Monday, March 30, 2020

Lower Manhattan red-tailed hawk update

As we continue to operate on a stay-at-home-as-much-as-possible schedule, I will still try to provide updates on our local NYC red-tailed hawks. At this time, the parks are open and it is okay to be outside as long as we practice social distancing, so hawk-watching is fine as long as we're careful.

First, the good news -

Red-tails, Christo and Amelia, are doing fine in Tompkins Square. They have been brooding eggs since early March and we can expect a hatch as early as later this week or next week. That said, there won't be anything for us to see as the nest is high in a tree, but we will be able to tell if something has happened by observing the behavior of the adults.

Once Christo starts bringing food to the nest, we'll know there is a chick. We won't be able to see a chick until it grows big enough to be seen over the edge of the deep nest. This could take several days. We do not know how many eggs are in the nest, so the number of chicks will have to be a surprise.

When this nest site was last used by Christo and Dora in 2017, I wasn't able to get a good look at the chick until almost a month after it hatched. As you can see in the photo below, the leaves on the tree had filled in by that time, making the nest hard to see. We will have to wait and see how visible the nest remains this season.

2017 Red-tail nestling in Tompkins Square
Tompkins Square red-tailed nestling in 2017.

While waiting for a hatch, there is always housekeeping to be done. When Christo and Amelia switch places for egg-sitting duty, the hawk returning to the nest will often bring more twigs or nesting material. In the photos below, Christo takes a piece of bark from one of his favorite Scholar trees back to the nest.

Christo with a piece of bark in Tompkins Square

Christo with a piece of bark from a Scholar tree

Christo with a piece of bark from a Scholar tree in Tompkins Square

Red-tailed hawk Christo with a piece of bark

In related news, we have a sad update from our hawk neighbors over at Washington Square Park. On March 26, the adult female, who had been brooding eggs, disappeared and is presumed dead. This is heartbreaking news as this nest had previously lost the long-time male last year, and the female was beginning her first family with a new male.

The webcam, to which I'd linked in my previous post, is off-air for now, but will resume if anything changes.

I don't think anyone should give up on that nest yet as there's still a chance another female will move into the territory and could still complete a breeding season. Back in 2018, Dora was taken to rehab from Tompkins Square on April 4, and Amelia moved in and she and Christo were brooding eggs on April 20 of that year. So, I'm still holding out hope that Washington Square could have a positive outcome.

Adding to the sad news, it's an end of an era as Roger Paw, the tireless hawk-chronicler of Washington Square, has retired the blog after almost a decade. We started documenting hawks in our respective parks around the same time, so I feel I have lost a neighbor and wish her well in her new life. The site will be kept up, and I recommend reading through the archives and enjoying all the photos.

I want to leave this post on a calm note, so I recommend tuning in to my new favorite web cam, the Northern Lights in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. You have to wait until night to see the lights, but the daytime landscape is soothing and nothing at all like NYC, so it's a nice change of scenery.

Until next time, be well and stay safe.

Christo keeping vigilant atop St Nicholas of Myra church
Christo keeping vigilant atop St Nicholas of Myra church.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Bird cams and courses to amuse while stuck at home

As many of us are now stuck at home for the foreseeable future, cabin fever can set in pretty fast.

One great way to bring Nature indoors is to tune into live webcams. There are webcams for just about everything on the internet, but I've listed a few below that feature birds that are currently sitting on eggs, have chicks or show some type of activity.


NYU Red-tailed Hawks Washington Square Park, currently brooding.
Cornell Red-tailed Hawks Ithaca, New York, currently brooding.
Northeast Florida Eagles Two eaglets named Jules and Romy occupy the nest.
Southwest Florida Eagles Currently brooding.
Decorah, Iowa, Eagles Currently brooding.
Decorah North Eagles Currently brooding.
West End Bald Eagles Catalina Island, California, Currently brooding.
Two Harbors Bald Eagles Catalina Island, California, Currently brooding.
Sarasota, Florida, Ospreys Two chicks recently hatched.
Savannah, Georgia, Ospreys Currently brooding.
California Condor Sanctuary Big Sur, California.
Royal Albatross Otago Peninsula, New Zealand (17 hours ahead of us in NY). Albatross chick on nest.
Bermuda Cahows/Petrels Nonsuch Island. Chick in burrow.
Hummingbird La Verne, California. Chick in nest.
Great-Horned Owls Charlo, Montana. Possible hatch.
Long-Eared Owls Missoula, Montana.
Mississippi River Flyway Brice Prairie, Wisconsin.
Ontario Bird Feeder

This one is not birds, but can be very soothing!
Blue Spring Manatees Blue Spring State Park, Florida.

 If you're looking to learn more about birds, check out the online courses Cornell University has to offer. They vary in length and topic, and are beneficial to all ages.
Cornell Bird Academy

Similarly, the recently-launched Birds of the World is a wonderfully expansive resource for all bird species across the globe. You could spend all day reading up on just about any bird you can think of. The site is subscription-based, but there is free content as well.
Birds of the World

 American Tree Swallow on Governors Island

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Christo and Amelia: business as usual in Tompkins Square

It's a strange and unprecedented time as we grapple with a global health crisis, and daily life has changed dramatically, especially here in the city. Each day brings new levels of anxiety, but we still have a calming constant, and that is Nature.

