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The hawks keep coming...

So! More updates, including several days' worth of watching...

It hasn't, admittedly, been the most spectacular week for it, but I do still have some interesting photos. One of the things I've noticed lately is that my ear is becoming VERY attuned to the crying sound of the juveniles. In part, this is good, because if it wasn't for that auditory cue, they'd be a lot harder to find. (Frequently, one of the two will be silent, while the other is noisy; or they'll initially be noisy, and then fall silent. The luckiest days are the ones where one of them keeps calling long enough for me to triangulate on them.) But in part, it's bad, because I start wondering if I'm REALLY hearing them or not. And there's nothing more annoying (in bird-watching terms, that is) than possibly hearing the bird-call you want, and then everything in your vicinity starts being noisy -- you really wish you had a "mute" button for everything else (traffic, lawnmowers), so you could stand and really listen to see if you actually hear the noise again.


Case in point, the photo above. I was walking around on Monday, just out to see if I could spot any hawks, when I heard one crying from a weird direction. The buildings also don't help, with the way they distort sound. Eventually, I zeroed in on it and found one of the juveniles up on the weathervane of the First Church in Cambridge. Although the pic above was taken, at 40x zoom, from standing in the graveyard right below the church, for reference, here's what it looks like unzoomed from a little further away:


Later in the same day, I got a phone-call from Deborah, who'd just gone out to run an errand, reporting on one of the hawks on a light-post just around the corner:



The mainly interesting result of this encounter was getting to watch as the adult hawk was harassed by a mockingbird:



I expect that the mockingbirds could only really hurt the hawk if they happened to reach its eyes, and clearly, that must be what makes the hawks the most nervous. Largely, they pretend indifference, but a persistent mockingbird will eventually make the hawk fly off (generally with the mockingbird in hot pursuit).

Still, nice to get to see him/her. The very strong late-afternoon light really made it possible to shoot from only one direction, so I was glad when the hawk turned around to present a different side:



... We will pause here for a brief, Wednesday-morning interlude involving a cicada that had taken up a spot on a metal trolley-bus wire pole along my commute:


(I found this interesting mainly because while you always HEAR cicadas, you never SEE them, because they're so high in the trees and they blend in so well. Actually, last week, I was passing a tree in which there was suddenly such a commotion near the top that I paused, wondering if a hawk was up there, but I think it was a bird or squirrel attacking a cicada, as after the furious buzzing, one suddenly fell to the ground at my feet, minus one wing. I tried to help it back to a tree but it kept flopping off, so I left it in the grass. Anyway, standing waiting for the bus, I suddenly heard the buzz much louder than I ever had, and more immediate, and then spotted the cicada on the metal pole. I suppose one tall vertical thing is as good as another -- or not; it wasn't there in the evening.)

Wed. was hideously hot and muggy, so, not a day to go dashing around after hawks. But I did anyway, when I heard the cry from inside. Soon found the juvenile, still crying:



I very, very much suggest that you click through this next shot to go look at the largest available size:


(Perhaps that will work as a direct link.)

I really love the head attitudes of the hawks as they look around for likely prey.

On my walk to the bus in the evening, I happened to look towards the First Church (needless to say, most of my time walking around campus these days I am occupied with scanning rooflines) and spotted another hawk en-perched (unzoomed, 10x, 40x):




Although I immediately started walking in that direction, hoping to get a better shot, JUST as I was rounding the last set of trees, the hawk took off and flew away over the Yard. Tease.

The other notable event from this week is that I located the nest! Through some judicious googling for clues, and then walking around up on Oxford St. yesterday, I finally spotted it. (It looked smaller, from the ground, than I had expected it to.) I got some pics, but they aren't terribly interesting. (It's a nest. In a tree.) The best news is that it's in a tree right next to a building, and there are windows right on level with it, and the windows belong to a library, so they are quite accessible. I went up there and spoke to the librarian, who confirmed that it was the nest the pair had used this year. (She was wistful about the fact that since the fledglings had flown, they don't seem to come back very much.) This is good, as it means that next spring, I can go up there and see if I can get some pics of the hawks on the nest, and the babies in the nest. *crosses fingers*!

