Monday, January 14, 2019

Mulchfest 2019 in Tompkins Square Park

I attended my tenth annual Mulchfest in Tompkins Square Park this last weekend and it did not disappoint!

A crisp 25°F and bright sunshine Saturday morning made for perfect wood-chipping conditions, and as usual, the smell of minced Christmas trees was heavenly.

Mulchfest 2019

Mulchfest 2019

The wood-chipper in action:

Mulchfest 2019

Dumping the mulch on the former site of beloved Bendy Tree:

Mulchfest 2019

Workers from the NYC Parks Department were on hand to distribute bags so people could take home fresh mulch, which can be used in yards, tree wells and as a potpourri.

Mulchfest 2019

Last year, the bags were decorated with the NYC Parks Department logo, but I like the design this year, which features a Christmas tree.

Mulchfest 2019

Enjoy the next few weeks in Tompkins Square as the scent of evergreens blankets the park.

See previous Mulchfest posts here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Rounding out 2018 and looking forward to a new year of birds

Welcome to a new year!

I had a personal 2018 goal to keep a bird checklist each day. This not only gave me something to look forward to each day, it provided a constant challenge to seek out something new. I plan to keep the same goal in 2019 and recommend using the citizen science site, eBird, for keeping records. It's not only fun, but is educational provides useful information to scientists studying bird migrations.

Bird migration in New York this last fall turned out to be a spectacular season and I was introduced to several species I'd never seen before. I couldn't get photos of all of them, but below are some highlights of birds seen in the city.

Hermit Thrush:

Hermit Thrush

Tufted Titmouse:

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Chipping Sparrow:

Chipping sparrow

Field Sparrow:

Field sparrow

Song Sparrow:

Song sparrow

Dark-Eyed Junco:


American Goldfinch:


Purple Finch:

Purple finch

Golden-Crowned Kinglet:

Golden-crowned kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet:

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Palm Warbler:

Palm warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler:

Black-throated green warbler

American Coot:


Northern Shoveler:


Wood Duck:

Wood Duck

And, finally...the obligatory Mandarin Duck in Central Park, who made headlines this last year:

Mandarin Duck

Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter holiday hawk round-up

Winter holiday time is traditionally when we see an uptick in hawk action around the neighborhood.  This year is no exception, but the recent string of dark and overcast days has made photography a challenge. Below are a few highlights from days when the clouds parted enough for me to capture Christo, Amelia and a few intruders in their territory.

I found Christo perched on the east side of Most Holy Redeemer church on E 3rd Street on a bright and cold morning.


Amelia often perches on the church cross, but I have yet to see her join Christo at the base of the dome like Dora used to do.


Earlier this week, Christo made an impressive dive from the roof of the Christodora House...

Christo in a dive his flagpole throne in Tompkins Square.

Christo on his throne

Here is a closer look at Christo's pretty brown eyes. When he first arrived in the neighborhood five years ago, his eyes were a much lighter amber. They've deepened in color as he's matured.

Christo's pretty eye color

Amelia's eye color is light brown and can be seen even as she soars.  This has been one way for me to identify her at a distance, although it's not very reliable as her eye color will also change with age.



Christo and Amelia have been spending a lot of time defending their territory against other young red-tails, who have been pretty brazen about coming into the park. The one pictured below kept flying around Tompkins Square despite being chased by both resident adults.

Immature intruder

Below is another immature red-tail on 2nd Street who just wouldn't take a hint when Christo and Amelia kept diving at it. They chased it over to First Avenue, then into the Village View housing complex.

Immature red-tail

Cooper's hawks are also in the area. I've counted at least one adult and two immature Cooper's hawks around the park, but there could be more. In the past, the red-tails have mostly tolerated the Cooper's hawks, but as nesting season approaches, Christo and Amelia are getting more aggressive about chasing them out of the area. Below is an immature Cooper's on 6th Street near Avenue A.

Cooper's hawk

This is another immature Cooper's hawk in the New York City Marble Cemetery on E 2nd Street.

Cooper's hawk

Most of the hawk activity I've been seeing has been happening high in the air over Tompkins Square and the surrounding streets. As the weather improves and we see some sunny days, the hawks should be easier to spot, especially now that the trees have lost their leaves.

As yet, there has been no sign of nest-building, but Christo and Amelia have been hanging out in the ginkgo tree on the east side of Tompkins, so I hope they choose to use that location again for their nest.  This will be the first nest Christo and Amelia construct together, as the previous one was built by Dora, and then mostly by Christo as he spent last winter without her. We can look forward to seeing stick-gathering and other nesting activity in January/February.

Until then, Christo is staying vigilant in Tompkins Square.

Christo in winter

Monday, December 10, 2018

Dora update: living well with a new guy at WINORR

We've heard from the folks at Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR) that our lovely Dora is doing well and has a new mate, a handsome young male red-tailed hawk named Winston.

