Sunday, June 12, 2011

The first flight

So here are the details of this morning's exciting events at the Franklin Institute nest when Carolyn Sutton and I were lucky enough to witness the first eyass fledge.

We arrived at 6:00 AM on a cool, cloudy Sunday morning.  All three eyasses were looking out expectantly.  The tiercel arrived on the nest, but did not bring food.  Only one eyass seemed at all interested to see dad!  These eyasses are very well fed.

When the tiercel left, instead of flying to his normal tree over on the Ben Franklin Parkway, he flew into a nearby window of the Franklin Institute, and sat there waiting.....

The formel was next to arrive at the nest, and instead of food she was carrying a couple of sticks.  She only stayed a couple of minutes and flew to the usual tree.  Thinking back on all of this, it was as if the parents knew there was an imminent fledge, were encouraging the eyasses, and then got into position to observe.

One of the eyasses then stepped forward, started flapping, and suddenly was airborne.  It was one of those moments when you cannot believe what you are seeing!

The eyass glided straight out, flapped a couple of times, wobbled a bit, turned right and flew steadily into the closest tree - about 30 yards from the nest.  It made an EXCELLENT landing!

The tree in which it landed is in the top left corner of this screen capture.

In the moments after the eyass left the nest, the other two watched it intently....

... as it settled onto its first ever tree perch.

Over the next hour, we watched it hop-flap to various branches in the tree....

... testing out different perches.

Its presence did not go unnoticed by the local bird population who perched on adjacent branches, and sounded the alarm. The eyass ignored them.

Meanwhile, the haggards had the whole situation under their hawk-gaze.  The tiercel flew to the roof of the Franklin Institute, overlooking the eyass's tree.

You can see the faintest dot - that's the tiercel - just to the left of the point at the top of the portico.

The formel positioned herself on top of a spotlight on the other side of the tree.  Both haggards kept a close watch on the eyass.

The eyass seemed totally comfortable in its new environment showing no signs of stress.  Each time it hopped to a new branch, it soon started to preen, and then roused (shaking out its feathers), a sure sign of a happy hawk.

When the tiercel left his roof to go hunting, the eyass intently watched him fly over.

The tiercel flew over towards the library, dove down, and immediately a flock of pigeons exploded up from the ground.  In a few moments, we saw him fly up to a lamp-post with a pigeon in his talons.  He brought it over to the nest, but did not do his usual routine of dump and run, but settled in to defeather and tear it up, and then started to feed small morsels to the only remaining eyass who showed any food interest.

When he left, the other eyass joined its sibling for brunch.

Seemingly satisfied that her precocious youngster was doing fine, the formel came to the nest, pushed the eyasses aside, ate some of the pigeon, then picked up the mangled body, and flew with it to the flat top of the nearby Civil War monument, ate some more...

... then settled in to keep watch over the tree eyass.

During the time that Carolyn and I were there this morning, two members of the Franklin Institute staff came out to visit with us.  One of them had witnessed the fledge, and they were in touch with other colleagues.  They were also getting in contact with the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation folks who are always on call once the eyasses start to fledge. 

So, one down, two to go!  The Franklin Institute eyasses are heading into the next exciting stage of their development, and we will follow them - literally! - as they head out into the city.  Stay tuned!


  1. Wow! this is a wonderful account for those of us who could not be there, to have such a detailed account! what fun! although I get a little misty eyed

  2. Stunning reportage! And the photos are wonderful as well.
    Its all so exciting. (except perhaps for the poor Pigeon
    who became the morning meal).

  3. Saw fledge #1 fly from his original tree to the corner at 21st street about 5:15pm. Tried to get back to the nest, but hadn't enough altitude. So made a sharp right hand turn to the nearest tree. Looked as though it knew that there was food in the nest and was determined to have some. Expect another attempt before dark.

  4. Great reporting Della and terrific pictures Cardi- thanks!


  5. Thank you!!! GREAT news!

  6. What a story! Della, thanks SO much. Maybe dad was giving the eyasses some pre-flight instructions :-). Here's hoping this is the start of another safe summer with the haggards and their babies.

  7. Exciting times ! I can report that both of the eyelets at HUP (Hospital of Univ of Penn) have fledged. The nest has been empty for several days now and I was worried because I hadn't seen anybody flying around. Well a friend just gave me an eye witness account. Both fledglings were seen at the top of Franklin Field, screaming their heads off until one of the haggards brought them some lunch....a dead rat.....yum !For anyone reading this not familiar with the area, we have a pair of nesting red tails at the hospital which is located a few miles west of the Franklin Institute. I've often wondered if the Franklin hawks are offspring of our hawks who have been here for at least 6-7 years. Anyway, thanks for your wonderful reporting and pics !


  8. Thanks for posting. It was a thrill to read this, as though I was there!

  9. Awesome reporting and captured moments. I got to relive this through all of your collective eyes and stories! Watching a bird fledge is one of life's sweet moments. After a long day at work, I really enjoyed this. Beautiful photos, great team work by all of you! Thanks again, I'm just tickled.
    Maureen Fort Washington

  10. I believe the singular for the young nestlings is eyas and the plural eyases. Putting in that extra s makes them sound un-likable.