It is a side effect of pinfeathers
which currently cover their bodies at one
stage or another of maturation.

While the first is distracted, the second eyass horns in and knocks the first
down a level in King of the Hill.

It's MOM!
(Note the crop of the eyass in the foreground is not as
distended as that of her nestmate. It's her turn to eat and she does.)

Why'd she leave?

What is she up to?

Second eyass spots Mom.
(So that's why the sibling
who had begun King of the Hill or perhaps more aptly
named, Queen of the Nest Edge, suddenly
hopped off and hot footed it to a prime feeding

Eyass watches Mom coming closer.

The eyass ducks as Mom comes in.
Something all Red-tails, whatever the age, do when
there is an incoming family member to the nest.

Eyass checks what Mom brought
but does not make a move to get it.
"Permission" has to be
granted at this stage of development.

After her visit to the nest,
Mom perches on The Plant Pavilion.
Later she shifts to a decorative
roof urn on the same building.