Friday, February 19, 2021

A new nesting season is underway for red-tails Christo & Amelia in Tompkins Square

It's time!

Red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, began building their new 2021 nest in Tompkins Square the week of February 5. They're using the same locust tree as last season despite damage to the tree last August during Tropical Storm Isaias that destroyed their previous nest and took out several branches. Then again, the hawk pair successfully fledged three chicks from that nest, so we have to trust they know what they're doing.

Below, Amelia and Christo discuss the best placement of sticks in the nest.

Amelia and Christo building their nest

Both Christo and Amelia collect sticks and bring them to the nest, but Amelia does most of the furniture arranging.

Amelia working on her nest

This is Amelia selecting a stick.

Amelia collecting sticks

Getting the right angle while retaining balance can be tricky.

Amelia collecting sticks

This one looks perfect.

Amelia collecting sticks


Amelia with a stick

Amelia taking a stick back to the nest:

Amelia with a stick

At one point, she landed right above my head.

Amelia collecting sticks

Amelia collecting sticks

I observed Amelia working hard for over two hours. She cut sticks from trees all around the park before taking a break in the late afternoon.



Christo helped her for the first hour or so.


Here he is snapping a stick.

Christo cutting a stick

Sometimes, they really have to stretch to get the one they want.

Christo cutting a stick



Christo looking victorious at the end of a busy day:


The pair have also begun mating this last week, which is right on schedule for them. We can look forward to watching them continue building their nest and bonding over the next could of weeks. If all goes well, we should expect eggs in early-mid March.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Seeing pink

For me, living in NYC, February is traditionally the dreariest month. Spring is in sight, but still far away, holidays are over, and the weather is usually cold an cloudy. We've had a lot of gloomy gray days recently, so I thought I'd warm things up by slipping into a pink mood.

First up, a flirty Roseate Spoonbill:

Roseate Spoonbill

Could it be smiling?


Check out those pink legs. What a cheery creature.


What other pink birds are there? Probably the most famous is the American Flamingo:

American Flamingo

Then there's the lesser-known and rarely seen East Village Flamingo:

2015 Drag March

Other than these two, I couldn't think of an example of another pink bird. There are many red birds, but pink is a much rarer find in nature.

Looking more mauve than pink, I enjoyed the antics of this Reddish Egret who put on a show as it actively hunted for fish along a beach.

Reddish egret

All of the photos above (except for the EV Flamingo, which was in Tompkins Square) were taken on a pre-pandemic trip to Florida, and this egret ended up being one of my favorite birds observed during the visit.

Reddish egret

It's not quite pink, but this Eastern Bluebird has a rosy orange chest that gives it a warm glow.

Eastern Bluebird

Male House Finches are described as red, but can look pinkish in a certain light.

House Finch

This is a similar-looking Purple Finch, who doesn't look purple at all.

Purple finch

If you're going to be a red bird, go RED, like this Summer Tanager.

Summer tanager

Maybe I have pink on my mind because Valentine's Day is this weekend and there are pink and red decorations and gifts in shop windows. It's also the time of year - despite being cold and gloomy - that birds start to display mating behavior. 

Below, a Cedar Waxwing feeds its partner a berry. Sweetness.

Cedar Waxwings

I went digging in my archives and came up with a photo of one more pink bird, seen right here in the city.


Blessing of the animals

This chick was one of the animals being blessed at the Feast of St Francis at St John the Divine

The color pink is said to have a calming effect on people. When I see it, I feel happier and hopeful. Birds have been found to see a much wider range of color than we do, so I have to wonder what they see when they look at each other, or when the sun goes down and turns the sky brilliant colors. Can they see this muted color as we do, are are they seeing much, much more?


Monday, February 1, 2021

Christo and Amelia weather the snowstorm

Just as the snow started falling late Sunday, I found resident red-tails, Christo and Amelia, hanging out together in their old nest tree in Tompkins Square. They've been spending time in this tree recently, so I hope that means they're considering it for their nest this season.

Amelia is perched high, Christo is down low:

Today, as the snowstorm really got going, I found the pair perched together in a tree on the west side of the park. Amelia is on the left and Christo is on the right.

Due to the weather conditions, I only had a pocket camera with me, and it was easier to take video.

After a few minutes, Amelia took off and Christo lingered in the area. I tried to get some decent shots of him but the wind and snow made it difficult. This was the best I could do, but you can see that he looks just fine.

Here's more video of Christo enduring the wind.

This wasn't Christo's first snowstorm - we captured him in worse conditions in 2016, and again in 2018 during a 'bomb cyclone'. The hawks (and other birds) can handle winter weather with their warm down coats, and seeing the hawk pair together in the park is a good sign that spring is not that far away.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Gearing up for nesting season with Christo & Amelia

It's that time of year when we begin looking for signs of nesting raptors across the city. 

For Tompkins Square red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, it's about time for them to start gathering sticks for a new nest. Their previous nest was destroyed by Hurricane Isaias last July, so it will be interesting to see where the pair decide to build this year. Will they return to the same locust tree, go back to the ginkgo that has served well in previous years, or will they choose a completely new location? 

