City Hall


I haven’t seen the falcons downtown in a few months, but tonight just after sunset the pair paid a short visit to a ledge on the tower at City Hall.

As the twilight deepened at least one of the birds flew away. I’m not sure whether the other stayed on the ledge — I’d taken a rare walk without a camera, so I had to run back to my apartment to retrieve it after I first saw them land on the building.

Here’s a short recording of the pair calling to each other:

And, here are a few more shots of the encounter:





Black-capped Chickadees present an interesting question. I’ve only observed them in Heritage State Park twice over the past year or so — but does that actually mean they’re infrequent visitors?

More likely, their periods of high activity haven’t coincided with my visits, or they’ve been out and about in one corner of the park while I’ve been distracted in another.

The one above was among a group of three last Sunday.

Also present were a few regulars: House Sparrows and a pair of Northern Mockingbirds:



(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

It seems nearly official: the Red-tailed Hawks that made their home on a Race Street fire escape last year appear to be moving into a new nest at a nearby industrial building.

Don Cooper and Stephanie Pierce both photographed the hawks on the new nest in the past week, and on Sunday I finally had my chance. After spotting both hawks in Lyman Terrace early this afternoon, the hawk above flew in to the new nest with a large stick shortly after I arrived at the site. It sat on the nest for about 25 minutes before setting out again.

The new site is a little more secluded than the last, but it’ll offer this year’s brood much more safety when they’re ready to fledge. That’s a good thing, for them and for me; I’m not sure I could take a second year of watching young hawks learn to fly at a busy intersection.

Below, a few more images I captured today, including a visit to City Hall by both adults:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With a stiff wind wrestling an already weak sun into submission, I spent about two hours this afternoon to kick off 2013 with an inventory of the birds that are sticking out winter in the city. Here’s what I saw:

  • 60 European Starlings (estimate)
  • 30 Canada Geese (in flight)
  • 24 Mallards
  • 15 Dark-eyed Juncos
  • 12 Rock Pigeons
  • 5 House Sparrows
  • 5 Ring-billed Gulls
  • 3 American Robins
  • 2 Cooper’s Hawks (1 adult, 1 juvenile)
  • 1 Bald Eagle
  • 1 Red-tailed Hawk
  • 1 Northern Mockingbird

This was a fairly confined area: I started out in Heritage State Park, where I saw the Robins, Juncos, the immature Cooper’s Hawk, and several Mallards in the canal. One of the Red-tails was roosting up on City Hall. I then took a swing through Pulaski Park, where I found the adult Cooper’s Hawk and spotted the eagle out over the river.

Food seems to be getting scarce: Most of the berry trees in Heritage State Park have been picked over, with one or two still flush with a decent supply. A handful of the pine trees have cones. The Juncos were spending their time in the pines and in one of the trees that still had berries; several foraged on popcorn that someone had spilled outside the Children’s Museum.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Saturday’s warm weather brought everyone out.

A couple pulled over on Dwight Street to shoot a self portrait on the Canal Walk. Kids rode the merry-go-round and climbed all over the water wheel in Heritage State Park. Another couple ate fast food at a picnic table. Two old men watched a pair of ducks in the canal.

“I’ve never seen ducks here before,” one man said.

The ducks aren’t always there, I told him, but they’re semi-regulars, as are the herons and, when they drain the canals in the spring and fall, the egrets.

The red-tailed hawks were out on Saturday, too. Three of them, exploring the smokestack at Open Square and roosting on City Hall. In the space of just a few blocks, in the span of just a few hours, I saw the ducks, and the hawks, a dove, a mockingbird, starlings, pigeons, sparrows and a number of dark-eyed juncos.

Most of them appear in the slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(c) Greg Saulmon 2011

A few people have told me they’ve seen falcons in Holyoke, and I finally saw one myself Friday morning.

The falcon landed on the weathervane way at the top of City Hall’s tower when it was still dark out. I was already running late for work, and I thought what I’d seen was probably a hawk, but I ran back up to my apartment for a longer lens anyway. The bird was still there when I came back, so I went up to the top deck of the parking garage on Dwight Street.

As the sun finally began to break the horizon and splash its honey light on the bird and the ornamental metal, I realized I wasn’t looking at a hawk.

The Peregrine Falcon was my favorite bird when I was a kid, thanks to Tom Ricardi’s visits to Jackson Street School in Northampton. Ricardi operates the Massachusetts Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway, and when he’d visit my elementary school classroom he’d bring a falcon named Pilgrim. I couldn’t take my eyes off that bird.

The Vermont Bald Eagle Restoration Initiative has a short profile of Ricardi — read it here.

And here are two more shots from Friday morning:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2011

(c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Starlings perch along the ornate roof of Holyoke's City Hall. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Starlings fly around City Hall's tower. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Starlings against City Hall's stonework. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Starlings fly from the roof of the Dwight Street parking garage. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

House Sparrows take flight at Heritage State Park. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Pigeons at the Dwight Street Parking garage. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Pigeon overboard! (c) Greg Saulmon 2011

Bonus squirrel shot. (c) Greg Saulmon 2011