Monday, December 26, 2022

Christmas with Christo and Amelia

I spent Christmas Day in Tompkins Square Park with resident red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia. It was a beautiful cold sunny winter day, and the park was mostly quiet. 

The cold weather (about 27°F) caused Christo to remain fluffed up, trapping warm air with his feathers.

Christo perched in a tree.

He conserved energy by perching for long periods of time in the sun.

Christo the red-tailed hawk.

As he sat in this tree, an immature Cooper's hawk joined him. I've seen Christo share trees - and even branches - with Cooper's hawks many times. He's highly tolerant of them for reasons only he knows.

An immature Cooper's hawk.

Later, Christo flew around the Christodora building on Avenue B.

Christo flying above the Christodora building.

As he did that, Amelia perched on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A.

Amelia perched on a church cross.

She took off, revealing a full crop.

Amelia in flight.

Back in the park, Christo actively hunted for rats.

Christo perched in the sun.

He made a couple of unsuccessful dives at rodents as they scurried beneath some bushes.

Christo diving for prey.

He flew past me very close - so close that I chopped his wings and feet out of the photo.

Christo flying very close to the camera.

The hawks aren't bothered by the cold. If anything, they seem more active in winter than they do in hot summer.

Christo looking straight at me.

I'll never get tired of Christo looking straight at me. I really wish he could tell me what he's thinking.

Christo's sweet face.

Christo nabbed two small rats in the span of about ten minutes. In the photo below, he's holding one in his talons. In the few seconds it took me to get closer to him, he'd swallowed it whole.

Christo with a small rat.

Here is a view of the feather pattern on Christo's back. Also note the white tips of his tail feathers and the position of the black band across the red feathers. These are features that can be used to identify him. The dark cheek patch under his eye is also visible here, which is one of his identifying marks.

The feather pattern on Christo's back.

After eating, Christo met up with Amelia on Avenue A.

Christo and Amelia perched together on church cross.

Something caught Christo's attention and he took off south along Avenue A. Amelia soon followed.

Amelia watches Christo take off.

Christo flies off as Amelia remains perched.

All in all, it was a peaceful day and the hawks had plenty to eat. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Winter storm on Governors Island

A winter storm blew in today, so I ventured out to Governors Island to experience it there. I enjoy inclement weather and last year, I went out to the island to see what it was like during a snow storm. This time, there wasn't as much snow, but the wind was brutal.

As I began my walk, the temperature was still pretty warm - around 50°F. There was some drizzle, but things were pretty calm. There was, however, evidence of chaos left behind by an extremely high tide earlier in the day. In the photo below, you can see debris all over the pavement. This was trash from the harbor washed up on the land. The tide was so high, the water came up over the edge and the ferry could not dock, so service was suspended until late morning.

This video shows the clouds rolling in over the water as well as the debris.

I attempt talking in this video, but the wind drowns out my voice. I'm trying to show the storm clouds, which are moving quickly, obscuring Staten Island in the distance.

As the dark clouds approached, the harbor took on a minty green color.

If you look closely, you can see people on Liberty Island.

Here I am at Picnic Point, the southernmost tip of the island, just as the storm hits. The wind is blowing the rain so hard, I'm not sure if it's hail. I swing the camera around to show the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island (invisible), and Brooklyn in the distance.

Snow started falling (blowing) as I was on my way back to the ferry. At this point, conditions were pretty miserable and I was ready to leave. This video shows the snow and wind, which is getting worse. Again, my voice is drowned out by the wind, but I show Nolan Park, Fort Jay, Colonels Row, and the Parade Ground.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Memories of winter

A winter storm is due to hit the city before Christmas, but it doesn't look like we'll get any snow. While going through my archives, I came across some photos from previous snowier winters here in the East Village and am reminded that we still have an entire chilly season ahead of us.

Tompkins Square in 2011:

Christo in the snow in 2015:

Here is video of Christo chilling out in a snow storm in 2017:

Tompkins in 2011:

Tompkins resident wildlife in 2016:

The Mystery Lot between 13th and 14th Streets in 2012:

93 First Avenue in 2016:

Odessa on Avenue A in 2010:

Ray's Candy on Avenue A in 2013:

The Pyramid Club on Avenue A in 2013:

Key Food on Avenue A in 2010:

2010 was the year of the blizzard that buried Avenue A in snow, trapping buses all night. Mayor Bloomberg callously told us lowly citizens to "go see a Broadway show" as he phoned it in from Bermuda. Anyway, the plows didn't come out until the following day, and it took hours to clear the buses off the avenue. Below is a snippet of video from that day. Good times.

