Almost fledging: Young hawks at Race Street nest prepare to take flight

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

The young hawks at the Race Street nest are venturing to the top rail of the fire escape that’s been their whole world these past 40-odd days, gaining their sense of balance and trust in their wings as they prepare to fly.

Several people have told me the chicks started hopping up to this final frontier before flight on Saturday, and possibly as early as Friday. I saw it myself for the first time this evening.

The adult male hawk, meanwhile, sat on a nearby telephone pole with a new female he may be courting. She’s light brown, about his size, and I saw them soaring together a little over a week ago. Tonight, they sat facing each other on the telephone pole for about 30-45 minutes. Then, they moved over to the roof of Open Square, where the male called to the chicks.

The chicks looked across the canal, hopped and flapped, but stayed on the fire escape. At the sound of another hawk, somewhere off in the distance, the female took flight and disappeared.

The male returned to the nest, perched on the rail for a few minutes and then, as if to say “This is how it’s done,” took a graceful leap, traced a half arc over the canal, and landed atop the Canal Gallery.

A caravan of cars, horns blaring, passed a few blocks away: high school students celebrating their graduation.

But the milestone for the young hawks would wait at least another day: the chicks stayed put, and the evening rain moved in as darkness fell.

More photos from this evening below.

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