Stay tuned!

In the mean time, I met up with the hawks in the park yesterday as Christo was eating a pigeon and Amelia perched in a nearby tree.






It was a very windy afternoon and Amelia had to crouch down to stay balanced on the branch.


At some point, something caught her attention and she took off and circled over me a few times.



After a few minutes, Christo joined her and they both disappeared to the east. I tried following, but wasn't able to locate them again.

It feels like an eternity, but a year ago, we observed Christo and Amelia nest-building by the end of January. They ended up having their most successful season together - fledging three chicks - and I hope they achieve the same success this year. Throughout the nightmare that was 2020, these hawks kept me together mentally and emotionally, and I am so grateful they allow us in their lives.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Mulchfest 2021 with bonus hawks

After surviving 2020, there's nothing more cathartic than watching Christmas trees get fed through a woodchipper.

Welcome to Mulchfest 2021 in Tompkins Square Park! This was my 12th year attending this event and I look forward all year to the fresh aroma of mulched evergreen that fills the park as the chipper transforms piles of discarded trees into heavenly scented potpourri.

Mulchfest 2021

Here is some video of the chipper in action:

Mulchfest 2021

Mulchfest 2021

Mulchfest 2021

After park workers converted all the trees to mulch, they dumped it into a pile on the sacred spot where the beloved Bendy Tree once stood.

Mulchfest 2021

So fresh!

Mulchfest 2021

Kids wasted no time conquering Mulch Mountain - gotta enjoy it before the dogs pee on it!

Mulchfest 2021

See previous Mulchfest posts here.

Check out photos of Mulchfest from years past here.

See more Mulchfest videos here.


Mulchfest in Tompkins Square wouldn't be complete without a hawk sighting, and our local hawks didn't let us down. When the chipper was turned off, I heard a commotion and looked up to see an immature red-tailed hawk flying over the park.

The young hawk was joined by our resident pair, Christo and Amelia, and the three chased each other around before disappearing over St Brigid's church on Avenue B. In the photo below, Amelia is on the left, Christo is in the center, and the immature intruder is on the right.

At one pass through the park, the immature hawk had a pigeon in its talons. When Christo reappeared in the park after all three hawks went behind the church, he had a pigeon, which he quickly ate in front of the restrooms. Who caught the pigeon? I don't know, but someone definitely had their lunch stolen.

Meanwhile, not far away, an adult Cooper's hawk perched in a tree, staying out of all the drama. The hawk stood up when Amelia flew by, but relaxed when it saw she wasn't going to force it to leave.

Over the years, I've noticed the red-tails show a fairly high tolerance for Cooper's hawks in their territory. Even these competing species can make room for each other.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Heading into the holidays with red-tails Christo and Amelia

Hawk activity is ramping up as we head into the winter holidays. This is usually the time of year when we can expect to see more of our local red-tailed hawk pair, Christo and Amelia, around Tompkins Square Park.

I caught up with them on December 17 as they enjoyed the view from one of their favorite perches, the roof of the Christadora building on Avenue B. Amelia is on the left and Christo is on the right.

Amelia and Christo

For better context, I took some video which shows how far above the park they are.

At some point, they both flew across the park to Avenue A to another of their favorite hangouts, the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church.

Christo and Amelia 

Christo looks on as Amelia makes her landing.

Christo and Amelia

Christo and Amelia

Eventually, Christo took off and flew over me.


Amelia soon followed and that was the last I saw of them that day.


On December 21, I found Christo just as he caught a small rat. He took it to a quiet perch to eat without being disturbed.

Christo with rat dinner

Christo with rat dinner

He's looking as good as ever.


Done with dinner, he headed out.


Back up on the Avenue A cross, Christo and Amelia met up for their regular end-of-day confab.

Christo and Amelia

They were soon joined by a flock of Canada geese.

Christo, Amelia and a flock of geese

After Christo went off to roost, Amelia stayed and seemed preoccupied by something. I thought she was hunting pigeons, but the pigeons were already agitated and she seemed to be looking beyond them.

Amelia with pigeons

I missed it with the camera, but an immature red-tail swooped in and grabbed a pigeon right in front of Amelia! That is what she'd been watching and I couldn't believe she let it happen. The young hawk perched with its prize on a roof that was on the same block as the church.

If you look closely, you can see the gray tail feathers of the pigeon sticking out between the hawk's wing and tail.

Immature red-tail with pigeons

Amelia stayed on the cross screaming at the intruder, but it totally ignored her and sat there for about ten minutes before taking its meal to another building. I was surprised a fierce hawk like Amelia would allow an intruder to take food right in front of her, then hang around in her territory. Could this be one of her offspring? Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing, but it was interesting to note how Amelia never made a move on the young hawk.

Immature red-tail with pigeon prey

There have been reports of increased hawk activity in neighboring Washington and Union Square Parks, so they're definitely around, gearing up for nesting season which should start in January or February. We have this to look forward to in the new year.