If the three red-tailed hawks in the nest atop a third-floor ledge of the Franklin Institute adhere to nature's timetable, they should be taking their first flights soon.

I'm betting on Saturday. I'm betting it will be a brilliantly sunny morning, no hint of clouds or rain, excellent weather for a first flight. The hawks will come back to the nest after that – not like some birds that fly off and never return – so the thousands of people who have become so attached will still have some sights to see.

For those who haven't been following, the site for the Franklin's web "hawkcam" is http://www2.fi.edu/hawknest.php. But if you double click on the picture, it will take you here --   http://www.ustream.tv/channel/Franklin-Institute-Hawk-Nest -- where many, many people have been posting comments as they have watched the young ones hatch and grow.

Not long ago, Kay Meng, a Delaware County resident, posted a link to spectacular photos she took. They’re here: http://www.pbase.com/c_w_i_d_p/urban_redtail_hawk

Meng, the principal's secretary at Little Flower High School, contends she's no professional photographer. She started as a hobbyist when her kids were little. The family would go hiking and fishing, and pretty soon she found she enjoyed taking nature photos more than trying to get humans to agree to get in front of the lens.

"It's just an amazing thing to watch," she said of the whole hawk business. "There's something powerful, when they spread those wings and take off, especially the parents. It's like, wow! "

Wow, indeed. Her photos are just that.

The people posting on the ustream site are beside themselves with appreciation. Meng posted the photos as part of a project for a women's photograph group. Up until Sunday, the folder of hawk photos had maybe 25 page views. Now, it's more than 1,500.

Meanwhile, the young hawks will inevitably spend longer and longer amounts of time away from the nest.  For all those who got hooked on the drama and are experiencing withdrawal – or empty nest syndrome --   here's a little something to help: The Natural Lands Trust has installed an infrared camera in a nest box at its Hildacy Farm headquarters in Media. The box was intended for bluebirds, but this year tree sparrows took up residence. A common occurrence, alas. But it should still be exciting. There are five eggs. Oliver Bass, Senior Director of Development and Communications, says they could hatch any day now.