Thursday, January 11, 2018

Busy hawk week with Christo, Nora and a youngster

I am just catching up after several days of hawk activity in and around Tompkins Square. 

First, though, an update on Dora:  as of this week, her wounds have healed, but she is still unable to fly.  She is still in the care of WINORR and we are hoping she can exercise her wing and regain strength.  I really miss her and I think maybe Christo does, too.  I try not to anthropomorphize and project my feelings onto him, but he has been acting sullen and surly since she's been away.

We do still have the new girl, Nora, and she's still a mystery to me. I found her last Friday perched on a fire escape on Avenue A.


She actively watched the pigeons that flew up and down the street.

Nora watches pigeons

She also paid a lot of attention to me and everyone who walked by. She then demonstrated how lightning-fast she is when she shot off the fire escape without warning and chased after a flock of pigeons.  I was impressed.


She disappeared down Avenue A, so I opted to go into the park and look for Christo.

I found him on the east side of the park perched in the sun and showing some leg.

Christo shows some leg

What happened next was interesting, although I don't have any good photos because it happened so fast. 

Christo caught a rat and took it to a tree near the ginkgo nest.  I saw Nora fly into the park from the east and she landed in a tree about thirty feet from him and began to eat something.  Christo, still holding the fresh rat, put his head down, fluffed up his back, and took on an aggressive stance.  He remained frozen like that for about two minutes before suddenly screaming and lunging at Nora.  She took off so fast, she still had food in her beak and in her talons as Christo chased her in a circle, and then north to the basketball courts and out of the park.  I followed them, but snow on the ground prevented me from getting there fast enough to see where they went.

About ten minutes later, Christo reappeared in the same place and went looking for his rat, which was gone (it must have fallen from the tree).  He perched on a light pole and appeared to be hunting rats that ran around in the bushes beneath him, but too many people crowded around to look at him and he had to abandon his meal plans. I feel terrible for him when this happens as it must be so frustrating for him.


On Sunday, I found an immature red-tail perching in nearly the very same place Christo had been previously.  This one has remarkably bright eyes.

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

The hawk flew all over the park, chasing after pigeons, starlings, rats and squirrels.  It came to the ground near the St Mark's Place entrance and poked around rat holes under bushes before resting on a fence.

Immature red-tail

Eventually, it flew up to a cornice on 10th Street and Avenue A, scaring up a flock of pigeons.

Red-tail on the prowl for pigeons

Just when I though the hawk would fly off, it nailed a pigeon who lingered on the roof and flew it to a tree by the skateboard/hockey area.

Red-tail catches a pigeon

As the young hawk ate the pigeon, Christo appeared a block away atop the Christodora.  I expected him to come swooping over to chase the young hawk away.  However, he flew in an arc around the north side of the park and went up to the cross at St Nicholas of Myra on Avenue A and 10th Street, and took a closer look at the intruder from there.


Again, I expected Christo to chase after the young hawk, as he'd done to another one in the same area a few days before, but Nora happened to fly by and he chased after her instead.  The two of them circled around before flying off towards First Avenue.

The bright-eyed hawk was left in peace, so spent about an hour digesting its lunch before taking off again.

Immature red-tail

The hawk dropped down to the cyclone fence behind home plate in the play area and I got s good look at its tail.  I wondered if this could be Ten, which could explain why Christo was okay with it hanging around. This hawk has a distinctively reddish brown tail with two rusty feathers on the left side.  It also has brown barring on the legs.  Ten had dark spotted legs and a different tail, so this is not her.

Immature red-tailw ith distinctive tail

As it turns out, there was a dead pigeon on top of the fence, which is what the hawk was after.  It was so cold out, the pigeon was frozen to the fence and the hawk had to work hard to free it.  Note the pigeons on the rooftop in the background in the photo below.  One of their own had been snatched from there an hour before, but that didn't deter them from resuming their lives.

Immature red-tail

When the hawk finally took off, I could see the pigeon had no head.  Where did it go?  Is it still stuck to the fence???

Red-tail with headless pigeon

The young hawk had a second pigeon meal before settling in on a tree along 10th Street where I presume it went to roost. 

As the sun was going down and I was freezing, I decided to make one more pass through the park before heading home.

I arrived just in time to see Christo catch a rat near the 7th Street playground.  He took it to a tree and popped the head in his mouth. 

Christo eats a rat head

As Christo ate, Nora perched atop the Christodora, but did not come into the park.  After the rat was consumed, Christo went to work on the ginkgo nest, but she did not join him.

Christo makes nestorations to ginkgo nest

As my feet were frozen, I had to call it a day.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Christo has little patience for kids on his turf

Winter has always seen a number of immature red-tailed hawks migrating through the neighborhood, but this season, without Dora to help defend the territory, it seems more than usual are being seen in/near Tompkins Square.

On Christmas Day, one spent the entire afternoon on a fire escape on Avenue A before eventually being chased away by Christo and Nora.  Three days later, I came across another young hawk who was hanging out in the park along 10th Street.

Immature red-tail

The hawk flew to a fire escape on the north side of the street near Avenue B.

Immature red-tail

From there, it decided to check out an air-conditioner.

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

The hawk then went systematically to each window down the row, landing either on a fire escape or an air-conditioner.

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

It even investigated a satellite dish!

Immature red-tail

I wonder if the residents of this apartment experienced bad reception at the time.

