Monthly Archives: May 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

Click to enlarge. (c) Greg Saulmon 2012

The baby hawks from the well-publicized nest on the 12th floor of New York University’s library fledged Monday, and on Wednesday I was lucky enough to run across one of the chicks taking some short practice flights around Washington Square Park.

The chick had found itself atop the park’s landmark arch. Still a little unsteady on its feet, the young hawk cartwheeled and scrambled along the edge of the arch before taking a leap of faith and flying to a nearby building.

The hawks have been the subject of a “nest cam” run by The New York Times, and the newspaper’s City Room blog has closely followed the lives of the adult hawks and the development of the chicks — nicknamed “Boo” and “Scout” by readers.

The chicks hatched April 9 and 10, putting them about 10 days older than the Race Street Red-tails back in Holyoke. I’d estimated that those chicks will fledge around June 4.

The Times blog recently carried a thorough FAQ on fledging by New York City’s Audubon Society chapter.



(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

Even if you only count the hawks, kestrels and geese, Race Street is quite the urban wildlife corridor.

But it’s not just birds. I’ve spotted this groundhog several times, too.

The entrance to its den is in a basement window well of an empty building — I usually watch to see if its poking its head up from there. It’s a shy creature, and I’ve only managed a few shots of it, mostly at quite a distance, before Sunday morning.

But on Sunday I spotted it foraging along the fence between the street and the canal. It wiggle under the fence, eat some greenery at the side of the road, and then retreat to the bank.

I waited until one of its short retreats and then set myself up a short distance away, guessing where it would pop out next. I got lucky — it emerged from the grass just a few dozen feet away, and kept wandering closer to me as it stopped to munch.

A car finally startled it, and it scrambled back under the fence and disappeared.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

I spent a long time Sunday morning watching the Race Street Red-tailed Hawk nest, trying to get a read on how the adult male and the two chicks are faring after the female was injured and taken to Tom Ricardi’s rehabilitation center in Conway earlier this week.

Life goes on, it seems.

The male has been spending a lot of time on the nest, helping the chicks preen and helping to dole out bits of prey — although, the chicks are becoming adept at feeding themselves, too.

Between stints on the nest, the male has remained an efficient hunter and provider.

I watched Sunday morning as an armada of geese — 9 goslings and about 15 adults — paddled down the canal toward the vicinity of the hawk’s nest. The hawk sat on the top rail of the fire escape. I looked at the hawk, and the hawk looked at the geese.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

When the hawk leaped from its perch the adult geese circled around their young. A few geese rose up out of the water, honked and spread their wings as the hawk approached. But the hawk made a last minute turn, away from the geese, and landed at the base of a stone wall right at the water’s edge.

The hawk sat with its back to the geese. But the members of the fleet were still wary: they approached the hawk cautiously, giving an occasional honk or flap.

As it turned out, the hawk wasn’t interested in the baby geese. Instead, it hopped into the air and then pounced, snatching something from the base of the wall. I haven’t been able to identify the prey — zooming way in, it looks like a small rodent, but the picture loses too much detail to tell for sure.

Clutching the morning snack in one foot, the hawk flew back to the fire escape and delivered the meal to the peeping chicks.

The geese continued down the canal. I followed them nearly all the way to Sargeant Street, where the young clambered up a grassy bank to feed while the adults stood guard.

More photos from the morning below:

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The adult male and one of the chicks, on the nest at Race Street Friday evening. (c) Greg Saulmon 2012

The adult female hawk from the Race Street nest was badly injured this week and taken to a raptor rehabilitation center.

The remaining adult male has been tending to the two chicks that hatched earlier this spring in the nest, which sits on the top platform of a fire escape outside a vacant building. On Friday evening both chicks wobbled around the nest, stretching their growing wings and working to steady themselves on their legs.

Tom Ricardi, who operates the non-profit Massachusetts Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center from his home in Conway, said Friday that an environmental police officer brought the injured hawk to him on Wednesday. The hawk is suffering from a compound fracture in one wing, a fracture to the other wing and an injured leg.

Ricardi said he did not know how the hawk had been hurt, but suspected she may have been hit by a car. He described the hawk’s injuries as severe, and said he would monitor her for several days to determine whether she can be rehabilitated or if she will need to be euthanized.

Several people who live and work near the nest said the hawk was discovered Wednesday in the parking lot between the Canal Gallery and Wauregan building on Dwight Street. It appeared to be hurt, and someone reported the bird to the environmental police after it spent several hours in the parking lot.

Ricardi said he had asked the environmental police to keep an eye on the nest, to ensure the adult male hawk is able to adequately care for the chicks. If not, Ricardi said he is able to take in chicks at his rehabilitation center and care for them until they are ready to fledge.

Several years ago, Ricardi said, he took in a chick from the Race Street nest that had fledged too early.

