Monday, September 18, 2017

Raptorfest 2017

Below are some highlights from Raptorfest 2017, which was held in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx this last Saturday.  Thanks to the NYC Urban Park Rangers for hosting the event, and to Bobby and Cathy Horvath from WINORR who generously shared their birds and patiently answered a million questions.  I love this event because it's a positive educational experience, and a lot of fun.

Raptorfest gives us the rare opportunity to see birds up close that we would not normally get to see in the wild.  For instance, this Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

We see Peregrines flying over the city and perching on high buildings fairly often, but I've never been just inches away from one. 

Peregrine falcon

We do often see Kestrels in the city at street level, but it's still a thrill to see one in person.

Kestrel

Kestrel

Kestrel

Below, Ranger Rob introduces a Red-Tailed Hawk to some girls.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

My personal fave is this Rough-Legged Hawk named Gypsy.  If she looks familiar, it's because I've photographed her before at Raptorfest 2014.

Rough-legged hawk

Her coloring and feathers are gorgeous.

Rough-legged hawk

Rough-legged hawk

This Ferruginous Hawk is native to the west, so we're not likely to see one flying around this area. Note the pale eyes.

Ferruginous hawk

This is an Eastern Screech Owl.

Eastern screech owl

Eastern screech owl

This otherworldly Barn Owl announced its presence with its terrifying voice

Barn owl

Much larger and intimidating than the Barn Owl s this Eurasian Eagle Owl.  The handler told me it weighs about ten pounds. Note the huge talon.

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl

I did not enhance the color on these photos - the bright orange eye color is all natural.

Eurasian Eagle Owl

I was really intrigued by this Pied Crow, who is native to Africa.  Apparently, this one talks, although he was shy while I was there and did not vocalize.

Pied Crow

Finally, you can't have Raptorfest without a Bald Eagle.

Bald eagle

Some size perspective...

Bald eagle

This particular eagle is blind in one eye, and is unable to live in the wild.

Bald eagle


See many more photos of Raptorfest 2017 here.


Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitaion (WINORR) is a non-profit volunteer organization that works tirelessly to care for sick and injured wildlife in the New York City area.  If you would like to help, please consider a donation to their fundraiser.






Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Raptor Fest 2017 coming up this Saturday

This Saturday, September 16, come join us at Raptor Fest in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. 

Eastern screech owl

From the NYC Parks Department website:
Join NYC Parks at Raptor Fest hosted by the Urban Park Rangers. The event is free to the public and will include live demonstrations, a raptor viewing area, and education/activity tables. Activities are provided by the Urban Park Rangers; and live birds of prey are provided by Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation.
This event is a great way for kids to learn about birds of prey, while getting up close and personal with them. There will be birds on display, including falcons, hawks, and owls.

The event will be from 12:00-3:00pm and is a great opportunity to see a lot of cool birds close up and in action.

More details and directions can be found here.



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tompkins hawk fledgling is still with us, park birds take in some music

It seems our Tompkins hawk fledgling (the native one, Ten) is still hanging around the neighborhood.  She showed up in the park this last Saturday (September 9), perching in the nest tree near the Temperance Fountain and crying loudly.

Tompkins fledgling #1

She had a full crop, so I'm not sure why she was crying for food.  Neither Christo nor Dora responded, so the young hawk just hung out a while, resting and stretching.

Tompkins fledgling #1

She even "sung along" to some music in the park (I'm not sure which band is playing).



After about an hour, the hawk flew off towards Avenue A and I haven't seen her since then.

Speaking of birds and music, a female American Redstart caught an insect in the park during the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival on August 27.  In the video below, Joshua Redman plays sax in the background and the applause at the end is nearly perfectly timed.  May I suggest he form a group called Redman & The Redstarts?  You heard it here first!







Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall migration begins

It's that time of year when birds begin their fall migration south, and we start seeing many different types of birds passing through the city.  Below are a couple of colorful warblers to look out for in Tompkins Square.  They're tiny - smaller than sparrows - and move very quickly as they feed on insects in the trees.

Female American Redstart:

Redstart

Redstart

Redstart

Redstart

Black-throated Green Warbler:

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler




Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Quick Tompkins hawk update

After a six-day absence from Tompkins Square, Ten showed up in the park around 6pm Saturday.  She was seen again the following morning (September 4) in the SW corner of the park near the chess tables.

Tompkins fledgling #1

I have no idea where she was during the days she was away from the park, but she must have been in the area.  If anyone has any sightings of her or other juveniles (they have brown tails, as opposed to the adults who have red tails), please let us know.

This is the latest in the season I've seen any of the Tompkins hawk fledglings stick around.  In 2014, my last sighting of a youngster was on August 29.



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Farewell to the Tompkins hawk fledglings

It's the end of August and I think it's safe to say Flatbush has left the neighborhood.  I last saw him in Tompkins Square on Sunday, August 13, and I have not had any reports of him since.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Flatbush came to us on June 14, and he gave us two and a half months of thrills and delight, so a big Thank You goes out to Wildlife In Need Of Rescue And Rehabilitation (WINORR) and Ranger Rob from the NYC Parks Department who introduced the fledgling to our park.  And big thanks to Christo and Dora who adopted him as their own and taught him the ways of the hawk.

June 16:

Tompkins fledgling #2

Ranger Rob introducing Flatbush to his new home:

Hawk adoption in Tompkins Square

I am also inclined to say the native fledgling, Ten, has gone off on her own.

