Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday morning with the hawks

On a gorgeous Sunday morning, a group of hawkaholics met at the nest to spend a couple of hours in the early morning sun observing the hawks. Kay Meng took these amazing pictures.

For over an hour, we saw nothing. We assumed the formel was on the nest, but from the ground she remained invisible. Our waiting eventually paid off when the tiercel flew in.

The formel immediately stood up, and it was clear that she was ready for a shift change!

As the tiercel started to settle himself on the eggs, she looked around as if to say, "I'm outta here!" and then she was!

Outta here indeed!

She flew into a nearby tree and preened in the sun, while her mate got himself organized with the eggs.

We turned our attention back to the formel just in time to see her launch into the air, and fly swiftly about three city blocks' distance toward the Central Branch of the Free Library. Just as it seemed she would crash into the side of the building, she dipped down, grabbed something from the bushes alongside the Library, and then flew sharply upwards to perch with her prey on an upper ledge. She mantled over it briefly, then flew to the top of a nearby telegraph pole. It was truly amazing to witness the acuity of her eyesight that allowed her to spy and zoom right in on a small bird from such a distance.

We dodged traffic on the Ben Franklin Parkway and raced toward the Library expecting to see her tearing into a pigeon. Much to our surprise, it appeared that the smallish white bird with the gray/blue belly she had captured had a beak much more like a cockatiel or parakeet than a pigeon.

She started ripping off the feathers, and they came down in a cloud around us as we looked up.

For a moment, it looked as if she were going to try to swallow the bird whole.

Then another surprise - when she opened her beak and the dead bird reappeared, minus its head - there was visible a band on the left leg of the bird, just above its claws. Was this unfortunate little bird an escaped pet, or had it once belonged in a zoo?

The formel then flew swiftly back with her headless prey to the nest.

The tiercel was more than ready to end his egg-tending duties, and he left the formel to her breakfast on the nest, while he flew up to a wide ledge at the top of Franklin Institute. He then stepped back a few paces and disappeared, leading us to think that the ledge must slope backwards.

Our theory proved correct when he reappeared, soaking wet! There must have been a pool of water captured in the sloped angle between ledge and wall in which the tiercel bathed.

He shook vigorously a few times, spraying water drops in the sunshine, and widely stretching open his beak in what appeared to be a silent expression of pleasure.....

... or perhaps it was just a yawn of paternal contentment after a busy six days of watching his next brood's eggs appear.

He sat on his sunny ledge a while longer, then flew to the same tree earlier occupied by the formel, and caught up on his feather preening.

We left as he launched off towards the Library, presumably to do some hunting for himself, or maybe find an early lunch for the formel.

So, in the space of a couple of hours this morning, we were privileged to have a ring-side seat for some of the hawks' daily routines invisible from the nest camera.

Just an extraordinary Sunday morning.


  1. Wonderful just Wonderful, thank you all for the ring side seat for those hundreds of miles away.

  2. Priceless Della- Kay, your pictures are fabulous- feel like I was there with you! You really should get to writing that illustrated book this year!

    Thanks again.


  3. Your photos are spectacular. What lens are you using to get so close?

  4. What awesome pictures and story telling ~ thank you for making us feel we were with you! Sandy aka unionrep4uSandy

  5. You guys have put to rest the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. When I looked at Kay's images last night, I was blown
    away again but the context in Della's blog today put the images into
    a perspective that made my heart sing. There is no way a "documentary"
    could substitute for this collaborative blog.

  6. Amazing documentation! I feel sorry for that little parakeet (budgerigar), though, as well as whoever must have owned it. I have a sad feeling that it was a pet that got out. What an unfortunate accident.

  7. I love the look of supreme contentment on the male haggards face when he yawned.