Thursday, May 25, 2017

This week's Tompkins Square hawk update

It's been a fairly quiet nesting season for our Tompkins Square hawks.  With just one nestling, there hasn't been much activity up in the nest besides feeding, a bit of wing flapping, and sleeping.  I have to wonder if the single nestling is less inclined to move around since there are no siblings to compete for food and space.  This time last year, there was a lot more action with three hawklets playing around in the nest in the ginkgo tree near the E 8th Street entrance to the park.

We've also had strange weather this year, which has affected both the birds and this photographer.  When it's rainy and dark, I can't see the nest very well, and when it's blazing hot, the nestling keeps hunkered down in the nest.

This photo was taken May 19. 

Red-tail nestling

I've been asked if the baby hawk has a name.  Names are not usually given to the babies, but I could call this one "Ten" as it's Christo and Dora's tenth kid. 

Below, Dora and the hawklet share a serene moment.

Nestling and mom

May 21:

Tompkins Square nestling

The tail feathers look to be a couple of inches long.  In about three weeks, that tail and the wings should be full size.

Tail feathers

This baby has displayed some impressive eating skills.  Dora is still tearing food up into little bits and feeding them to the nestling, but the little one has more than once been seen swallowing giant pieces of meat.  The one below was as big as the baby's head and it took 10-15 minutes to swallow.

When lunch is as big as your head

After eating a whole Thanksgiving dinner in one sitting, the hawklet slept the rest of the afternoon, then roused itself to waddle around the edge of the nest just before sunset.

Tompkins Square nestling

Meanwhile, dad Christo has been busy keeping the family fed.  With only one big mouth to feed this season, he's not been as crazy with the hunting as in past years.  He seems much more relaxed this time around.


Tools of the trade...

Tools of the trade

...and this is what those tools can do.  Christo started out on the fence, flew across the hockey area, snatched a sparrow out of a tree on the 10th Street side, then flew it back to the fence.  This all took about four seconds.

Christo catches a sparrow

He doesn't usually waste his time on tiny sparrows, but this is perfectly sized for baby food.

Christo with a sparrow

While on another hunting run, Christo paused on a fence near the Temperance Fountain to preen.  There were kids playing in the playground and people sitting on benches just a few feet away, but he felt comfortable enough to do this. 

Christo preens

Dora, on the other hand, is much more wary.  She observed the activity from a high branch.

Dora looking pretty

On Sunday, Christo and Dora briefly perched together.  You can see the difference in their size and coloring (Christo is on the left, Dora is on the right).

Christo and Dora

Later, Christo posed on a lamp post as the sun went down...

Christo in the evening

...and on his golden flagpole.


King of the sky.


Around 6:30pm On Wednesday, May 17, a big branch came crashing down from the tree that houses the hawk nest. The branch broke off the trunk on the NW side of the tree and landed in the enclosed grassy area. Both Christo and Dora had been perched in the tree and when the branch fell, they flew to a neighboring tree and turned back to watch the nest. There was nothing they could do and they were clearly shaken up. After a while, Christo went about his business looking for food, but Dora remained glued to her spot and didn't move. Even when Christo returned around 7:30pm to feed the baby, she remained where she was. I'd like to thank the thoughtful woman who climbed over the fence and searched the fallen branch for any trapped/injured animals (and people!). Fortunately, there were no casualties.

Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Dance Parade

Below are some highlights from my favorite event of the year, the Dance Parade, which was this last Saturday.  I love the energy, color and talent on display.  The theme this year was "Dance for Peace."

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

2017 Dance Parade

See many more photos of the parade on my Flickr page.

Photos from previous years:





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tompkins Square nestling already a month old

I had my first good look at the Tompkins Square hawk nestling over the weekend and it's clear this is Christo and Dora's only offspring this season.


Red-tail nestling

I'm estimating the nestling hatched on/around April 19, making it four weeks old.  We can also use the Washington Square hawk family as a guide as Tompkins is usually a few days behind them.  This year, their first hatch was on April 16.

The Tompkins nestling is still very downy, with a few pin feathers starting to grow in on the wings.


