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Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn

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Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn

I have been an on-again, off- again bird watcher since I was a child whose parents took country drives looking for birds, dragging their children along.

At my cottage on Georgian Bay I often get out the binoculars and bird books to attempt to identify the birds I see there. But I am far from obsessive and give up easily – only occasionally looking again and again to try to identify a bird that seems hard to find in the books. This spring I was astounded to see a huge – and I mean huge, the size of my Scottish terrier, woodpecker land on a tree only inches away from my chair – and to my great delight it’s call sounded exactly like Woody Woodpecker from the cartoons of my childhood.

I had never heard of Marie Winn until a friend in New York City emailed me to say they had met and told me about the books Red-Tails in Love.

The book is a delight. It chronicles several years in the life of a Red-Tailed Hawk and his mates, nesting on an apartment building on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. And I knew this! Several years ago we had been in New York City, walking down Fifth Ave and we stopped where a group of people were gathered, many with binoculars, around telescopes set up on the sidewalk – their eyes aimed at a building across the street from Central Park. They were watching a hawks nest  - on a building were some sort of movie star lived – I‘ve now forgotten who, but I remember the day.

Marie Winn has been watching that building and it’s hawks for many years. There has been a male red-tailed hawk, and his several mates over these years, nesting on an apartment building – once the home of the infamous Woody Allen. Central Park is the territory of a keen gaggle of bird watchers, Marie Winn among them.  By the by, Woody Allen was quite pleased to have hawks nesting near his penthouse – they solved the pigeon problem!

The park is a stopping place for many birds on their spring and fall migrations. In May and September an astonishing number of bird species are spotted there. The tale of these hawks is more than fascinating – it is hard to believe that this book has the suspense of a mystery novel as the reader desperately wonders what will become of these urban birds.

One very unusual sighting was of the common loon on a Central Park pond in April, perhaps on her way to summer on Georgian Bay. As I sat on my deck listening to the warblers, wrens and other summer birds I felt a long way from Central Park, but I delight in the thought that this fall I will join the “Regulars” on a Central Park bird watching trek.

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