Posts Tagged 'Manhattan'

Other Kestrels

The city’s rooftops are alive with drama. Here’s a pair of American Kestrels above Manhattan’s Chinatown. The male has some prey. The Mourning Dove is, what, kibitzing? This photo was taken by a Friend of the Falcons who has been on the lookout for a nest site for this pair.

I recently passed another kestrel nest site in Brooklyn, one used last year, and definitely heard some of these little raptors, but saw no evidence of them. Other friends in that neighborhood have seen them in the area…

Mammal Monday

New York City’s City Hall Park squirrels are as bold as lobbyists. They come right up to you when you’re taking a picture of, say, a holly in the snow, and make their demands known.Elsewhere, however, the smaller mammals keep to the night, but that does not necessarily mean they make it through the night…

Raptor Wednesday

About to ascend the steps of the City Hall subway station, I heard a Peregrine. Or thought I did, anyway: the subterranean is generally not good habitat for falcons. Emerging in the plaza besides the old Tweed Courthouse, I looked all around, raptor-senses tingling. I didn’t hear it again.

My eyes did fall on a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree next to the courthouse. Wrong bird, though, for the sound. I watched and listened for a few minutes. The hawk kept its own counsel. I walked towards Broadway between the Courthouse and City Hall. Near Broadway, I heard a falcon again. Yes, definitely a Peregrine. But where? I went all the way around the courthouse. Nothing seen or heard. I returned to my initial Red-tailed-view. This time, the Red-tail moved, flying the short distance to a parapet of the courthouse, and voila, there was the falcon, chattering loudly, circling overhead. The Peregrine then shot up to the top of the scaffolding on the old Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank across Chambers St.  (I didn’t have my camera with me.)Two weeks later, having an appointment in the area, I came early and brought my camera along and wandered around a very chilly City Hall Park. Nothing to note but some extremely puffed up pigeons and a couple of silent crows. After lunch with a friend, we walked down Duane Street towards Broadway and our trains. Three blocks ahead, the gold pyramid-topped U.S. Court House at Foley Square (Cass Gilbert pere et fils designed this, which is why it’s so good) puts an emphatic stop the street. I spied something tiny and dark flying to the lantern way up there. Seemed unusually high for a pigeon. I applied my telephoto. Yes, that distinctive Peregrine color/silhouette, perched on the rail surrounding the lantern. Closer and from other angles. Still too far away up there to get a good photo, but the documentation is what counts. I’ve seen a Peregrine in the area three of the last five times I’ve been in the area there.

In other Peregrine news, the smokestack pair continue be seen: most mornings there are one or two up there.

The Year in Raptors

Suddenly, every local Rock Dove and Starling is in the air. They swirl this way and that, creating visual confusion: which way do your eyes go? Then just as suddenly, the long tail of a Cooper’s Hawk concentrates the eye in the airborne melee. The Accipiter is hunting, surfing over the tops of buildings, jetting through the alleys between. Sunset Park, the neighborhood I look out on from up here on the top of the moraine, is the bird’s forest.

New York City is raptor country. Plate glass, rat poison, and all the vile two-legged enemies aside, this town is full of hawks and falcons.

Over the past year, I tried to keep track of the number of raptor sightings I had here. When I started thinking about doing so in late 2016, one a day was the minimal count, and I wanted to see if that could be maintained. My total of 331 is obviously just slightly less than that on average. (I spent 49 or so of the year’s 52 weeks here in the city.) Closed curtains to block the sun, combined with breeding season (half of all birds at nest), meant summer had runs of several days without a single sighting. My best single day’s count was five, a record reached half a dozen times.

A raptor a day, or almost every day, it should be said, keeps the doctor away.

Note that these aren’t necessarily separate individuals. For instance, I started noting the Peregrines atop the Industry City smokestack, the subject of an upcoming Raptor Wednesday, in late December; subsequent daily instances were all probably one of the two birds first definitely seen up there 12/24.

The species:

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius, formerly Circus cyaneus)
Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

This list is roughly in order of frequency. Only the Goshawk, a rather unusual occurrence in the city, was a solo instance (after I made multiple attempts to see it, by the way). A notable absence: the occasional winter-visting Rough-legged Hawk, but I didn’t often get to Floyd Bennett Field and other coastal areas they prefer when they’re down here. Unlike 2016, Osprey did not nest atop a light at the waterfront parking lot this year, so they were not a potential sight from my window during breeding season.

Elsewhere, trips to Virginia, Great Swamp NWR, Croton Point Park, two fall hawk watches, and Sweden (nine new species of raptor!) added substantial numbers to the grand total of 470. (The frequency of sightings in Sweden and the two hawk watches within short drives from NYC were so fast and furious I just threw up my wings and only counted species seen.)

Pictured above is a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk perched in Green-Wood Cemetery, 12/17/17. Pictured below is an adult Cooper’s preening on a fire-escape a third of the way down the block, 12/26/17. Long-time followers may remember that a juvenile Cooper’s perched on the same fire-escape, at virtually the very same exact spot, in April 2017.

And we’re off to a good start for 2018: One Peregrine Monday. Two Peregrines Tuesday (one screaming bloody murder over a perched Red-tailed Hawk). Also yesterday, a male Kestrel perching on the fire-escape pictured above in the cold, cold morning, and a Cooper’s on the mid-day prowl.


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