Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Suddenly Autumn

It seems like we were sweltering in the summer heat just a minute ago, and now it's suddenly October. Since this post from August where I noted Tompkins Square Park has lost a lot of trees recently, two more mature American Elms have been cut down. We're averaging a loss of one mature tree a year, and there are a few more trees in the park that (in my non-professional opinion) don't look long for this world. I don't know what, if anything, is being done by the city to save or maintain these trees.

Moving on to our local hawks...I have not seen the Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling since mid-August and have to assume it has embarked on its own migration to parts unknown. This is my last photo of it taken on August 17:

My last photo of the Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling.

There were confirmed sightings of the fledgling on August 19, but no reports after that. Other immature red-tails have been seen in and around the park, likely dispersing from their own nesting grounds. One way to tell if a young hawk is not the offspring of the resident pair, Christo and Amelia, is to note the way they behave towards it. They will treat a 'strange' hawk as an intruder and chase it out of their territory, as they have been seeing doing with a number of interlopers recently.

Last week, I was happy to see Christo back atop his throne that is the flag pole in Tompkins Square.

Handsome Christo on his throne.

He is still growing in a few tail feathers after his summer molt, but his new autumn plumage looks handsome as ever. Compare his appearance above with how scraggly he looked in mid-molt:

Christo molting.

Christo molting.

Christo molting.

His head shows the most dramatic change. This was Christo on September 29 as he went hunting for dinner:

Christo on the hunt for rats.

Being pestered by a squirrel as he ate his catch, which was a rat:

A squirrel pesters Christo as he eats a rat.

Also last week, I observed some interesting behavior. Amelia was eating a pigeon in a tree while Christo watched her. The weird thing is Christo made sounds I've never heard him make in the nine years I've known him - he chirped like what can best be described as a chimney swift. He made a series of high-pitched chattering calls unlike anything I've ever heard him do. At first, I couldn't figure out what bird was making the sound, and kept looking up expecting to see swifts or swallows, but saw nothing. Only when I saw his mouth move did I figure out it was him.

Amelia on the left, Christo on the right:

Christo chirps at Amelia as she eats.

Christo hopped down to the branch where Amelia was a couple of times, causing her to defensively mantle her food. He'd make the chirpy sounds and return to his perch, then jump down and chirp at her some more.

Amelia eats her pigeon while Christo advances on her.

At one point, he had enough and aggressively took the pigeon from her. I've never seen him do this either.

Christo aggessively takes Amelia's pigeon.

Normally, Christo would wait for Amelia to finish eating before moving in on the left-overs, but he showed some rare impatience and lunged at her food. She reluctantly moved over to the side, looked at him for a few minutes, then flew off to a neighboring tree. Christo finished off the pigeon, then went on to hunt for rats in another area of the park.
 
Christo snatches away Amelia's dinner.

As fall raptor migration is underway, there will likely be many more hawks passing through the area, so Christo and Amelia have to remain vigilant about guarding their turf. They are often seen perched atop the Christodora in the evening, keeping an eye on the neighborhood as the sun goes down. Amelia is almost always perched on the left (north) side while Christo is on the right (south). They almost always face west.

Amelia and Christo on the roof of the Christodora building.

Bonus hawk: Red-Tails are not the only hawks migrating through the city - we also see Broad-Winged, Red-Shouldered, Cooper's and Sharp-Shinned hawks, like the one below that buzzed right over my head. I love when they do that.

Sharp-shinned hawk

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Raptor Fest 2022

A favorite annual event, Raptor Fest took place this last weekend in Prospect Park. Thank you to the NYC Urban Park Rangers who brought in falconer, Mike Dupuy, who shared several of his birds with a happy crowd of admirers.

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

One of the featured raptors was this female Gyrfalcon-Saker Falcon hybrid.

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

This male American Kestrel was a real crowd-pleaser.

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

The real stars of the day were two Harris's Hawks.

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

The hawks showed off their flying skills and beautiful plumage for the crowd.

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

NYC Raptor Fest 2022

You can see more photos from Raptor Fest 2022 on my Flickr page.

Previous Raptor Fest posts:

2020

2019

2018

2017

2014


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Spring leftovers

I recently came across some photos from Spring Bird Migration 2022 that I never got around to posting. Some of these birds should be traveling back our way for Fall Migration, so it will be nice to see them again, even if they are no longer sporting their bright spring plumage.

