Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Egg time for Tompkins Square hawks

I am 99.9% certain Tompkins Square red-tails, Christo and Amelia, have an egg as of today.

Although we cannot see into the nest, the hawks showed classic behavioral changes today that indicate there is at least one egg present. A fellow hawk-watcher provided this photo of Amelia hunkered down in the nest this afternoon.

She stayed low in the nest for at least three hours and is roosting in it tonight. Christo visited her twice while I was there and she did not show any interest in leaving the nest to eat dinner. Christo spent the remainder of the day perched in a nearby tree and is roosting in the park.

Last year, nesting season was delayed a month for this pair due to the loss of Dora and the drama that followed.  Back in 2017, Dora laid her first egg on March 14. In 2016, eggs were laid in mid-March. In 2015, the first egg arrived on March 26. In 2014, Dora appeared to lay an egg on March 29.

If Amelia laid the first egg today, we can look forward to a hatch date around the end of April. In the meantime, the hawks will continue mating until the last (usually three) egg is laid. This is the first full mating/nesting season for Christo and Amelia, and I look forward to seeing them raise a healthy hawk family in our park.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Winter birds in Florida

I spent some time in Florida this past February which was a welcome break from dreary NYC winter, and saw over 83 species of birds. Some were birds we are used to seeing here in spring and summer (Red-Winged Blackbirds, Myrtle and Palm Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Laughing Gulls) but many I had never seen before.

One of the top sightings was of a rare Krider's Red-Tailed Hawk. The other, and possibly the highlight of the trip, was this male Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion flycatcher

The St Mark's National Wildlife Refuge, about 25 miles south of Tallahassee, is a fantastic place to go birding and to enjoy the beautiful natural environment. On the day we visited, a major thunderstorm complete with dark skies, thunder, lightning and pouring rain made me doubt I'd get to see any interesting birds, let alone photograph any of them. However, the storm did not stop this little blazing red ball of fury from catching insects and posing for the camera. I think he looks pretty fierce with his spiky wet hairdo!

Vermilion flycatcher

On this dark day, this intensely bright bird really stood out.

Vermilion flycatcher in the rain

In the Tampa Bay area, Nanday Parakeets flew around in very vocal flocks, attracting a lot of attention with their animated chatter.

Nanday parakeet

Monk Parakeets also traveled in loud social flocks.

Monk parakeet

The Wood Stork was one bird I really wanted to see and I found one at Crescent Lake in St Petersburg.

Wood Stork

This was my first sighting of a Limpkin foraging for snails along the water's edge.

Limpkin with a snail

White Ibises were fairly ubiquitous, being present at nearly every natural area we visited. At sunset, they could be seen flying in huge flocks to their roosting places.


Common Gallinules can be found all along the east coast, but they are a rare bird for me and I love their giant yellow feet and their gray/blue/purple coloring. 

Common Gallinule

Brown Pelicans are huge and gorgeous, and fascinating to watch as they dive into the water for fish.

Brown pelican

This is an immature pelican chilling out on a piling.

Brown pelican

Ft De Soto Park was another great place to visit wildlife. We were able to observe two Great Horned Owl chicks on their nest.  They look like they might be staying warm on a frosty winter day, but the weather was actually 78°F with 81% humidity and thick fog. My glasses steamed up while taking this photo.

Great horned owl chicks

One of the parents nearby:

Great horned owl parent

It was nesting season for Florida Ospreys, so they were present everywhere we went.


I was hoping to see an abundance of Red-Shouldered Hawks during my visit, but I only saw two. This one was hunting in the St Mark's NWR and really blended in with its natural habitat. The other sighting was of a hawk hunting along a highway.


We had an unexpected surprise at an urban food market one morning when an immature Bald Eagle flew low over the busy crowd.

Immature Bald Eagle

As much as I love NYC, it was good to get a change of scenery and to see so many new bird species. I was happy to put away my thermals, boots and gloves, and prance around in the warm winter sun like this Snowy Egret if only for a few days.

Snowy Egret prancing in the water

You can see more of my Florida bird photos over on Flickr.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Krider's red-tailed hawk

On a recent trip to Florida, I was fortunate enough to catch sight of an immature Krider's red-tailed hawk. This is a subspecies of the Eastern red-tail, although there seems to be some disagreement over whether it is a true subspecies or not.

Regardless, this hawk was striking as it had a very pale head and almost pure white body.

Krider's red-tailed hawk

For comparison, below is a photo of an immature red-tail photographed last year in Tompkins Square Park. Note the dark brown belly band, brown head and brown speckles on the legs. These are the hawks we usually see here in NYC.

