Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Spring is right around the corner

Winter is on its way out and the Tompkins Square hawks are making progress on their new nest.  On Monday, both hawks were busy collecting sticks and doing construction. 

Below, Dora selects (with her left talon) the stick she wants.

Dora breaks off a stick for her nest

She gets both talons on it and gives it a tug.

Dora breaks off a stick for her nest

It snaps easily and she takes it to the nest.

Dora takes a stick to her nest

Meanwhile, Christo opted for a slender branch covered in buds.  He took it from the SE corner of the park and I'm not sure what type of tree it came from.

Christo with a stick

Below, Christo is on the left as Dora peeks out of the nest.

Christo and Dora

Christo poses in the nest.  It's really starting to take shape.

Christo in his nest

This is how the nest looked back on October 23 (photo taken from the other side).  When the leaves come in on the tree, we may have a hard time seeing the birds.

Hawk nest in Tompkins Square

Later, Christo and Dora hung out on top of the Boys Club on Avenue A. 

Christo and Dora

I missed them mating by about half a second. I saw them mating two more times that afternoon, but wasn't quick enough to catch it with the camera.  It doesn't last long!

Dora, flying with the sun behind her:


Just before sunset, Christo caught a rat and called for Dora to come and get it.

Christo calls to Dora

Christo with a rat

She answered after a few minutes and dove down to retrieve the gift.

Dora comes to retrieve food left by Christo

After a quick dash and grab, Dora took her dinner to a taller tree to eat in peace.

Dora carries off a rat dinner

In other Manhattan hawk news, Morningside Hawks has observed some interesting hawk activity around Grant's Tomb.

And over at Washington Square, the NYU hawk cam is showing quite a bit of junk inside the nest, as seen in the screenshot below. 

I'm hoping the birds remove the plastic bag and bottle top before laying eggs.  It shows how our litter directly affects wildlife.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dora reminds us why she's so badass

Christo's job is to provide food for himself, his mate, and his kids, so I often forget that Dora is also an accomplished hunter.  She is much more secretive about her activities, so I really don't know how often she catches her own meals or where she goes hunting.

On February 10, after observing Christo give Dora a love rat, I thought she would eat it.  Instead, she stashed it in the tree and flew over to some cellphone transmitters on the roof of a building at Avenue A & St Mark's Place.  I've seen her perch there many times before, so I didn't think much of it.

Dora giving me the eye

In the photo above, note how Dora is sitting behind the white structure.  About three feet below her is the edge of the roof, which appears to extend about a foot towards the street.  About seven feet below that is a fire escape.  This image on Google maps shows the position of the transmitters in relation to the street.  Unfortunately, a tree is blocking the view of the fire escape.

After perching there for about ten minutes, Dora made an unexpected move. 

She suddenly leaped straight up, then dove over the transmitter.  Normally, when the hawks take off, they look up or forward in the direction they're going.  Note in the photo below how Dora's eyes are pointed down.

Dora makes a move

Not even a passing pigeon drew her gaze.

Dora makes a move

In an instant, BLAM!  She grabbed a pigeon in mid-air as it took off from the fire escape below.

Dora catches a pigeon in mid-air

How had she seen the pigeon below the ledge from her position above?  She's badass!

Dora catches a pigeon in mid-air

The whole sequence took less than a second.  I was lucky to have already had my camera at my eye or I would have missed the whole thing.

Dora catches a pigeon in mid-air

A half second later, the only evidence that anything had happened was a puff of feathers.

Dora catches a pigeon in mid-air

Dora took the pigeon to the big elm in the SW corner of Tompkins Square.  In the photos above, you can see she held the pigeon by the tail, so she didn't have a very good grip on it and there was a bit of a struggle.

Dora and her pigeon prize

While Dora was busy subduing the pigeon, squirrels took advantage and harassed her.

Dora gets harassed by a squirrel

As the squirrels were being too aggressive, she got a better hold of the pigeon and decided to fly it to the opposite side of the park where she could eat undisturbed.

