As the famed Lou Reed song goes, “…New York City is the place where…”, it’s easy to recognize that a metropolis the size of NYC can be home to just about anything. And surely, given the city’s lifespan of approximately 368 years, it has seen more than a fair share of interesting sights and happenings. New York City itself boasts a wide array of statistics, from hosting over 8 million residents inside 300 square miles of urban landmass to a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 800 billion dollars annually; and from a city of 800 languages spoken by an obvious urban diversity of nationalities to massive displays of art, hobbies, and interests. It can go without saying that NYC is home to the artistic. Sometimes, the art produced can be shaped by the things that happen inside this massive city of possibilities.
Room with a Unique View
Michael Palma Mir is a life-long resident of New York City, specifically Hamilton Heights, Harlem. He is a professional photographer that has documented Upper Manhattan since the ’80s in his photography. In addition, Palma Mir is heavily involved in the support and activism of his community.
Recently, an adult red-tailed hawk decided that the fire escape of Palma Mir’s apartment would be an ideal location to set up a nest. A male hawk built the nest with sticks and other materials and was soon joined by the female. When Palma Mir became aware of the two birds in close proximately to his window, he began to chronicle their lives as they produced two eggs for the nest. The two adult birds were named – Billy (after Palma Mir’s father), and Lilly (after his mother). After a period of 49 days, an egg hatched, then the other. The two hatchlings were named Alba (dawn in Spanish because she was hatched in the morning), and Eli (heights in Spanish, named for The Heights).
Palma Mir has taken regular photographs of the hawk family and chronicled them with detail and engaging commentary on his Instagram and Facebook pages. Not long after their hatching, Eli – a notably weaker chick – died, leaving Alba as the only bird to be tended to by the parents. Mir installed two surveillance cameras, one from the top of the window, the other below. They are Wi-Fi-enabled and allow him to watch the birds even from his phone. With this ease, there is no interference to the birds at all. In fact, they are unaware of his “presence,” thus giving them complete privacy. In short, they are autonomous in every way, including acquiring food.
Palma Mir has expressed to me his feelings on the appearance of the hawks in his part of New York City. With his corner of Manhattan hit hard by the ravaging Covid-19, he views the arrival of the hawks and the subsequent hatchings of the two young birds as “a ray of hope toward our long road to recovery.” He further states, “The story is really about them, the majestic hawks who decided to build a future right here, and how their struggle, like ours, has captured our awe and imagination about what can be, about what will be, for sure, a brighter future”.
Life is a gift. Generally, you do not get to watch life unfold in extreme detail as Palma Mir has been able to. Birds are interesting creatures. Their manufacture of essentials to cultivate life is a fascinating adventure to be able to follow. Their dedicated care of their young is a story to tell if you’re lucky enough to watch it progress. Palma Mir is one of the lucky ones with unmatched access to the preparation of the extension of life, in this case, the growth of Alba. The collected photographs of the birds are extraordinary and focused. You can follow the story as it unfolds on Palma Mir’s Facebook page and his Instagram page.
We extend profound thanks to Palma Mir, not only for hosting and chronicling a segment of natural life of the hawks, but also for his willingness to provide us with an expanded – and spiritual – viewpoint of their moments on his fire escape just outside his window.