Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hawk News at the Turn of the Year

As 2013 comes to an end, I'm happy to tell you that Mom and T2 are healthy and clearly still a couple.  Dinko Mitic caught them soaring together about three weeks ago. No longer the raggedy molters of late summer, their plumage is now perfect.

           Dinko Mitic


This fall, they have taken over the pinnacles of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as their favorite daytime perches. As befits her senior status, Mom usually takes the highest spot.

                                         Kevin Vaughan


                                         Kevin Vaughan


Last week, however, they shared the same perch, gazing out at their sublime city view.

           Kevin Vaughan


They then moved down to another favorite perch - the outstretched paw of one of the iconic gryphons that guard each corner of the Museum.

           Kevin Vaughan


Their increased desire to perch high above their territory may have been caused by October's incredibly exciting arrival to us, but not to Mom and T2, of a Bald Eagle to the river area near Boathouse Row behind the Museum.

            Carolyn Sutton


A Bald Eagle is one of the few birds higher on the food chain than a Red-Tail Hawk, thus clearly a cause of concern for them.

Bald Eagles are fish eaters so this visitor augurs well for the improving water quality of the Schuylkill river. The Boathouse Row area is a favorite fishing spot for many birds as the dam below the boathouses provides an ever-pouring supply of food.

           Kevin Vaughan


Waterfowl sit along the edge of the dam and choose their meal.

            Carolyn Sutton


The eagle often perched in the trees on the silt island between the dam and the boathouses.

            Sandy Sorlein


                           Carolyn Sutton


Mom and T2 took up positions in trees on the island to guard against this impostor.

            Sandy Sorlein


            Carolyn Sutton


The eagle did not seem in the least bothered by them, and during late October/early November flew in regularly to fish this area.

            Carolyn Sutton


           Kevin Vaughan


            Carolyn Sutton


            Carolyn Sutton


Sometimes the eagle was on the ground at water's edge....

            Carolyn Sutton


.... and other times, swooped past the boathouses

           Kevin Vaughan


.... or soared high above.

           Dinko Mitic


Throughout the eagle's sojourn, Mom and T2 kept their hawk eyes on the situation from the tip-top of the Art Museum...

                               Carolyn Sutton


.... which overlooks Boathouse Row.

           Kevin Vaughan


Boathouse Row is one of the best-loved spots in Philadelphia, and provides endless opportunities for gorgeous images.

            Carolyn Sutton


           Dinko Mitic


As the trees lost their leaves in the fall, it became much easier to find the hawks.  Here's Mom in one of her favorite London plane trees, showing her large thickly spread chest markings, and the broad shoulders that give her silhouette an elongated heart shape.

           Kevin Vaughan


This contrasts with T2's narrower shoulders, and more delicate chest markings, as well has his noticeable white chin.

           Kevin Vaughan


When they sit together, these differences are very apparent, as well as Mom's bigger size.

                                      Kevin Vaughan


Mom's chest markings are more like stripes...

           Kevin Vaughan


           Kevin Vaughan


... whereas T2's are definitely spots. Kevin took this picture on December 11, the day after Philadelphia's first early heavy snowfall.

           Kevin Vaughan


Both hawks have their favorite fall and winter look-out perches.  Mom is making her presence known on this bare branch...

                                 Carolyn Sutton


... while T2 takes a more ecclesiastical view.

                              Kevin Vaughan


Along with surprisingly early and frequent snowfalls, we have also had some extremely low temperatures in Philadelphia in recent weeks.  The gorgeous Swann Fountain in Logan Square, adjacent to the Franklin Institute which usually flows freely...

           Kevin Vaughan


... gradually started to ice up at the end of November.

           Kevin Vaughan


Each magical creature's gushing...

           Kevin Vaughan


... slowly started to freeze..

            Kevin Vaughan


           Kevin Vaughan


... until the entire fountain was locked down in ice.

           Kevin Vaughan


                                         Kevin Vaughan


           Kevin Vaughan


In between these unexpected blasts of winter came beautiful warm fall days for the hawks to enjoy.

                             Kevin Vaughan


           Kevin Vaughan


Whatever the weather, the hawks these days can usually be found somewhere on the Art Museum.

                             Carolyn Sutton


Our superbly talented photographers have captured some remarkable images this fall and winter of the hawks on the Museum, and I am so very appreciative for their skill, artistic vision... and endurance!

Carolyn adapted LuLu's theme song from "To Sir with Love" (Don Black and Mark London, 1967) in her caption for this lovely image:

"If you wanted the moon, I would try to make a start
But I would rather you let me give my heart ….. To T2 with love."

            Carolyn Sutton


As noted, Mom always takes the highest spike on this bronze carving at the apex of the roof line of the Museum.

           Kevin Vaughan


Sometimes T2 perches lower down...

                              Kevin Vaughan


Other times, he sits closer....

            Carolyn Sutton


Usually, though, it is Mom who takes that high point for herself, looking out on and guarding her territory from sunrise....

                            Carolyn Sutton


                            Carolyn Sutton


... through the day incoming

                                     Dinko Mitic


... perching

                                Carolyn Sutton


... watching

                                        Dinko Mitic


... and taking off.

           Kevin Vaughan


The outstretched paw of the gryphon is another favorite perch for Mom.

           Kevin Vaughan


           Kevin Vaughan


When necessary, the hawks have an amazing ability to cling strongly to the most challenging of perches.

