Monday, January 28, 2019

Christo and Amelia nest-building in Tompkins Square

It's that time of year when the city hawks start nesting and Amelia and Christo are right on schedule in Tompkins Square Park.

Amelia and Christo

Off to work!

Amelia and Christo

It appears they have chosen to build their nest in the same location as last year, which is in the top of the ginkgo tree on the east side of the park. Christo and Dora originally built that nest, but Amelia ended up raising her two chicks there after Dora was taken to rehab just as nesting season was starting last spring.

The Tompkins hawk nest has been in a different location each year since 2014, so I was curious to see if Christo and Amelia would choose another location, but they must have been happy with where it was previously.

Amelia in the nest on Friday:

Amelia in her nest

Amelia moving sticks around on Saturday:

Amelia works on the nest

Here is some video of Amelia arranging sticks on Friday. Despite being sunny, the day was so cold, my camera battery kept freezing, so I could only record a short clip.

The video below was taken on Saturday and shows Christo flying in to help Amelia move things around.

Amelia takes a break atop St Brigid's church:




This is Amelia on the Avenue A side of the park, atop St Nicholas of Myra church:


Bonus:  Amelia chows down on a pigeon head. Building a nest works up an appetite!

Amelia eats a pigeon head

If all goes well, the hawks will be constructing the nest for the next few weeks. In the past, eggs have been laid in mid-March, so until then, we can look forward to mating displays and bonding behavior.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Winter raptors in the East Village

I love this time of year when raptors are active and fairly easy to find in the neighborhood. The leaves are off the trees, enabling birds to be quickly spotted, but they can also be found by listening for their calls.

One recent afternoon, I was walking along busy Houston Street when I heard the loud calls of a Cooper's hawk. I followed the sound to a tree where I found an adult Cooper's perched and sounding off to an immature Cooper's who was in another tree across the street.

Cooper's hawk

In the video below, you can hear the calls of the immature hawk who is out of frame, and the answering calls made by this adult.

In this video, the adult Cooper's fluffs up its feathers, dramatically changing its shape to look bigger. I don't know what was prompting this behavior.  At the time, there was a Peregrine falcon perched a block away on the cross of Most Holy Redeemer church, but from their positions, it didn't seem like the hawks were reacting to its presence. It was fascinating to watch nonetheless.

On a different day, I came across a young red-tailed hawk perched on a fire escape on 2nd Avenue. I first saw it pulling pieces off a dead pigeon that was hanging from a cornice, then it flew across the street to this building and dug around in a window box before perching on the railing.

Immature red-tail

A second immature red-tail (I'm not sure how many are around at this time) has been seen in the area. It has a very stern expression, as you can see from the photos below. By contrast, the hawk in the above photo and video has facial markings that give it more of a baby face.

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

I'm most excited to report I've been seeing a Merlin fairly regularly along Avenue A.  These small falcons go after sparrows and starlings, of which there are many in the area.


I was lucky to catch this guy perched, as he flies so fast, he's gone in a flash.


Meanwhile, January 6 marked a milestone as it was the first time I've seen Amelia perch on the base of the dome of Most Holy Redeemer Church. 

Amelia on the dome of Most Holy Redeemer

This was a regular perch for Dora, but I hadn't seen Amelia go up there until this day. Christo has been perched in this spot recently, so the next milestone will be seeing Christo and Amelia there together.

Amelia on the dome of Most Holy Redeemer

One place the hawks do like to perch together is on the roof of the Christodora House. Be sure to look up at the building on Avenue B and 9th Street and see if you can spot the two sentinels keeping watch over their territory.

Christo & Amelia

When Christo is not on guard duty, he spends leisure time in Tompkins Square watching basketball. On Monday, just before sunset, I found him taking in a game by the handball courts (see video below).


Ok, Christo is actually hunting along the fence and not really into the basketball game, but he's obviously so tolerant of human activity, he feels comfortable being so close to them. And I appreciated that the kids didn't interfere with his business although they knew he was there. It was really nice to see everyone coexisting peacefully.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mulchfest 2019 in Tompkins Square Park

I attended my tenth annual Mulchfest in Tompkins Square Park this last weekend and it did not disappoint!

A crisp 25°F and bright sunshine Saturday morning made for perfect wood-chipping conditions, and as usual, the smell of minced Christmas trees was heavenly.

Mulchfest 2019

Mulchfest 2019

The wood-chipper in action:

Mulchfest 2019

Dumping the mulch on the former site of beloved Bendy Tree:

Mulchfest 2019

Workers from the NYC Parks Department were on hand to distribute bags so people could take home fresh mulch, which can be used in yards, tree wells and as a potpourri.

Mulchfest 2019

Last year, the bags were decorated with the NYC Parks Department logo, but I like the design this year, which features a Christmas tree.

Mulchfest 2019

Enjoy the next few weeks in Tompkins Square as the scent of evergreens blankets the park.

See previous Mulchfest posts here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Rounding out 2018 and looking forward to a new year of birds

Welcome to a new year!

I had a personal 2018 goal to keep a bird checklist each day. This not only gave me something to look forward to each day, it provided a constant challenge to seek out something new. I plan to keep the same goal in 2019 and recommend using the citizen science site, eBird, for keeping records. It's not only fun, but is educational provides useful information to scientists studying bird migrations.

Bird migration in New York this last fall turned out to be a spectacular season and I was introduced to several species I'd never seen before. I couldn't get photos of all of them, but below are some highlights of birds seen in the city.

Hermit Thrush:

Hermit Thrush

Tufted Titmouse:

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Chipping Sparrow:

Chipping sparrow

Field Sparrow:

Field sparrow

Song Sparrow:

Song sparrow

Dark-Eyed Junco:


American Goldfinch:


Purple Finch:

Purple finch

Golden-Crowned Kinglet:

Golden-crowned kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet:

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Palm Warbler:

Palm warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler:

Black-throated green warbler

American Coot:


Northern Shoveler:


Wood Duck:

Wood Duck

And, finally...the obligatory Mandarin Duck in Central Park, who made headlines this last year:

Mandarin Duck