Monday, December 11, 2017

Christo seems confused by new relationship situation

I don't have any updates on Dora at this time other than she is eating well and resting.  She will not be released from rehab until she's 100% healthy, and that could take some time.

Meanwhile, I spent the weekend trying to figure out what's going on between Christo and the New Girl.  I'm going to refer to her as Nora for now (other suggestions I've heard have all been rather negative!).  I could call her Tompkins Adult Female #2, but that just doesn't seem right.

On Friday, it seemed she and Christo were getting along, but on Sunday, their behavior wasn't as friendly.  I watched as Nora flew at Christo, who was sitting atop the Christodora, and intimidated him off his perch.  In the photo below, Nora is on the left and Christo is on the right.

Nora flies at Christo

Christo flew off and I did not see them that close to each other for the rest of the afternoon.

Nora gives Christo the boot

Who is this new hawk?  What's her plan?  She stayed in and around the park for the remainder of the day and seemed to feel right at home.  She is not as wary as Dora and appears not to mind human activity.  Although I didn't see her land on a fence, she did get somewhat close, and had no problem diving for prey right along Avenue A.

Nora

As it was sunny, I was able to get a better look at her.  She has very dark wingtips, which are noticeable while flying.

Nora

She also has a lot of brown streaking on her chest and wing covers.

Nora

Nora

Nora is a very colorful hawk with rusty reddish brown markings and light gray feathers under and above her eyes.  Compare to Dora (below) whose head, wings and body markings are all dark chocolate brown.  Both hawks have dark heads and dark belly bands. 

Dora

After catching, and then dropping, a rat along Avenue A and 9th Street, Nora perched on a traffic light for a couple of minutes.

Nora

Opting not to go back for the rat, she flew to a fire escape a block down.  As she took off, we got a good look at the rusty coloring along her flanks and the light barring on her upper legs. You can also really see the gray "eyeliner" beneath her eye.

Nora

Nora

Nora

All afternoon, Nora kept perching in places where we'd normally see Dora.  This might be a coincidence, but she seemed to be very familiar with the park and surrounding area.  One of those perches was the cross at St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A and 10th Street.

Nora

Nora

Another was the cross at St Brigid's on Avenue B and 8th Street.

Nora atop St Brigid's church

In addition to the church crosses, Nora has been seen at both nest sites, the Christodora building, and a few trees that Dora favored.  It made me wonder if this hawk had been watching the territory before moving in, or, has she been here before?  From what I observed over the weekend, this hawk appears not to care whether Christo is around or not.  She seems most interested in the territory itself.

Around 3:45pm, as the Holiday Tree lighting ceremony was gearing up, Nora perched in a tree to the west of the 7th Street park entrance while Christo perched in a tree to the east of the entrance.  They sat there like sentinels for a while until Nora dove down to the 7th Street playground and caught a rat.  Christo flew the same direction, but I lost track of him.

Instead of eating her rat in the park, Nora flew it around the corner to an air-conditioner on Avenue B.  I've never seen Christo or Dora do this - if they catch their food in the park, they usually eat it in the park.  If Dora was eating, Christo usually stood guard nearby, but he did not do that for Nora.

Nora takes dinner to an a/c

When she finished the rat, Nora flew to a cellphone tower on 6th Street and Avenue B where she was mobbed by a Cooper's hawk.  At sunset, she flew further down the Avenue, probably to a roosting place.

So, what does Christo think of all this?  I wish I could read his mind, but I can only speculate.  He has been behaving very passively towards this new hawk who is definitely the dominant of the pair.  He's not made any attempts to chase her away and has allowed her to hunt in his territory.  If they do not have a strong pair bond, who knows, maybe more hawks could come around and compete for the territory.  We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Christo
What are you thinking, Christo?


See more recent Tompkins Square hawk photos on my Flickr page.




Friday, December 8, 2017

Christo appears to have found a new girl

Well, that didn't take long.

As nice as it is to anthropomorphize our local hawks and believe they have feelings like we do, they just don't.  It was only this last Monday when Dora was taken into rehab for an injured wing, and it appears that Christo has already found a replacement.  While I've been mourning Dora's absence and am hoping for her swift return, all Christo knows is that Dora is gone and his life must go on.

There have been several hawks around lately and I think a new female has been in the park the last few days.  Christo and this new hawk were seen being aggressive with each other yesterday, but it appears he has now accepted her.

When I arrived in Tompkins Square this afternoon, I saw Not-Dora (Nora?) perched in the ginkgo where Christo and Dora had previously been working on a new nest.

Nora in the ginkgo

This morning, a fellow hawk-watcher saw N-D perched in the other nest in the locust near the Temperance Fountain.  I have to wonder if this is one way the hawk is claiming Dora's spot.

As I watched N-D in the ginkgo, Christo flew in, landed below her, and held his wings and tail out.  He remained stiff and immobile for about five minutes.  I wasn't sure if he was challenging her, or testing to see whether she would attack him.  She barely glanced at him and he relaxed, perching normally.  Below, Christo is behind the sticks on the lower left while N-D is perched at the upper right.

Christo and Nora in ginkgo

Christo then broke a stick from a neighboring tree and took it to the ginkgo nest as N-D watched.

Christo with a stick

Christo with a stick

Christo with a stick

It upset me to see this because it likely means Christo has decided to accept this new female.  Christo and Dora made such a great couple, it breaks my heart to see him hooking up with someone else.

The two of them then perched near the Krishna tree for nearly an hour.  Below, Christo is on the upper branch, looking down at N-D.

Christo and Nora

N-D looks a lot like Dora.  She's big, has a dark head and a lot of brown coloring.  One thing I noticed is she has gray feathers beneath her eyes that Dora does not.

