Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sad update on Flatbush the hawk

I have received some heartbreaking news regarding Flatbush, the red-tailed hawk fledgling who was fostered by Christo and Dora this last summer.  He apparently suffered a fatal collision on August 15, which was likely caused by the effects of West Nile virus.

Tompkins fledgling #2

We last saw him in Tompkins Square on August 13.  He was then found two days later on a balcony at Avenue C & 10th Street and was reported to Audubon.  Lab work was done and he tested positive for West Nile.

West Nile virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes that bite the bird.  Flatbush did not display any obvious signs of illness, but the virus does not always show itself, and it may have affected him very quickly.  According to Microbe Wiki, symptoms can include lack of coordination, lethargy, inability to fly and lack of awareness.  These things can all lead to a collision.  Even if he had displayed obvious symptoms, it's not likely anything could have been done for him.

I am grateful to have known Flatbush while he was with us.  Not only did he bring a lot of joy to the neighborhood, he enabled us to witness Christo and Dora take care of him as their own. That is something we would likely never see anywhere else and it just showed how incredible these hawks are.

If anyone finds a dead bird of any kind, please report it to Audubon via their D-Bird database. This is part of Project Safe Flight, which strives to make our environment as safe as possible for birds.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Governors Island 2017 - Part 4

As there hasn't been any interesting news to report about local hawks, Christo and Dora, I'm taking advantage of the time to catch up on six months spent documenting wildlife on Governors Island. The island was open an additional two months this year, and after counting almost 100 bird species between May and October, I hope the island will be open to the public more in the future as it's a great place to see a variety of wildlife.

September saw the exit of most of the summer residents like Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Fish Crows, Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows, and welcomed those heading south for fall migration.

Below, a Northern Flicker relaxes with an American Robin.

Flicker and Robin

This stunning little Prairie Warbler was surprisingly hard to see in the dense foliage despite its bright bumblebee coloring.

Prairie warbler

An Eastern Wood Pewee feasted on bountiful insects.

Eastern wood pe-wee

It was interesting to see the day-glo yellow American Goldfinches fade to a more subdued yellow, then to a dull olive color.  Although harder to spot in their fall plumage, they made their presence known with their cheerful calls.


Northern Parulas were often seen eating tiny insects in the trees and bushes.


A Parula demonstrates some impressive acrobatics by grabbing food off a branch while hanging upside-down by its feet.

Parula acrobatics

One of my favorites, the Golden-Crowned Kinglet:

Golden-crowned kinglet

Palm Warblers were abundant on the island and could be found almost everywhere on the ground and in trees.

Palm Warbler

A Yellow Warbler:

Yellow warbler

Northern Cardinals are year-round residents, but there seemed to be a few who were just passing through.


I was excited to see some immature White-Crowned Sparrows.

Immature white-crowned sparrow

Immature white-crowned sparrow

A Savannah Sparrow:

Savannah sparrow

Swainson's Thrush:

Swainsons thrush

This Black-Throated Blue Warbler dined on insects and/or larvae in cobwebs in window frames of one of the old Coast Guard buildings.

Black-throated blue warbler

A Winter Wren on the porch of a house at Nolan Park:

Winter wren

Buttermilk Channel, which separates the island from Redhook, Brooklyn, served as a fishing ground for this Belted Kingfisher.

Belted kingfisher

More fall migration birds to come...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Governors Island 2017 - Part 3

My time on Governors Island during the month of August was dominated by nesting Yellow-Crowned Night Herons.  I've never seen them anywhere else, so they are particularly special to me.  This year, the nest yielded four youngsters, seen below.

Yellow-crowned night heron kids

For such large birds, they were difficult to see, especially once the young started branching.  Here is some video of the nestlings:

Yellow-crowned night heron nestlings

Yellow-crowned night heron

One afternoon, one of the parents was out in the open on a nearby building.

Yellow-crowned night heron

I love the way they move, slowly creeping, as can be seen in this video:

By the end of the month, the chicks had fledged to parts unknown, but I found one young heron at a puddle on the opposite side of the island. I suspect it probably is one from the nest, but could not be certain.

Yellow-crowned night heron

Herring Gulls also nested on the island and I enjoyed seeing the adults showing the kids the ropes.  Below, a young gull snaps up a crab that was brought in by the adult on the right.

Gulls and a crab

Nearby, another gull ambitiously downed a much bigger meal.

Dinner time

Another young gull found a ginkgo leaf, which it proceeded to fly around like a little orange flag.

Gull with a ginkgo leaf

Governors Island is a good place to see Mockingbirds and listen to them practice their repertoire.

Young Mockingbird

Here is an example of a Mockingbird trying out a few songs:

Late summer is the time for insects, and insects attract predators like this Eastern Kingbird.

Eastern Kingbird

A Kingbird poses with Jersey City in the background.


More to come...


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Governors Island 2017 - Part 2

Continuing on from the last post about summer at Governors Island, below are highlights from June and July.

Baby Tree Swallows:

Hungry swallows

Tree swallows nested on the island and it was a joy to watch the parents tirelessly catch insects and bring them back to their nest box.

Feed me!

Dad arrives with lunch.

Here comes dad

Mom does a feeding.

Feeding time

Baby tree swallow

Along with baby swallows, the island hosted a pair of cute baby Canada Geese.

Goslings with pin feathers

Detail of the pin feathers:

Detail of pin feathers

Meanwhile, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons were on the other side of the island sitting on a nest of eggs.

Yellow-crowned night heron

Cedar Waxwings hunted insects in the moat around Ft Jay.

Cedar waxwing

Red-Winged Blackbirds also nested on the island and their calls could be heard throughout the island. Below is a youngster.



Immature Barn Swallows flocked together in the western part of the island.

Barn swallows

Barn swallow

A Laughing Gull in breeding plumage:

Laughing gull

Herring Gulls nested in an unused part of the island. Below, a baby struts its stuff.

Baby herring gull

What I enjoy most is seeing different species mix together peacefully.  Below, a crow watches over five ducklings.

Unusual babysitter

More to come...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Governors Island 2017 - Part 1

Governors Island opened to the public early this year, so I took advantage and have spent a great deal of time there over the last six months documenting the wildlife.  Below is a selection of birds found on the island during the month of May.

Bobolink (male):


Palm Warbler:

Palm warbler

Song Sparrow:

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Eastern Kingbird:

Eastern kingbird

Tree Swallows:

Tree Swallows

Tree swallow

Barn Swallows:

Barn swallows

Barn swallows

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Rose-breasted grosbeak



Common Grackle:


Red-tailed hawk and a crow:

 Fish crow chases red-tailed hawk

This hawk spent the summer on the island and now has a full adult red tail.

Fish Crow:


More to come...