           Kevin Vaughan


Here is Mom five days ago, staring down Dinko Mitic's lens.  The combination of her ruffled chest feathers from preening and the camera angle make her appear almost white chested.

           Dinko Mitic


But once she settled her feathers back with a couple of wing stretches, it was clearly Mom again!

                                        Dinko Mitic



           Dinko Mitic


As we end this bittersweet year of hawk watching - from the spring uncertainty of whether T2 would choose the Franklin Institute ledge for his first nest, through the happiness of his first three eggs hatching, watching the eyasses grow and then successfully fledge, to the heartbreaking loss of F1 and F2, closely followed by Peanut's injury and slow recuperation, then to the joy of his recovery and release at the end of the summer - let's rejoice in the continued well being of Mom and T2 as they rule the skies above Philadelphia.

Here are some gorgeous big flight images of each of them, all taken this fall and winter.

First, here's T2:

                                      Dinko Mitic


            Kevin Vaughan


            Dinko Mitic


            Dinko Mitic


And now Mom:

                                       Dinko Mitic


                                        Dinko Mitic


           Kevin Vaughan


           Dinko Mitic


Kevin Vaughan's clever poem (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore) is a fun way to wish all hawk fans Season's Greetings, and the happiest New Year.  Let's get ready for another wonderful year with the hawks!



‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the park
Not a creature was stirring, not even a lark.

The vermin were snuggled deep down in their den
The pigeons were roosted, first five and then ten.

The FI Board Room was empty, the nest was the same,
And the nestcam was off, no more time for that game.

And Mom in her nightgown, T2 in his cap,
Had just settled in for a long winter's nap

When up on the roof of the Old PMA,
There arose such a clatter, the hawks flew away.

As they soared overhead and looked into the night
They saw a unique and wonderous sight.

For there on the roof making noise and commotion
Were a passel of Hawkaholics all set in motion.

They came with their cameras and oh so much gear,
And followed the hawks as they tried to get near.

And on the Rocky Balcony, they got a surprise
To see Cardi and Kevin in Santa Claus guise.

And with them to cover every aspect and angle
They saw many others avoiding a tangle:

Pamela, Debi, Sherrie and Joe
Katy-Mae, Scott, Pam and Dinko

Christopher, Christian, George and Sandy
Gail, many others, Shannon, and Andy

And then there is Della with computer in hand
Sending this story all over the land.

And all of the people both here and abroad
Had only just started to shout and applaud

When out of the darkness, a hawk screeched his name;
Mom, T2, it’s Peanut – I know it’s a shame

That only on this night do I get to see you
And tell you I’m alright, (as you probably knew);

I’m off to the southland, for warmth and some fun
The rats there are big and the squirrels like to run.

But a hunter I am and to you I give thanks
For all that I stored in my memory banks.

Now Cardi and Kevin will steer me down south
Where I will gobble fat rats right into my mouth.

We all miss F1 and F2 every day
But we know ETC is soon on the way

So stay strong and healthy for the incoming brood
And think of me fondly when bringing them food.

And with that Peanut turned and headed Southeast,
As Mom and T2 saw the photogs left them a feast.

There on the roof of that old PMA
Next to the griffins, on the tiles lay

Both pigeons and rats, having awoke from their sleep
High on the roof, and ready to eat.

As they chased down their dinner and dined with delight,
From a distance they heard “Merry Christmas, Good night."

10 comments:

  1. Here's to a wonderful 2014 for these 2 beautiful raptors.

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  2. Thank you Della and all the amazing photographers! This is a wonderful piece, such a special story, warms my heart .

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  3. Fabulous wrap up for 2013! Thank you Della, for bring together the glorious images. My how fortunate we all are this Season! To the photographers who are blessed with quick and steady hand, and spectacular subjects in T2 and Mom. Happy New Year!

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  4. What a lovely gift from you and the photographers, Della. The photos are beautiful and your text, as always, is such a pleasure to read. This truly make one's heart soar, as I hope the much beloved red-tails do this coming year in Philly, Washington Square, Central Park, Ithaca and all the other places these magnificent birds choose to make their home.

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  5. Della, you and our photographers gave us a wonderful gift. Thank you. It is remarkable that hawks can bring so much pleasure to so many people. I look forward to sharing another interesting season with the hawks and hawkaholics.

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  6. Thank you, Della, for weaving this wonderful story of our 2013 FI hawks, with its joys and sorrows, and to the photographers for their gorgeous images! The art museum perches make fabulous photos, along with outstretched wings against the Philadelphia sky. It's all beautiful - thank you! Ann in Devon

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  7. Dear Della: I have missed your postings so much! With so few hawks to watch these days, I am following pandas--not a bad substitute, but I have to admit, when I saw your post I was thrilled. All my very best wishes to all for the season, and looking forward to following your narrative soon - Rena

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  8. Hi Folks: Thanks for the update. Much appreciated. I would like to add that it is T2's goodness of heart and status as a gentleman that he intentionally allows "mom" to perch higher. Just thinking out loud....Bob (xm4665)

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  9. Happy New Year all you hawkaholics! Just now reading this. Thanks, Della, for your excellent prose, and kudos to all the photogs. Just gotta love these hawks. And many thanks to the Franklin Institute. Appreciate all of you!

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  10. Hi Folks:

    Based on previous year postings we should soon begin to hear news concerning our beloved hawks. I look forward to the adventure for year 2014 and pray it fares better than the several severe heartbreaks we had in 2013. Bob (xm4665)

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