Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nora finally accepts a gift from Christo

I don't have much of an update this week on red-tails, Christo and Nora.  Christo is still working on the nest in the Ginkgo in Tompkins Square.  Nora has been seen in the nest, but I don't know if she's actually pitched in and helped build it.  Both hawks have been difficult to track this last week because of the dark and rainy weather, but also because they spend the majority of their time outside the park where I can't find them.

Last Thursday, Christo graced us with his presence just after sunset.


He caught a rat behind the park offices, then perched on the birdbath with it.  He seemed to dunk the rat in the water.  I'd like to think Christo was choosing to wash off his food before eating it, but the action was likely not deliberate.

Christo preps dinner

It was a particularly big rat, and it's more likely Christo was resting before carting the heavy catch up to a higher perch.

Christo preps dinner

On Sunday, both hawks made an appearance during a brief break of sunshine.  Christo flew into the park from 7th Street at Avenue B with a mouse in his beak.

Christo with a mouse

He circled the SE corner of the park, carrying the mouse and calling for Nora at the same time.

Christo with a mouse

I must have missed the moment when he transferred the mouse from his beak to his talon in mid-air.

Christo with a mouse

Getting no answer from Nora, Christo flew south over the buildings where I lost sight of him.  A few minutes later, Nora appeared on the east side of the park and circled over the nest before disappearing over St Brigid's church.


On Monday, both hawks showed up around 5pm when it was dark and rainy.  The photos below are the best I could do in bad conditions.

Christo showed up first, and went hunting for dinner behind the park offices.  Nora appeared atop the Christodora, at which time Christo made a beeline for the nest. After a few minutes, he caught a rat in the SE corner of the park and took it back to the nest.  Nora then dove down from the Christodora and perched on the Newsboy building across Avenue B from the nest.

Christo flew the rat to the big tree on the central lawn and called for Nora to come get it.  She flew to a neighboring tree, about thirty feet away.  Christo kept trying to convince her to come get the rat, but she didn't seem all that interested.  After a few minutes, he began eating it himself.

Finally, after a lot of coaxing, Nora flew over to Christo and stood on top of the rat.  Christo flew off.

Nora then flew east with the rat in tow.

Side note:  Blue jays have been hiding in the Holiday Tree in the park and I was wondering if they could be roosting in there at night.  When Nora flew past the tree, three blue jays shot out of the tree, answering my question.

Nora carried the rat to a fire escape on 8th Street, east of Avenue B.  She ate for about ten minutes, but decided to abandon the rat and flew down the street towards Avenue C.  By that time, it was really dark and raining and I wasn't up to finding out where she went.

If you look out your window and see a mangled rat on the fire escape, this is probably how it got there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Christo and Nora get a power-wash in the rain

Red-tail Christo is still working tirelessly on his nest in the ginkgo tree on the east side of Tompkins Square.  Nora has been spotted in the nest as well, but I have yet to see her gather sticks or engage in any other activity.

Christo in the ginkgo nest

During a brief moment of sunshine over the dreary weekend, I caught up with Christo as he broke sticks from trees on the east side of the park.

Christo breaks a stick

Christo breaks a stick

Christo with a big stick

Nest-building is hard work.  Fact!


On Sunday, I found both Christo and Nora atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra on Avenue A and 10th Street during a deluge.  It's hard to see the rain in this photo, but it was pouring. 

Christo and Nora in a rain storm

People sometimes ask me where the hawks go when it rains and my answer is they go nowhere.  From what I've seen over the years, the hawks take advantage of the rain and enjoy power-washing their feathers.  Afterwards, they often perch in a high place and let the wind dry them off.

Below are some short videos of Christo (on top) and Nora (on the right) enjoyng Nature's spa treatment.

This video was taken at a slightly different angle.

Eventually, Nora flew off and Christo came down into the park where he landed on the central lawn and inspected an old wet dead rat.

Christo finds an old dead rat in the rain

Christo finds an old dead rat in the rain

Christo took a few bites of the rat before a dog got too close and spooked him.

After the sun returned...


I'm hoping for better weather and more nesting activity in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fun with a young red-tail in Battery Park

I enjoy spending time in Battery Park in winter as the cold weather keeps most of the crowds away and the park can be pretty quiet.  A young red-tailed hawk has been wintering in the park this season (previously featured in this post), and I was recently delighted to see it playing around on the main lawn.

Immature red-tail

This hawk seems to be attracted to pine cones, which make perfect toys.

Immature red-tail

I really love seeing young hawks run around, and I managed to get some video of this hawk curiously inspecting the vegetation.

In addition to pine cones, this hawk had fun wrangling a pine bough.

It doesn't get much cuter than this (action starts at the 50-second mark) -

Playful one minute, stern the next...

Immature red-tail

As nesting season starts up, these young hawks will likely migrate out of the city, so enjoy them while you can.

Immature red-tail

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Christo and Nora make a mating attempt

Christo seems to be taking the lead showing Nora how things are done during hawk mating season.

Over the weekend, I caught up with the pair as they hung out on the cross at St Brigid's on Avenue B and 8th Street (Christo is on the left, Nora is on the right).

