Cornell Pilgrimage Part 2: Hawks

Categories Nature Study
Raptor Geek Squad minus one (I'm behind the camera...)

I shared in the previous post about our visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on Saturday. On the way to the lab, we stopped to observe the red-tailed hawks featured in their nest cam, Big Red (the female) and Ezra (the male).

We found the nest without much difficulty and had only just settled ourselves when Big Red flew from a tree nearby to roost on the light pole next to the one with the nest. Ezra was taking his turn sitting on the eggs.

Big Red is perched on the lefthand side of the lefthand light pole. The nest is on the righthand pole.
The hawk nest now in use is on the lower tier in the center. The one on the upper right is an old one. This pair has roosted here for 4 years. The one they're using now seems like it would provide better protection from the wind.

A minute later she flew to a nearby building. She had a ledge in a cranny of the building that protected her somewhat from the wind as she preened, stretched, and kept track of what was going on around her.

Probably a common sight for Cornellians.

She was there for perhaps 45 minutes. It was beautiful out, but chilly with the wind, and though we really wanted to see them switch places on the nest, we finally decided to set the limit at 5 more minutes and then we’d get back in the car. She must have heard us, and like true royalty, she graciously obliged.

I’m being excessive with the images, aren’t I? It was just a treat to get to see her in flight. The nest cam shows us the hawks only in the fascinating but limited situation of their nest. It’s in the air that their strength and beauty really shine. I never get tired of seeing the wings unfurl.

It was interesting to me that she stayed always within sight of the nest. She¬† didn’t go far at all, and she didn’t do any hunting while we were there. After leaving the building, she circled a few times overhead and then landed at the edge of the nest pole, waddled along the platform to the nest, and switched places with Ezra.

The lighting and the distance (and the amateur photographer) make for grainy photos here, but we were glad to see them make the switch! Ezra is skydiving off the nest in this pic.

He circled us, seeming to check us out before sailing away — probably to hunt. I remember reading in A Wing in the Door that the oil on their feathers absorbs the vitamin D from the sunlight, and when they preen they ingest it. Assuming that’s true, the hawks had a vitamin-rich day to soar.

So long, Ezra!

We couldn’t have asked for a better experience observing these two! Hopefully we’ll make it back after the hawk and heron eggs have hatched.

*Edited to add: I’ve created a fuller set of the day’s hawk photos on Flickr.

9 thoughts on “Cornell Pilgrimage Part 2: Hawks

  1. Thanks for the photos of the structure. Helps me to better understand what I see on the live cam feed.

    Can you follow him to his hunting grounds for a few action shots? Your camera skills seem up to the task!

  2. This article is fantastic and beautiful. It is labeled Part 2. Is there a Part 1? If so, I would like to see it. Thank you for the Geek Squad.

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