Tompkins fledgling #1

I last saw her on Thursday, August 24.  She was heard by hawk-watchers in the park on Saturday, August 27, but no one has seen or heard her since.

Tompkins fledgling #1

The photo below is the last one I took of her. It's not a great photo, but I had a feeling at the time it might be the last time I would see her.

Last look at Tompkins Fledgling #1

She's come a long way in three and a half months!

Red-tail nestling

People often ask me where the young hawks go when they leave the park.  I wish I knew!  They instinctively disperse, but I don't know if they fly a few miles away, or migrate somewhere completely different.  I also don't know if they return.  Flatbush is banded, so if he does decide to visit, he will be identifiable.

All we can do is wish them safe travels and a long healthy life.

Although it's sad to bid farewell to the fledglings, we still have Christo and Dora, who should stick around and defend their territory.  Below, Dora watches activity on First Avenue from a favorite hawk perch atop the Village View apartment complex.

Dora

Last Thursday, Dora escorted this kestrel out of the park.

Dora and a kestrel

Meanwhile, Christo stayed vigilant atop St Brigid's church on Avenue B.

Christo

He's still molting and appears to be in need of five tail feathers and several wing feathers.  He'll be back to his handsome self soon.

Molting Christo


For anyone missing the hawk kids, I have a collection of Flatbush photos here.

And photos of Ten can be found here.





Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Drama as Tompkins hawk fledgling tangles with a fence

Being a hawk kid in the city isn't easy, even if you have the super-duo, Christo and Dora, as parents.  The native fledgling (I call her 'Ten' as she's the tenth offspring for Christo and Dora) has had a bit of a rough ride recently.

I haven't said anything on this blog as I don't want to cause any unnecessary panic, but Ten had been displaying odd behavior for a few weeks which may have been due to illness or injury.  No one knows, but she has been carefully observed by a lot of people and what ever was affecting her seems to have gone.

Tompkins fledgling #1

Back in mid-July, Ten was very active, swooping around the park and diving at prey.  She looked to be well on her way to gaining independence and I really thought she might be on her own by early August.  However, she suddenly seemed to slow down and spent a great deal of time sleeping in or very near the park. Young hawks do sleep a lot, but she seemed to be sleeping more than normal and was no longer interested in hunting.  She was eating and flying, though, so that was good. For the last week or so, she's regained her energy and looks to be back on track.

Tompkins fledgling #1

On Saturday afternoon, Ten came swooping through the park so fast, I couldn't keep up with her.  By the time I reached her near the St Mark's entrance, people were saying she had caught and killed a rat. Great news! The rat, however, had been dropped behind a bench and the hawk wasn't interested in retrieving it. Just as I was feeling disappointed that she might not know how to pick up her food, Ten suddenly dove into a flower bed near the nest tree by the Temperance Fountain.

Tompkins fledgling catches a rat in the underbrush

It's not visible in the photo above, but Ten is sinking her talons into a rat.  I expected her to fly up to a tree, but she surprised me by flying very low along the fence.

Tompkins fledgling flies with a rat

Tompkins fledgling flies with a rat

I think the rat may have been too heavy as she could barely clear the low fence with it.

Tompkins fledgling barely clears a fence while carrying a rat

People sitting on the benches got a nice surprise when the rat came sailing by about six feet off the ground.

Tompkins fledgling flies with a rat

I was elated to see the hawk fly off with the rat and not drop it.  But, half a second later, my elation turned to horror as I saw this:

Tompkins fledgling #1 stuck in a fence

I think the rat was just too heavy and the hawk couldn't manage to get to the top of the tall fence along the skateboard/hockey area.  She made it about two thirds of the way up.

Below, you can see she is doing the splits, with her right talon hanging from the fence and the rat still clutched in her left talon.

Tompkins fledgling #1 stuck in a fence

Aaaaarrrrrrrgggggg!

Tompkins fledgling #1 stuck in a fence

Tompkins fledgling #1 stuck in a fence

On closer inspection, I could see she was not actually stuck, but holding on to the fence with her talon.  Even so, what a predicament.

Tompkins fledgling #1 stuck in a fence

I took a video, but stopped as I thought I should call for help.  About three minutes after the video ends, the hawk freed herself and flew to a tree back by the Temperance Fountain.  By then, a pretty big crowd had gathered and everyone cheered.



Back at the tree, Ten cried loudly.  I'm not sure if she was announcing she'd successfully caught her own meal, or if she was screaming about what had just happened to her.

Tompkins fledgling announces she has a rat

As the fledgling kept vocalizing loudly, Dora (not pictured) flew into the tree with what looked like a mouse.  She may have been responding to the cries and thought her kid needed food.  After a couple of minutes, Dora took off but left the food behind.

Tompkins fledgling with a rat

The incident with the fence left the fledgling with a scrape on the back of her right leg, but she seemed fine otherwise.  The following day, the scrape looked to be healing alright, so I think she'll be ok. 

Tompkins fledgling #1

The fledglings always manage to do something to give hawk-watchers a collective heart attack!

Previous hawk dramas:

Shaft gets rescued by Ranger Rob on 9th Street
Bobby Horvath to the rescue on Catherine Street 
Bobby Horvath to the rescue at Washington Square
Wayward fledgling on Avenue A
Fledgling tearing up window screens on Avenue A