Friday, October 16, 2020

Fall foliage in the East Village

These trees on East 5th Street between First and Second Avenues remind me of Nature's paint brushes, decorating the neighborhood with happy vibrant color.

Fall foliage in the East Village

Let's hope for a beautiful fall season.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

2020 summer bird highlights

I somehow let the entire summer slip by without posting any bird (non-hawk) photos! Despite the last several months being stressfull and chaotic due to the pandemic, I did manage to do a lot of birding. It's the one activity that's been safe and relatively easy for me to do during this time of limited travel. Although I haven't been able to venture outside the city, I've been successful finding birds close to home. Below are some highlights from the last several weeks.

Northern Parula:

Northern Parula

Prairie Warbler:

Prairie warbler

Prairie warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler:

Black-throated green warbler

Magnolia Warbler fanning its tail:

Magnolia warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler:

Black-throated blue warbler

Blackpoll Warbler:

Blackpoll warbler

American Redstart:

American redstart

Nashville Warbler:

Nashville warbler

Chestnut-Sided Warbler:

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

Red-Eyed Vireo:

Red-eyed vireo

Warbling Vireo:

Warbling vireo

Summer Tanager:

Summer tanager

Eating a bee:

Summer tanager eating a bee

Scarlet Tanager:

Scarlet tanager





Brown Thrasher:

Brown Thrasher

Baltimore Oriole:

Baltimore Oriole

Gray Catbird:


Great Crested Flycatcher:

Great crested flycatcher

White-Throated Sparrow:

White-throated sparrow

House Wren:

House wren

Dark-Eyed Junco:


Warbler migration seems to be winding down in this area, but there are still a lot of birds on the move, making their way south for the winter. It's a slow time of year for the local hawks, but Christo and Amelia are around and seem to be doing okay. I'll post updates on them once the activity kicks up again, which I hope will be soon.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Rat Academy goes virtual

NYC Council Speaker, Corey Johnson, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are hosting a free virtual Rat Academy on Wednesday, September 23 from 5-7 PM

Rat Academy flyer

You can register for the event here.

If you can't make the session on September 23, there will be another on Wednesday, September 30 from 4-6pm.

I've attended Rat Academy in the past and highly recommend it to everyone - the focus is on safe and effective methods for rat prevention in your building and neighborhood, and is open to all. Learn more about the program here.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Migrating birds and the 9/11 Tribute in Light

Fall bird migration is well underway and it happens to coincide with the 9/11 Tribute in Light here in Manhattan. The birds are flying south at night, and they can be confused and disoriented by the bright lights. Volunteers from NYC Audubon were on hand Friday night to monitor the birds and to advise the tribute organizers to periodically shut off the lights when too many birds gathered in the beams. I decided to go downtown to check it out and to see how many birds I could spot.

Around 9pm, the lights were clearly visible and the birds were, too - they could be seen with the naked eye and resembled bright bubbles swirling up and down within the bright columns.

Birds trapped in the 9/11 memorial lights

Birds trapped in the 9/11 memorial lights

Birds could be seen throughout the cylinders of light and many people down below had no idea what they were looking at. I heard several people say they thought the specks were trash or paper, and many were surprised to discover they were observing live birds flying at night.

Birds trapped in the 9/11 memorial lights

I took a few videos to show the movement of the birds, which looked like fireflies in a lava lamp.

I attempted to take photos to try and identify the individual bird species. I was able to confirm a common nighthawk and several types of warblers, but the bright lights, dark sky and fast movement of the birds made photography a challenge. There is an eBird hotspot page for this location that lists 80 species seen to date flying through the lights.

The Sierra Club has published a good article with more information about the Tribute in Light and what is being done to monitor bird migration during this annual emotional event.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Last glimpse of the Governors Island red-tailed hawk fledglings

It's a somewhat quiet time of year for hawk-watching as most fledglings have dispersed from their nesting areas and the adults take a well-deserved break from raising their young. The hawks that nest here in the city do not migrate, so they remain in their territories, but there's not usually too much action this time of year. 