Yellow Warbler:

Yellow Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler:

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Common Yellowthroat:

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

White-Throated Sparrow:

White-Throated Sparrow
 
Yellow-Rumped Warbler:

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Killdeer hatchling:

Killdeer chick

Killdeer chick

Chipping Sparrow:

Chipping Sparrow

Eastern Pewee:

Eastern Pewee

Palm Warbler:

Palm Warbler

Song Sparrow:

Song Sparrow

Northern Parula:

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

American Redstart:

American Redstart

Friday, August 19, 2022

A brief encounter with the Tompkins Square hawk fledgling

I wasn't sure if the Tompkins Square Park red-tailed hawk fledgling had moved on since our last encounter several days ago, when the hawk was forced to abandon its meal after being scared by a dog. I was wondering if that incident could be the one to convince it to leave the area, but the hawk is still around.

Wednesday evening, the fledgling made a brief appearance along Avenue B.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling

The hawk appeared to be hunting in the same area where it previously caught a rat near the 9th Street entrance to the park.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling

The visit was interrupted by a vehicle that drove into the park, the driver obviously lost. This was only about a day after a car crashed into a row of benches in this very spot, as reported over on EV Grieve. People in the park angrily stopped the driver and forced him to turn around, which he did, then drove off down Avenue B. In the linked post, the tree in which the hawk is perched can be seen on the left side of the first photo.

In all the commotion, the hawk flew off and I lost track of it. I'm hoping it found a safer place to hunt for dinner.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Tompkins Square Park in greener days

Recently, it seems the state of Tompkins Square Park has gone downhill as it has been looking extremely neglected and abused. The lawns have been worn down to dirt, plants and flowers have disappeared, benches and decorative elements of the park are broken and vandalized. Someone has even been spray painting graffiti on the trees. 

With a lack of a full time staff, no dedicated gardener, minimal maintenance, no security to keeps dogs out of the gardens, and a city government that seems not to care at all, the park is really suffering. There is a "clean up" event happening tomorrow (August 18) at 5pm for residents to pick up litter.

I was looking through some old photos and realized how lush and green the park was just over ten years ago. A lot of credit goes to Debi the gardener, who retired in 2019. Her hard work made the park beautiful, and she is sorely missed.

This is the main lawn looking west on May 13, 2011. You can see there were flower beds along the fence and there used to be more trees.

Tompkins Square Park 13 May 2011

Unfortunately, the American Elm on the left in the above photo came down on August 29, 2011.

Tompkins Square Park 29 August 2011

It was leaning in such a way that the roots came to the surface, so a tip-over was inevitable. It was replaced later in 2011 by the NY Restoration Project, who planted a Dawn Redwood.
 
Off the top of my head, I can think of 18 mature trees that have either fallen or been cut down in the last 10-20 years. In 2014, resident Michael Natale created his wonderful Tompkins Tree map, which shows four markers for trees that were lost as he was creating the map.
 
This photo was taken on May 19, 2012 when the main lawn really was a lawn and people didn't have to worry about sitting in dog crap or worse.

Tompkins Square Park 19 May 2012

Of course, there was Bendy Tree, partner of the Krishna Tree, seen here on November 3, 2012. Bendy Tree would live just under another two years before being sent to the chipper on September 20, 2014.

Tompkins Square Park 3 November 2012

This photo was taken on the same day, but is over by the Temperance Fountain. The tree on the left was a favorite of local hawks, Christo and Dora, who often shared meals there with their offspring. It was one of the best hawk-watching trees in the park, but it was cut down some time around 2013-2014.

Tompkins Square Park 3 November 2012

November 17, 2012:

Tompkins Square Park 17 November 2012

May 13, 2013:

Tompkins Square Park 13 May 2013

This happened on August 9, 2013. It had just rained and the air was warm and humid, then crack!

Tompkins Square Park 9 August 2013

This man and another were sitting on the bench when the tree broke and were lucky not to have been hurt. This tree still stands today inside the park at the Avenue A & St Mark's entrance.

Tompkins Square Park 9 August 2013

This is a view of Krishna and Bendy on a lovely fall day on October 21, 2013. The row of benches on the right used to be a good place to sit in the shade. Now it's exposed to direct sun.

Tompkins Square Park 2 October 2013

This elm, photographed on October 25, 2015, still stands, but the entire upper left quadrant recently came down. The fence on the right side of the photo was replaced with one that is about two feet high when the playground along 7th Street was remodeled in 2018-2019. As a result, dogs have destroyed that area which is now dirt. The flowers and small decorative trees in that garden are all gone.

Tompkins Square Park 25 October 2015

Just north of the Krishna Tree, this Scholar Tree had a low branch that proved to be irresistible to children (and many adult children) who loved to play on it. This photo is from October 15, 2016. The branch was cut off some time around 2020-2021.

Tompkins Square Park 15 October 2016

Going through my old photos brought back memories of many people who used to be regulars of the park. For several years, Giuseppi Logan played his sax from a bench near the Avenue A & 9th Street entrance. This photo is from April 21, 2014.

Giuseppi Logan 21 April 2014

I really miss him, Debi, the grand trees, and flower gardens that for a time made Tompkins a beautiful place.