Monday, September 17, 2018

Raptor Fest 2018

Here are some highlights from Raptor Fest, which took place this last weekend in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

Spectacled owl:

Spectacled Owl

Screech owl:

Screech Owl

Screech Owl

Kestrel:

Kestrel

Kestrel

Bald eagle:

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed hawk with a bee:

Red-tail and bee

Great horned owl:

Great Horned Owl

Peregrine falcon:

Peregrine Falcon

Eurasian eagle owl:

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Rough-legged hawk:

Rough-legged hawk

Gyrfalcon:

Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon


See more photos on my Flickr page.






Monday, September 10, 2018

Save the date - Raptor Fest this Saturday

Rough-legged hawk

Raptor Fest 2018 is coming up this Saturday, September 15, from 12:00pm - 3:00pm at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, hosted by the NYC Park Rangers.

This is a wonderful opportunity to get up close to falcons, hawks, owls and other raptors in a fun and casual environment. There will be aerial demonstrations and educational activities.

For more information, see the event listing on the NYC Parks Department site.




Friday, September 7, 2018

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling continues to improve

The Tompkins Square Park red-tailed hawk fledgling, who is believed to be suffering from West Nile virus, continues to improve, although he is still not quite right. The good news is he has made it this far, proving he is strong.

The two images below are from September 3 when the hawk was having one of his slow days.  He bathed in the stagnant water on top of the men's room, then rested on the roof for about 20 minutes.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

His lack of energy and the way he kept closing one eye were signs he wasn't feeling 100%.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Despite his lethargy, the hawk is still improving, has been hunting, and seems to have a good appetite. Parents, Christo and Amelia, are looking after him and provide him with supplemental food, like this mouse (below) caught by Christo.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with a mouse

The mouse fell to the ground, so the fledgling had to retrieve it himself.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with a mouse

He still prefers low perches like fences and benches, and doesn't seem bothered by the presence of people.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

The fledgling is still just a kid, and is often seen sparring with squirrels, who relentlessly taunt him.

Red-tail and squirrel

This squirrel is so confident it will get away, it doesn't even drop the acorn in its mouth!

Red-tail fledgling and squirrel

Red-tail fledgling and squirrel

Despite playing around and acting like a toddler, the fledgling is beginning to look like an adult, and I hope he grows into a magnificent raptor.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling




Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Update on the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling

I've been waiting to post an update on the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling until I had more information about his health.  The consensus seems to be he is suffering from West Nile virus and seems to be pulling through it. However, there is no way to know for certain that West Nile is the culprit without doing blood tests.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

The fledgling has been displaying signs of illness since August 24, and may have fallen ill a couple of days before that.  A second attempt was made to capture him last week, but he was too wily and eluded the NYC Urban Park Rangers and raptor rehabber, Bobby Horvath, from Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR).  Thanks to Bobby and Rangers Jill and Johnny who spent the day in the park trying their best to net the little guy. As this is a wild bird, there's nothing anyone can do unless he comes close enough and allows himself to be caught.

One way we can tell the hawk is not well is by looking at his eyes.  He either perches for long periods of time with his eyes completely closed, or he partially closes them, as seen in the photo below.

Still not quite right

Other symptoms are clumsiness, loss of balance and being lethargic. This is a normally energetic hawk, so sitting for hours without making a sound is not consistent with his usual behavior.

The good news is he will probably pull through.  He's a strong hawk and a fighter. He appeared the worst on Saturday, August 25. Since then, he's had good days and days where he doesn't look very well, but none have been as bad as that Saturday. At this point, I can just hope he stays out of trouble and continues to improve.

Despite being ill, the fledgling has had no trouble catching prey.  He's also receiving food supplements from his parents.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with prey

Something unique about this fledgling is his affinity for walking and crawling under fences, as seen below.  I've seen him do this several times now and cannot explain it. If there is a fence, he'll go under it rather than fly over.  I'm hoping he grows out of this habit before he disperses.

Squeezing under a fence

I was happy to see the hawk drinking fresh water this weekend rather than ingesting fetid water from the roof of the men's room, but he's still doing that, too.  The pool on top of the bathrooms could very well be the source of mosquitoes that carry West Nile.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Although this fledgling spends a lot of time walking around on the ground and playing in the bushes, he does know how to soar.  I caught him flying above the skateboard area last Friday turning circles high in the sky.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

You can see more recent photos of the fledgling and his parents on my Flickr page.

