It's bad enough that Fenway Park fans could get bonked on the head by a foul ball. For a while there, it appeared they'd have a swooping hawk to worry about as well when the world champion Sox come back to town tomorrow.
Several employees at Fenway began noticing the red-tailed hawks a couple of weeks ago when they saw the raptors flying over the field with twigs in their mouths. They said they spotted a nest the hawks had built under the WEEI sign just above the .406 club.
''It was kind of cool to watch them," said Andrew Merle, who works in the Red Sox front office.
Someone apparently removed the hawks' nest two weeks ago, but team officials aren't talking about who did it. By April 1, all that was left of the nest were twigs strewn across the catwalk and over the netting above home plate.
Charles Steinberg, Red Sox executive vice president for public affairs, said that he had seen the hawks but that neither he nor Red Sox chief executive Larry Lucchino knew anything about the nest or what happened to it.
In March 2002, the same pair of hawks built a nest in almost the same spot, said Tom French, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The female, protecting her nest, attacked three or four people in the park, sending two of them to the emergency room and prompting one to get stitches.
''They strafe people," said French. ''They come down from behind and make a low pass and strafe across the top of your scalp with their talons. . . . I tell workmen working around nests to paint eyes on the back of their hard hats, and they'll usually not touch you."
French said he had not been contacted by the Red Sox about the new nest. If there are no eggs laid, the nest can legally be removed and destroyed.
''If the nest is empty, the best thing to do is get rid of it," French said. ''They'll still have plenty of time to build a new one."
But once the eggs are laid, the Red Sox would be mandated to wait for the chicks to hatch, French said, citing environmental protection laws. If the nest were removed when it had eggs, the team could be fined thousands of dollars.
''I don't know about a nest, and I know nothing about eggs," Steinberg said.
Earlier this year in New York, there was a huge public outcry when the board of a Fifth Avenue co-op, whose tenants include actress Mary Tyler Moore and CNN anchor Paula Zahn, removed a hawk's nest from a 12th-story ledge, calling it a hazard.
The ensuing furor prompted the board to restore a row of anti-pigeon spikes that the hawks had used to anchor the nest. The hawks immediately rebuilt their nest, and last month, in an accomplishment trumpeted in headlines as far away as Ireland, it was reported that the pair have successfully laid up to three eggs.
The birding community in Boston meanwhile, has been closely monitoring the progress of a pair of red-tailed hawks who built a nest on an 11th-story ledge on the southwest corner of 6 Beacon Street above the Granary Burial Ground. Office workers around the city with a view of the nest have watched the pair's progress for months.
''A couple of weeks ago, we saw them copulating on the weather vane of the [Park Street] church," said Sue Sherry, who has a 10th-story office in a building on Winter Street about three blocks from the nest. ''There's a piece of caution tape I literally watched her weave into the nest. It's a totally urban bird."
After the eggs are laid, it takes about 30 days for them to incubate and hatch. While the female incubates the eggs, the males, which are smaller and faster, do most of the hunting. When the chicks hatch, the females start to hunt.
Linaris Casillas, a receptionist at a law firm in the office where the nest is built, said the Boston birds, nicknamed Mr. and Mrs. Hawkenridge by one of the lawyers in the office, said she checks the progress of the nest every day.
''She just stares up at you, and I'll tell you what, she's pretty scary-looking," Casillas said. ''I have her picture on my camera phone."