Nora

N-D also has rusty flanks and slight barring on her upper legs whereas Dora has solid cream colored legs.  The lighting was really bad today, so the colors in the photo below may be off - it will be better to get a look at her in normal sunlight.

Nora

A real sign that Christo is into this new girl is he caught a rat and appeared to offer it to her.

Christo with a rat

I didn't really see how it happened, but Christo took the rat (above) and flew it to the big tree near the chess tables.  As I was running to see where he went, he may have left the rat on a branch and then flew to a tree near the Temperance Fountain.  By the time I got there, N-D flew to the branch where he'd been, then took off after him.  A fellow hawk-watcher saw her drop something, so she may have been retrieving the rat.  Both hawks perched near the fountain and neither one had the rat by the time I caught up with them.

A short time later, N-D flew to the east side of the park, then to a fire escape on 10th Street where it seems she went to roost for the night.

Nora

Meanwhile, I have no idea what Christo's is thinking...

Christo

Red-tails mate for life and the good news is Dora is alive.  She will be released back into the park when she is healed, but that could take some time.  What will happen at that time remains to be seen.  I'm hoping everything will work out as it should.






Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christo and neighborhood competition

There have been a lot of hawk sightings in the neighborhood recently.  In addition to Christo and Dora, I've seen at least two other red-tails and several Cooper's hawks.  Now that Dora is being treated for an injury, it's up to Christo to defend their territory.

Over the weekend, I found Christo in Tompkins Square:

Christo

He spent most of Saturday afternoon perched in the east half of the park and vocalized for about an hour.

Christo

He seemed to be on alert. Around 3pm, he took off after a couple of intruders who turned out to be a young Cooper's hawk and another red-tail. 

Christo

The three of them disappeared over St Brigid's church and it all happened so fast, I was unable to get a photo.

Christo

On Sunday, Christo waited patiently in the park as the rats came out to play.

Christo

He picked up a small rat near the Avenue B playground, then proceeded to perch with the rat for about an hour.  He didn't attempt to eat it and he didn't call out to Dora, but I wondered if he was waiting for her to show up. 

Christo with a rat

Meanwhile, I've seen more Cooper's hawks around the neighborhood than ever before.  They compete with the red-tails, although I haven't seen any serious arguments.

On Sunday, while Christo was in the park, I found this immature Cooper's hawk in the New York City Marble Cemetery.

Cooper's hawk

Earlier in the week, I came upon this gorgeous adult Cooper's in the cemetery.

Cooper's hawk

Here's some video:



While Christo was away from the park, an immature Cooper's hawk flew into the tree on the central lawn.

Cooper's hawk



This one hung around for a while, halfheartedly chasing pigeons.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper's hawks fly really fast and are more unpredictable than the red-tails, so I was happy to get a few shots of this one as it darted around the park.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper's hawk

This is how they usually appear - as a flash through the trees.

Cooper's hawk

Last year, I saw a Cooper's dive from a tree and swoop so fast across the knees of a row of people sitting near the Krishna tree, no one saw a thing.






Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A note about Dora

Our beautiful Dora is currently being treated at Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR) for a wing injury.

Dora

I do not know all the details, but Dora experienced some drama last week on 9th Street and Avenue C when the NYPD received a call about an injured/sick hawk.  They investigated, but she apparently escaped them. 

Monday night, she was picked up by NYPD on Ave C between 9th and 10th Streets and was taken to Animal Medical Center.  Rehabber Bobby Horvath from WINORR picked her up today and reported that her wing is not broken, but she is unable to fly. 

I'm relieved that Dora is in good hands and is receiving the care she needs.  I will post any updates as I know them.



WINORR is a non-profit that receives no funding.  The Horvaths take care of our urban wildlife out of the kindness of their hearts.  Please consider donating to their cause.




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

And now for something completely different

I recently took a trip to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, which is pretty much the opposite of Manhattan - arid, intense sun, huge sky, open spaces, alien vegetation and unique wildlife.  Catalina State Park, 17 miles north of Tucson, is a great place to experience all of these things.  Below are a few of my favorite birds seen in the area.

Curve-Billed Thrasher

Curve-billed thrasher

This bird has a stunning orange eye.

Curve-billed thrasher

The Thrasher looks lovely posing with the Catalina Mountains in the background.

Curve-billed thrasher

Cactus Wren:

Cactus wren

I enjoyed many encounters with cactus wrens, and they were most identifiable by their vocalizations.

Cactus wren

Their markings are really beautiful.

Cactus wren

I was happy to learn the Cactus Wren is the state bird of Arizona.

Cactus wrens

Canyon Wren:

Canyon wren

This was the first time I'd seen a Canyon Wren.  Like the Cactus Wren, this bird drew my attention with its song.

Canyon wren

Hummingbirds were everywhere and they could be heard much easier than they could be seen.  I found this was true for almost all of the birds I saw.  Despite the sparse vegetation and bright sunlight, wildlife was surprisingly tricky to see.

Hummingbird

Greater Roadrunner:

Roadrunner

Just as I was complaining that I hadn't seen one, a Roadrunner came walking by.

Roadrunner

To me, they look prehistoric.

Roadrunner

The Roadrunner is a really colorful bird, especially its rainbow tail.  My companion found a tail feather on one of the hiking trails.  It's brown with an emerald green sheen and can be seen below with a pigeon tail feather for reference.

Roadrunner tail feather

A birding trip would not be complete without a Red-Tailed hawk, and this one obliged by flying close overhead.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I was struck by the amount of color on this hawk and the barring pattern across the body.  Below is a photo of Christo for comparison.  He has a lot more white on him, while the desert hawk shows much more brown.

Christo flies around with food

You can see more Arizona birds on my Flickr page.