Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Is Isolde Up There? Plus the Skunk and the Peacock.

All photographs D. Browne
The nest at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

1:44PM So far there's been no sign of either Isolde or her new mate and I've been here for an hour and a half. It's sporadically raining so there is no work being done on the Cathedral and still the nest looks empty. No hawks have perched on Gabriel, nor Tristan's urn, or any of the perches that were used the last two seasons that are visible from the corner of Morningside and 113th St.. Time to check the other views of the nest just in case something is visible that can't be seen from here.

1:56PM Did that large twig that's touching the back of St. Andrew's head just move? Nothing now. Though the twigging on Andrew's left side is interesting.

It's a good example of how the hawks place sticks perpendicularly and horizontally in a kind of raptor basket weaving pattern.

2:04PM Now the view standing east and looking west. Did I just see the top of a head? Nothing visible. Get a grip.

2:34PM What is that?

2:37PM THAT is definitely the top of a hawk's head! Hooray. That is a huge relief. Let's just hope we can all find a way that she won't be disturbed and the Cathedral can continue doing what they need to do but further away.
(There was a photograph of Isolde on the nest here, which was deleted from the page. I'll publish this so you get the news while I work on getting the photo back in. Sheesh.)
And there she is. It's Isolde! (Not.)

2:39:42PM And it looks like she is leaning over to turn an egg or eggs.

2:43:04PM Nothing visible.

2:40:21PM Isolde moves a twig to the right.

There is her back again.

Movement. Perhaps, preening?

2:42:03PM Isolde looks to the west. Is her mate over there?

2:44:48PM Now she looks east.


2:46:07PM Now she stares north.

2:50:47PM Stares left to the west again.

2:51PM Stares fixedly north.

Peering through the twigs or looking down?

Looking down, white spot visible.


Then she disappears from sight and doesn't pop back up again. She's definitely brooding. The small drizzle is becoming a bigger drizzle, time to go.

The daffodils are blooming lushly in Morningside Park. Perhaps the drizzle isn't so bad after all. Besides it's warm today. That's when I hear the Peacock scream. Wow, that was intense. It could have been a badly played brass instrument. The drizzle has stopped. I'll walk round. Perhaps see New Guy somewhere inside the close or see the screaming peacock.

There he is! Looking like he's on his way to a debutante coming out gala. He begins to spread his tail and arc it into position.

A big gust of wind comes through and he has to do a little side trot to regain his balance but he's doing it by refolding and lowering his tail. It does not pay to look uncool during mating season.

And it really is a dynamite tail. Though for most of the year it would seem to be rather a challenge to live with.

But in Spring, it really can't be beat. He spreads his tail, arcs it and slowly turns shivering the tail feathers while wiggling his small wings, and turns at the same time. When you think about it that takes an amazing amount of physical coordination.

And there it is, the full spectacular display. He screams repeatedly, does several more displays and there is another peacock scream in return.

He thinks about that. Screams again.

And then hustles into the bushes. Interestingly suddenly there is the odor of skunk. I don't mean as if he's just been sprayed but there is a medium strength skunk odor. This is very strange. I'm in Manhattan. I didn't know we had skunks in Manhattan. I've spent a good bit of time in the country and this odor is without a doubt skunk.
Unless of course peacocks spell like skunk in the springtime. Somehow I doubt it. St. John's seems to be harboring one of those sharp toothed black furred guys with white stripes.
Now that's a photograph I want.
Donegal Browne


rbs said...

New guy has his own habits and we'll have to get used to checking other potential perches than we did with Tristan.

There's been a fair amount of hawk perching occurring on the tall hospital chimney over toward the corner of Amsterdam and 114th. You can't see that spot from the usual nestwatching spots along 113th, but can if if you walk up Morningside to just past 114th St or down Morningside halfway or more toward the 112th St. overlook.

The perching on the chimney may be because it offers a good view of the central quad of the Columbia campus, where there has been a juvie red-tail hanging around for the past month.

Donegal Browne said...


You are so right. I realized today much to my chagrin that there was probably going to be a whole new learning curve with this new mate.

Though I figure that Isolde is going to be doing some sitting on Gab and Tristan's Urn even if the new guy doesn't.

By the way, any agreement on a name for the new mate? Or has new guy stuck do you think?

Thanks so much for the tip about the chimney. You're my kind of Hawkwatcher--the more information more people have, the more each one of us can build upon and add to the cumlative knowledge of urban rapors.

Karen Anne said...

About skunk odor - I happened to look out on my deck about 2 am the other night, and could see some critter at the dish of bird seed I have on the deck. It was too dark to see what type of critter this was, but my first guess was a skunk, since there was a definite skunk odor.

But, no white stripe on his(?) back. About twice the size of a robust cat, and I could see a silhouette of ears surprisingly close together. Eventually my uncertain guess was a raccoon, because I saw a ringed somewhat bushy tail. What do you think?

There used to be a family(?) of skunks and I would see one or another in the yard at night a couple of years or so ago. Each had different stripe markings, quite beautiful. I haven't seen one in quite a long while, no bunny visitors either.

Donegal Browne said...

Karen Anne,

I actuality when I first smelled skunk I looked around the cathedral parking area just to make sure a car hadn't gone past that may have had a run in with a skunk. Nope.

I'm wondering though if your raccoon may have had one of late. I suppose I could have been smelling a raccoon who'd taken on a skunk lately, but even then, the skunk would have had to have been in the city. Interesting.

Karen Anne said...

p.s. I came home one day to a very strong odor of skunk out by the street (tiny, narrow country road), and my neighbor told me the neighborhood rumor had it that a hawk had caught a skunk in the yard of the vacant house across the street.

I am trying to grasp whether hawks know about the uniqueness of skunks, and whether having caught one would ever go after another.

I would have thought a skunk was too big for them, but I may have mentioned before that my indoor-only cat was wigged out one day and I finally looked in the right direction thru the glass doors to the deck, and saw a big hawk (not a redtail) sitting on the deck railing 6-8 feet away. So evidently my cat was seeing himself as potential prey.