Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pop! goes the red-tail

Flatbush appeared to have finally caught the hunting spirit this last Saturday, as I found him zipping around Tompkins Square, diving at everything that moved.  As Ten spent the whole afternoon resting in a tree on the east side of the park, Flatbush stayed active for almost six hours.

The fledgling has come a long way since mid-June, when he spent almost three days perched in the same tree.  On this day, he barely paused long enough for a photo.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Looking frisky.

Tompkins fledgling #2

After diving through a flock of pigeons, Flatbush turned his attention to squirrels, who seem to enjoy taunting him.

Tompkins fledgling #2 with a squirrel

Flatbush ambushed an unsuspecting piece of wood in the grass, which was apparently in the territory of this squirrel, who did not hesitate to confront the hawk.

Fledgling hawk meets a squirrel

Why does Squirrel not cower in fear before me?

Fledgling hawk meets a squirrel



The squirrel suddenly darted straight at Flatbush, who sprang up and...

Fledgling hawk and wiley squirrel

...see the video below to find out what happened next.

The music in the background of the video is courtesy of an ice cream truck on Avenue B.  I've come up with some lyrics:
All around the branch in the grass,
The squirrel chased the red-tail.
Squirrel proceeds to get in Hawk's face,
Pop! goes the red-tail.

You win this time, Squirrel.

Victorious squirrel

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tompkins hawk family holding up in the heat

It's been a hot and humid week, making hawk-watching challenging for this photographer, who suffers from heat sickness at the drop of a hat.  If it weren't for these birds, I'd spend the summer lounging on an ice berg.

But I can't resist spending time in the sauna of Tompkins Square if it means being with wildlife.  Below, Flatbush perches calmly in a tree, his band clearly visible on his left leg.

Tompkins fledgling #2

As far as I know, he's still being fed by Christo, but he's picking up food from the ground and is doing well.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Tompkins fledgling #2

The squirrels are bold, still sensing that he can't get them...

Tompkins fledgling #2 with a squirrel


Tompkins fledgling #2 with a squirrel

A stretch before take-off.

Tompkins fledgling #2

On a hot Saturday afternoon, Flatbush took a nap on a branch of the big elm in the SW corner of the park.  He blended in really well, looking just like a bump on a log.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Monday evening, a Red Admiral butterfly caught Flatbush's attention.

Tompkins fledgling #2 watches a butterfly

The butterfly flitted around the hawk's head, and it seemed Flatbush wasn't quite sure what to make of it.  See his reaction in the video below.  Ten makes a brief appearance when she flies through the frame near the end of the video.

Both fledglings have been hanging out on the rooftops on 7th Street, on the south side of the park.  Below, Flatbush is on the left and Ten is on the right.

Tompkins fledglings #2 & #1

Tuesday evening, Flatbush had the place to himself.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Meanwhile, Christo and Dora have been spending a lot of time on Village View along First Avenue.  I see them there almost daily, most often in the morning and evening.

Christo & Dora

Christo is in full molt, so he's looking pretty raggedy.  His head is fuzzy and his eyes look bigger and deep-set.  I think he's now down to eight tail feathers (they normally have twelve).

Christo in hunting mode

Despite his disheveled appearance, he's fine, and he's been doing a lot of hunting after sunset.

Christo in hunting mode

When Christo flies over the park lights in the dark, he looks otherworldly.

Christo after dark

And when Christo ends the rat-hunting day shift, the night heron takes over.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Night heron in Tompkins Square

When the sun goes down and the hawks go to roost, the night heron comes out to play.  After years of sightings of the elusive black-crowned night heron in Tompkins Square Park, I finally had my chance Saturday night.  Around 9:15pm, my friend and I spotted it lurking in the Avenue A playground.

It was actively hunting rats, so I took some video:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Catching up with the native Tompkins fledgling

The weather over the last several days has been unsettled - hot, humid, rainy, dark - making hawk-watching a bit challenging. 

On Friday, Dora and Christo perched together in a locust on the east side of the park.  It was late in the day, which would normally be dinner time, but both hawks seemed very relaxed and Christo did not appear to be in hunting mode.

Dora and Christo

I've been seeing Christo and Dora together on Village View at 1st Avenue and 4th Street a lot lately. It's always been a popular perch for them and it seems they're spending more time there and at Most Holy Redeemer church on 3rd Street, and less time in the park.

Both fledglings are still in/around Tompkins Square.  When I've seen them, Flatbush has been on the west side of the park while Ten occupies the east.  They don't seem to be interested in hanging out together and I have to wonder if it could be because they are not from the same nest.  They do come together when food is present, otherwise, they seem to be leading somewhat separate lives.

I don't have any photos of Flatbush this week, but he's doing fine and has been spotted exploring the buildings along Avenue A, on the west side of the park.