People have asked me how the (Tompkins Square) hawks are doing amidst this health crisis, and they are doing just fine. Christo and Amelia go about their daily routine as they brood their eggs, switching shifts on the nest, and taking breaks to fly around and stretch.

Christo and Amelia

The park has been very quiet recently as more and more people stay home, so I have to wonder if the hawks notice our absence, or if they are enjoying the lack of human activity. I suspect they don't care much, and are just proceeding with life as usual.

Even though the hawks are sitting on eggs and their nest is complete, it still requires plenty of housekeeping and maintenance. Below, Christo collects a fresh stick to take back to the nest.

Christo with a stick

Here he is perched just above the nest. Amelia is in there, but you can't see her at all when she's hunkered down.

Christo on his nest

Later, Christo teased me by being uncooperative for the camera.

Christo being uncooperative

This is Amelia on a recent bright blue morning.

Amelia

Amelia

I like how she crouches before springing off the branch. You can really see her beautiful eye color.

Amelia preparing for takeoff

This is Christo in mid-spring.

Christo taking off

And Christo with his wings extended, focused on the next task.

Christo

Christo is approximately seven years old now, approaching middle-age. He's really grown into a magnificent mature adult.

Christo

Amelia spends the most time in the nest, but Christo brings her meals and she comes out to stretch her wings.

Amelia

I caught her soaring over Avenue B the other day.

Amelia

She was in hot pursuit of this adult red-tailed interloper. While Christo stayed in the nest, Amelia dealt with the intruder, escorting it out of the territory.

Interloper

One last photo of Christo as he was on the prowl the other evening, looking for rats in the park.

Christo

There's not much hawk activity in the park during this time while they brood, but so far, everything is looking good for them.

In related hawk news, the red-tailed pair over in Washington Square Park welcomed their first egg of the season around 4:45pm today. I just happened to tune into the live web cam as it happened. If you're stuck at home and need something to do, tune into the cam and see what goes on at a hawk nest. They will likely lay more eggs over the next few days.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Egg time for Christo and Amelia

March 4, at 4:49pm, I believe I saw Amelia lay an egg.  This is her just before it happened:

Amelia

We cannot see into the nest as it is high in a tree, but we can make educated guesses about what is going on up there based on the hawks' behavior.

Leading up to this moment, both hawks had been active throughout the day, but Amelia settled into the nest late in the afternoon. Christo brought her a rat in the nest, but she wasn't interested in eating. He took it to a nearby tree, eating it and periodically calling to her to come and eat as well. She remained perched on the edge of the nest for about half an hour. She then sat down low in the nest for a few minutes, then popped up suddenly and immediately began digging around and making motions as if she had just laid an egg. She then laid down in the nest. Christo visited a couple of times, but she wouldn't get up, and she ended up spending the night there while Christo roosted in a nearby tree.

Rat delivery to nest

I wasn't positive of the situation until I returned to the park at sunrise this morning and found Christo laying down in the nest and Amelia perched nearby. He came out for a few minutes and they mated, then returned to the nest with tree bark. At that point, Amelia laid back down in the nest and remained there for most of the day. I saw them trade places twice, which is classic brooding behavior.

Hawks usually lay 1-3 eggs over the span of a few days. After the first egg is laid, they will continue to leave the nest to mate, but Amelia will stay in the nest through the night. Lat year, Amelia appeared to lay her first egg March 13, so they are early this year. However, I'm not really surprised as they completed their nest in January and have been mating regularly over the last few weeks. Incubation will take about six weeks, so a hatch time would be mid to late April.

Below are some highlights from the last couple of days.

Amelia on the nest:

Amelia in her nest

Christo:

Christo

Christo taking rat dinner to Amelia:

Christo with a rat

Christo and Amelia hanging out at Most Holy Redeemer church:

Christo and Amelia

Mating on the church!

Christo and Amelia mating

Mating on the cross!

Christo and Amelia mating atop Most Holy Redeemer

Amelia looking really thrilled:

Christo and Amelia mating atop Most Holy Redeemer

Lovebirds:

Amelia and Christo

Amelia and Christo on the cross at Most Holy Redeemer as evening sets in:

Amelia and Christo

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

What to do in a hawk emergency

Friday night, Christo was discovered to be trapped in an air-shaft between two buildings on East 7th Street. Thankfully, Ranger Rob Mastrianni of the NYC Urban Park Rangers was in the area and was able to rescue him without incident. Christo was fine, and you can read the full account of what happened over at EV Grieve.


So, what do you do if you find a hawk or other animal that needs help?

In the case of hawks/falcons, if it is perched on a fire escape or air-conditioner and it's night, it may just be roosting (sleeping), in which case you should leave it alone and see if it flies off in the morning. If it doesn't leave, or if it looks like it might be hurt, call 311 and ask for the Urban Park Rangers. They are trained to handle wildlife-related situations and can advise you on what steps to take next.

I have created a page linked in the right-hand sidebar of this blog under the heading NYC Wildlife Emergency Contacts. You will find phone numbers and other resources for seeking help when encountering wildlife in the city.

I'm hoping this little adventure taught Christo a lesson and he never pulls that stunt again, but all our urban birds and animals need our assistance surviving in this wild city.