Feed on

Updates June 3 – July 8

Man, am I behind on posting about the hawks! So without further ado… the past month in review!

First, I wanted to point you to Joel’s Picasa album, which he left me the link to in a comment on the 5/15 entry:


Some truly amazing and high-quality shots taken during the hawks’ development during the month of May.

So actually, when last we left the hawks, it was late May/early June, and they were still in the nest. On June 3rd, I got back up there to take a look, and found that they had graduated to hopping from the nest with the aid of wings into some of the nearby branches.


In fact, I got up there right as a really big thunderstorm was rolling in. I got some pics of the three fledglings, and then it REALLY started to bucket down rain. Which I actually got some photos of, which amazed me, as rain (in my experience) doesn’t show up well on pictures.




There was a lot of unhappy flapping during the storm, which was quite gusty as well. And afterwards, some bedraggled hawks.


And then, we had some real excitement, which unfortunately did not result in any photos!

On June 7th, I received a comment on the 5/25 entry from Frank in Harvard Ops, telling me that one of the fledglings had fallen out of the nest and was walking around on the lawn underneath the tree! He said that they had called an animal rescue place, but been advised that the fledgling probably wasn’t hurt and that the parents would continue to feed it. He hoped that I might get up there in time to get some good pics of it… but by the time I saw the comment notification and went up there, it was gone.

I was somewhat worried, though, because the nest tree is actually located about 30 feet from a very busy street. Presumably, the fledgling would be okay, so long as there were no off-leash dogs around. But what if it flew at a low angle towards the street? But, after I got up there and found it gone, I asked around, and a fellow who works for Operations who was there with a lawnmower said that the hawk had walked/hopped/flown around the corner and perched on a railing for a while, which HYO or the campus police cordoned off with yellow police tape to keep the curious at bay; and then that someone had come to take the fledgling away. (A pic can be seen posted in the May/June issue of the Harvard Recycling Newsletter!)

I tried to email around to find out if anyone knew who had done so. It sounded a bit like someone called a raptor rehabber or something, and they came to get the hawk. Which made me feel better, because of my worry about the traffic, for one thing; and for another because I could imagine very bad things happening, with the young hawk flying too close to where people were walking around the busy campus, and the parents taking umbrage with that and starting to attack people. Plus — if someone who knows about raptors actually came to get the hawk, that suggests that it might have a good chance of surviving, if they could release it somewhere. I knew that last year’s clutch was 3 and that one was lost somehow (and in fact, I think a 70%-80% mortality rate for raptor clutches is normal), so this may have given that fledgling a better chance at life. I wish I could have gotten confirmation of who took it, though, and where. So far, no news on this.

Not long after that, the remaining two fledglings had abandoned the nest and started flying around… and thus begins the task of trying to FIND them. For a while, I really wasn’t able to spot them at all; I don’t know where they were hanging out. On June 15th, I did see the parents — together, for once, up on top of the Memorial Church weathervane:




Unfortunately, due to the angle, I really couldn’t tell which one was bigger (and thus the female). Not that it would help. You can kind of see that their markings are pretty much identical, so even if I could tell momentarily which one was which, I don’t see how I’d remember for later.

On June 23rd, I was finally able to locate the two fledglings, in and around the roofs of the Science Center. They had finally started with the distinctive, loud kreeeeeet-kreet-kreet calls that make them easy to triangulate on and find.


Here, one sat on the corner of part of the roof next to one of the parents, whom I obviously did not manage to get a good shot of as it took off:



The next day, I tried walking up to find them at lunch-time, even though it was very hot. I didn’t find the fledglings. But at first, I did find some other interesting subjects: a nuthatch, and a downy woodpecker on a tree beside Pierce Hall:



(Also some chipping sparrows, apparently, although the shots I got of them were really lousy. But I was rather proud of noticing that while they were little brown ubiquitous-house-sparrow-like birds, their heads were different and they sounded different, and by golly, I was right, they were different. Yay, me.)

I did spot one of the adult hawks, across the street, on the roof of the Harvard Museum of Natural History. I didn’t even realize that I was photographing action shots of what I am guessing was a harassing mockingbird, until I looked at these pics later (nor did I realize I got the about-to-take-off shot so nicely in the second one; sometimes, you get really lucky like that):



And now, a wildlife interlude of a different sort. On June 30th, I was just walking from my office to get the bus, when I was passing Houghton Library (which is the middle of campus), and there, on the lawn beside the steps, literally 5 feet away, was:



A wild eastern cottontail rabbit. Unusually unconcerned with the pedestrian traffic passing so close, I have to say, considering how quickly these things scamper into the underbrush when I pass them on my bike on the river path. The river path is lousy with them, but I had no idea they came onto campus.

All I know is, that bunny had better be very good at hiding, or its name is going to be “hawk food”.

So that brings us up to July 8th, when I finally got some more pics of the fledglings and the adults.

Hanging out on the spire of Memorial Church, crying:


This was one of those days where I wasn’t lucky like that — I kept JUST missing a good chance at a good shot by seconds. I failed to get a pic of this one taking off. Am pretty sure that it flew directly to the weathervane over at the First Church:



Eventually I decided that the light was not great and it was too hot to stand around waiting for it to do something interesting. While walking towards the T station, though, I happened to hear, and then spot, a second fledgling up on the roof of Holyoke Center (the tallest building in the Square, at 9 stories), where it cried and cried:


Again, I managed to snap a pic of it just seconds BEFORE it took off. I followed it around the corner and spotted it on another part of the same roof, and then managed to snap THIS picture just seconds after the circling adult hawk would have been REALLY nicely silhouetted against the blue sky and lit by the setting sun… in fact, I lightened this considerably in Photoshop so that you can see the adult at all (with the brown lump on the corner of the roof being the fledgling):


More to come in the weeks ahead!

Update from 5/25/10

Am nearly a week late in posting, here, but… here is an update on the hawks and their chicks, dated Tuesday the 25th. (I knew I wouldn’t be able to get up there to take pics for the rest of the week, so made it a point to go get an update.)


As you can see, the babies are getting VERY big, and very fledged-out in the wing area, although they still have the fuzzy-white heads. But I think their heads are also looking a bit more like adults… There is also a lot of wing-exercizing going on.



There’s still three in the nest, obviously. And boy is that nest getting crowded. (I wondered at this point if they could see one of the adults flying overhead, or maybe even perched on top of the building I was in.)


I was inside, taking these pics through a window, so I couldn’t tell if this open-mouthed shot was accompanied by loud crying for the adults to come feed them, or what.


Will try to get an update this week, definitely!

5/15/10: Hawks update…

Gah, very behind here! These are pictures from last Saturday, when my friend J. Levin and I were very generously given access to the 7th floor of the building overlooking the hawks’ nest, and by dint of some ingenuity and 2 hours’ worth of persistence, we got ourselves set up to take a metric ton of pictures, that then got whittled down to what you’ll see here. All of these except one are pictures that she took and is kindly allowing me to reproduce. Technical notes: Canon 7D, lens is the EF 28-300 (410 optical zoom), 1000 iso, no lens hood, using a UV filter, shot through window glass. I got a number of the same pics, but in all cases, hers were better quality than mine.


When we arrived (great weather, good light, a bit breezy) and got set up, we could see the chicks in the nest, and took pics of them for a while, wishing that one of the parents would come back for a feeding. It might have been as much as a half-hour before I noticed that one of the adult hawks was sitting on a ledge on the gable of Pierce Hall nearby. Mostly, she was doing a lot of preening. And then, suddenly, she did what you see in the picture above: she spread her wings and tail and made herself as flat as she possibly could to… soak up the sun?

Honestly, I can’t think of anything else that she could be doing. I’ve seen pictures of burrowing owls sunning themselves like this, but I had no idea that hawks did it! She stayed this way for at least 5 minutes, perhaps a little longer. It’s certainly worth noting, too, that given the width of that ledge, there is no way that anyone below would ever be able to see this. You might have been able to see her while she was sitting up, but not this. Huh.

(As usual — I am using the female pronoun arbitrarily. There was no way to tell the gender of this particular adult.)

And then there was more preening. A lot of preening. We honestly started wondering if this hawk was ever going to go over to the nest. But eventually, she made her way to the edge of the ledge and prepared for take-off:


First, she made a stop in the tree next to the nest: here, landing, with Oxford St. in the background.


And there she sat for a short while, on a branch far too small for her…


… being buffeted around crazily by the wind:



And we kind of laughed at her, I admit, because seriously, why are you trying to sit in that tree on a branch that’s too small in wind like this? Shortly, she took off and flew in a brief arc that ended with a landing at the actual nest:


More preening. But then!


If you click through, there is a slightly larger version of the above picture available, in which you can just about see that she has what must be either a mockingbird or a catbird in her beak! (My guess is a mockingbird, because we have lots of those in this area. Plus, when we first noticed her on the ledge earlier, there was a harassing mockingbird around.)

The inescapable conclusion is that in the sequence above, she had spotted the bird in that tree and had struck and killed it. Because she certainly did not have it on the ledge with her. (Either that, or… well, do hawks stash prey in the nest for later feedings? That thought occurred to me later, too.) We felt badly for laughing.

So then, we had feeding of the chicks. The chick at far left, to be frank, didn’t seem to get fed at all, at least in this session. It made us wonder whether that chick is already starting to fail… or whether it had simply been fed in an earlier feeding.




May I just say, wow, look at the feet on those babies?

The chicks looked significantly more developed that week than they had just 1 week before, which I guess is to be expected. They had a lot more feathers on their wings, and were a lot more active in moving around the nest.

Below, I offer a comparison between a shot taken with MY camera (a Canon PowerShot SX110 IS, which has a maximum 40x digital zoom), and her camera below it, thanks to the coincidence of our getting and both keeping pretty much the same exact shot:



Finally done with the feeding and the preening, the adult took off again, and flew away into the Law School quad.


While back in the nest, the chicks shifted around and stretched their wings as if in imitation of Mom:


And not long after then, we decided that we had really gotten a very good range of pics, and we should call it a day.

We were both tremendously grateful to the folks in FAS Facilities and Security who made it possible for us to get up there and observe the hawks for an uninterrupted 2 hours. It couldn’t have been better.

Now I really have to get back up there early next week, to see how the chicks’ development is progressing…


(All photos are medium-sized versions, but if you click through to Flickr, you can see larger sizes. They aren’t the greatest-quality pictures, unfortunately.)

Okay! So you may remember that we left off last fall with the juvenile redtails finally leaving the area, and the parents become ever more scarce, until a point came where I didn’t really see them very much any more. In fact, weeks would go by without seeing them at all.

Yesterday morning, however, I saw a lump like a hawk on top of the Memorial Church weathervane (every day, rain or shine, the first thing I do when I come up out of the T in the morning is check the First Church weathervane, and then when I’m almost at my office, I check the Memorial Church one). I broke out my camera and got a few pics (a false alarm last week turned out to be a crow), and zooming in, was able to see the flash of red tail. Yay!

So, I thought — the weather is nice, it’s staying light later, so I figured I’d walk up to the vicinity of the old nest and see if I could see anything.

(It may be that others have already documented the Harvard pair renewing their nest, brooding eggs, and hatching chicks. I blame my sieve-like mind for the fact that I keep meaning to check to see if some others have posted about it in the usual places, and then I forget again, and only remember at a time/place when I can’t do it right then.)

Getting up there, I could see the nest from below, but couldn’t tell if there was any activity.


Then, looking around, I saw one of the adults on the corner of the building next to the nest tree.


Eyeing that building, which had a few floors taller than the nest, I decided to see if I could get to one of the windows overlooking the nest. Went in, went up to the 6th floor, and found a lab with windows facing the right way, which was wide open, but deserted. (Well, it is close to finals weeks.) There were two unfortunate parts. One: for some reason, the windows didn’t start until about 4.5′ or 5′ up, and they had sills at least 1.5′ or 2′ wide. The hell? It didn’t make it that easy to get a good angle on things. Two: I think the angle of the sun was hitting the window and creating a bit of glare that I was shooting through. So the pics are even less clear than they could be given the quality of my camera’s zoom. I would guestimate that I was 30 or 40 yards from the nest.

But… jackpot!

I could see a parent hawk on the nest, tearing bits off some prey at her feet (couldn’t see the prey but the movements were unmistakeable), and then feeding them to three fluffy white chicks!



^ You can see two chick heads well here, and if you accept that the white blob to the left is another chick, then you can see the third one.

It was VERY windy today. That was making things difficult too. Mostly I was lucky in that the wind was keeping the blocking branches out of my way. But most of the time there was a branch obscuring the third chick. I didn’t see it clearly until later, in the videos.


^ You’ve got a little something on your beak, right… there.


Then I took some video! I found a handy box of plastic lab gloves to use as a prop. The reason you don’t really hear anything on the audio is because I’m inside a building, of course.

Feeding, feeding, feeding… then fluffing and some preening. The fourth video is after the feeding is largely done, and the chicks get a bit active in the nest, which is also neat. As usual, apologies in advance for the jerky-ness; only part of that was due to the insane wind. A

This video is quite short, and has a big fluff on the part of the adult, near the end:

A bit more preening, and the chicks move around more:

After that, I tried to get up to the 7th floor, to see if I could find an angle down into the nest. But you can only get up on the 7th floor with card-swipe access, which I didn’t have. Rats.

Then I went into the next-door building, where I knew there was a library with windows that look out near the nest. It was open, so I was able to go in, but you don’t get that good an angle on the nest unless you were to climb up onto the windowsill and stand up completely, which I didn’t want to do. Yet. So I took what pics I could from there.



Perhaps I shall go back and ask the librarians if they MIND if I stand up on the windowsill…

Then I left. But I’ll be back! There’ll be progress to check on, yessirree!

Finally, a pic of the nest from the ground, out by the street, where now that I knew what I was looking for, I could spot the adult hawk, and one of the chicks’ heads.


… But leaf-blowers are not conducive to listening for hawks. Also, I have just discovered that it has gotten a wee bit too chilly to rush outside to try to spot hawks, without a coat on. Brrr.

Anyway — little hawk news, but a couple of pics.

From Monday the 19th, one of the redtail adults on the flagpole on top of the Harvard Coop; sadly, a somewhat fuzzy picture:


And from yesterday, the two adults showed up circling over the Faculty Club and Barker Center, and I got this shot:


That’s it for now. It’s nice that they’re still coming around within ear-shot, though.

The lack of posting kind of relates to the lack of much hawk news, but it seems only fair to do a wrap-up post on that, at least for now.

After about Sept. 8th, I really wasn’t able to find any sign of the two juvenile redtails around campus. Presumably, they finally left, to go off and establish territories of their own. *sniff*! I miss them. Also sad is the fact that once they change into their adult plumage, I’d never recognize them again anyway. (I barely figured out how to recognize them as individuals as it is.)

Interestingly, the adults have been around — mostly either circling overhead, often hunting together and calling to each other as they do so; or, a few times, one or the other of them sitting on the good ol’ First Church weathervane, not affording very good pictures. Below is the best pic I’ve gotten recently — when they show up circling and calling over my building, and I can sometimes run out and get a shot before they circle away out of the patch of sky that I can see.


There is a nice large-size copy of this, if you click through.

Also interesting, but somewhat confusing, is the fact that I am now, for the first time (?) hearing the adults use the same kreeeeeet-kreet-kreeet cry that the juveniles used all the time, in addition to the adult kreeeeeeeaaaar! call. I put a question mark, of course, because now I can’t be sure whether I did sometimes hear the adults give that first cry in the past; although mostly, the evidence was that when I heard the call, it was from a verifiable juvenile. These past few times, I have heard the adults using it as they hunt together.

Finally, on a completely different note, I thought I would share a couple of pics of an interesting meteorological phenomenon that I witnessed on Sept. 8th and 9th, both times in the late afternoon as the sun was setting. The phenomenon is Parhelion, commonly called “sun-dogs”.

The top pic was taken in Watertown, MA; I would estimate, betwen 5:45pm and 6pm. The bottom pic was taken on Harvard campus, in front of the Science Center, probably around the same time on the following day. (I was up there taking some pics of a pair of hawks flying around; they sounded like juveniles but later examination of the not-terribly-good pictures suggested it was more likely the adults.)





So it seems that the story of this year’s baby hawks at Harvard is over. But if I get any more interesting shots, I’ll be sure to share them here! And we’ll cross our fingers for next year.

Short report this time, with a lack of particularly spectacular pictures, but here we go…


Like that weathervane? Get used to it…

The above pic, from Tuesday the 1st, shows one of the adult hawks making use of the First Church weathervane. Interestingly (to me, anyway), this is the first time in a few weeks of hawk-spotting that I’ve seen either adult up there; before this, it has always been one of the juveniles. I’m sure that’s just a matter of timing, though. It makes a lot of sense as a favorite perch.

On Wed. the 2nd, I also got pics of an adult up there, but the quality was so lousy I couldn’t find one worth including here. I also received an email from one of our students (naturally I alerted all of them to keep watch for hawks, once they got back!), saying she had seen one of the juveniles up on the Mem Church weathervane, as well as adults circling over Broadway.

Thursday evening, an encounter of a different sort:


Saw this robin as I was nearing the steps leading down from Pusey into Tercentenary Theatre, and was arrested by the greyish, spotty breast, something I’d never seen before. Consulting Sibley when I got home, I found that the spotty breast is a mark of the juvenile robin. Perhaps we can pretend that it is the same juvenile photographed and posted a couple of weeks ago, just out of the nest.


And then, drawn by that distinctive cry…


One of the juveniles, still hanging around and using the First Church weathervane perch!

Another interesting note, although I don’t know how much significance to give it: looking back over all my pictures, I started to notice a way to tell the two juveniles apart. One has a thin but distinct band of dark feathers right across the base of the throat. The other juvenile doesn’t.

It isn’t always possible to tell whether that dark band of feathers is there (depends on the angle, and the way the bird is holding its head), but I have noticed that in the shots where I can tell, the last time I documented the Dark Band juvenile was back on Aug. 25th (when the two landed together on St. Paul’s church). Since then, all the pics of a juvenile I’ve gotten have been White Throat. Interesting.

Anyway, back to Thurs’s pictures. Crying:


And extending a leg — for what purpose, I don’t know. The leg went out; the leg went back in. Later, though, the leg went out and there was chin-scratching (bad pic, unfortunately).


Tune in next week, I guess, to see who’s still around!


Unaccountably, the juvenile hawks are not yet gone. It really should be right around NOW that they go off, but they are still here, crying their little heads off from various perches and in flight. I guess we’ll see if they are around next week at all. But in the meantime…


The first sighting this week was courtesy of Jane, who called me from her cellphone at 5:15 pm on Monday the 24th to tell me that there was a hawk in a tree near Massachusetts Hall. I didn’t think I could get over there in time, so I didn’t try. But when I left work at 6pm, I decided to just walk by there on my way to the T. I really didn’t think the hawk would still be there… but in fact, scanning all the big trees around Mass. Hall, I spotted one very quickly, and then a second one in the same tree very quickly after that:


Both are adults, you can see the red tails on the brown lumps. (You will have to go look at the full-size version, I think — but here is a spotting guide to help):

IMG_0764-2 copy

And then, from another angle (hawk at top, and hawk near bottom):


The angle was a bit challenging, and the sunset light was creating some difficult lighting situations. But here is hawk #1 (lower):


And hawk #2 (higher):


Soon after that shot, hawk #2 flew off north, landing briefly on a chimney on Hollis Hall before flying out of sight. Hawk #1 stayed put, though…




She looked around intently a LOT, but never budged. Even when, at one point, a squirrel ventured out across the broad lawn of the Yard, between trees. (With me standing there mentally willing her to swoop down and get the squirrel. But no.)