As I said in an earlier post, I missed the entire nesting season for the red-tailed hawks of Governors Island, but was able to see the two fledglings after the island reopened to the public in late July. I was only able to spot one fledgling on that initial visit, but when I returned to the island on August 5, I lucked out and saw both fledglings together.

When I arrived, one youngster appeared on the weather vane at Liggett Hall.

Governors Island red-tail fledgling

It was then joined by its dad, pictured below on the left.

Governors Island parent and fledgling red-tails

When the male took off, I could see he was still in the process of molting - he only had seven tail feathers (normally twelve), was missing several flight feathers, and his head looked a bit scruffy.

Governors Island red-tail

As he flew, he was joined by a Fish Crow (also molting). They also nest on the island and can be very territorial.

Fish crow and red-tailed hawk

This crow clearly didn't like the hawk and aggressively chased him around.

Fish crow and red-tailed hawk

As I was focused on the adult male hawk, one of the fledglings interrupted my shot, stealing focus! 

You can just barely make out the rusty orange tail feathers of the male in the background, and you can see the difference in the number of outer primary feathers on the adult vs the juvenile. Dad is missing several "fingers" on both wings, while the fledgling has a complete set.

Juvie red-tail photo-bombs parent

This is the juvenile:

Governors Island red-tail fledgling

To my surprise, the second fledgling appeared and both of them tussled at the weather vane.

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

They continued their play on the roof of Liggett Hall.

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

I love watching hawks at this age when they're playful and interact with each other.

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

Governors Island red-tail fledglings

As the siblings played around on the roof, Dad continued to fly around with the crow until the crow decided to head somewhere else. It was replaced by a Barn Swallow who was really more interested in catching insects than paying any attention to the hawk.

Red-tailed hawk and barn swallow

I did see the Mom hawk that day, but didn't get any good photos of her. She was nearby in some trees being harassed by another crow. Dealing with annoying neighbors is just something the hawks have to do.

At the end of my visit, one of the fledglings was back up on the weather vane and all seemed calm.

Governors Island red-tail fledgling

I have not seen either fledgling on any of my subsequent visits to the island, so I hope they are traveling companions on their first migration to parts unknown.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Hawk season winding down in Tompkins Square

It's that time of year when sightings of our local red-tail hawk fledglings start to taper off as the birds begin to disperse. The young hawks have stuck around the park much longer this season than I expected, so seeing them throughout the summer has been a welcome gift. 

I saw one of the fledglings on a building a couple of blocks from the park yesterday, so they are still around the area, but are spending more and more time outside the park. Now that they can catch their own food, they are no longer dependent on parents, Christo and Amelia, to feed them. Below are some highlights of August sightings.

August 5 in Tompkins Square:

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling
Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

On top of St Brigid's church on Avenue B:

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Catching a rat in the park on August 6:

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with a rat

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with a rat

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with a rat

After Tropical Storm Isaias hit the city on August 4, the hawks spent several days afterwards on the east side of the park, where there was a lot of tree damage and debris. The squirrel activity in this area seemed to hold the fledglings' attention.

One of the fledglings hangs out with a squirrel in the park on August 7:

Fledgling hawk and squirrel

I took some video of the fledgling and squirrels interacting in the brambles:

In this one, the young hawk plays around, unnoticed by people sitting on a nearby bench:

Back in the park on August 11:

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

I think this is the only time I've caught any of the fledglings on a fire escape. I don't know if I've just not spotted them on fire escapes this year (because of the pandemic, I've not spent as much time looking around the neighborhood for the hawks), or if these guys just prefer to perch in trees and on rooftops.

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

On August 13, this fledgling caught a small rat in the SE corner of the park, then took it up to the fence to eat. 

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling with prey

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling

The hawks in all the photos above feature two of the three Tompkins fledglings. There was one with a distinctive reddish tail, and I have not seen that individual in about a month. It may be still be around.
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