May 02, 2010

Cemetery Hopping, 4/29-4/30

 4-29  My search for new raptor nests in Queens continued this weekend as I decided to visit a few cemeteries in Queens. I started at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside and decided to see where the day would take me from there. I made it through 3 sections (not yet realizing there was 4 sections) of Calvary and had no luck locating any raptors or possible nests. On two occasions while at Calvary I saw a pair of Red-tailed Hawks soaring above what I perceived was Maspeth so I headed that way. Along the way I passed the entrance to Mt. Zion Cemetery and decided to have a look despite that fact it didn't seem to have any good places for a raptor nest. I did see a Kestrel pass overhead to chase some Starlings but it disappeared rather quickly as they usually do. What I did manage to find there was a rather large colony of Italian Wall Lizards thriving in the cemetery. Many of them were perched atop the headstones sunning themselves after a rough winter. This is the third colony of these lizards I have seen on Long Island, and they seemed to breed and spread quickly. These insectivores can grow to 9 inches in length and can apparently survive our cold winters despite originating in the warmer Mediterranean climates.  I attempted to catch a few and came close twice but no luck. They are quite fast and seem to be able to see or hear me coming from a distance.

After exiting Mt. Zion I headed further east into Maspeth after spotting another pair of RTHs in that direction. After about 20 minutes of walking I saw the entrance to yet another cemetery and decided to search there next. Mt. Olivet is quite a nice cemetery and houses several White Pine trees that could support a raptor nest. I managed to spot two nests that were rather large but probably not large enough to support RTHs.

A pair of vultures over Mt. Olivet

Adjacent to Mt.Olivet is yet another cemetery. All Faiths is a very large cemetery split in half by the bustling Metropolitan Avenue. I decided to search the south side of the cemetery first as it appeared more open and had more trees. Within seconds of entering I spotted an RTH being harassed by a Kestrel. 

Both birds headed off in different directions shortly after the encounter so I decided to continue to search the cemetery for nests. After another 30 minutes of searching I managed to locate a nest in a White Pine tree in the middle of the cemetery. 

I stayed by the nest for over an hour but saw no signs of movement (despite the strong winds). I took numerous pics as well and didn't see any head or wing above the top of the nest.  I saw the RTH two more times before leaving and it never attempted to enter the nest or made any motion towards that area. I decided I would come back the next day to confirm whether this nest was occupied or perhaps was from last year.

4/30   I spent a good hour Friday morning looking at maps of Queens. I was definitely going back to All Faiths Cemetery, but wanted to see what else was in the area. That was when I noticed that Calvary has a fourth section that I had missed the previous day. The section I missed is actually the oldest section to the cemetery that has a lovely little chapel and some of the largest tombstones and Mausoleums I have ever seen. Some research I did turned up some pictures on Flickr of a pair of RTH's perched atop the chapel in Calvary. This part of the cemetery is separated from the rest of the cemetery by the BQE and some old factories. I spent about 2 and a half hours there and saw only a Peregrine Falcon fly overhead, no RTH's were seen unfortunately.

I do believe that at least one pair of RTH's live in the area, but are not nesting in the cemetery. The Kosciuszko Bridge lies just south of the cemetery and could be a good spot for a nest. I'll definitely return in the future.

Next I hopped on the Q67 bus which dropped me off right next to the entrance to All Faiths Cemetery. I went back to where I saw the nest the day before and watched for at least 30 minutes before realizing the nest may be vacant. It looks to be in great shape and held up well despite all the wind and rain as of late, so it would be surprising to me if it wasn't being used. I watched for another 15 minutes before a Kestrel flew overhead chasing a small group of Starlings. I decided to have another look around the cemetery to see if maybe another nest existed elsewhere and started to head east. I had only gotten a few feet when I heard the sound of 3 angry crows squawking at something to the west. As I approached the tree they were perched on, two of the crows dive-bombed something, then all 3 took of further west. It turns out they were harassing a small, possibly male Red-tailed Hawk that had just killed a pigeon. It was probably the same one I saw yesterday.

 I watched him eat for a good 25 minutes before he got sick of me and took off with the rest of his meal. He was perched rather low in the tree (maybe 15 feet off the ground) and kept a close eye on me the whole time. I followed hi around for another 15 minutes before he disappeared over some train tracks. He never went near the nest area or attempted to bring any food to it. I decided to come back at a later date to get a better idea if that nest would be used this year. My next stop was Juniper Valley Park which turned up no RTHs either, but I did find a daring American Robin that chose to nest in a tree 5 feet off the ground in the middle of a playground.

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