Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas raptorama

The dark/cloudy/foggy weather lately has made photographing birds difficult, and I've been waiting unsuccessfully for a sunny day to get some decent hawk photos.  But there's been a lot of raptor activity in the East Village/Lower East Side recently, so here is one big update.

One exciting bit of news is it's been confirmed that there is a new pair of adult red-tailed hawks hanging around the Lower East Side.  For the last few weeks, there have been many sightings of red-tails around Grand Street, but we (hawk-watchers) weren't sure if these birds were Christo and Dora, or tourist hawks.  We've never been quite sure how far south Christo and Dora's territory goes, and there's no reason why they wouldn't fly around there.

Last Friday, a fellow hawk-watcher spotted a pair perched atop a building at Clinton and Grand Streets.  He then ran over to Allen, where he could see up the avenue to Village View at 4th Street, where Christo and Dora were perched in their usual spot.  He then ran back to Clinton and Grand and saw that the other pair was still where he left them.  Whether they will decide to take up permanent residence, no one knows yet, but I'm thrilled at the prospect of another hawk family in the area (local rats are reportedly not as thrilled).

I've not been able to observe the new hawk couple myself yet, but I did catch a juvenile red-tail rambunctiously chasing pigeons around Ludlow and Houston this morning:

Juvie red tail on 

Juvie red tail on Ludlow 

Later this afternoon, I saw what I believe to be the same bird perched on a pole at Grand and Suffolk.  It stayed there a few minutes before flying far east on Grand.

Meanwhile, Christo and Dora have both been spending a good amount of time in Tompkins Square.  I tend to see them late in the day either at or after sunset.  On several occasions, I've seen them both go to roost in the park.  Tonight (Christmas Eve), Christo went to roost in the Krishna tree, near the lit-up Christmas tree (I was really hoping he'd make himself the Christmas tree topper, but no such luck).

The following photos are from the last few days.

Here is Christo digesting his dinner late in the evening in the big elm near Avenue And 7th Street.  Dora is perched in the tree above and behind him.

After dark in TSP

Christo in the late afternoon sun...

Christo the red-tailed hawk

Christo the red-tailed hawk

Christo the red-tailed hawk

He deftly nabbed a rat along Avenue A.  The colored clouds in the foreground are the result of me being trapped behind a rose bush.

Christo catches a rat

Mouth full of rat...

Close your mouth when you chew!

After dinner, Christo called to Dora from a tree along 7th Street.  You can see his crop (the bulge in his chest) is full.

Christo calling

Still calling, he took off after her.

Christo calling

Here she is, Miss America Dora, in her favorite sycamore at Avenue A and St Mark's Place.

Dora in her favorite tree

This is about as close as she lets me get to her.


Later, patrolling the skies.


For some time, I've been catching glimpses of a Cooper's hawk around the park, especially along Avenue A.  I was just beginning to think I was imagining things, when a Cooper's zipped by late one afternoon. 

Cooper's Hawk

The Cooper's is really fast and agile, so by the time I see it and raise my camera, it's usually already out of sight.

Speaking of fast flyers, I've been seeing more of the Peregrine falcon that has been hanging around the area. I'm almost certain this is the same falcon that's been seen on Allen Street, Bowery, First Avenue and around Tompkins Square.  It's been troublesome to photograph as it's usually very high up and far away (and I never have the right camera with me when I see it).

Wednesday morning, when it was so foggy I couldn't see beyond the sixth floor of any building, I happened to spot it perched on a construction tower at Allen and Rivington. 

Peregrine falcon in the fog

I saw Christo perched on the same tower a couple of weeks ago and, at first, I thought it was him.  But, closer inspection revealed the telltale markings of a Peregrine.

Peregrine falcon in the fog

This video, taken from Orchard and Rivington Streets, shows the falcon taking off and you can see its pointed wings.  It flew NE towards Avenue A and Houston.

A few minutes later, on the same frustratingly foggy morning, I came across two kestrels on Division Street.  I believe they are the same pair who nested in the area last summer.  I was excited to see both of them, and they were flying around like crazy.  I never saw them catch any food or go after any other birds, so I don't know why they were so energized.

Here's one of them on Pike and East Broadway. 

Kestrel in the fog

This is the male.

Kestrel in the fog

This video shows both of them - the female is on the left and the male is on the right.

Back to the hawks...

One more shot of Christo!


After an afternoon searching high and low for Christo and Dora, I finally found them in one of their favorite spots atop Most Holy Redeemer Church on E 3rd Street.  This was taken from Tompkins Square, and the hawks are the tiny white blobs at the base of the dome on the left, just above the green band.


All this raptor activity gives me hope that we'll see much more of all these birds in the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

See more photos here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

More of the painted bunting

I made the pilgrimage to Prospect Park a week ago to see the painted bunting, New York's biggest celebrity.  Since then, I can't get him out of my mind, so I paid him another visit today.  This time, there was a crowd of only five spectators and, at one point, I was even alone with the tiny superstar.  This made for a more relaxed experience.

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

He appears to be eating his way through the park...

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

He spent a good deal of time munching on the dark seeds that are hanging below him.

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

So much for table manners!

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

This seed is almost as big as his eye.

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

Despite being a blazing rainbow, the bunting is surprisingly well-camouflaged in the foliage.  I had a hard time spotting him even after people pointed him out to me.

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

The day-glo green patch on his back is, for me, the eye-catcher.  As he moved around, that bright patch flashed like a fishing lure.

Painted bunting in Prospect Park

See more photos here.