There was some hawk-drama in the courtyard here this morning -- one of the juveniles in the big locust tree, being mobbed by mockingbirds and jays. Then the second one showed up, and drove me nuts because it was crying and I could hear it, but I couldn't *find* it amongst all the leaves. I got some pictures and a little video footage of the one being mobbed, including some preening, so if it turns out to be any good (and if I can edit it properly), I'll post it next week.

Finally -- anyone who has become really curious about urban hawks after reading all of this might want to check out this book: Red-Tails in Love, by Marie Winn. She wrote it in the mid-90s, about a pair of red-tails making their home in Central Park, NYC. I hear that the paperback edition has an update from 2005.

Also... Nature - Pale Male is the first documentary film about the original Central Park male hawk, from 2003 I believe. (I haven't seen it yet; I have it requested from my library.) Apparently there is a second film that isn't out on DVD yet, "The Legend of Pale Male", which I'm looking forward to as well. (Pale Male was the original male who showed up in Central Park in about 1990 or 1991, and he's still making his home there, and raising broods.)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
These are fabulous even small on my blackberry. I can't wait until I get home tomorrow afternoon to see them at full size.

I love your descriptions of the process, and the bird!drama.


PS. They do like to taunt humans with cameras. Today I saw a ravem carry off a crab. Silhouette photo as it was just after a brief storm, but you can see the crab in its beak.

PS. Am home and am saying woof in response to these shots! Good for you! *hugs*

PPS. Initially I typed "Yu" instead of "you", so had to fix that as it wasn't Yu that took the photos. *veg*

Edited at 2009-08-08 07:42 pm (UTC)
Aug. 9th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
Just had a chance to look at these pics. They're great. Esp love the mockingbird diving at the hawk.
My interest in birds of prey was peaked last weekend when we visited a wildlife rehab facility in southern Oregon. Lots of amazing animals - grizzlies, cougars, wolves, fox, badgers, bobcats etc but I was especially fascinated by the owls and falcons.
The guide told us a story about some high rise office workers in downtown Portland who reported "exploding pigeons" outside their window. One second you see a pigeon then *poof* just an explosion of feathers. They set up a "Raptor Cam" and when they slowed down the footage they saw it was a peregrine falcon. Apparently they can dive at speeds up to 240 mph!
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:07 am (UTC)
Fabulous pics! Red-Tails in Love was cute, if a little anthropomorphic-y (I can't entirely blame her), and yeah, the update was nice in the paperback. I love how often I see the hawks hanging out in Cambridge and people are just going on their way not Seeing them. Then someone will be Astounded to see one :D. You obviously have these Harvard Square ones right in range, and you've done a great job with the camera! I'm pretty sure I've seen a Northern Harrier (or somebody - hawks can be hard) around Central, too.

Yay for nature right here in our city! Sometimes of the non-rat (and rat-eating!) sort!
Aug. 17th, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)
I'm a little amazed by the fact that once I've been turned on to looking for them, I see them more and more. Like -- they were clearly there the whole time. How can I have missed them? (I do sort of maintain that this is the first year where the juveniles have seriously come to hang around the building I work in. At least, I think so! Or is it just that now I know what that cry is, and I didn't before?)

And then, they're everywhere! I live out on Waltham, actually. I once, very many years ago, saw a raptor of some kind swooping on pigeons near the town common. But in the last 4 days, I've seen red-tails twice, right over Moody Street (which is very busy and urban). And when I went kayaking on the Charles last weekend, I heard a juvenile's call near a golf course in Newton.

I am always really, really pleased when it turns out that something that you think of as really wild decides to re-colonize human spaces, and thrive.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )