Monday delight with Bobby and Violet - November 21, 2011

I am on vacation this week so today I had the chance to get to Washington Square Park in the late morning to try my luck at hawking. I searched the grounds for the red-tailed hawks for about half an hour before I spotted one on top of a building on the east side. It was a popular perching building for the hawks but I'd never seen a hawk on that exact spot before. Seeing the new perch was a good reminder that they could be anywhere:

Gull and hawk:

One lesson that really got hammered home today was "always look behind you". When I go a-hawking I look all around me and occasionally stop to turn around to look back at what I passed in case I overlooked a hawk. Today was full of instances of seeing a hawk after I'd turned around. The first photo of this post was possible only because I had noticed the hawk after having turned around to look back at the building I had walked by only a minute before.

Off to a new perch:

Try as I might, I could not zero in and focus on Bobby as he sat on the Judson Memorial Church cross. I like how the photo came out anyway:

Another reminder today was to pay close attention to the behavior of the other creatures in the park. I was in the park alone and had no friends to text or call me to let me know they were seeing a hawk so I had to rely on experience and my own eyes. 

The only times I have seen the park pigeons on the arch en masse as they are in the photo below is when a hawk is nearby. They were seemingly trying to keep an eye out for a diving hawk and to have safety in numbers. I had lost sight of Bobby by the time I reached the arch so had no way to know he was still in the area except for the pigeons' 'telling' me so:

I searched for him on the west side of the park since he had been favoring that area often the last couple of days. All of a sudden pigeons scattered like mad so I looked in their direction and...

...there was Bobby! 

Good catch:

Cleaning his talon:

A lone Hermit Thrush was poking around for a snack as well:

The pigeons were still mighty nervous:

Bobby had a hearty appetite. He captured another mouse to eat:

In case you can't tell, he is rising in front of the van's windshield:

Scratching the side of his head:

Violet showed up and flew to a branch much higher than Bobby's:


Bobby's head above the brush:

Yet another meal:

Cleaning off his beak:

A friend who had read a bit about hawk-watching told me a while ago that hawks have a number of "tells" that alert the birder that they may fly soon. One tell is the poop just before taking off. Bobby regularly does just that:

Violet stayed put:


After going to his latest perch, Bobby settled in and sat in place for a long while. It was clear he was satisfied with his meals and wouldn't be leaving for a bit. I had been with the hawks for about two hours at this point and was hungry for lunch and wanted to recharge my camera battery again so I went home to do so. I returned to the park after an hour. The sky was overcast at this point and there was no sign of either hawk.

Starlings on the cross:

I went to the night roost to take a day-time photo of their white streaky droppings or "slices". You can tell by the evidence on the side of the building that they like to sit on the various 'rungs' of the brackets securing the pipe to the building:

I searched for close to an hour for the hawks until I finally found them perched together outside the park and on one of their regular antenna perches:

Violet is on the higher antenna:

Bobby took off:

I lost sight of him behind neighboring buildings. I kept my eye open for him in case he flew down the cross street toward the park but I never saw him again tonight.

Violet flew the same route he had after a few minutes:

Since I was searching the sky and building tops and facades for the hawks, I had the fortune of seeing passing Canada Geese overhead. They were in sight for a while and made  constantly-shifting patterns. I took many photos of the geese, each photo showing a different pattern. I counted 207 geese in the one photo below (if I didn't miscount): 

After the geese passed I resumed my search for Bobby and Violet. I walked to the end of the block, crossed the street, then turned around. Sure enough, there was a hawk I had overlooked during my first pass. It was Violet sitting atop a lamp post I had just walked past:

It was amazing to me that not one single other person passing by or sitting on nearby benches seemed to notice that this huge bird was seated so close. Of course, I didn't notice at first glance either!

She flew away and around the corner. Thinking she may have gone to the night roost, I hurried there but it was a good distance away (the entire park was between me and the roost) and it was getting dark fast. I stood and waited by the empty roost for about fifteen minutes before giving up since it was well past their roost-perching time. It began to lightly rain anyway so I made my way home. 

On the way, I spotted Violet in a tree at the very same corner she had headed to when I lost sight of her earlier. I had simply walked right by her when initially searching for her. It's a good thing I ended up on the same block on my way home or else I never would have known about this new perch. It was night-time so I was only able to take a basic shot of her figure in the tree:

Nevertheless, it was a very welcome sight and a sweet cap to a great day.