Saturday, July 15, 2006

Playing Hide and Seek with the Divines, Saturday, 15 July 2006

Fledge focuses on a squirrel below.

5:30pm I leave the house with Albatross the Wheelie Bag but no Samantha. She has a slumber party to attend and with the weather reports of possible showers or thunderstorms I fear it may be only Albatross and I as the only Fledge Followers this afternoon. Little did I know that the real fear should have been focused on the arrival of a C train.

One did eventually arrive but incredibly tardy so that I didn't arrive at the 110th St. station until nearly 7pm. Albatross could have cared less but I wasn't the least bit happy.

Not a scold as I went up Morningside towards the Cathedral. I reach the top overlook...what's that? Begging? I look down, thank goodness, there is Robert Schmunk, stalwart uptown Fledge Follower with his camera pointed up into a tree. I yell down, he points up. Aha! He's got one.

So up the street, and down the stairs to the jogging path by the baseball diamond. Robert asks if there is a better view from uptop. Not a chance. The begging is extraodinarily loud. Truly amazing. No Sam so I pull out the notebook, and start madly assembling the tripod, the digiscoping attachment, the camera attachment that has to be screwed on with a nichel... I just know the fledge is going to take off before I get it put together. What? It's assembled? The fledge is still in her difficult to see perch, just have to get the scope on her and focus and..."Hawk up!"

She goes south and is lost in the trees. Robert has gone to do further hunting and hears me yell from a distance but isn't sure what I yelled. He reappears, no, he didn't see her go. We set out for the south, he outpaces me, and when I glance up and west, an RT is flying north, following the line of the sidewalk. I let him know, he's on his way.

When I get up to the sidewalk, there's Robert, he's spotted her and points. She's sitting on the lowest branch that juts over the benches of the overlook. One has to be really close to view her and she's sitting the branch focusing on a squirrel, and looks ready to pounce. I try getting a bead on her but the scope won't turn up at that sharp an angle readily, one click...she pounces and JUST misses the squirrel who beats a hasty retreat up a tree. I get to the other side of the overlook, the tripod won't fit between the benches and the side. Fledge then hops, pounces on a 3x6 inch stub of branch, hop, hop, mantles, swirls about. She's so close, I can't keep her in view. Kill the stub! Kill the stub! Then she's up, talons hanging. Did she take her "kill" with her?

I did see her go into the Locusts below and point the spot out to Robert. He takes off for the stairs. I can't get a focus. I grab the goods and head for the stairs myself.

When I get to the middle path, there is Robert standing glumly staring into the foliage. He can't find her. I look. I can't find her.

Suddenly he points, an RT just went into the tip top of a tree above us and NW. We scuttle around looking for a place to see. He gets one, not large but it's there. We get the scope on her. Robert wonders, lots of foliage is that a fledge or a mature? I get a look at the tail. It's red, we've got a parent.

7:35pm Robert sees the hawk go in.

This perch is amazing for the bird's view and our lack of one. We're on the middle level, to the south and east of the tree. There is a tiny window in the foliage at the bottom of the second set of stairs coming from the north.

7:58pm Finally another spot where the Tiptop Stealth Perch can be viewed, the corner of Morningside Dr. and 110th St..

This is 20x closer than what it really looks like when one scans from the corner of 110th. Normally when investigating bird scolds one is much closer and because of the foliage this perch is undetectable. Had Robert not seen the hawk go into this perch we'd still be involved in the same mysterious run around we've been dealing with for weeks attempting to detect what the songbirds were after in that particular area.

8:00pm Busted. Clear down by the corner of 110th and Morningside I fugure I won't be part of the behavioral mix but I'm clearly being looked at.
8:03pm What I take to be the adult, the one who's been in the tip top stealth perch, is in the air, but suddenly there is a second RT on the same trajectory. Is the adult following the fledge or the fledge the adult? They both head for the SE corner of the park.

