Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Suddenly Autumn

It seems like we were sweltering in the summer heat just a minute ago, and now it's suddenly October. Since this post from August where I noted Tompkins Square Park has lost a lot of trees recently, two more mature American Elms have been cut down. We're averaging a loss of one mature tree a year, and there are a few more trees in the park that (in my non-professional opinion) don't look long for this world. I don't know what, if anything, is being done by the city to save or maintain these trees.

Moving on to our local hawks...I have not seen the Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling since mid-August and have to assume it has embarked on its own migration to parts unknown. This is my last photo of it taken on August 17:

My last photo of the Tompkins Square red-tail fledgling.

There were confirmed sightings of the fledgling on August 19, but no reports after that. Other immature red-tails have been seen in and around the park, likely dispersing from their own nesting grounds. One way to tell if a young hawk is not the offspring of the resident pair, Christo and Amelia, is to note the way they behave towards it. They will treat a 'strange' hawk as an intruder and chase it out of their territory, as they have been seeing doing with a number of interlopers recently.

Last week, I was happy to see Christo back atop his throne that is the flag pole in Tompkins Square.

Handsome Christo on his throne.

He is still growing in a few tail feathers after his summer molt, but his new autumn plumage looks handsome as ever. Compare his appearance above with how scraggly he looked in mid-molt:

Christo molting.

Christo molting.

Christo molting.

His head shows the most dramatic change. This was Christo on September 29 as he went hunting for dinner:

Christo on the hunt for rats.

Being pestered by a squirrel as he ate his catch, which was a rat:

A squirrel pesters Christo as he eats a rat.

Also last week, I observed some interesting behavior. Amelia was eating a pigeon in a tree while Christo watched her. The weird thing is Christo made sounds I've never heard him make in the nine years I've known him - he chirped like what can best be described as a chimney swift. He made a series of high-pitched chattering calls unlike anything I've ever heard him do. At first, I couldn't figure out what bird was making the sound, and kept looking up expecting to see swifts or swallows, but saw nothing. Only when I saw his mouth move did I figure out it was him.

Amelia on the left, Christo on the right:

Christo chirps at Amelia as she eats.

Christo hopped down to the branch where Amelia was a couple of times, causing her to defensively mantle her food. He'd make the chirpy sounds and return to his perch, then jump down and chirp at her some more.

Amelia eats her pigeon while Christo advances on her.

At one point, he had enough and aggressively took the pigeon from her. I've never seen him do this either.

Christo aggessively takes Amelia's pigeon.

Normally, Christo would wait for Amelia to finish eating before moving in on the left-overs, but he showed some rare impatience and lunged at her food. She reluctantly moved over to the side, looked at him for a few minutes, then flew off to a neighboring tree. Christo finished off the pigeon, then went on to hunt for rats in another area of the park.
 
Christo snatches away Amelia's dinner.

As fall raptor migration is underway, there will likely be many more hawks passing through the area, so Christo and Amelia have to remain vigilant about guarding their turf. They are often seen perched atop the Christodora in the evening, keeping an eye on the neighborhood as the sun goes down. Amelia is almost always perched on the left (north) side while Christo is on the right (south). They almost always face west.

Amelia and Christo on the roof of the Christodora building.

Bonus hawk: Red-Tails are not the only hawks migrating through the city - we also see Broad-Winged, Red-Shouldered, Cooper's and Sharp-Shinned hawks, like the one below that buzzed right over my head. I love when they do that.

Sharp-shinned hawk

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