Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pale Male Watches the Eyasses and Finally, a Sandhill Crane Nest!

Photo courtesy of

Pale Male always takes time to watch his eyasses with focus and interest.  Though they will still be sleeping in a pile they will be getting more upright while being fed now.

I've always wondered how so large a nest and so large a bird as a Sandhill Crane could be first, hidden, and second, protected, while sitting on the nest.

The vagaries of how a camera creates an image of this particular bird and this particular kind of nest does not truly portray  the amount of camouflage that is present in the real life situation.  For whatever reason they blend far better to the naked eye than they appear to do here.

Also the female is utterly still though somehow manages to move her head to look at you when you have moved, without you seeing it happen in particular.  Kind of amazing actually.

And why are these Cranes called Sandhill Cranes?  Because that it where they position their nests, on a hill of sand and then go about bucking it up with grasses and reeds.  In this case and  others, the perimeter of the nest is protected by a moat of water.  A moat which some predators would have to swim. It is conceivable that Mom might just drown some of them on the way over as Swans have been known to do with swimming mammals.

Dad is also around to help in discouraging predators.  And a Dad with wings wide used as a weapon and feet kicking is no small thing to overcome.  I'd turn back.

I haven't been able to find a special name for a female or male crane but the young cranes have one.  They are called colts.

And what is a group of Sandhills called?  There is a selection on this one.  They are called either a Herd of Sandhill Cranes or a Siege of Sandhill Cranes.

Both rather nice, I think.  

Now we just have to come up with sex identifying handles for a male and female Sandhill Crane.

Any ideas?

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stella Hamilton Reports on Pale Male's Nest and the Sheep Meadow Red-tailed Hawk Nest With Hints on How To Get There!

Photo courtesy of
                  Octavia is left and Pale Male is right.

 An on the spot report,  from longtime hawkwatcher Stella Hamilton-- Stella was also, let me add,  a stalwart protester back in 2004 during the days before Pale Male and Lola were allowed to rebuild their nest on 927 Fifth Avenue.

It's Thursday , 4/24 /14 , 4:30 pm . Windy but gorgeous day . Pale Male is soaring , while Octavia stands in the middle of the nest . I feel she wants to stretch a bit . Did not bring Stellascope today, so can't see if babies are walking about yet . Lots of meat pulling and feeding observed mid nest today.  It was to the left and right of nest  last Sunday .

P.S. I also spoke to Stella on the phone.  She thinks from the feeding patterns she's observed, that the Fifth Avenue nest may hold three eyasses this year.

After checking out Pale Male and Octavia's nest, Stella then took the short walk down to the Sheep Meadow Red-tailed Hawk nest.
Photo by Stella Hamilton  4:50PM  4/24/2014
See the nest in the crouch of the tree?  Stella reports that the nest is about 30 feet from the ground and the current hawk in residence is Mom.  While Stella was watching Dad arrived with dinner for Mom, prey not immediately recognizable, and they switched.  Mom flew off to eat and Dad kept the nest warm.

For those who would rather find the Sheep Meadow nest without asking around too much, here is Stella  Hamilton's clarification to the usual directions.  Often if one asks where this nest is, one is told...near the volley ball court.  

Well... as it turns out there are two volley ball courts.
There is a concrete court and a sand volley ball court.  The nest is near the concrete court which is painted green and has no net across it so some don't even realize it is a volley ball court-- which adds to the general confusion.  If there are no obvious hawkwatchers gawking up a tree,  Stella advises sitting in one of the benches at this court, then scanning  the trees,  and you will spot the nest.

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

FLASH!!!! Rob Schmunk Reports There Is A Hatch at St. John the Divine!!

Red-Tailed Hawk (7475)
 Photo courtesy of Rob Schmunk

                           Isolde feeds!
Rob has observed Isolde of the Cathedral Nest making feeding motions.   For the full scoop click Rob's link below.

Happy Hawking!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Octavia Feeds! Pale Male and Octavia Have Done It Again!!!

Photo courtesy of

From hawkwatcher Beth Eberly-


I saw Octavia leaning down in the nest and then doing what looks like feeding!


Beth, if it looks like feeding it is feeding as nothing else hawks do looks like it!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

How To Tell the Difference Between a Cooper's Hawk and a Sharpshinned Hawk Plus I Find a Pair.

