Monday, March 7, 2011

And the nest gets bigger and deeper.....

Took an early trip down to the nest on Saturday, making the most of a lovely warm sunny morning - finally!  After the winter we've endured here in Philadelphia, it's taken some getting used to these unfamiliar temperatures!  As always, many thanks to Kay Meng for these magnificent images.

The front wall of the nest continues to rise, and the new angle of the Ustream camera clearly shows how deep the bowl is becoming.  There is no way an egg or an eyass could ever fall out of this nest.

Early mornings - an hour after sunrise - always seem a good time to catch lots of activity from the hawks.  Here is the formel (mom) busily working on organizing those sticks into just the right spot.  The hawks have to flap and hop to get around the nest because of its depth and thickness.

Since last week, some new decorations have appeared in the nest; sprigs of evergreen, and seedpods from the London plane trees across from the nest on the edge of the Ben Franklin Parkway.  These trees are one of the hawks' favorite perching spots, and the major source of the twigs and sticks they bring back to the nest.

 Within five minutes, the tiercel zoomed in for a landing.  Whenever a hawk flies in to the nest, whoever is already on it always crouches down as if to maximize the landing area.

Almost immediately, the formel took off...

... and her mate watched her go. 

In the picture above, you can see the delicate brown speckles on the tiercel's chest, and his white throat.  This contrasts with bigger, darker belly spots on the formel and the chocolate coloring under her eyes and beak. 

The tiercel was soon airborne and heading off for more sticks.

And it wasn't long before the formel was back bringing yet more material for the nest.

She was definitely more involved with the nest this week than last, when she spent most of the time sitting in her tree watching the tiercel do all the work.  They both constantly tweak the positioning of various twigs.

However, she soon decided she'd had enough of domesticity, and flew all the way over to the trees between the Free Library and the Barnes Museum construction site.

The tiercel also took a break on top of one of the Civil War monuments that mark the start of the Ben Franklin Parkway.  The flat tops of these two monuments often serve as a tabletop for hawk feasts, and are favorite spots for the eyasses to wait for food deliveries after they fledge.  This image gives a great view of those fearsome razor sharp talons.

Here's a picture from last June (thanks to Janette Benner) of an eyass sitting up there waiting for breakfast. It is always somewhat startling to see the contrast between the stylized stone eagle and the vibrant hawk.

But it wasn't long before the industrious tiercel took off again.  I think this is one of Kay's most beautiful images yet.

This time, he flew to the roof of the Franklin Institute, and judging by the cloud of pigeons that exploded upwards, he was likely grabbing some breakfast.

Not much happened for a while; the formel was sunning herself high in a tree way over by the Library, and the tiercel was probably stuffing himself up above us.  Then we saw an extraordinary display of the complete awareness each hawk has for the other, and their incredible flying skills.

The tiercel took off from the roof and swiftly headed away up towards the Art Museum.  When he was about a quarter of a mile away, he flew a wide loop to the right and headed at high speed back down the other side of the Parkway towards the trees where the formel was perched. 

He flew directly into her tree, and to her branch with no apparent slowing down - and landed directly on her back and copulated.  Precision bombing barely describes how fast and accurately he flew in and.... landed!  Fortunately, she must have been holding on tightly! 

Kay, meanwhile, never missed a beat, and intrepidly kept her shutter firing!

As I drove homewards along the Parkway and was stopped at a light, I looked up and saw both of them soaring skywards in a tight circle... together forever... and like all expectant parents perhaps enjoying the last week or so of freedom before those eggs start arriving.


  1. Fabulous photos! Thanks once again for sharing these and the text as well. I pass the nest each Friday, but its late in the afternoon, so I never see the Hawks.

  2. thank you ..for the photos. they are inspiring nature at her finest.

  3. Together forever ! Love is in the air! Thank you!

  4. Thank you, early birds. Breathtaking!

  5. Thank you so much for the wonderfully detailed descriptions, with so much information about hawk behavior and activities. Thank you for these truly awesome photographs! My Facebook friends thank you too!