Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Srping is approaching for Christo and Amelia

As winter seems to be slipping away, Tompkins Square resident red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, are going about their routine of preparing for the upcoming nesting season.

I was happy to find Christo perched atop his golden orb the other evening, actively looking for prey.

Christo perched on his golden flag pole throne.

After several unsuccessful dives from the flag pole, Christo tried another vantage point in a tree.

Christo perched in a locust tree.

From there, he flew down to a fence where he spotted rodents lurking in the shrubbery.

Christo hunting from the top of a fence.

He made an attempt to catch something on the ground, but came up empty-taloned.

Christo takes off.

Not giving up, Christo flew up to a nearby lamp post where he had a view of the area.

Christo perched on a light pole.

Sitting up there in the beautiful late afternoon sun drew the attention of several onlookers who whipped out their cellphones for a quick snap. He didn't seem to mind.

Christo eyes us from atop a light pole.

I watched Christo make several more swoops at rats and pigeons, but he didn't catch any dinner during my visit.

Christo even tried to grab some pigeons off the roofs of some buildings, but just didn't have luck behind him on this evening. So, why was he doing this?  He has to feed himself, of course, but he's also providing meals to his mate, Amelia.

While Christo went through the motions, Amelia patiently watched and waited in a tree nearby.

Amelia perched in a locust tree.

She seems to prefer eating pigeons over rats (don't we all?), and I suspect he puts in the extra effort to try and catch her a pigeon.
 
As spring begins, the hawks will show more breeding behavior: mating, becoming more territorial, driving squirrels away from their nest, and sharing food. I like this time of year when they are obviously sweet on each other. All our time with them is a gift.
 
Amelia in her locust tree at sunset.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Leucistic Red-Tailed Hawk

Earlier this month, I attended the annual Boyd Hill Nature Preserve Raptor Fest in St. Petersburg, Florida. One of the featured raptors was this leucistic adult male Red-Tailed Hawk.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk perches on a rehabber's arm.

His striking and unusual plumage drew a lot of attention and questions about his condition.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk spreads his wings.

Apparently, this hawk was doing just fine on his own until he consumed poisoned prey. Thankfully, someone rescued him and took him to a rehabber, who discovered he had a problem with his left eye (see photo below) and was determined to be unreleasable.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk with an eye injury.

Portrait of a leucistic male red-tailed hawk.

You can see in the photo below that he has the red tail.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk perches on a rehabber's arm, showing his red tail.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk perches on a rehabber's arm.

I've seen leucism occur in birds before, but not to this extent. He is quite a beauty.

Portrait of a leucistic male red-tailed hawk.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk perches on a rehabber's arm.

A leucistic male red-tailed hawk perches on a rehabber's arm.

Although leucistic hawks are rare, they're not unheard of and they do manage to survive in the wild. Here is video of a leucistic female feeding her chick last spring in Tennessee.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Nestorations in progress for Christo and Amelia

As nesting season gears up for our local red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, they are spending more time in and around Tompkins Square Park.

Here they are the other evening atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A.

Christo & Amelia

And this is Amelia checking out conditions of their nest. It appears they'll be using the same location as last year.

Amelia on her nest.

This is Amelia fluffed up in the cold in one of her favorite locust trees.

Amelia.

This is Christo in the same tree, but on a different day.

Christo.

We should start seeing some courting behavior such as Christo bringing food gifts to Amelia. This is a photo of her chowing down on...something.

Amelia chowing down.

Amelia soared over me, showing off her beautiful wings and form.

Amelia soaring.

The following are some recent photos I didn't get around to posting earlier. This is Amelia being pursued by one of the pesky neighborhood kestrels. This one is a male.

Amelia being chased by a kestrel.

Amelia and a kestrel.

This is Christo looking bright-eyed and alert, no doubt sizing up some potential prey.

Christo.

I caught him flying around on a gloomy day. Even when the lighting is bad, he looks good.

Christo.

Christo.

Finally, this is Christo perched on the cross of St Brigid's church on Avenue B. This is a good place to spot the hawks, as it provides them with a direct view of their nest and territory within the park.

Christo.

If all goes well, we can expect the hawks to continue working on their nest for the next month or so, and expect eggs some time in March.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Christo and Amelia gear up for their 7th nesting season

It's January, which means nesting season for our local Red-Tailed Hawks is ramping up. Resident pair, Christo and Amelia, have been doing some light housekeeping at their old nest, and will likely spend the next few weeks collecting sticks in preparation for the next generation of offspring.

Earlier in the week, I found Amelia on the roof of the Christodora building, calmly watching over Tompkins Square Park.

Amelia

She eventually moved from that perch to the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A.

Amelia

Here she is on the cross of St Brigid's church on Avenue B:

Amelia

The following day, Christo took his place on the Avenue A cross.

Christo

Yesterday, I found him soaring over the park.