Immature red-tail

The Krider's tail feathers had four dark brown bands at the outer ends and a pale cocoa base. I was unable to get a photo of the hawk's back as it flew away, but it had a butterfly-shaped white pattern across the wings.

Krider's red-tailed hawk

Krider's red-tailed hawk

Krider's red-tailed hawk

The hawk was seen along Highway 98 near the Lower Waccasassa Conservation Area. Thank you to my companion who spun the car around and doubled back so we could get a closer look. This was a thrill to see!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Christo and Amelia celebrate Fat Tuesday atop St Brigid's church

Today is Fat Tuesday and, although Tompkins Square red-tails Christo and Amelia did not have beads to toss to an adoring crowd, they did put on a brief celebratory show this afternoon.

Amelia perched in the sun atop the cross of St Brigid's church on Avenue B. She had a full crop, indicating she had recently enjoyed a big meal.

Amelia atop St Brigid's church

Christo, who also displayed a bulging crop, suddenly swooped up behind her.

Christo approaches Amelia

Christo approaches Amelia

He made an expert landing on her back.

Christo approaches Amelia

Christo and Amelia mating

Mating lasted all of six seconds or so.

Christo and Amelia mating

And then Christo was off in a flash.

Amelia and Christo

The pair soared above the church a couple of times before heading east. This provided an opportunity to compare their appearance while in flight. Below is Christo. Note his golden brown head and white throat.


This is Amelia, who has a darker head and a brown throat.


We are now counting down the days until eggs are laid, which should be in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Red-tails Christo and Amelia continue nest-building and bonding in Tompkins Square

This week, red-tailed hawks Christo and Amelia have been continuing their bonding activities by nest-building and mating. Christo has been giving Amelia food and they've been spending more time in and around the park.

Below, Christo and Amelia keep an eye on things from one of their favorite perches near Avenue B.

Christo and Amelia

Amelia with a big stick:

Amelia with a stick

She flies the stick towards the nest.

Amelia with a stick

Christo breaking a stick from a tree:

Christo breaks a stick

I love watching Christo peel bark from trees. He seems to prefer bark from Chinese Scholar trees as well as American Elm.

Christo peels bark from a branch

The hawks use the bark to line their nest. Below, a piece of bark can be see laying across the top right side of the nest.

Christo and Amelia's nest with a piece of bark

Christo on the nest:

Christo in the nest

When they're not nest-building, Christo and Amelia can be seen (and heard!) mating.

Hawk love

Hawk love

Hawk love

Here they are on the roof of the Christodora building on Avenue B and 9th Street.

Amelia and Christo mating

This afternoon, Amelia took off from her perch on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra on Avenue A and 10th Street:

Amelia taking off from St Nicholas of Myra church

She soared past me, on her way to Christo, who was calling her for dinner.


Back atop the Christodora, Amelia is on the left and Christo is on the right:

Amelia and Christo

Just after sunset, a kestrel flew over the hawk pair as they watched over the park.

Amelia, Christo and a kestrel

You can see more recent hawk photos on my Flickr page.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Mating season has begun for Tompkins Square red-tails, Christo and Amelia

Right on schedule, Tompkins Square red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, have begun mating. A fellow hawk-watcher caught them in the act on February 13, and they were seen mating again on Valentine's Day. We can expect to see an increase in mating activity over the next three or four weeks, with egg-laying expected in mid to late March.





In the meantime, the hawks are making progress on their nest.

Nest progress

On Sunday, I caught Amelia chowing down on a pigeon. She's an impressively large hawk, but with a full crop, she appears even bigger.

Amelia chowing down on pigeon steak

As she ate, Christo snuck up behind her.

Christo flying towards Amelia

Amelia scarfed down the last bit of food just as he arrived.

Christo sneaks up behind Amelia

Christo sneaks up behind Amelia

Christo and Amelia

Dinner was gone, but no worries as Christo went off to hunt for himself by lamp light. We've seen him do this numerous times - using the park lights to hunt for rats as they come out at dusk.

Christo hunting by lamp light

On Tuesday, the hawks were plagued by an intruding immature red-tail, so Christo took after it, screaming.

Angry Christo chasing out an intruder

As nesting season progresses, the hawks will be less tolerant of other hawks in their territory, and will chase them out of the area. Today, I saw both Christo and Amelia knock a curious squirrel out of their nest, so no visitors are allowed.

Amelia and Christo

Below is a video of Amelia and Christo keeping watch over the park from one of their favorite perches on Avenue A.

All seems well in East Village hawkland, and I look forward to seeing more activity from this pair.