Sunday, January 3, 2010
When Gene Mancini posted this Christmas Day message on the Hawkaholics Facebook page -
"Merry Christmas everyone. Our Pair have been very close to the building the last two weeks, and spending lots of time in the nest."
- hawkaholics everywhere were excited to learn that the parent haggards were clearly interested in their nest and the surrounding area.
So Kay Meng and I decided to go down to the Franklin Institute last Monday to see if we could see the haggards for ourselves. It was a gray, windy, winter morning and after about 30 minutes of wandering around checking out all the usual spots where we had seen the hawks during the summer and fall, we had to get out of the frigid wind and warm up. We sat in the window of a little coffee shop behind the Institute where we could look out onto the Parkway and watched the corner of the building where the nest is.
Suddenly we saw that familiar wing flap, white underbelly and red tail as a haggard zoomed in and disappeared across the front of the building. We raced out to the street in front of the nest hoping to see mom or dad but no birds on the nest.
We walked around to the main entrance of the Franklin Institute and stood in the sun at the top of the grand staircase looking out over the Swann Fountain over to the Free Library, figuring that if a haggard were around we would eventually see it, and that we could warm up a bit in the sun while we waited.
And our waiting paid off when a haggard flew in and perched on the decorative molding above the windows to the left of the entrance.
We thought it was the male as we remembered he had darker feathers on his face. He clearly was enjoying being out of the wind, warming up in the sun.
And then, the best moment of the morning! The female flew in to join the male, and
Kay was firing away on her camera and got this great shot as the female flew in.
The sun highlighted their beautiful red tail feathers.
It had been a long time since we had seen both haggards together - back in the summer when they had been busily feeding the eyasses and supervising their first attempts at hunting. You can clearly see the difference in body shape - the female (left) is bigger and rounder, and the male has more of a wedge or rectangular silhouette.
We could also see the difference in color of the feathers on their faces. Mom (left) has a much lighter colored face than dad.
Even though it was so cold and windy, they seemed quite content to perch and preen and look out over the city from "their" building.
To our inexpert eyes, the birds looked in superb health with beautiful plumage, much different from the scruffy molting hawks at the end of the summer.
After watching them up there for close to 20 minutes, it was as if the female said, "You want some really cool pictures? OK - here I come, right at ya!"
Fortunately, Kay's photo-reactions are razor sharp, and she got these amazing images when it seemed the hawk might fly right into us!
She alighted on a ledge on the other side of the main entrance, only about 30 yards from where they had been sitting together.
And that's where we left them. It was just so great to see them together, comfortable in their urban environment, and looking so fat and healthy! The only thing that would have made this a more perfect hawkwatching experience would have been to see them on the nest, but we know that's coming soon!