In related news, we recorded another hawk podcast with the eminent neighborhood blogger, EV Grieve. This episode is a follow-up to the one that aired at the beginning of summer. You can listen below, or visit the post on EV Grieve.





This episode was recorded on August 24, and as soon as I left the studio, I went to the park where I discovered the fledgling was sick.  At the time of the recording, I had no idea anything was wrong.

Thank you to EV Grieve for the continued interest and support of our local hawk neighbors.








Monday, August 27, 2018

Tompkins red-tail fledgling health scare

The last few days have seen the Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling suffering from an unknown ailment. I last saw him in the park on Tuesday, August 20, and he seemed normal as usual.

He then disappeared from the park and, although some people saw him on Wednesday, I didn't see him again until Friday afternoon. As excited as I was to see him again, my heart immediately sank when I looked at him and saw he did not look well at all.

Sick hawk

His eyes looked baggy and he stayed very still, unlike his usual energetic self. After quietly perching for five hours, the hawk managed to catch a rat along Avenue A, then went to roost in the SW corner of the park.

When I arrived Saturday morning at sunrise, the hawk was in the same spot and looked worse.

Sick hawk

Seeing him this way broke my heart.

Sick hawk

Ranger Rob from the NYC Urban Park Rangers spent the day attempting to catch the fledgling so he could be evaluated, but the hawk managed to elude him.

Sick hawk

Just after this photo was taken, the hawk laid down on the branch, prompting a collective whimper from the small crowd of concerned spectators.

The fledgling spent all of Saturday perched high in the trees, remaining very still with his eyes closed and his head often dropped forward. I really didn't think he'd make it through the day and prepared for the worst.

Then, around 7pm, he opened his eyes and looked alert. He flew to a bench where he looked unsteady, but still managed to catch a rat.  After eating, he flew to a low branch hanging over the main lawn and stayed there until dark.

I returned Sunday morning at sunrise and was relieved and elated to see the entire hawk family - fledgling, Christo and Amelia - flying around the park. They all perched together in their favorite locust tree on the east side of the park and the fledgling loudly harassed his parents for food for several hours.  Music to my ears!

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

The fledgling's eyes looked bright an alert. Although still not functioning at 100%, he looked much better on Sunday and I think he'll be ok.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

We don't know what was wrong with the hawk because he was never caught and examined.  It could have been West Nile virus and/or rodenticide poisoning, but this is only speculation based on observations of his behavior.  This fledgling has been healthy and strong since leaving the nest, so that may have enabled him to pull through what ever was ailing him.  After losing his brother a month ago, this hawk has become all the more precious.






Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling is proving to be a real character

When the younger Tompkins Square red-tail chick fledged the nest and started hunting right away, I thought he'd be off and on his way in no time.  Thankfully, he's not only still with us, but he seems to be so comfortable in the park, it doesn't look like he has plans to leave any time soon.

Hello!

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

This hawk spends a lot of time on the ground chasing after prey in the bushes. He goes after squirrels (I've not seen him catch one yet), rats, mice and insects. It's normal for fledglings to run around and play on the ground, but this one has spent more time in the shrubbery than any of the previous Tompkins hawk kids.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

He's also making good use of all the fences in the park.  They serve to protect the areas where he hunts, and are also good perches from which to seek prey.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

We also get a good look at him when he poses.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

This hawk loves to fly low, giving people what I call "haircuts" or "close shaves" as he skims right over their heads. It can be unnerving, but he is not trying to hurt anyone. He's just perfecting his ability to sneak up on prey. His method reminds me more of Cooper's hawks, who quickly maneuver through trees and other obstacles to surprise their targets.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Friday evening, the hawk was very interested in squirrels and other rodents running around under the cover of a large bush.  A nearby bench provided the perfect close perch for him to study their moves.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Urban Hawks has some nice video of the fledgling diving into the bushes and fumbling around for prey. I love to observe the hawks at this age when they are determined to catch food, but still act like goofy toddlers.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Being born here, this hawk has no fear of people, but he will need to learn some street smarts before venturing off into the world beyond the safety of the park.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

At the end of a long hot day, the fledgling took a bath in a puddle on the roof of the men's room.  This puddle has been used by previous fledglings, so it must be attractive to them.  I was hoping he'd play in the sprinklers, as we've seen hawks do before, but why settle for cool fresh water when you can soak in a warm fetid bathroom puddle?

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

This fledgling is a real character who reminds me of his dad, Christo, during his first year in the neighborhood when he was so young, energetic and flamboyant.