For more images of this bird, check out the extraordinary photographs by Francois Portmann.  They are absolutely stunning.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bowery falcon

I was walking up a dark and dreary Bowery last Friday afternoon when I looked up and saw a large bird fly overhead and land on top of the New Museum at Prince Street.  At first, I thought it was a hawk, but it turned out to be a Peregrine falcon.

Peregrine falcon atop the New Museum

I only had my pocket camera with me, but I managed to get some video of it preening:

I've been seeing a falcon around the East Village fairly regularly recently.  I don't know if it's the same individual or if there is more than one falcon around, but it would be interesting to have more raptors in the area. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fundraiser for WINORR

WINORR (Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation) has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the ongoing care they provide our local wildlife.

From the campaign description:
We are raising money to help us care for the countless numbers of injured wildlife on Long Island and the city.  We are a small non profit organization (WINORR) that we run from our home. All of the expenses come out of our own pockets. We are asking for some help so we can continue to provide excellent care to the beautiful animals in need.
WINORR has been instrumental in many urban hawk rescues and releases, and their hard work and dedication to animals is extraordinary.

You can learn more about WINORR on their Facebook page.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

This week with Christo

It's been a busy time for red-tailed hawk Christo, as he and Dora have really been patrolling and defending their East Village territory.  Nearly every morning, I can count on seeing one or both of them atop the chimney of Village View on First Avenue and 4th Street.

On the morning of December 3, I saw Christo perched further south atop a construction tower at Allen and Rivington Streets.  His focus was on the scene to the west.

Christo on high

Other hawk-watchers have been telling me they've been seeing adult red-tails around the Lower East Side (south of Delancey) recently.  We have yet to determine if these hawks are Christo, Dora or newcomers to the area.  I've seen Christo and Dora go as far south and east as the Williamsburg Bridge, but I've been unable to figure out the southern border of their territory. 

Saturday found Christo hunting in Tompkins Square in the late afternoon.  I've actually had a hard time photographing the birds lately as it gets dark so early and that seems to be the time when the hawks are active.

Christo at dusk

The hawks may own the skies, but the squirrels still own the trees.

Christo and a squirrel at dusk

This day, I was fortunate enough to spot Christo as he went to roost.  This photo was taken well after dark, around 5pm.  He is high in the tree to the west of the Krishna tree, in the one that has the big-long-bendy-branch-that-people-hang-on-and-that-will-possibly-kill-someone-some-day. That one.

Christo gone to roost 

This is one of the few trees left in the park that still has a significant number of leaves.  The night after this, both Christo and Dora went to roost up high in a leafy tree near the corner of the park at Avenue B and 7th Street.  I have to wonder if they are choosing leafy trees for cover - the juvenile red-tail that was spotted on 6th Street on November 30 also chose to roost in a leafy tree.

This could mean something, or it could mean absolutely nothing!  It's probably more important to note that both Christo and Dora were roosting in the park together, very near their nest.

Sunday, Christo hung out at St Brigid's on Avenue B and 8th Street.


I never tire of seeing the hawks take off from the cross.



Christo attempted hunting in the shrubs near the park entrance, but didn't come up with anything.


Despite barely any sunlight left, he didn't seem to be in much of a hurry.  He may have eaten earlier in the afternoon.


Meanwhile, Dora was calling from her perch in the sycamore on the Avenue A side of the park, so Christo took off towards her...


...calling back to her along the way.


Christo calls to Dora as he flies towards her

King of the Lower East Side.

Christo at dusk

See more recent Christo and Dora photos on my Flickr page.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This week with Dora

Helloooo, Dora!


I saw quite a bit of Dora this last weekend as she spent a lot of time with Christo in Tompkins Square.  Here she is in her favorite sycamore at the Avenue A & St Mark's entrance to the park.  If you see a lone hawk up in that tree, it's likely her.

Dora in her sycamore

I couldn't fit them both in the frame below, but Christo is on a lower branch eating a rat, while Dora looks down at him.

Dora watches Christo eat

Christo was there first, then Dora flew in and made a strange noise at him that sounded like a cat growling.  I've never heard her make this sound before, but I have heard Christo make similar noises in the past.  He's done it when he appeared annoyed, like when he was harassed by squirrels/birds, or failed in an attempt to catch prey.  I really don't know what the "growling" sound means, and I couldn't tell what kind of mood Dora was in.  I wondered if Christo might share his lunch with her, but he didn't offer.

The following day, I found Dora in the same tree, eating a mouse while being tormented by a mockingbird.

Dora being harassed by mockingbirds

Wolfing down the back end...

Dora choking down a mouse

After the last gulp, Dora shook it all out...

Fluffy Dora

...then took a minute to digest in the late afternoon sun.



Later, it was back to the sycamore where Dora perched up top while Christo gazed up at her.

Christo looks up at Dora

In related raptor news, I witnessed a hawk-kestrel battle over Eldridge and Delancey Tuesday morning.  Two red-tails, who I presume were Christo and Dora, circled over the intersection while flocks of pigeons and starlings scattered.  A kestrel zoomed in, taking dives at one of the hawks before all three flew towards Avenue A and Houston.  By the time I got my camera out, they were gone.

On Sunday, this Peregrine falcon flew over Tompkins, heading east over 9th Street.  I quickly snapped this photo before in went into a dive and was off like a rocket.

Christo and Dora spent the rest of the day flying around and vocalizing a lot, so I thought the falcon or another hawk was intruding on their territory, but I was never able to see the source of their agitation.

More to come...