Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall migration in Tompkins Square

It's fall migration time, and several interesting birds are passing through Tompkins Square on their way south.

For the last couple of weeks, female American Redstarts have been flitting around the SE section of the park.

Female Redstart

Most sightings have been in a Siberian Elm tree just west of the Oak Playground, as it's called on this wonderful Tompkins tree map created by Michael Natale.

Female Redstart

Female Redstart

Female Redstart

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, redstarts "rapidly spread their cocked tails, exposing the orange or yellow in a quick flash, which often startles insect prey into flushing, whereupon the redstart darts after it, attempting to catch it in the air."

I caught two of them doing just that - they bounced around on the ground, fanning their tails and leaping up to snatch bugs.  They moved so quickly, it was challenging to catch the action, but I did get one showing off her tail.

Female Redstart

Meanwhile, nearby at the ginkgo tree where the hawks had their nest, I came across a couple of Black-and-white warblers.

Black & White warbler

They were digging up grubs from the bark of the tree.

Black & White warbler with grub

The most exciting bird sighting for me has been a Canada Warbler.

Canada warbler

This bird is tiny - about half the size of a sparrow - and zips around so fast, it's easy to miss.  I saw one in the park last year, but was never able to get a clear photo.  This time, I had better luck when the bird paused for half a second on a branch.

Canada warbler

Canada warbler

Canada warbler

In the photo below, the warbler catches a fly.  After being eaten alive by biting flies in the park all summer, this pleased me.

Canada warbler catches a fly

This Swainson's Thrush popped in to snack on an American beautyberry.

Swainson's Thrush

Another special visitor has been this Rose-breasted grosbeak.  It remained mostly hidden high in a Pin Oak tree, so I was only able to get this shot of its head.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I've been interested in the fact that all of the above birds were spotted in one small area of the park. The Siberian Elm, in particular, has been a very popular tree for warblers this year. In the past, there have been other individual trees that seem to attract a lot of bird attention. Audubon has an online tool that lets you search for native plants that attract birds. I plugged in zip code 10009 (for Tompkins Square Park) and here are the results. You can filter results by desired types of bird or plant, which is really useful for planting gardens or even window boxes.

For the next couple of weeks, if you find yourself passing through the park, take a minute to look up into the trees and you might see some of these colorful beauties. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Christo & Dora edition

As summer is officially over, I've been doing a fall-cleaning of my photos from this last hawk season in Tompkins Square.  I came across several of Christo and Dora that I never posted as I was distracted by the antics of the baby hawks at the time.  So, here are a few I never got around to looking at until now.

This is Dora stretching on the cross of St Brigid's on Avenue B and 8th Street.

Dora

Christo flies in to join her.

Christo & Dora

Note how the color of his head is golden brown.  Dora has a darker head.

Christo & Dora

At this time, the three kids were still in the nest, so dad was probably headed back to them when he took off from the cross.

Dora & Christo

Christo hunting in the park:

Christo

Soaring Dora:

Dora

Taking another break on the cross, Christo is on the left and Dora is on the right.

Christo & Dora

Christo & Dora

Christo & Dora

Christo late in the evening:

Christo

Dora never gets very close to people in the park, so the photo below is about as close to her as I'm ever able to get.  She prefers to stay high in the trees, on top of buildings, fire escapes and church crosses.  If you see a hawk in the park perched low on a fence, the flagpole or chilling out in the birdbath, it's likely to be Christo.

Dora

Here she is on the roof of St Brigid's being mobbed by an angry mockingbird.

Dora mobbed by a mockingbird

Meanwhile, Christo gets harassed on his throne by a blue jay.

Christo harassed by a blue jay

Christo giving a pigeon a heart attack:

Christo the hawk tailgating a pigeon 

The pigeon was fine, but I'm sure it went home with a harrowing tale to tell.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quiet in the neighborhood with Christo and Dora

It's been a while since we've had an update on Christo and Dora.  There's not been much happening lately, but both hawks are hanging out in the neighborhood and in Tompkins Square.

Last Friday evening, I found Dora on one of her favorite perches at Most Holy Redeemer church on E 3rd Street.

Dora

Dora

As I watched, she took off and headed north on Avenue A where she stirred up some pigeons at 6th Street, then disappeared over the buildings.

Dora

About an hour later, Christo made an appearance atop his flagpole in the park.

Christo

Note his spiffy new feathers!

Christo

He cried out several times and I could hear a faint answer in the distance.  When I looked up, I could just barely see Dora soaring up in the stratosphere.  I wish I knew what they were saying to each other.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Summer butterflies

“Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

-- Hans Christian Andersen

Black Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

Black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Red Admiral
Red Admiral

Monarch
Monarch

Monarch

Monarch

Monarch

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

2016 Kestrel highlights - Part 3

First, a quick Tompkins Square hawk update:  On Sunday, September 11, I saw Christo catch a starling at the St Mark's entrance to the park.  A few days before, some fellow hawk-watchers saw Christo with a fledgling, who was begging for food.  Dora is often seen on her usual perch on the dome of Most Holy redeemer church on E 3rd Street.  Other than that, there's not been much happening.

Last week, I posted some highlights of kestrel fledglings on the Lower East Side from this last spring.  Now it's time to give their parents some love.

Here is one happy couple in their leisure time.  The female is on the right and the male is on the left.

Kestrel pair

This other female kestrel catches an ovenbird, which she'll deliver to her kids back in the nest.

Female kestrel with prey

Female kestrel with prey

Meanwhile, this male catches a sparrow and waits for his mate to come and get it.

Male kestrel with food

She flies in and they do a quick food-exchange.

Female kestrel grabs food from male

She then flies the dinner back to the nest, which is a hole in the cornice of a building.

Female kestrel feeds chicks

Yet another male catches another sparrow...

Male kestrel with sparrow

...and delivers it to his nestlings.

Male kestrel delivers sparrow to nest

This male takes a break after an afternoon of food deliveries.

Verizon's new mascot 

I was able to watch four nesting kestrel pairs on the Lower East Side this last spring.  Although I didn't spend nearly as much time with them as I did the hawks in Tompkins Square, I still learned a lot from them.  They work tirelessly to feed their young, and just watching them can be exhausting.  All four kestrel pairs double-brooded in different locations and produced more than twenty offspring between them.  I don't know where they find the energy!

Previously:

2016 Kestrel highlights - Part 2

2016 Kestrel highlights - Part 1

Kestrelmania 2015