8:04pm The adult has landed in the top of one of the Black Locusts that border the park on the east side nearer the southern corner. The other hawk?
8:09pm The adult is gone. I take off for the other side of the park to look.

8:12pm I look up, there's a fledgling! Perched on the razor festooned railing of the roof of a boarded up building near the corner of Manhattan and 110th. Well, well, big as life and just as relaxed as you please. There's the fledge so where's Dad/Mom?

8:15pm I'd gone to see if I could track down the adult and Robert had gone to attempt to find out what the Robin cacophony was about. I was attempting to call him and let him know I'd found one, when he arrives. "How'd you find her?", my answer, "Sheer accident, I was looking for the adult." Note her feet. She has wisely perched between the razor sections of the wire.

8:16pm I know this look, it's only a matter of time. The instant Robert and I look away at the same moment she's going to be gone.
8:18pm It happened. She's done it again and left while we weren't looking. We look around, I'm sure rather befuddled appearing. Then we see her, it was only a very short hop this time.

8:19pm Fledge momentarily on fire escape just below and south of previous roof perch on Manhattan Ave. She's up and flies to south side of 110th.

8:21pm Fledge on second floor from the top, fire escape railing of building facing park on 110th, between Morningside Dr. and Manhattan Ave. She is looks through the window into an apartment

8:29pm Eye to the scope, I realize that Big Sister seems to be staring down the scope as if she is looking at my eye, not me, looking at her. Very strange, moment.

There is a Robin that is so loud that passers-by want to know what is going on with him. Is he really that upset about a hawk across the street on a fire escape. Earlier Robert had told me a story about an evening when Susan and he had been looking one way and one of the fledge's had been behind them all the time.

Well it's deja vu all over again. Robert tracks down Mr. Super Loud Robin and where is he looking? Right behind us into the nearest tree. And there is the other fledge.

8:38pm Little Brother ducks. The Robin is relentless.

9:00pm Big Sister on the fire escape looks to be staying for the night. Little brother is still in the Elm near the corner of Manhattan and 110th as well...still be chucked at by a Robin.
9:03pm Exit.

Photos from the earlier part of the evening may be found at Rob Schumunk's site-

Manhattan Sun, Friday's Moon, and why is this one red?

Here comes the sun...42nd. St.

Thursday, July 13, 2006
July's version of Manhattan Stonehenge, a touch off center.

Friday's Moon from Manhattan

"Bottom left" as viewed from Manhattan.

"Bottom right"

"Up right"

"Top right"

"Top left"

Standing on my very dark terrace fiddling with settings, I accidentally turned to a scene mode- "action shot", and this is what happened. Something to do with the wavelength of red light?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Well Fed Fledges? Talk about enjoying your food.

Note the pinpoint pupils, a Bacchanale in the making.

The Fledges look like they eat with an incredible internalized focus. Still under their parent's vigil, they look utterly absorbed with the sensation of food and passionate about it to boot.

And when the other fledge nears, eating becomes almost an ecstasy of gobbling. Even the primary feathers must be ingested.

Just a reminder via John Blakeman about what rare opportunities we have in NYC in the hawk activities we're able to observe and even sometimes, take almost for granted.


Your verbal and photographic descriptions today of the young red-tail hunting indicate that the bird has plenty to eat. If it were really hungry, it would have been leaning over with an intense hunting look on its face. It would have pounced. The bird is well-fed.

Let me say that you are observing things I've never been able to discover out here. In June and July, our wild, rural fledged eyasses do just what you are watching. But our birds are in expansive, remote woodlots, usually 25 to 50 acres. The young birds also fly around between the woodlots. I can see them go in there, and I could walk in myself to try to see what they are up to, but because they don't see humans walking around beneath (unlike everywhere in NYC), the young birds I want to study just fly off a few hundred yards further into the forest and park themselves quietly in the foliage, often completely undiscovered.

Your birds apparently pay little attention to observing people. You have -- of all places, in Manhattan -- the unique opportunity to watch young red-tails learn to hunt on their own. I get only glimpses of this out here in the rural wilds. There in the City, you are seeing it first hand and in detail. Great stuff. My thanks.

--John Blakeman

As to just how well fed these youngsters are goes to the heart of an observation that was related to me recently. Robert Schmunk, uptown hawkwatcher, and Susan of the red hair and bicycle observed something not long ago, that after seeing growing Red-tails wolf down prodigious amounts of food, I thought them basically bottomless pits, that I didn't think possible. Fledges are some serious eaters.

One of the divine parents dropped a pigeon off and the fledge that was the stronger flyer made it to the food first. But instead of tearing into it as usual while the the second fledge begged and bobbled his way over to the drop off site, the first fledgling just sort of pushed the prey around. Robert and Susan began to wonder what was going on. Was the fledge ill?

Eventually Youngest made it over to the prey and with no todo whatsoever was given access and ate for a full half hour. That's one big pigeon.

We've come to believe that wonder of wonders, the youngster was just too full to choke down another morsel. That's a well fed Fledgling.

Divine Squirrel Hunting, More from Ben Cacace on the Moon, and Mitch Nusbaum sights a Cooper's in July

Divine Hunting

It's a sssssquirrel.

Closer...come closer...

He's directly underneath this branch hanging upside down. Shhh.

Stop looking, you'll give me away. I'm a branch.


If I can't see him, he can't see me...or not?

Where'd he go?

What? You try it.

Squirrel's gone...

Photographs by Donna Browne
One can always...preen.

As I'd posted the full image, Ben Cacace,, boffo birdwatcher and astronomy buff, sent his adjusted identifications of topography.

Now that you are showing the complete image the comments are a bit off. Now Aristarchus is towards the10 o'clock position. The largest rayed crater at the 6:30 position is Tycho. It is the place where the bright white object is being crushed by the rabbit your example 'bean cakes'. I see this image in the naked eye full Moon but it disappears when you see thedetail you have in your image.

All the best.

Cooper's Hawk sighting from Mitch Nusbaum

Sunday, 9 Jul 2006
Yesterday I was walking down the ridge in Ft. Tryon Pk where I heard Robins alarming. For fortyfive minutes I squinted up at a Beech tree when I saw it, a definite adult Coopers Hawk. He had no bellyband a dark crown and striped tail. He stayed aroundfor 2 minutes then at 11:48AM he was off. How he eluded detecton for so long from humans is the story. Usually Accipiters are only around from September toApril. --Mitch N

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Young Divines Go Public In A Big Way...finally.

5:14pm We've decided on an early start today as it seems to me from experiences last season that the fledges should be doing some ground time by now. Killing rocks, pitching sticks...more active play. Mock hunting. WE've not seen much yet so perhaps they're doing it earlier in the day. We come up the hill. Catbird scolds. Can't see the Catbird, can't see the hawk. Okay, there are two fledglings lets see what other bird noise might be happening up the hill a little further. Oh no, it's the dreaded tree copse that hides hawks so well. We start today's version of getting hawk neck. Just keep looking. Someone just has to be here.

There's a squirrel in a freeze. All the signs are there, but no fledge in sight. We go down and look up. We go up and look down. We lay down and look up.

The Robins keep scolding. We particularly like the one who's been doing it for 45 minutes with a worm remnant in his mouth.

6:25pm Finally, hot and frustrated we go and sit on a bench at an overlook. We scan, we rummange in Albatross wheelie bag for snacks. We scan. Slim pickings. A half bag of peanuts, very old. Wait, a little packet of smoked almonds. We share them out. Not bad. Now we're thirsty. Pull the bottle of soda out of Albatross. Gosh, it really has some condensation. It's just pouring off. That's a no on investigation. Somehow or other the bottom has developed a crushed node. That's not condensation that's Cola. Drink fast. Turn it upside down with the cap on, we'll need some for later. Robert Schmunk appears, and though he doesn't say, undoubtedly wonders what we're doing lazing around on a bench. Feeling sorry for ourselves, we tell him of our lengthy fruitless search.

6:38pm Suddenly an adult Red-tail flies out of the park over Morningside Dr. with a Mockingbird hot on it's tail, then a curve downward and into the trees at the level of the top of the grounds fence, westside of Morningside Dr., somehow coming out the RT is behind the Mocker. It doesn't last long and the Mocker chases the RT over behind the Cathedral and they disappear from our sight. Then Robert spots an Red=-tail on the finiale to the south chapel side of the Cathedral. Dad?

Now, in the process of attempting to see the RT and Mocker chase I'd gone 20 feet further down the hill. In the midst, I hear the Catbird scolding as I had when we first came up the hill but didn't spot a fledge. Juices activated by the past moments. We grab the gear, trot down the hill, and stand listening. It occurs to me that while Robins tend to group scold and do a little hostile dance while scolding, one side, mini-wingflap, otherside mini-wingflap, Catbirds on the other hand are often more immediately confrontational. Even if they don't get right in the hawk's face they still pinpoint their hostility directly at the hawk. Okay, if we can find the hidden Catbird, who we tried to find earlier and failed, but if we now succeed , we will see the hawk. Right?
7:03pm I can hear him and I know he's in there somewhere. But obviously invisible while standing on the sidewalk. I climb up and stand on the concrete part of of the fence and lean over the spikes to look. I finally see him. "Sam, there's the Catbird. Look! Hes looking over there." Sam who'd been trying to stand on the fence concrete and lean over the iron spikes of the fence to see which way the Catbird was looking with me, suddenly says, "Mom, MOM! There she is!." And sure enough there is a Red-tail youngster. There is a tremendous long "screeeeee" sound of talons on bark as the fledgling, wings spread, attempts to brake with toenail power on a very steep downward angled branch. (And by the way, the Catbird had been looking right at her.)

Discovered skidding down a branch by the noise, she hops, she turns, she peers through leaves and from behind branches. What is going on? Aha, there is a squirrel cavorting on the tree and driving her crazy.

The squirrel comes from underneath the branch the fledge has skidded to rest on, circles back down again, then appears on the trunk, and then behind it.

Chittering from squirrel.

Completely motionless, alert to the tiniest tip of squirrel tail protruding from the other side of the tree trunk.

7:20pm I turn to look at a strange passer-by, just in case, and when I turn back the fledge is gone.

7:25PM Still on street level, I get a call from Sam, the young are down at the baseball diamond. It's both fledglings, one on the ground with food, the other on top of baseball field fencing. They are in full view, for those who notice, of the large crowd gathering for a jazz concert in the park.

7:26pm Perching on the Backstop.

Looking at the food. (Notice the difference in build between the two.)

After much hopping about, flapping, and roughing it up around Homeplate, Big Sister grabs the "goods".

And says, "MINE". Little Brother is so stunned by this aggregious behavior that his face melts.
(For the humor impaired, that's a joke. The real reason for posting the shot is to check out the difference in their sizes when Big Sister fluffs up to the size of an overweight raccoon.)

I'm not in the least bit hungry for that disgusting morsel anyway.

Mom is bringing me something much better anyway. So there

Watching the audience.

Watching the Jazz Band.

8:04pm Sitting the fence.

8:09 As the Jazz is drawing to a close Fledge flies into trees near 110th and perches.
8:13pm Fledge back to original area someplace near Picnic Rock.
8:19pm Fledge that was on stump flies east into trees.
8:20pm Another RT being chased by a Mockingbird flies across Park toward Morningside Dr.

8:54pm Mom on Gab, though with the orangey-breast from the sunset, one had to look twice to make sure it wasn't one of the Fledglings