Monday, May 31, 2010

Busy Sunday morning pics of the hawks

On a beautiful Sunday morning yesterday, a group of hawkaholics were rewarded by some great hawk action from all five of the Franklin hawks.

The morning's hawk watch started with the eyasses actively hopping and flapping back and forth from the nest to the ledge alongside.

Their wings grow stronger every day, and they are starting to get the feel of some lift from their flapping.

The eyasses entertained us with their antics for the first hour or so we were there, and various hawk fans stopped by to take a look at what has clearly become THE neighborhood attraction. It was fun to meet some of the blog readers - Doug and Andrea - with their daughters.

But there was no sign of the haggards till I finally spied Mom deep in her favorite tree alongside the Parkway. She was just hangin' out, with her back to the nest, paying us no attention and seemingly quite unconcerned about the many visitors walking around under the nest area.

Suddenly, the two eyasses out on the ledge were transfixed on something out there....

....which turned out to be the tiercel flying in to the top of a nearby lamp post with a particularly large and gory breakfast of fresh (very!) caught pigeon.

He was visibly panting with his beak open. Though he has become an expert at capturing pigeons, it is still quite a challenge for him - a larger and less maneuverable bird - to catch a nimble pigeon. He works hard all day to provide for his family.

When he had caught his breath, and we thought he was going to deliver breakfast, he surprised us by flying with the pigeon firmly gripped in his right talon past the nest and over to the top of one of the Civil War monuments at the end of the Ben Franklin Parkway.

He sat there for a few minutes, then decided it was time to deliver breakfast. This terrific shot from Kay shows the effort he is expending as he takes off with the weight of the pigeon in his talon.

He then flew swiftly to the nest....

... and as he was about to touch down, the eyasses all crouched down at the back of the nest to give him landing room.

Though the eyasses can now all feed themselves from food dropped off at the nest, the parents still occasionally feed them, and the tiercel set about tearing the pigeon into small pieces and feeding the eyasses.

At this point, the formel decided to get in on the action, flew over from her tree, and landed on the ledge as there was no room in the nest.

It was such a thrill to see all five hawks together! While the tiercel continued to busily feed the eyasses, the formel started to move toward the nest....

.... and then with a large flap, went airborne and landed right in the middle of breakfast!

The tiercel left almost immediately and flew along the front of the Franklin Institute.....

.... and landed on a ledge which slopes deeply back and down, and where rainwater collects.

I'm pretty certain he was looking to bathe - something that red-tails do frequently - and this is a spot where the haggards disappear dry and reappear wet, and then dry off in the sun (see post from August 20, 2009). However, he was out of luck as far as finding water, and took off across the Parkway.

Meanwhile, back at the nest, the formel was eating the remains of the pigeon, watched intently by her offspring.

There is now not much difference in size between the haggards and the eyasses.....

..... and they do not spend much time on the nest with the eyasses except to bring prey, and help a bit with feeding.

The formel soon headed back to her favorite tree.

One of the hawkaholics, the intrepid Carolyn Sutton, always checks the grassy area under the nest to see if anything interesting has dropped out of the nest. She was rewarded on Sunday by the remains of a meal, most likely rabbit.

Former biologist that she is, she wanted to check for sure. This was one of those times when I found myself thinking, "How did I get myself into this?" but in the interest of sharing with you the highs and lows of hawk watching, I leave you with the proof that this meal had indeed been a young rabbit.


  1. Thank you so much for another fabulous chapter in your photo journal of our FI hawk family! It's a huge help to all of us who only get to see the webcam view. Gorgeous photos! Ann in Devon

  2. And thank you for all the descriptions! We are learning a lot! Ann In Devon

  3. Oh, my goodness! Those pictures are amazing, as always. Thanks so much for the continuous updates.

  4. Thanks so much for the photos and info, have learned so much from the past two years hawk watch!!

  5. Thanks for the DETAILED descriptions!!!! Helps us tremendously who cannot be there!!!

  6. Great work! Love the pics. Wish I could be there.
    Live north of the 49th!

  7. I've been an avid watcher since the beginning and really appreciate the updates and marvelous photos. We have hawks nesting across the street and one of the parents sails into our yard around 4:30pm daily to attempt picking off one of the poor doves feeding beneath our bird feeders. It's a conflicting dilemma..Sad ending for them but gives me appreciation for how hard the predators have to work to feed their young. Thanks so much for the education.

  8. Thank you for these incredible photos! They bring me and my partner such joy!

  9. This is all so spectacular!! And to feel like you really are a part of it!!! Thanks so much from all of those who can't be there, we sure feel like we are