Monday, December 19, 2022

More interesting vocals from Amelia, and a winter hawk round-up

Tompkins Square red-tails, Amelia and Christo, have been keeping very busy lately with battling young interlopers. In this post from December 7, I was able to get a recording of Amelia making some interesting chirping sounds while dealing with an immature red-tail intruder. Since then, I have observed her making those same sounds while fighting an immature hawk, who I presume is the same individual.

Last week, the afternoon seemed calm enough, with Amelia and Christo perched in their usual spots atop the Christodora building on Avenue B.

Red-tails Amelia and Christo perched atop the Christodora building.

At some point, something caught their attention and the pair began flying around the park vocalizing. When they make the classic adult red-tailed hawk scream, it's usually because they've spotted an intruder in their territory and are trying to chase it out. 
Amelia eventually landed on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A, but I lost track of Christo.

Amelia atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra on Avenue A.

Both hawks kept flying around chaotically until sunset, when I was no longer able to see what was going on. 

This same scene repeated itself for several days. All three hawks would chase each other around after dark, making a commotion, but I wasn't able to get photos or video because of the darkness. Friday evening, I was able to get another audio recording of Amelia and the immature red-tail as they battled in the trees. My impression was the young hawk wanted to roost in the park, but Amelia would not have any of it, and kept knocking the intruder out of the trees. At one point, it was so dark that even she got tangled in tree branches and had to give up and go roost somewhere else.

This is the recording of the angry hawk sounds - not exactly a voice you might expect from fighting hawks!

I've noticed that these incidents involve both Christo and Amelia as they work together to defend their turf, but Christo is the first to give up the fight as darkness falls. Maybe he can't see as well, or just doesn't feel as threatened? Amelia, on the other hand, continues to fight off the intruder(s) as long as she possibly can. 
I don't know if the young red-tail they have been fighting is the same individual (there are several around this time of year), but the one I have seen going up against Amelia is a force with whom to be reckoned. It has a lot of nerve, and is not easily intimidated.

Anyway, it's been fascinating to observe. Below is a round-up of winter photos of Amelia and Christo, some immature red-tails, and a couple of Cooper's hawks.


Amelia perched in a tree, looking at me inquisitively.

Immature red-tail:

An immature red-tail stalking around a tree in winter.

An immature red-tail posing in a tree.

Another immature red-tail aggressively confronting the first.

Two immature red-tails fighting in a tree.

The battle for the tree branch over, one of them took off.

An immature red-tail flies to a tree branch.

An immature red-tail showing off its beautiful plumage in winter.

I really love how red-tails look in winter. Their coloring contrasts nicely with gray winter skies.

An immature red-tail soaring on a cloudy winter day.

An immature red-tail flying against a cloudy backdrop.

My favorite lighting is low bright sun beaming in against dark storm clouds. This happened recently on Avenue A and I was lucky enough to catch Amelia lit up with the dark sky behind her, but she wasn't very cooperative about posing.

Amelia flying in bright sun with dark storm clouds behind her.

Here she is on an overly bright day.

Amelia flying straight overhead.

Amelia flying overhead, showing us her perfect form.

Amelia joining Christo on the cross:

Amelia joins Christo on one of their favorite perches.

Amelia and Christo on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church.

A different day, Christo perched on top of the cross while Amelia sat on the right.

Christo and Amelia perched on the cross in late afternoon light.

A short while later, the two changed position with Amelia on the left and Christo taking off from the top.

Christo takes off from the cross.

Another day, Amelia took off from the top of the cross. I keep telling myself I'm going to stop photographing them on this perch because I have hundreds of versions of this photo, and it's getting really tedious, but I just can't help myself when I see them up there.

Amelia takes off from the cross.

I've been seeing a good number of Cooper's hawks around this winter as well. This one is an adult.

An adult Cooper's hawk flies past me.

An adult Cooper's hawk seen flying against a cloudy sky.

And this one is an immature, seen earlier this week.

An immature Cooper's hawk flying against a cloudy sky.

Here is a closer view of the same hawk. I was trying to count the number of House Sparrows in a bush when the hawk dove in and scattered them all, lol. And so it goes...

An immature Cooper's hawk perched in a bush, hunting for sparrows.