Then a noisy juvenile showed up, which I soon tracked down to one of the chimneys on Weld Hall, where it sat and cried and cried and cried:



The next day’s lunchtime walk first brought an encounter with a nuthatch, on the locust trees between Lamont Library and Loeb House:


(I saw it fly over, and caught a glimpse of it landing out of the corner of my eye. Since it was head-down on the trunk, I realized it couldn’t be a sparrow, and went in for a closer look. There were actually two of them, but I could only get one in shot. This is probably the first time I’ve actually seen and identified a little bird at Harvard that wasn’t a sparrow, robin, jay, mockingbird, or of course, pigeon. Or hawk.)

No good hawk sightings until the end of my walk, when a cry overhead directed my attention to a couple of circling juveniles:


I really wanted to get both in one shot, but wasn’t able to. After stopping in Broadway Market and then heading back to the office, I juuuuust heard the sound of a hawk crying before I went inside, so walked around the block to see if I could spot it. Eventually, I did, and then realized that the two who’d been circling up over Broadway had stuck together, and landed together on the cross on top of St. Paul’s church at Bow & Arrow Sts.:



By the time I was able to circle around to a spot with less back-lighting on them, they’d both taken off and circled away to the south, out of sight.

Wednesday’s only hawk-sighting was one up on the favorite First Church weathervane, and the pic didn’t turn out well at all.

Thursday, the hot and humid weather had finally broken, and it was clear-aired and cool. It was also move-in day for Harvard freshmen, so the campus was swarming even more than usual.

Spotted this juvenile circling around the Memorial Church weathervane, but he didn’t land:



Then I thought to circle around to see if he’d chosen to land on one of the favorite Memorial Hall weathervanes, and he had! Where he sat and, as usual, cried and cried.


One thing notable about the picture above — slightly visible in this shot, and more visible in some of the others, I think — his breast right under his head looks kind of round and lumpy. Some research suggests that it’s because he has a partially-full crop (which is a pouch in the throat in which the food first goes when a hawk eats; to be transferred bit by bit to the stomach for digesting later).

This is good news! It means that this juvenile, at least, is definitely eating! Yay!

Doing a short circuit on the walk to the T in the evening, there was another juvenile crying up on the favorite weathervane on top of Memorial Church:



I tried to do a bit of filming, in case he took off. But I ran out of battery, and anyway, he was still up there when I finally left the Yard 15 minutes later. As I learned the other week, they can stay a LONG time on some perches.

Finally, this is the map I’ve been keeping since 7/17, plotting my personal hawk-sightings on it.

hawk-sightings 8-24

You can click through for a more readable copy.

This only shows landings/perches, rather than being an attempt to also show in-air sightings (with one exception — the sighting in front of Holyoke Center was a swoop-by). The weathervanes of First Church, Memorial Church, and Memorial Hall have by far the most sightings; they are definitely favorite perches, at least for the juveniles (although it’s hard to tell whether some I’ve spotted up there have been adults).

Today, we have some pictures taken over the past week, and a hawk video! So, let’s get started…

It’s official: one of the mockingbirds has definitely learned the juvenile hawk cry (kreeeeet-kreet-kreet). We managed to spot one while it was doing it. I guess that explains that incident a week or so ago, when a “hawk” was in a tree near Mem Church and I just could not see it. Yesterday, though, I received proof that while the mockingbird’s is a good imitation, it’s not quite as loud or resonant as the real thing. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

It’s been hot and humid this week, which has made it less appealing to go on hour-long circuits through campus, looking for the hawks at lunchtime. I kept doing it, although I’m sure that the birds were intelligently hunkered somewhere in the shade where I couldn’t spot them. On Monday, I did hear a single cry, and managed to spot one of the hawks far above, circling on thermals; and then followed him until he landed on the top of one of the Memorial Hall weathervanes:




There was quite a bit of grooming behavior up there, but the air quality was terrible and none of the pictures came out well.

Then, I had a dry spell until Wednesday evening, when I decided to do a circuit of campus on the way to the T, and heard one of the juveniles crying from the direction of the First Church weathervane:





So I set myself up in the graveyard beside the church, and used one of the tombstones as a tripod-assist, to rest my arms on, and started taking video. In the past, the hawks I’ve observed perched up on heights like this have tended to stay there between 5 and 15 minutes, so I figured, what the heck, I’ll video this and get him flying off.

… 40 MINUTES LATER… Yeah. That bird sat there and cried at 15-30 second intervals for 40 minutes, while I recorded, before it flew off. At one point, its cries started being answered, and a second hawk came swooping by — unfortunately, I couldn’t get it on camera, and it didn’t land anywhere that I could see. (That was halfway through. I really was hoping it would cause this one to fly off, but it didn’t.)

Here, then, is the edited 3 “interesting” minutes — mostly getting to see/hear the hawk crying; some grooming; hopping over to the opposite bar about midway through; and finally, at the end, taking off:

That made me feel pretty good, although the fact of the juvenile’s persistent cries also made me kind of worried about whether they were successfully hunting and eating. But, it fit in with my theory that the juveniles are becoming more independent, ranging farther afield, perching higher rather than coming close as they had in the beginning. I felt a bit sad that they didn’t seem to be coming to visit the Barker Courtyard and our trees any more…

So of course you can guess what happened Thursday afternoon.

From inside the office, I heard a juvenile’s cries, a bit louder and sharper than the mockingbird’s imitations, and went running out with my camera. Soon, Margo and I were able to spot a hawk way up in the big locust tree, and I got some pictures. I was trying to find another angle (besides right below, which results in a lot of pictures of bird butt) when the hawk flew off, pursued by a smaller bird. It disappeared behind the trees in front of Lamont, at a low enough angle that I wondered if I would find it perching on a building or tree over there, so I dashed over. Indeed, I found it (I presume, anyway) on the corner of the roof of Widener Library:



(The second picture is the bird standing with its beak open because of the heat, not because I’ve caught it in mid-cry. It wasn’t making any noise at this point.)

Then Margo caught up with me and told me that there was still another hawk in the locust tree. So I went back over there, found the hawk again, and took more pictures.




This is one of the adults, who remained silent the entire time. What I found when I got home and was able to look at the pictures on my computer was that the FIRST hawk I’d spotted in the tree was this same adult. Although the juvenile was making all the noise, and is the one that flew off, I’d never actually spotted it in the tree. Clearly it was there with the adult, but less willing to weather the pestering of the smaller birds.

The last sighting of the day was right before a big thunderstorm hit us — in fact, I’d gone outside because of a giant clap of thunder, and I wanted to see the storm approaching. Once outside, I heard a juvenile crying, and finally spotted it on the weathervane of Memorial Church:


So, clearly, the juveniles haven’t completely left the area, although I suspect they are right on the edge of doing so.

Thanks to a tip from Margo, I found that the Harvard Recycling Newsletter has a “Campus Wildlife” section, and they’ve been reporting on the hawks each month. That tipped me off that the folks in the MCZ’s Ornithology dept. have been informally monitoring the nest (which is across the street from them). I was able to call them up, and get a rough idea of when the hawks hatched (~ May 8), and when they started flying (~ June 20).

Some more digging around on the web turned up the rough estimates that after they start flying, fledglings will spend 6-7 weeks still being fed by the parents before they’re really catching food on their own. Around 10 weeks, they should be independent of the parents. This means that, if they began to fly around June 20, then I first started seeing them around the 4-week mark. The 10-week mark would roughly be the end of next week.

It’s nice to know that the parents would have kept feeding them through this period (not left them to sink or swim in the learning-to-hunt dept., as I originally feared). And at least I know that in the next couple of weeks, I shouldn’t be surprised if sightings of them drop off completely. (The quiet adults are going to be much harder to spot. For example, I’d NEVER have seen the one in the tree above, if the juvenile hadn’t been with it and drawing attention.)


Time marches onward, and as they grow, the juvenile red-tails become more elusive. Thus, I have a few days’ worth of watching to report, but not very much that’s spectacular.

Above is a movie that I took on Friday the 7th, when I spotted one of the juveniles high up in the big locust tree in the Barker courtyard — thanks largely to the outraged sounds of mockingbirds and robins (the hawk itself was silent). Sorry for the poor quality — most of it is taken at the extent of the 40x digital zoom, and as you can see, it was a windy day. It also didn’t help that the hawk had his back to me the whole time, mostly resulting in a brown blob, with the occasional head popping up to keep an eye on harassing smaller birds.

This 2-min. video was edited down from about 5 mins’ worth of footage, to show the “interesting” bits — stick with it to see a mockingbird come quite close (around 0:32); grooming behavior that is interrupted by a darting squirrel (1:05 – 1:55); and a precipitous ending in which the hawk tries to nab another squirrel.

There followed several more days of only sporadic success, hawk-stalking-wise.

Picture 5

The above shot is the first in a sequence of screen-shots from another video that I shot on Monday the 10th. That was a frustrating day — no hawk sightings, but on my lunchtime walk-around, I heard one of the juveniles crying in a big Honey Locust in front of Memorial Church. Yet, despite walking around and around that tree for a good 15 minutes, staring up into the canopy from all directions, and despite the presence of a screaming blue jay (which is what had originally alerted me to start looking at the tree), I could not spot the hawk, even as it kept crying and giving me plenty to triangulate on.

I was lucky later in the day, therefore, to hear some hawks outside, and go rushing out to find them flying around Prescott St. This one perched on a chimney of the Barker Center for a short time; the video follows him until he flies away south, towards Mass. Ave.

The four screen-shots from the video pause him in flight:

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7

Picture 8

The next day, the 11th, a different kind of nature drama — if you will remember the robin who built her nest on the Warren House column, from previous posts, then you will appreciate this update on at least one of her hatchlings:



The poor little guy wound up prostrate from heat on the Warren House porch, before hopping off into some shade, and eventually hopping away into the cover of some bushes next to Dana Palmer House. We were quite worried about him (Deborah was especially worried that the mean hawks would eat him), but we did witness the mother bringing him a tasty worm, even on the ground. (The pic I took turned out very bad, unfortunately.) Haven’t seen him around since that evening, although we did see that he was capable of using his wings to assist him to hop up tall steps. Hopefully, he made it.

Yesterday, the hawks were proving extremely difficult for me to find when I went on my lunchtime walk. I was starting to really wonder if the juveniles had left the area, since I hadn’t seen evidence of them since Monday evening. Walking back down Oxford and across the front of the Science Center, though, I happened to glance up (well, not “happened”; I’m always constantly scanning the rooflines), and spotted a brown blob on the corner of a roof.

Before I could get my camera turned on, the hawk had flown, but I was able to trot after to see if I could see what direction he was headed, and ended up seeing him alight onto the dome of Mallinckrodt:


He only stayed there for a few moments before flying off further east, and I decided not to try to chase him.

I’ve been noting the problem that when they are quiet, the hawks are a bit harder to find. Sometimes they’re hard to find when they’re noisy, too. I heard one later in the afternoon, and traced it over to Ware Street, but couldn’t find it.

But, helpfully, another noisy one turned up that evening, as I was on my way home. One of them flew overhead, calling, and went over the roof of Barker. I trotted around the corner, hoping the hawk might have landed on the Barker roof; instead, it had landed on the weathervane of the big Verizon building over on Ware Street:


And had already, as you can see, attracted a mockingbird harasser.


It didn’t take that long for the mockingbird to drive the hawk off:


I followed up Prescott St., and west along Broadway, spotting several hawks circling around what looked like the western part of the Yard. But all I got was some not-very-good, if moody, pics (from Quincy St):


I continued along the top edge of the Yard, intending to cut through down to the T station, and was in time to see one of the juveniles alight onto… whatever that thing is sticking up from the roof of the Science Center:



Standing there watching, I could hear that one calling every so often, but it soon became apparent (over the roar of the traffic from the underpass) that there was a second one in the area, calling as well, and soon I was able to locate another brown blob that seemed likely to be the hawk, up on one of the weathervanes at the top of the Memorial Hall tower:



And that’s all for now, I’m afraid. I’m braced for the fact that, any day now, the juveniles will depart, taking with them their distinctive, easier-to-find (than the adults) cries. It seems to me that they are getting a bit quieter now, and that their circles of exploration are widening. One of these days, they’re just going to be gone, and I’ll be sad.

But, until then, I’m watching the skies! And the trees, and the rooflines…

Older Posts »