Monday, November 22, 2021

Fall foliage highlights

It's Thanksgiving week, which means we're officially past peak fall foliage here in NYC. As always, the trees surprise us with the intensity of their colorful displays.

On Governors Island, one side of the road has already transitioned to winter as the other side lets us enjoy the autumn colors just a little while longer.


Green-Wood Cemetery is always spectacular, especially in the late afternoon sun.





Tompkins Square Park always puts on a beautiful Fall show.


Woodlawn Cemetery was gorgeous this season, even on an overcast day.








The blazing oranges and reds of the Japanese Maples seemed unreal. The colors in these photos are not enhanced and they were even more dazzling in person.




This is the oldest tree in Woodlawn, a White Oak that predates the cemetery. On this day, its leaves were transitioning from green to yellow to orange to brown...to think this tree is (possibly) older than this country is pretty amazing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Christo, Amelia and a Cooper's hawk hanging out in Tompkins Square

It's that time of year when migrating raptors pass through the city, and many decide to spend some time in the territory of local Red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia. In the past, the red-tails have been mostly tolerant of Cooper's hawks, but this season, Christo and Amelia seem to be less patient with the visitors.

On a recent afternoon, we found this immature Cooper's hawk hanging out in a tree in Tompkins Square.

Apparently Amelia spotted it as well and she flew straight at it, chasing it from the tree. She then perched on the cross of St Brigid's church and looked back in the direction the other hawk had flown.

This is the Cooper's in flight.

Amelia didn't like the intruder violating her air space and quickly took off after it.

Cooper's hawks make a very different call than the infamous Red-tailed hawk scream. In this video from 2019, we caught a pair of Cooper's hawks calling to each other here in the neighborhood.

Back in the park, Christo stood watch from a high branch that gave him a view of the entire area.


After a few minutes, Amelia returned and perched atop her favorite corner of the roof of the Christodora building.

A closer look at Amelia - she really is a beauty.

Meanwhile, Christo came down to perch in the fall foliage.

This is the pair on the cross at St Brigid's.

As the sun went down, they stayed vigilant, ensuring no other hawks crept into the park to spend the night.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Merlins in the city

New York City may be known as an urban habitat for Peregrine Falcons, but another type of falcon can be found here in the city:  Merlins.

Smaller than Peregrines and bigger than Kestrels, Merlins can easily be overlooked as they blend in with similarly-sized birds such as pigeons and starlings.

For size reference, here is a Merlin flying alongside a Red-tailed Hawk in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Merlins in our area (Taiga) are mostly brown and streaky. Males have a dark gray back and wings, and they prey on smaller birds, rodents and insects.

We caught this one taking a break in a tree on a dreary day.


That look is so fierce!

Stretching to reveal a beautifully banded tail.






If you're walking the streets and see flocks of starlings, pigeons or house sparrows suddenly flying together in evasive patterns, look to see if there's a raptor in the mix as it could be a Merlin trying to snag some lunch.


To note, all of these photos were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped. We remained very far away from the birds and stayed as hidden as possible so as not to disturb their activities. In the city, it can sometimes be easy to get close to a raptor, but we take care to practice ethical birding and not interrupt the birds when they're hunting, sleeping or resting.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Herons of lower Manhattan

We've been enjoying many heron sightings around the city recently, especially around the harbor. This gorgeous Great Blue Heron struck a pose on a piling near Battery Park in the late afternoon sun.

Its long silvery feathers are so elegant.


Not far away, an immature Black-Crowned Night Heron played with a piece of wood it found in the water.



This one tries its luck hunting along the East River shoreline.


Score! The heron catches a crab.

Toss and gulp!

An adult Black-Crowned Night Heron watches from a nearby perch.

For a while, night herons were being spotted fairly regularly in Tompkins Square Park.  A quick check of eBird reveals the last observation of one there was in 2019.

As the sun sets, the night heron's day is just beginning...