I've spent most of my time with Ten, who is growing up fast and displays great confidence.  She seems to get a second wind around sunset, and has been pretty active after the sun goes down.

Tompkins fledgling #1 after dark

Below, Ten plays around in the grass and peels bark off a cherry tree. 

Tompkins fledgling #1 peels bark from a cherry tree

After dark, she perched on a fence under a light pole near the basketball courts.

Tompkins fledgling #1 after dark

Tompkins fledgling #1 after dark

Most of my hawk photos this season have been taken at/after sunset.  I don't remember so much hawk activity after dark in previous years.  When I did this post on Christo hunting after dark in 2014, it was a novelty to see him out and about after dusk.  This year, it's been the norm.

With that in mind, I was happy to find Ten prowling around a fire escape on 7th Street near Avenue B during daylight hours last Saturday.

Tompkins fledgling #1


Tompkins fledgling #1

The resident blue jays are always on her case. 

Tompkins fledgling #1 and a blue jay

Later, a nap.


The fledgling stayed on the fire escape for almost five hours.  At one point, she laid down on the platform of the fire escape and took another nap.  Around 6pm, she perked up...

Tompkins fledgling #1

...and took off.

Tompkins fledgling #1

After a brief flight around the park, she ended up on St Brigid's church on Avenue B and 8th Street.

Tompkins fledgling #1 atop St Brigid's

Again with the harassment!

Tompkins fledgling #1 and a blue jay

As the sun went down, rain clouds darkened the sky...

Tompkins fledgling #1 atop St Brigid's

...only to be brightened again by a rainbow. 

Tompkins fledgling #1 and a rainbow

More to come...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Holiday hawklights

I spent most of the holiday weekend with the Tompkins Square hawk family, who are all doing very well.

To start, I found Flatbush in a new spot on the 4th of July. He'd ventured across Avenue A and was perched on a chimney cover near St Mark's Place.  The band is visible on his left leg.

Tompkins fledgling #2

From there, he flew across the street to the park and into a sycamore often preferred by Dora. He did this a couple of times, which makes me wonder if he's been hiding out in that tree during the times when we can't find him.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Flatbush is still the main draw in the park.  I don't remember any of the past fledglings getting as much attention as this one.  He's definitely got a fan club!

Tompkins fledgling #2

The fledgling is still being fed by foster-dad, Christo, who seems to be trying to encourage the youngster to take some initiative.  Several times over the last few days, I've seen Christo hold off retrieving food Flatbush has dropped.  It's tough love - the kid needs to learn to pick up his own food, which I'm sure he'll figure out soon.

Tompkins fledgling #2

Ten, on the other hand, is more advanced.  She radiates confidence and it's been a real joy to watch her evolve into a teen hawk.

Tompkins fledgling #1

She knows how to strike a pose, perching in the most prominent places.

Tompkins fledgling #1

Besides Flatbush's leg band, one way to tell the fledglings apart is by their tails.  Flatbush has a uniformly dark brown banded tail. Ten has a distinctly light middle tail feather, as seen below.

Tompkins fledgling #1 and her unique tail

She's been playing in the grass a lot, finding toys like sticks, leaves, dirt clods and dead furry things.  Yesterday, I saw her pull bark off a tree and toss it around in the air. 

Tompkins fledgling #1

She reminded me of one of her siblings who did the same thing in the same patch of grass three years ago.

On the 4th, the fledgling thrilled hawk-watchers by zipping around low...

Tompkins fledgling #1

...and close!

Tompkins fledgling #1

Assuming Ten hatched on/around April 19, she is now two and a half months old.

Tompkins fledgling #1

The blue jays are not so delighted to have more hawks around.  Ten has been holding her own when they mob her, perhaps because she knows one day she'll be able to take them down.

Tompkins fledgling #1 and a blue menace

Meanwhile, Christo has been tirelessly taking care of the fledglings, as well as providing for Dora.  He's attentive and patient, spending a lot of time with Flatbush, who needs his assistance, and watching Ten, who seems to be doing just fine on her own.  He's been leaving food for her in the trees, which she retrieves herself.


The summer heat drove Christo to drink water out of the General Slocum memorial fountain, which we first saw him do last year.


Later, a soak in his private bath...

Christo in his spa on the 4th of July

Chasing the last rays of sunlight...


Christo and Dora are both starting to molt.  In the photo below, you can see Christo is missing two tail feathers. His face is also starting to look ragged, which is perfectly normal. 

Christo molting tail feathers

In past years, Dora has started molting in July and Christo has started in August, so he is early this year.

So, where is Dora?  She's around.  In fact, she's been spending more time in the park this summer than I remember her doing in previous years.  She keeps high in the trees, often in places where she is visible, but camera-shy.

See more recent hawk photos on my Flickr page.