The adult male was spotted mid-day Thursday sitting on a low fence across Race Street from the nest, clutching a freshly killed squirrel. Several people said the hawk stayed on the fence for a long time, calling in vain to its missing mate.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

They grow up fast.

Just last Sunday the chicks in the Red-tailed Hawk nest on Race Street were still little balls of down, with wings that hardly hinted at the broad silhouettes we’ll see soaring overhead in the coming months.

Today, though, they looked eager to take flight. One chick appears to be a little older and a little bolder than the other — preferring to hang out at the edge of the nest, taking in the view and even doing a classic head bob when it spotted a squirrel several dozen yards away on the sidewalk. The chick’s wings have grown in over the past week, and this morning it even managed a tiny lift off as it gave them several strong flaps:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

I only saw one of the adults this morning — probably the female. She was sitting at the edge of a building at Open Square when I arrived, but she soon hopped over to a nearby tree, ripped off a leafy branch, and brought it over to the nest. She did this twice while I was there.

A few photos of her below:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012 | Click to enlarge.

Inspired by my sighting of the little hawks on Race Street, I stopped by Holyoke High School Sunday to check on the nest at MacKenzie Field.

I just barely got a look at one of the new chicks there, but I think I arrived right around nap time.

So, I had some fun shooting photos of the sparrows that have set up shop in the letters on the school’s facade.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012 | Click to enlarge.

One of the great joys I’ve found over the past few months has been watching the family of Red-tailed Hawks nesting on the fire escape of an industrial building on Race Street in Holyoke.

I’d seen the adult hawks downtown plenty of times — and I’ve posted a number of pictures of them here — but I owe a hat tip to Holyoke police officer Jared Hamel for helping me locate the nest.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012 | Click to enlarge.

I met officer Hamel, a member of the police department’s narcotics unit, on the night of the devastating fire that destroyed the historic mill of American Writing Paper’s Mt. Tom Division. It was around midnight and I was shooting photos for my day job; we started chatting and somehow the conversation turned to birds in the city. I mentioned the hawks and wondered out loud where they lived.

“They’re on the fire escape,” Hamel told me, referring to one of the big empty buildings that line the canal.

Since then I’ve kept a close eye on the hawks’ habits, and on April 22 wildlife photographer and veterinarian Linda Henderson posted a simple comment here on the blog: “Redtails hatched.”

A week or so later photographer Don Cooper sent me an update, writing that the little hawks were growing fast, and that perhaps they’d hatched even earlier than we thought.

On Sunday — Mother’s Day — I got my first look at them. I spotted two chicks, but only managed to photograph one that sat high on the nest.

I was joined by two other birders who spotted me conspicuously staring up at the building; they’d made a special trip over to Race Street to look for the hawks, and I was happy to have the company as we watched the little one stand up now and then to tentatively stretch its short, fluffy wings.

The nestling period for Red-tails is 42-46 days, according to Cornell’s All About Birds. If they hatched around April 20, we may see them ready to take flight the first week of June.

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CBS 3 Springfield recently launched a “Falcon Cam” to offers viewers a window into the world of two Peregrine Falcons nesting on the 21st floor of the Monarch Place building. The pair’s eggs began hatching Wednesday, and by mid-day Friday four baby falcons had joined the family.

I had the pleasure and the privilege of spending some time up-close with the birds after work Friday, and some photos that I took from the inside looking out are included in the slideshow above.

Dave Ward, news director at CBS 3, was kind enough to take some time out of his day to be my guide. It’s a pretty fascinating set-up: the nest is in a plexi-glass box outside the window of an office that’s basically dedicated to the falcons. Different pairs have nested here since 1989, and the building lease stipulates that anyone leasing the 21st floor will leave this particular room vacant to avoid disturbing the birds.

The lights in the room are left off. Outside the room, Bank of America is leasing space. Employees on break occasionally dropped in to see the birds in person as the CBS 3 camera sat on a tripod broadcasting to the rest of the world.

Watching both the falcons and the hawks on the Cornell web cam this spring has offered some interesting insights into how differently the birds behave. The hawks, I’ve noticed, will let prey accumulate in the nest, often having a session of “leftovers” a day or so after a pigeon or vole is first brought in for a feeding.

The falcons, on the other hand, like to keep a clean space: with each feeding I’ve watched online, the adult bird has flown away and disposed of the carcass as soon as it has finished feeding the young. When I visited, the only debris in the nest was the shell of the chick that had just hatched and the head of a starling.

I’d hoped to catch both adult birds on the nest, and maybe even a feeding; instead, I got to see some quiet, tender moments of the adult falcon nuzzling the new chicks.

As we left, Dave and I joked that as soon as we shut the door the second adult would appear for a full-on feast. Sure enough, from the sidewalk outside the building as I left I heard the falcons calling overhead, and looked up just in time to see the parents making a shift change on the nest.