Dora with a pigeon

Dora with a pigeon

After lunch...


I was pretty excited to see Dora catch prey as I haven't seen her do that with my own eyes since 2014.  On that day, too, she didn't have a very good grip on the pigeon and it struggled, so I wondered if maybe her hunting skills weren't as good as Christo's.  The spectacular dive she made off the roof, though, proved she's more than capable.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


What does a dashing young red-tailed hawk give his girlfriend for Valentine's Day?


A fresh rat, of course!

Christo with a rat

Over the weekend, I saw Christo and Dora gearing up for mating season by doing a little gift-giving.  The two of them briefly met up in a tree, then Christo quickly caught a rat just a few feet away.  He flew it to the tall elm south of the Krishna Tree and called to Dora to come get it.

Christo calls to Dora to come get her rat

When she landed on a nearby branch, Christo decided to deliver the rat to her.

Christo delivers a rat to his valentine

Below, Christo holds the rat in his left talon as Dora approaches from the left.

Dora comes to retrieve her rat gift

She reaches out and grabs the rat from him.

Dora takes a rat from Christo

Christo looks on as Dora takes the rat.

Dora takes a rat from Christo

I have to wonder if he ever regrets giving up such a nice meal.  The photo below was taken last year on February 19.  Christo seems to gaze wistfully at the rat he has just given away to Dora.

Dora takes off with the rat

Dora takes a few nibbles...

Dora and Christo

...then appears to give Christo a thankful glance.

Dora and Christo

Later, the pair relaxed in their favorite locust tree on the east side of the park.  Christo is at the upper left and Dora is at the lower right.

Christo and Dora





Christo and Dora:

Christo and Dora

Compare how they look today compared to three years ago (2014), when they spent their first Valentine's Day together on a fire escape at Avenue A & St Mark's Place:


Since then, they've raised nine kids and I wish them well in this upcoming nesting season.

Note: I saw a first mating attempt on Sunday, February 11.  Dora was perched on the cross at St Brigid's church and Christo tried to land on top of her, but she shrugged him off.  He flew across the street to the Newsboy's Home and sulked a while in the sleet and rain.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Midweek neighborhood hawk update

Hawk activity in Tompkins Square Park is picking up.  Over the weekend, I found Christo hunting rats and working on the new nest.


He and Dora (below, left) met up in a tree and did some telepathic communicating. 

Dora & Christo

Christo dropped out of the tree and landed on the grass where a pre-dead rat lay waiting. I don't know if he caught it earlier or how it got there.  A fellow hawk-watcher was concerned about poison (poisoned rats have been seen in the area recently), and inspected the rat, but it appeared to be intact.  When rats die from anticoagulant poison, they often bleed from their eyes, nose and mouth.  It's horrible.

Anyway, this rat appeared to be clean.

Christo poses with a rat

Christo with a rat

After eating his fill, Christo took off, leaving the rat on the ground.


He made one more fly-by before heading off to work on the nest.


While Christo was eating, Dora had been watching him from the tree above.  After he was done, I thought she'd come down and finish the meal, but she flew to a taller tree instead.


The last time I saw Dora retrieve food from the ground was in 2014 when she went to the central lawn at the end of the day and scavenged food she'd previously dumped there after cleaning out the nest on the Christodora.  I think she prefers her food to either be brought to her or left in a tree. 



Late in the day, there was some activity along 7th Street that turned out to be a juvenile Cooper's hawk.  It perched across from the park entrance for a few minutes before being chased off by Christo.

Cooper's hawk 

In other neighborhood hawk news, the juvenile red-tails that were hanging out in the neighborhood for the last several weeks have all left.  The day after I photographed this hawk, they all vanished.  I am guessing they migrated, so am grateful to have been able to enjoy them while they were here.

Over in Washington Square, the live hawk cam has been turned on.  You can tune in to the NYU Hawk Cam here, and I have also put a link to it in the right-hand column of this site.