Monday, July 27, 2009

Homecoming at the Nest - July 24!

Just when I thought the hawk watching couldn't get much better, I had an amazing 45 minutes starting at 7:20 AM last Friday. Carolyn and I had had a barren time - no hawks- from 6:15 onwards and she had to leave at 7:00. The one thing of interest that we saw was a very dead squirrel lying on top of the construction trailer just inside the fence of the Barnes Museum construction site aka The Meadow. We wondered if a haggard had left it there for one of the eyasses, or whether an eyass had caught it, but was frightened away before it could finish eating.

I wandered up and down 20th Street looking into the tree alley, up at the Library roof, over at the Franklin Institute roof and at the nest - but still no hawks. Then I suddenly heard a hawk call right behind me, and there up on an electric pole was an eyass. I never saw it fly in so have no idea where it came from. It made just that one call - almost as if to put me out of my hawkless misery at being such a poor observer!! This happens all the time - no hawks then suddenly hawks all around you.

Then another one of those unmistakeable seagull-like calls, and there on the corner of the Library roof was another eyass. So now I has two in sight. Where was the third?

I looked across the Parkway to the Franklin Institute and there was the third - on the nest! This was the first time I had seen a live nest visit since they fledged, so it was very thrilling to witness. And even more thrilling to have seen all three eyasses at once!

This eyass was fascinated by the new piece of greenery that had appeared in the nest the day before. S/he kept pecking at it and trying to drag it around.

Then just for old times' sake, there was a visit out onto the ledge! I did notice that the windows and ledge looked MUCH cleaner! There's definitely been some housekeeping attention during the eyasses' absence.

For some reason, I glanced to my left, and who should I see perching quietly on the carved facade of the Franklin Institute - Dad! Or more properly, the tiercel. His tail is much less red than the formel, and seems to have fewer feathers. He also has more brown about his face and neck. So now I had four of the five - yay!

He was definitely observing the eyass down below him on the nest. He flew down and made a pass across the front of the nest and I was so hoping he would land, but he didn't and flew up onto the roof. Then suddenly, all hell broke loose!

One of the other eyasses flew over and tried to land on the nest, had second thoughts, and chose a tree immediately opposite. The third eyass also zoomed in, landed briefly on the nest, then took off for the trees alongside the Vine Street expressway underpass. The eyass on the nest took off, and another one landed.

All the time they were calling out, and I completely lost track of who was who. Everywhere I looked, I could see a hawk! Quite extraordinary, especially after the previous hour with nothing. They started flying back and forth across the Parkway, landing and taking off from trees, buildings and monuments. I was fumbling with binoculars, camera and trying not to get run over as I tried to zip across multiple lanes of traffic on the Parkway.

Though I didn't get many pictures of this exciting activity, I did notice once again how well the eyasses are now flying. They are confident, strong flyers, landing skillfully in trees, on narrow ledges, carved stonework, and electric wires. They have made this downtown city area their own.

Then just as suddenly as it had started, the hawk activity ceased, and they were gone. I headed back towards 20th Street, and what should I see up on the electric pole but an eerily identical scene of how my hawkwatch had begin - an eyass up on the pole.

But there was a difference: at the other end of the wire on the opposite pole sat a second eyass. I abandoned all thoughts of heading to my car, and stood under the leafy canopy of the tree alley to watch what would happen next.

Remember that dead squirrel on the trailer roof that I mentioned? Well, the eyass on the pole right beside it suddenly dropped down and grabbed the carcass with its talons.

It cloaked its wings over it and was clearly guarding it from the sibling on top of the other pole.

This went on for a few minutes until the sibling took off for one of the alley trees.

As soon as the competition left, the eyass started to tear at the squirrel and eat it. I never imagined they would eat not-so-fresh food. Through my binocs I could clearly see the flies buzzing up off the carcass and around the hawk. Maybe s/he was hungry enough to eat this.

The roof of the trailer was slippery and I could see she was having a hard time getting a grip (literally!). She grabbed the squirrel with both feet and flew down into the meadow to continue her meal. I took this picture through the wire of the construction fence that surrounds the meadow. As I walked up 20th Street alongside the fence, I watched this magnificent young hawk 20 yards away devour its meal, seemingly quite unconcerned by my proximity. I hope they are not getting lulled by the safety of this fenced-in meadow into which no-one except birds and small rodents can enter.

So ended another excellent morning of hawk watching!


  1. Wow! I was holding my breath reading this! Great reporting!

  2. Wonderful- thanks Della and Carolyn once again- I watch for your reports each day- so special- and John's report above is fascinating also- GREAT JOB, you guys.


  3. Thanks for your kind feedback. Though it takes a while to do these posts, I'm really glad that they help keep hawk fans in the loop.