I'd been picking up sticks out of the yard, and considering whether to make another sparrow pile or perhaps  another giant yard nest when a hawk soared over my head.  Hmmm.  Looks rather long tailed for a buteo.  I watched as it flew into a tree and wove amongst the branches maybe three blocks down.  Accipiter!

I noted the tree against a chimney from a sight line over roofs from where I was standing .  It  looked like several of blocks away.  I dumped the sticks,  got the camera and as I was in a hurry, jumped into the car and took off.

I followed the sight line to the tree, in which I thought I'd seen the hawk enter.  Nothing.

A friend had said a few days before  she thought she'd seen some hawks in a tree doing "something odd" in front of a house quite a number of blocks away.  Upon description the "something odd" might well have been copulation. I get back in the car and keep going further south.

  There were three teenagers sitting on a porch across the street from the house number I'd been given so I asked them if they'd seen any hawks lately.

Nope, they hadn't.  I scanned the trees in front of the noted house and there was what looked a whole lot like a nest.  

See top photo.

Well it looks a bit like a crow's nest but not quite.  Also too exposed.  A squirrel dray that had lost its leaves?  Wrong size twigs. 

That's when a hawk, (Coopers maybe?) flew over my head to a tree in the backyard of the  house where the mystery nest was in a front yard tree.  Bird had disappeared.  You never know what you might see when you bring the photo up at home.  He had to be there somewhere. 
 Well not necessarily. They are very big about flying straight through thickets of  trees without wiggling a twig.
     I keep looking.  What is that center? Is that a tail?

Yes it is.  But at the time I didn't have the ability to zoom in this far.  You can see it reasonably well with a cropped photo but at the time I wasn't sure of what  I was looking at.  So I looked over at what could be a nest.
 Then took a couple of steps toward it.  Saw something  in the corner of my eye and looked back at the possible adult entry area from earlier.
Is that a hawk at the top of that evergreen?
 No, in this case it IS the top of that evergreen.  Sigh.
I look back left.
My my, wait just a minute.   Look who has abandoned cover and is exposing himself.  Well as much as an Accipiter EVER exposes himself.
I do believe that there are a couple of bright red eyes staring at me.  Okay, I hate to admit it.  And I'm sure I'll get used to them but a mature Cooper's bright red eyes do give me the creeps a little.

Which brings us to the question of just which species this bird is.
Ah ha!  A Cooper's Hawk!  Now let us talk once again about how one tells the difference.  That leg doesn't look particularly like a stick, which many guides  will tell you the legs of a Sharp-shinned look like.  Not exactly a no fool field mark by any stretch of the imagination. 
(When I got home I looked at Peterson's Hawks of North America and found one.  Yes, I use Peterson's.   Sibley's is for other things though I do find the drawing and paintings look more  than a bit like stuffed bird skins.  For a pure ID field mark, I go with Peterson's everytime.)

And what is that field mark for this species?  For a mature adult Cooper's Hawk this is a jewel, for as we have discussed numerous times it isn't all that easy to decide only on the mark of size or the neck or no neck possibility for positive ID. Though I admit that those can be helpful.  But do you know the sure way to tell a mature Coop from a mature  Sharpie?

The color of the top of the head, that dark grey,  does not continue down  to meet the feather color of the back like a Sharpie's does.  A Coopers hawk wears a "cap" and has lighter feathers at the back of the neck before going into the darker feathers of the back and wings. 

Still obviously watching me, then...
Suddenly the hawk looks North.

And a different hawk zips over my head and whips into the tree across the street.
I go across the street and look up the trunk.  Bingo!
I think this is the mate.
On the next shot, my flash accidentally  goes off and she flips off the branch and is gone.
 I look back, and the other hawk is gone.  Misdirection by a pair, it works nearly every time.  I scan further South, and keep going.   No hawk.

There he is!  And he knows I know but keeps sitting.  I had read that some Cooper's Hawks are becoming comparatively human habituated and this may be one of the them.

Having "looked" at the hawks for some minutes, and it is getting dark, I decide that it is time to leave them in peace.

No question I'll be visiting  them again soon.

Plus George and Martha of Highbridge Park have a Hatch!!!
Go to the links panel on the right and click on Rob Schmunk's link, Morningside Park Hawks for pix and details.  
Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne