Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring is springing and the hawks are.... getting it on!

Unusually warm temperatures recently in Philadelphia produced this lovely early spring surprise on my lawn this weekend.

Several bushes have started to flower as well.

This warm weather and the ever-lengthening days mean lots of nest activity from the hawks.  The tiercel (dad) is the most frequent visitor, and he spends the early morning hours flying back and forth to the nest bringing twigs and sticks, and carefully arranging them in the ever-deepening nest.

There's lots of paper and plastic already in the bowl, and depending on the wind and how well they are anchored, some bits stay longer than others.

Last week, some really large sticks appeared at the front of the nest - almost like a baby gate!

And the linings of the bowl change daily.

The tiercel often stands near the edge and looks out over the city and the always busy intersection of Winter and 21st Streets right below the nest.

 He has started to bring in sprigs of pine greenery which he and the formel (on her rare visits to the nest) weave in amongst the sticks.

 Something has caught his attention inside the Board Room behind the nest.

Here he is getting ready to launch off and away.

On Sunday, Kay Meng, Carolyn Sutton and I met down at the nest and were treated to an extraordinary morning of hawk activity of every variety...and some x-rated!  Kay took all of the amazing images that follow.

Here is the formel (mom) making a rare trip in to the nest.  She is definitely letting her mate do most of the heavy lifting at the moment in terms of nest renovation.

As she takes off, you can see what a powerful bird she is.  You can also appreciate what a powerful camera lens Kay is using, given that she is way down on the street below!

The tiercel always looks gentler, but don't be fooled - he is a ruthless killer.


He takes a pragmatic rather than romantic approach to his mate....

 Yes, this was definitely one of those wham, bam, thank you ma'am encounters!

 And afterwards, they sat companionably for a while.  It's so easy to tell them apart here, with dad's paler chest and smaller size, and mom's distinct speckles on her chest and larger, rounder shape.

But soon, he is off to gather more pine greens for the nest.

He pauses on top of a lamp pole...

... before taking off for the nest

... clutching the pine greens firmly in his talons.

Then it was back to the tree and the formel for more copulating, to use the correct term.  This remarkable series of images from Kay captures the entire event.

His talons are now gripping the back of her head.

At this point he started to screech.... an unearthly sound.

 More screeching....

And then they were done...

And off he went to work again on collecting more nesting materials.  This time, the straw covering the landscaped area over at the Barnes Museum caught his eye, and he grabbed a beakful...

... and then a bigger beakful.  Keep your eye on that long piece of yellow security tape behind him.

Then one of the most extraordinary sights which Kay barely managed to catch, it all happened so quickly.  He reached over to his right and grabbed that yellow tape with his right talon and took off, looking like a plane towing a sky sign.

You can just see the tip of his right wing at the top left of this image.  The momentum of his take-off scattered the straw.

Unfortunately, the construction fence around the Barnes was so close that he could not get enough height and his yellow streamer caught in the top and snagged off.  He flew undeterred with what remained in his talons, and took it to the nest.

And then for the THIRD time in an hour, he jumped (there's really no other word for it!) his mate again in the tree where she was resting/recovering from the previous two encounters.

There's no question that these two are a committed pair, and the wait cannot be too long now for the eggs to appear.


  1. Wow! Truly eggciting photographs, Kay! Thank you, thank you!
    Ann in Devon

  2. Thanks everyone for keeping us updated with that couple. Thanks Della for the stories and Kay for the wonderful pictures. From the other side of the Atlantic I'm following the story. Eggxious to see the new eggs :) Have you ever seen one of the 3 juniors again? Cristina from Portugal

  3. Wow! This is the best footage yet! She'll lay a half-dozen eggs at this rate :) Thank you so much!
    Ann in Brooklyn (We'll be in Phila late April)