Friday, February 19, 2021

A new nesting season is underway for red-tails Christo & Amelia in Tompkins Square

It's time!

Red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, began building their new 2021 nest in Tompkins Square the week of February 5. They're using the same locust tree as last season despite damage to the tree last August during Tropical Storm Isaias that destroyed their previous nest and took out several branches. Then again, the hawk pair successfully fledged three chicks from that nest, so we have to trust they know what they're doing.

Below, Amelia and Christo discuss the best placement of sticks in the nest.

Amelia and Christo building their nest

Both Christo and Amelia collect sticks and bring them to the nest, but Amelia does most of the furniture arranging.

Amelia working on her nest

This is Amelia selecting a stick.

Amelia collecting sticks

Getting the right angle while retaining balance can be tricky.

Amelia collecting sticks

This one looks perfect.

Amelia collecting sticks


Amelia with a stick

Amelia taking a stick back to the nest:

Amelia with a stick

At one point, she landed right above my head.

Amelia collecting sticks

Amelia collecting sticks

I observed Amelia working hard for over two hours. She cut sticks from trees all around the park before taking a break in the late afternoon.



Christo helped her for the first hour or so.


Here he is snapping a stick.

Christo cutting a stick

Sometimes, they really have to stretch to get the one they want.

Christo cutting a stick



Christo looking victorious at the end of a busy day:


The pair have also begun mating this last week, which is right on schedule for them. We can look forward to watching them continue building their nest and bonding over the next could of weeks. If all goes well, we should expect eggs in early-mid March.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Seeing pink

For me, living in NYC, February is traditionally the dreariest month. Spring is in sight, but still far away, holidays are over, and the weather is usually cold an cloudy. We've had a lot of gloomy gray days recently, so I thought I'd warm things up by slipping into a pink mood.

First up, a flirty Roseate Spoonbill:

Roseate Spoonbill

Could it be smiling?


Check out those pink legs. What a cheery creature.


What other pink birds are there? Probably the most famous is the American Flamingo:

American Flamingo

Then there's the lesser-known and rarely seen East Village Flamingo:

2015 Drag March

Other than these two, I couldn't think of an example of another pink bird. There are many red birds, but pink is a much rarer find in nature.

Looking more mauve than pink, I enjoyed the antics of this Reddish Egret who put on a show as it actively hunted for fish along a beach.

Reddish egret

All of the photos above (except for the EV Flamingo, which was in Tompkins Square) were taken on a pre-pandemic trip to Florida, and this egret ended up being one of my favorite birds observed during the visit.

Reddish egret

It's not quite pink, but this Eastern Bluebird has a rosy orange chest that gives it a warm glow.

Eastern Bluebird

Male House Finches are described as red, but can look pinkish in a certain light.

House Finch

This is a similar-looking Purple Finch, who doesn't look purple at all.

Purple finch

If you're going to be a red bird, go RED, like this Summer Tanager.

Summer tanager

Maybe I have pink on my mind because Valentine's Day is this weekend and there are pink and red decorations and gifts in shop windows. It's also the time of year - despite being cold and gloomy - that birds start to display mating behavior. 

Below, a Cedar Waxwing feeds its partner a berry. Sweetness.

Cedar Waxwings

I went digging in my archives and came up with a photo of one more pink bird, seen right here in the city.


Blessing of the animals

This chick was one of the animals being blessed at the Feast of St Francis at St John the Divine

The color pink is said to have a calming effect on people. When I see it, I feel happier and hopeful. Birds have been found to see a much wider range of color than we do, so I have to wonder what they see when they look at each other, or when the sun goes down and turns the sky brilliant colors. Can they see this muted color as we do, are are they seeing much, much more?


Monday, February 1, 2021

Christo and Amelia weather the snowstorm

Just as the snow started falling late Sunday, I found resident red-tails, Christo and Amelia, hanging out together in their old nest tree in Tompkins Square. They've been spending time in this tree recently, so I hope that means they're considering it for their nest this season.