Here is the couple pictured below, with Dora on the left and Winston on the right. All the photos are courtesy of Bobby Horvath.

Dora was taken to WINORR on April 4 after being unable to fly back up to her nest in Tompkins Square Park. She had suffered a wing injury and, although did not have any broken bones, sustained damage that left her unable to function properly in the wild. It is not known if she will ever be released, but we can say for certain she will not be returning to Tompkins Square Park.

It looks like Dora is happy hanging out with Winston, who also has a wing injury that keeps him from being unable to live in the wild. The two have bonded and I'm glad the drama of the last year has had a positive conclusion.

Bobby and Cathy Horvath take care of Dora, Winston and many more injured birds and animals out of the kindness of their hearts. They receive no funding for all their hard work, so please consider making a donation to their cause.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Christo featured in 2019 Peregrine Fund calendar

Our local Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk, Christo, is featured for the month of August in the 2019 Peregrine Fund "Birds of Prey" calendar.

The image is of Christo on an extremely hot summer day drinking water from the General Slocum memorial fountain in Tompkins Square Park.

Calendars are available for purchase from the Peregrine Fund (PDF order form), or you can receive one for free when making a donation. The Peregrine Fund does inspiring work to conserve raptors. You can read more about what they do and how to get involved on their website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving hawks in Tompkins Square

While Thanksgiving dinners were being served under the Krishna Tree in Tompkins Square Park, I found Christo the resident Red-Tailed Hawk hunting for rats behind the park offices. No turkey for this guy!

Christo on Thanksgiving

Over the weekend, Amelia and Christo perched atop the Christodora building in the afternoon sun, keeping watch over their territory.

Amelia & Christo atop the Christodora

Earlier today, I found Amelia perched in the ginkgo tree that hosted the hawk nest last season.

Amelia checks me out

She seemed to be watching the activity below as a construction crew worked on updating the Avenue B playground. Both hawks have been spending time in the ginkgo recently, so the busy construction below the tree doesn't seem to be bothering them.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, six hawks were observed in the park all at the same time. Christo and Amelia actively chased an intruding Red-Tail above the trees of the central lawn. While they were occupied, this immature Cooper's Hawk perched in the Krishna Tree.

Cooper's hawk in Tompkins Square

It flew to the Avenue A side of the park where it joined a second Cooper's and chased after pigeons.

Meanwhile, I found this immature Red-Shouldered Hawk perched over the construction area by Avenue B. I previously saw an adult fly over the park this last January, but I've never seen a Red-Shouldered perched in the park until now.

Red-shouldered hawk in Tompkins Square

Red-shouldered hawk checks me out

In the span of an hour, there were three red-tails, one red-shouldered and two Cooper's hawks in Tompkins Square, which really made my day.

As a hawk bonus, this is a photo I took on Halloween of a Cooper's hawk flying past the Statue of Liberty.

Cooper's hawk over the Statue of Liberty

The photo was taken from Governors Island, and was a satisfying end to the 2018 season on the island.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A rare view of a red-tail in its New York City habitat

Back in 2014, I had a chance to get eye-level with our Tompkins Square red-tailed hawks, Christo and Dora, as they flew to and from their nest on the Christodora House. This was a rare opportunity for me to photograph the hawks with Midtown Manhattan in the background.

On a recent visit to the Hills at Governors Island, a young red-tail gave me another chance to photograph it with Downtown Manhattan in the background. Although I spend a lot of time with hawks in the city, I don't often get to present them in their ultra-urban environment. The photos below show the same red-tailed hawk as it hunts around the island.

Perched on a speaker pole at Fort Jay:

Red-tail perched at Fort Jay

Perched at Outlook Hill with One New York Plaza in the background:

Red-tail on Outlook Hill at Governors Island

Flying towards 17 State Street:

Red-tail flies past downtown Manhattan

Flying past One World Trade:

Red-tail flying past the World Trade Center

Red-tailed hawk flying past the World Trade Center

Over the harbor with Battery Park City in the background:

Red-tail flying along Battery Park

Battery Park:

Red-tail flying past Battery Park

Red-tail, Staten Island Ferry and a New York Water Taxi all sailing past Pier A:

Red-tail flying past Pier A and Battery Park

Up close:

Red-tail close up

Tools of the trade:

Red-tailed hawk tools of the trade

The hawk didn't seem to mind my presence and often flew so close to me, I couldn't focus the camera.

Red-tail checking me out

I stayed with the hawk for an hour as it flew around the Hills, and I reluctantly had to leave it as I had to catch the last ferry off the island.

A friend took some nice video of the hawk in action on the day prior to my visit, which you can see on YouTube. The video really shows how the hawk used the wind to kite and soar almost effortlessly.