Christo

He then settled on his spot atop the Christodora.  He prefers the south end of the roof while Amelia likes the north end. They almost always face west.

Christo

It wasn't long before Christo was mobbed by a local Kestrel. The hawks tolerate this annoyance better than I would, lol.

Christo being mobbed by a kestrel.

Stay tuned as we look forward to another successful year for this hawk pair.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

NYC Mulchfest 2024

It's the best weekend of the year - Mulchfest!  Specifically, wood-chipping weekend.

This morning in Tompkins Square Park, a mountain of discarded Christmas trees awaited the arrival of the chipper.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

As soon as the chipper arrived, workers began removing all metal, plastic, and forgotten ornaments from the trees.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

They organized a pile to make things easier for tossing the trees into the machine.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

NYC Mulchfest 2024

As the chipper chewed up the evergreens and spat out the shreds into the back of a truck, the air filled with wonderfully aromatic fir dust.  This what we wait all year to smell.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

Meanwhile, over in Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn, the first round of chipping had ended but I got there in time to enjoy the holiday tree and decorations.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

Several people were enjoying the free fresh mulch.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

As usual, the Parks Department provided some cute canvas bags people could use to collect mulch to take home.

NYC Mulchfest 2024

Here are some videos of the mulching in Tompkins Square:




If you missed the wood chipper today, it is scheduled to be out and about again tomorrow, Sunday, January 7.  See the Parks Department website for chipping locations.

See my Mulchfest archive here.

I also have a dedicated Flickr photo collection here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2023 Bird Stats

2023 turned out to be a pretty good bird year for me. I ended the year with 246 species, 24 of which were lifers (first-time observations). 

My first bird observation of 2023 was a pair of Red-Tailed hawks in Brooklyn, and the last observation of the year was a male Merlin, also in Brooklyn.

According to eBird, the species I saw the greatest number of was Common Grackle (5,015). This was due to the huge flocks they form in the fall. Coming in second was Brant (4,935) followed closely by Canada Goose (4,684). Conspicuously missing from this list is Snow Geese, which I usually see in large numbers at Jamaica Bay, so it appears I failed to visit the wildlife refuge at the end of last winter. Something to strive for this year.

Some highlights from 2023:

 

Horned Lark

These were photographed at Floyd Bennett Field and this was, surprisingly, the first time I'd seen them. Despite their bold color patterns, they could be really camouflaged while foraging on the ground.

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

MacGillivray's Warbler

This was an extreme rarity found in the Bronx by birders during the Christmas Bird Count. This little skulker looks similar to a Mourning Warbler, but has a broken eye ring. They're normally found on the west coast, so this individual drew a lot of attention in the birding community.

MacGillivray's Warbler

Connecticut Warbler

I've seen Connecticut Warblers several times, but they are often tough to find as they prefer to stay hidden away in dense vegetation. This one spent a lot of time in the open in Green-Wood Cemetery and provided some excellent views.

Connecticut Warbler

Northern Pintail

There were a couple of Pintails in the Central Park Meer this last fall, but I saw this male on Christmas Day in Brooklyn. I've never seen one as close to shore as this, so he made my day.

Northern Pintail

Purple Sandpiper

These are birds I've also seen several times before, but it seems they always appear on dark and dreary days, making photographing them difficult. This was one of a flock of five that were foraging along the rocky shoreline of Governors Island.

Purple Sandpiper

Gray-Headed Swamphen

This was my first time seeing this bird and I just thought it was cool looking. This photo was taken at sunrise in a Florida wetland. Check out those huge feet!

Gray-Headed Swamphen

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

I saw this pair while on a visit to New Orleans, then saw more in Florida. I think they're really beautiful and I love their squeaky calls.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Belted Kingfisher

Kingfishers can be found everywhere, but this male was hanging out at Newtown Creek, a Superfund Site in Brooklyn/Queens. Those are Canada Geese in the background. Despite being one of the most polluted sites in the country, there is a lot of wildlife to be found there - more reason to clean up the environment.

Belted Kingfisher

Christo

2023 marks my 10th year documenting Christo, the resident male Red-Tailed Hawk of Tompkins Square Park. He and his mate, Dora, appeared in November 2013 and I'll never forget the day they made their move on the territory. There had been three immature hawks using the park when the new adult pair showed up and spent a whole day observing the situation from the roof of the Christodora. At some point, they made a decision and few into the park and drove off all the other hawks. The first time I saw Christo close up, he was perched on the fence at the Avenue A & St Mark's Place entrance. The following year would prove to be absolutely magical as we (several hawk-watchers) observed Christo raise a family of three chicks and show us what it means to be a hawk in this city.

Christo.

Christo has gone on to raise 22 chicks to fledge, as well as one foster chick from Brooklyn. You can read up on his stats on my Tompkins Square Park Hawk Archive Page

Christo and his mate of six years, Amelia, are currently gearing up for the next breeding season. You are likely to see them around the park any day of the week.