Detail of the pin feathers:

Nestling feather development

Mom Dora preens the little one.

Dora preens her baby

Dora preens her baby

At one point, Dora made a trip to the cellar and inspected the underside of the nest.  I wondered if a squirrel could have snuck in, or if she was just reinforcing the nest from below.

Dora checks out the basement

One reason the nest needs constant maintenance is the windy weather we've had recently.  Although Sunday was a beautiful calm day, there was a freak squall around 3pm with high winds and rain.  I took some video of Christo and Dora hanging on to the nest in the wind.  Just as Christo (left) loses his balance, he grabs a squirrel carcass from the nest and rides the wind out of the frame.  I, too, had to run for cover as it was too dangerous to stand underneath the trees.

The storm lasted less than ten minutes, then the sun returned as if nothing ever happened.

This nesting season has seen a lot of bad weather and I have to wonder if it has played a role in the hawks only having one baby.  Dora laid the first egg on or before March 14, when there was a blizzard.  I am assuming she laid more than one egg.  It's possible there was only ever one, but I doubt it (this is pure speculation on my part as we have never been able to see into the nest).  Following the blizzard, there were at least two major wind/rain storms which could have damaged eggs or the nest.  It could be that there were other eggs that never hatched.  Or, they could have suffered a situation similar to Washington Square where eggs did hatch and the chicks died.  Again, this is only speculation, but Christo and Dora have had three kids for each of the last three years, so it's odd they only have one this year.  Or, maybe it's perfectly normal, I don't really know.

With only one kid to feed, Christo has been much more leisurely with his hunting.  I found him late one evening behind the park offices, checking out a dead squirrel under a bench (squirrel not pictured).

Christo looks for dinner

He hopped down to the squirrel, which was in a pretty bad state.  Christo thought better of it, let go of the rotting squirrel, and went and caught a live rat instead.  Only fresh/hot food for his kid!

Christo with pigeon tartare

Below, Christo delivers a pigeon drumstick.

Christo delivers lunch to his kid

The below photos were taken late today.

Tompkins Square nestling

Tompkins Square nestling

We can expect fledging in early June. To relive some past fledge moments, check out these posts from 2016 and 2015.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to hawk mom, Dora, and her hawklet.

Hawklet and mom, Dora

Hawklet and mom, Dora

It looks certain at this point that there is only one baby hawk in the Tompkins Square nest. Dora spent this Mother's Day feeding, preening and keeping her little one company. The whole family looks to be doing well.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Springtime at Governors Island

Governors Island opened a month early this year, so I decided to visit and see what birds might be out there during spring migration.  I was thrilled to find the island alive with bird song.  Below are some of the highlights from a few visits I made since May 1.

Tree Swallows are abundant and gorgeous.

Tree Swallow

A parent peeks out of a nest box.

Tree swallow

There are more Barn Swallows than I've ever seen before.  I was happy to catch a few of them perched.

Barn swallows

When the lawnmower is out, the swallows chase behind and catch insects disturbed from the grass.

Barn swallow

The high point of my first day on the island was seeing three Bobolinks (apparently there were at least six there on that day).


I'd never seen one before, so it was really exciting when one landed right in front of me.


The island is full of Song Sparrows...

Song Sparrow

...singing their hearts out.

A song in his heart

A Yellow-Rumped Warbler:

Yellow-rumped warbler

An Eastern Kingbird:

Eastern kingbird

A Rose-Breasted Grosbeak:

Rose-breasted grosbeak

There was some commotion, so I looked up to see an immature Red-Tailed Hawk being mobbed by a Crow and about twenty Gulls.

Crow, red-tailed hawk and gull

Poor guy!

Immature red-tailed hawk

Currently, there is a large population of Red-Winged Blackbirds on the island and their calls fill the air.

Red-winged blackbird

A female Blackbird eats a grasshopper.


Opening the island early enabled me to see some birds I never would have otherwise, so it would be great if the season could be extended in the fall as well.

See many more Governors Island birds on my Flickr Page.