Amelia is perched high, Christo is down low:

Today, as the snowstorm really got going, I found the pair perched together in a tree on the west side of the park. Amelia is on the left and Christo is on the right.

Due to the weather conditions, I only had a pocket camera with me, and it was easier to take video.

After a few minutes, Amelia took off and Christo lingered in the area. I tried to get some decent shots of him but the wind and snow made it difficult. This was the best I could do, but you can see that he looks just fine.

Here's more video of Christo enduring the wind.

This wasn't Christo's first snowstorm - we captured him in worse conditions in 2016, and again in 2018 during a 'bomb cyclone'. The hawks (and other birds) can handle winter weather with their warm down coats, and seeing the hawk pair together in the park is a good sign that spring is not that far away.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Gearing up for nesting season with Christo & Amelia

It's that time of year when we begin looking for signs of nesting raptors across the city. 

For Tompkins Square red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, it's about time for them to start gathering sticks for a new nest. Their previous nest was destroyed by Hurricane Isaias last July, so it will be interesting to see where the pair decide to build this year. Will they return to the same locust tree, go back to the ginkgo that has served well in previous years, or will they choose a completely new location? 

Stay tuned!

In the mean time, I met up with the hawks in the park yesterday as Christo was eating a pigeon and Amelia perched in a nearby tree.






It was a very windy afternoon and Amelia had to crouch down to stay balanced on the branch.


At some point, something caught her attention and she took off and circled over me a few times.



After a few minutes, Christo joined her and they both disappeared to the east. I tried following, but wasn't able to locate them again.

It feels like an eternity, but a year ago, we observed Christo and Amelia nest-building by the end of January. They ended up having their most successful season together - fledging three chicks - and I hope they achieve the same success this year. Throughout the nightmare that was 2020, these hawks kept me together mentally and emotionally, and I am so grateful they allow us in their lives.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Mulchfest 2021 with bonus hawks

After surviving 2020, there's nothing more cathartic than watching Christmas trees get fed through a woodchipper.

Welcome to Mulchfest 2021 in Tompkins Square Park! This was my 12th year attending this event and I look forward all year to the fresh aroma of mulched evergreen that fills the park as the chipper transforms piles of discarded trees into heavenly scented potpourri.

Mulchfest 2021

Here is some video of the chipper in action:

Mulchfest 2021

Mulchfest 2021

Mulchfest 2021

After park workers converted all the trees to mulch, they dumped it into a pile on the sacred spot where the beloved Bendy Tree once stood.

Mulchfest 2021

So fresh!

Mulchfest 2021

Kids wasted no time conquering Mulch Mountain - gotta enjoy it before the dogs pee on it!

Mulchfest 2021

See previous Mulchfest posts here.

Check out photos of Mulchfest from years past here.

See more Mulchfest videos here.


Mulchfest in Tompkins Square wouldn't be complete without a hawk sighting, and our local hawks didn't let us down. When the chipper was turned off, I heard a commotion and looked up to see an immature red-tailed hawk flying over the park.

The young hawk was joined by our resident pair, Christo and Amelia, and the three chased each other around before disappearing over St Brigid's church on Avenue B. In the photo below, Amelia is on the left, Christo is in the center, and the immature intruder is on the right.

At one pass through the park, the immature hawk had a pigeon in its talons. When Christo reappeared in the park after all three hawks went behind the church, he had a pigeon, which he quickly ate in front of the restrooms. Who caught the pigeon? I don't know, but someone definitely had their lunch stolen.

Meanwhile, not far away, an adult Cooper's hawk perched in a tree, staying out of all the drama. The hawk stood up when Amelia flew by, but relaxed when it saw she wasn't going to force it to leave.

Over the years, I've noticed the red-tails show a fairly high tolerance for Cooper's hawks in their territory. Even these competing species can make room for each other.