Immature red-tail

At this air-conditioner, the hawk's purpose became clear when it pulled up an old frozen rat with its talon.  If you look closely, you can see there is some fur under the hawk's foot and the rat's tail is sticking out from beneath the hawk near the left corner of the air-conditioner.

Immature red-tail

Although the photos may look warm, this day was really cold - I think the high was ten degrees - and the old dead rat was frozen solid.  Unable to deal with it, the hawk flew down to the ground at the edge of the park and poked around for prey under some bushes.

Immature red-tail

It was at this point that Christo appeared and expressed his displeasure.  He shrieked loudly and chased the young hawk around the basketball courts.  In the photo below, Christo is on the big branch on the upper left, glaring down at the youngster on the lower right.

Christo and an immature red-tail

The young hawk began begging Christo, chirping at him as the kids do when they want food.

Immature red-tail begs

My first thought was this hawk could be Christo's offspring.  Could it be Ten?  However, I compared photos and this hawk has white legs while Ten had spotted legs, so it is not her.  Their tails are also different. So, I found it really interesting that this young hawk would beg a stranger for food. I guess the kids see any adult as a food source.

Christo was not having any of it!  He took an aggressive stance and lunged at the young hawk several times.  I tried to take video, but it was so cold out, my video camera kept freezing and shutting down.  So, I dug out a video I took in the park in 2013 of another adult red-tail attacking a begging immature hawk:

I felt bad for the young hawk as I'd grown pretty fond of it by now (I'd been with it all afternoon) and it kept displaying such energetic optimism.  In the photo below, the eager young hawk is on the left while Christo is on the right looking surly.

Immature red-tail and Christo

In the end, Christo chased the kid back across the street to a fire escape, but even that wasn't good enough.  Christo attacked it there (my camera froze as I tried to get a shot!) and chased it over the buildings towards 11th Street.

Immature red-tail

Christo then returned to 10th Street at sunset and roosted on a building by the library. I got the feeling he was keeping guard.

Since Dora has been away, Christo has had a lot of responsibility defending the park all on his own.  I've seen Nora help out a few times, but Christo has definitely had to be more aggressive lately. I even saw him chase her out of the park the other day when she dared to eat near him. It's still not really clear what's going on between those two, but I've been feeling bad for Christo as he has to deal with this new situation.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Mulchfest 2018

My favorite event of the year was this weekend: Mulchfest!

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

Leading up to the event, discarded Christmas trees piled up in Tompkins Square.

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

By Saturday afternoon, the sun was out and there was a fresh pile of mulch free for the taking near the Krishna tree.

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

The chipper arrived...

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

...and the mulch action began.

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

I am totally obsessed with the wood chipper, so had to take a few short videos.  I couldn't take one long video because my camera kept freezing and shutting down. I think the temperature was around 14 degrees.

In this one, the mulch gets dumped out into a second pile where people eagerly awaited to bag up fresh chipped evergreen.

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

The park always smells so good this time of year, I love it.  Get over to the park and take some mulch home before it rains.

Mulchfest 2018 in Tompkins Square Park

This is my favorite Mulchfest image, taken in 2014.  No one can resist the heavenly scent of fresh mulch!

Mulchfest 2014

Previous Mulchfest posts:



Thursday, January 4, 2018

Christo and the 'bomb cyclone'

As the 'bomb cyclone' snow storm hit today, I felt I had to run out and check that Christo and any other Tompkins Square wildlife was ok.  I found him almost immediately after entering the park at 7th Street and he looked to be doing just fine.

Christo in the snow

Christo in the snow

I took some video that shows the crazy wind and blowing snow.

Christo in the snow

As I watched Christo, a second red-tail flew past me who may have been Nora.  I couldn't run through the snow fast enough to chase it and get a good look.

Despite the blizzard-like conditions, it wasn't really that cold out and I've seen the hawks endure much worse in the past.  I'll be checking up on them this weekend as the temperatures drop.

Speaking of hawks in snow, I like to remember this post from almost a year ago that shows Christo and Dora in the park during a snowfall.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year hawks and friends

I spent the first day of 2018 in Tompkins Square, where it was 10 degrees but bright and sunny.  Not many living creatures were in the park, and I relished the quiet.  Not even the sparrows were making much noise in the cold and they stayed tucked up inside a few dense bushes on the east side of the park.

Behind the park offices, I came upon these squirrels, who were content to stay snuggled up inside their tree nest.

Staying warm

Last spring, I watched this squirrel break ice from a puddle and chew on the ice.  The squirrels were doing this again at a frozen puddle by the General Slocum memorial.

Squirrel eating ice

As I turned around to leave the area, I was startled to see this young Cooper's hawk perched on the birdbath.

Cooper's hawk on the birdbath

I thought maybe the hawk was trying to get water from the frozen bath, but it hopped down to the ground and chased rats around in the bushes.  After several minutes, the hawk popped back up and perched on the fence.

Cooper's hawk

The rats I saw were nearly the same size as the hawk, so maybe too big for lunch.  As all the sparrows were hiding out in another part of the park, there weren't many food options.

Cooper's hawk

The hawk scrunched down against the cold for a while, then took off towards 10th Street where it chased after pigeons.

Cooper's hawk

Over near the Krishna tree, Christo made a brief appearance.


He had a full crop, so wasn't in need of a meal, and he took off after a couple of minutes. 


Shortly thereafter, I saw him flying over the east side of the park with an intruding immature red-tail.

After the hawks had left, several blue jays foraged around the Christmas tree, bringing some beautiful color to an otherwise bleak winter landscape.

New Year's Blue Jay

Happy new year...