Christo and Nora

After a short meeting, Christo flew across the street to Tompkins Square Park to work on the nest in the ginkgo tree.  Nora stayed behind and watched.

Nora and Christo

This stick goes there, and this one goes there...

Christo works on the nest

Christo seems to be showing Nora what to do.  I'm wondering if she's young and maybe has never built a nest before.  Or, maybe she was raised in a non-tree environment and needs to learn.  She appears to be comfortable on buildings, so perhaps she was born in an urban area.  Unfortunately, her background is a mystery.

While working on the nest, Christo would look back at the church where Nora perched.

Do you see what I'm doing?  Wanna join me?

Christo in the nest

Finished with nestorations, Christo returned to the church cross...

Christo flies in to Nora

...and hopped on Nora's back!

Christo and Nora mating attempt

Nora seemed to be more confused than anything else.

Christo and Nora mating attempt

Hmm, they didn't quite mate, but came close.

Christo and Nora mating attempt

After the three-second balancing act, Christo took off and returned to stick-gathering.  Nora stayed on the cross for a while, then eventually flew off to roost.

Christo and Nora mating attempt

Christo is moving ahead with what he's supposed to be doing for mating season.  Maybe Nora will become more enthusiastic after hormones kick in during the next few weeks.

Who could possibly resist this awesome guy???


Friday, February 2, 2018

When you get stuck between the moon and Christo

I was in Tompkins Square the other day when I heard a commotion and looked up to see Christo being chased by five crows. I snapped a photo just as he and one of the crows flew past the waxing moon. They ended up on top of the Christodora where Christo held his ground and the crows dispersed.

A hawk, a crow and the moon

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Update on Dora

In sad, but not really unexpected news, we've learned that Dora will not be returning to Tompkins Square any time soon.  Her wing injury has not healed as quickly as we'd hoped, and she is still in the care of Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR).

This was posted on the WINORR Facebook page on Tuesday:
The injured female hawk from Tompkins Square Park is not where we hoped she'd be by now. Although the x rays were negative she had a serious bone infection requiring medicating and rest. Her still drooping wing may be permanent from either tendon, ligament, and or nerve damage. Those concerned about her possible return to her mate Christo for the upcoming breeding season that is not possible at the stage she's at. We are not giving up on her it may take months of exercise to regain her full flight so for now she must stay put and hopefully make great improvement needed.
To recap, Dora suffered a wing injury around November 30, 2017.  She was found on the sidewalk of Avenue C by the NYPD on December 4 and was taken to the Animal Medical Center for treatment.  Although she did not have any broken bones, the injury was infected and she was taken to WINORR for rest and recovery.

Meanwhile, a new female red-tail (Nora) suddenly appeared in the park as soon as Dora left.  This female appears to have been accepted by Christo, although I have not seen them demonstrating any bonding activity yet except perching near each other.  He has been working on the ginkgo tree nest by himself.  As breeding season is just starting up, it looks like it will be up to Nora to decide whether or not she'll stick around.

Seeing Christo and Dora separated really breaks my heart as they were a really fantastic pair, working so well together to successfully raise 11 kids (10 natural and 1 adopted) over the last four years.

This is the last photo I took of Dora on November 22.  At the time, she was chasing an intruding hawk out of the park.


This is one of my favorites from November 2015 as it shows Dora challenging a Peregrine falcon, upside-down and talons out.

Dora the red-tail takes on a falcon

Another favorite is when she surprised me by snatching a pigeon right out of the air over Avenue A.

Dora catches a pigeon in mid-air

Here she is taking fresh leaves to the Christodora nest in 2014.


Party of five

I will miss seeing Dora and Christo perching together, the power couple of the Lower East Side.

Dora and Christo

Dora & Christo

Christo & Dora at sunset

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Winter wildlife in Tompkins Square

I don't have much of a hawk update this week.  Dora is still in rehab and Christo has been working on the ginkgo tree nest in Tompkins Square.  Nora has been seen perching with him and watching him arrange sticks, but I have yet to see her participate in any bonding activity.  As nesting season is just starting up, the next month or so should be interesting.

Christo works on the ginkgo nest

Christo breaks a stick off a branch:

Christo breaks a stick off a branch

Christo is on the job cleaning up rats in the park...

Christo with a rat

He's a beautiful bird.


Food must be plentiful as Christo has been allowing Cooper's hawks to hunt in the park as well.  This immature Cooper's spent a whole afternoon hanging out in a tree near the chess tables.

Immature Cooper's hawk

Immature Cooper's hawk

Both Christo and the Cooper's have been active just after sunset, when their dinner comes out to play...


This winter has seen some other park regulars such as White-throated Sparrows:

White-throated sparrow

And Blue Jays. 

Blue Jay

And, of course, House Sparrows.  They are probably the most numerous bird in the park, but are often overlooked.  They're tough little survivalists and I find them really interesting to watch.

House sparrow

As I was eating my lunch in the park the other day, a male sparrow like the one above flew to my table, chirped loudly and looked at me expectantly.  I obeyed and gave him a piece of my croissant.  He sat next to me and ate it as I ate my sandwich and we quietly coexisted for about 15 minutes.  I couldn't have been happier.