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Hudson River Almanac February 8 - February 14, 2015

OVERVIEW

There was sad news this week with the passing of C. Lavett Smith (see 2/10). At moments like these, eagles, otters, and coyotes seem trivial, except that "Smitty's" life paid tribute to creatures of the Hudson and beyond, and he would want us to remember that.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/10 - Town of Poughkeepsie: "Mom" and "Dad" were in the nest tree this afternoon, adjacent to bald eagle nest NY62. As we watched, they mated at least once. This will occur several more times, or may already have.
- Sheila Bogart, Carl Bogart

[This activity is ongoing concurrently at most of the eagle nests along Hudson River tidewater. Last year, Eileen Stickle watched this pair mate on February 20. If the timing is right, they may be incubating eggs by the end of February. Tom Lake.]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/8 - Burnt Hills, HRM 157: Along with the snow, up to two dozen common redpolls were back at the feeders. That is, after the neighborhood Cooper's hawk left.
- Jeff Nadler, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

2/8 - Croton River, HRM 34: The coyote sightings in the Almanac reminded me of yesterday's Eagle Fest when I spotted three of them on the ice at the far southern end of a tidal bay called Inbuckie on the east side of the railroad bridge.
- Hugh McLean

[Inbuckie and Crawbuckie are colloquial names used to describe the mile of shoreline between the mouth of the Croton River and Ossining (river miles 34-33). The origin of the names is hazy but they have been commonly used by local rivermen for well over a century. Crawbuckie is the low-tide beach facing Croton Bay, made famous in the 1960s and 1970s by striped bass anglers, when catching one of any size was big news. Inbuckie is the adjacent tidal bay inside the railroad tracks. Prior to the early nineteenth century, they were one. Tom Lake.]

2/8 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: On a dreary, gray, overcast morning, I counted eleven eagles, adults and immatures, perched along a mile-and-a-half of drifting ice in the middle of the Tappan Zee. A short while later three of them stood together on an ice floe while a fourth dissected a fish.
- Douglas O. Maass

close up of a varied thrush perched on a tree branch

2/9 - Saratoga County, HRM 159: A varied thrush was photographed coming to a private feeder today in Halfmoon along the Mohawk River. [Photo of varied thrush by Dave Menke, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]
- Will Raup, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

[We get a few varied thrushes every now and then. I suspect there are more out there going unreported. I remember one in Sullivan County years ago that was way out in the boondocks and never came near a feeder. It was a total accident that it was even seen and reported. The same holds true for some other western species that go unnoticed unless they happen by a backyard feeder and somebody recognizes what they are and their significance. Rich Guthrie.]

2/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: While much of New England was hit by successive blizzards this winter with record-breaking snowfall, we have had our share, accumulating piecemeal. In one month (1/9 - 2/9) we had 42 inches of snow.
- Tom Lake

2/10 - Hudson Valley: A hollow feeling was left in many hearts today when we lost one of our great teachers, C. Lavett Smith ("Smitty"), Curator Emeritus of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, who died at his home in Colorado. For those of us who were inspired by and loved Smitty as a dear friend, colleague, and mentor, it does feel as though a light has gone out. (Or as Kathy Hattala observed, a "lighthouse beacon" went out). Smitty always had time and patience to tutor those of us who found his world of fishes as exciting as he did. A fitting and lasting tribute is that we still use his book, The Inland Fishes of New York State (1985), as the go-to reference for Hudson River fish identification and life history.
- Tom Lake

[The more we recall our time with Smitty, the more obvious it becomes that a few sentences may not do justice to his extraordinary life and the influence he had on so many people. Therefore, as a forum for honoring Smitty, please send us your favorite "Smitty story," recollection, or sentiment. We will compile them and make the document available. Feel free to recollect, but as the volume grows, we may have to edit some for length.]

2/10 - Crugers, HRM 39: We watched a flock of 20 robins in our holly tree this morning. I had not seen any all winter. A few robins tend to stay all year, but I hope these were new arrivals.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano

2/11 - Saratoga County, HRM 195: In Gansevoort I spotted more than 25 robins feeding on crabapples. Over on the Hudson, the river was almost entirely frozen, with only occasional open patches, inhabited by common mergansers or common goldeneye.
- Ron Harrower, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

2/11 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: A small flock of red-winged blackbirds of mixed sex showed up in my yard today. The group of eight hit the cracked corn, then left after a half hour.
- Richard Guthrie

2/11 - Crugers, HRM 39: I spotted a typical winter birds "arrangement" today in the lee of Oscawana Point: Eight bald eagles were perched in two rows of four each, facing the sun, out of the wind. They tolerate this closeness now, but in a month they will all likely have departed for their nesting areas to the north.
- Bob Ferguson

2/12 - Burnt Hills, HRM 159: Up to two dozen common redpolls continued their frequent visits to our thistle feeders. By now, this may be boring to those readers who are interested in far rarer winter visitors. But the combination of evergreen-covered snow and these cute finches does create a nice winter backyard scene.
- Jeff Nadler, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

2/12 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: I spotted three coyotes on the ice early this morning just north of the Norrie Point Marina. One was sitting on the ice. As they sensed my presence, all three started running.
- Erin O'Neil

[With ample and solid ice on the river this winter, coyote stories have become common. Much of their rambling on the river involves scavenging white-tail deer remains or cleaning up after bald eagle "leavings" such as fish carcasses. Tom Lake.]

2/12 - Chelsea, HRM 65: With our precipitation coming in the form of snow, and no thaw to send freshwater runoff down tributaries and into the Hudson, the salt front has been pressing upriver. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the leading edge of dilute seawater in the Hudson estuary reached this point north of the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge today.
- Steve Stanne

2/13 - Minerva, HRM 213: In all the snow and ice we have had this winter, the white-tailed deer had a lean and hungry look. With the wind this morning it felt at least like 30 degrees below zero.
- Mike Corey

immaure golden eagle in flight against a light grey sky

2/13 - Dutchess County, HRM 84: A golden eagle has been staying around eastern Dutchess County; yesterday I saw it at a distance, flying with an immature bald eagle. Today it was perched, watching ring-necked pheasants, and not even a caravan of trucks filled with hunters bothered it (nor did their gunshots later). It flew to another perch and, when approached by another raptor, a rough-legged hawk, it took off spiraling upward over my car. [Photo of immature golden eagle courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Deb Kral

2/13 - Oscawana Island, HRM 39: We watched six adult bald eagles perched on the Point as we settled in our truck with our morning coffee. A huge brown bird swept in from the south, passed over the truck and landed in a maple no more than 100 feet from us. It was hard to make out the all-brown young eagle, but the big gizzard shad it was toting was easy to see, still alive with a few wiggles left. The youngster began to feed - the silver carcass bounded and flapped as the bird attended to its meal. This was not missed by any of the birds perched on the Point and two came in to investigate. However, the immature was not in a sharing mood and departed with the fish.
- George Hatzmann, Christopher Letts

2/13 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Take heart - even though the thermometer has been shivering, the winter-drab goldfinches clustered around the hanging feeders were beginning to show hints of their feathered golden glory of breeding season. It was faint, but it was there.
- Robin Fox

2/14 - Washington County, HRM 213: On a day of birding around Fort Ann, the highlight was a river otter belly-slide track that followed a small brook for at least a quarter-mile downhill.
- Scott Varney, Brent Varney, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club

2/14 - Schoharie County, HRM 157: On Valentine's Day, while keeping a close eye on my feeders for the Backyard Bird Count, I noticed a different sparrow. On closer inspection I saw that it was an American tree sparrow, a first in my yard.
- Caroline McDonald

2/14 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I counted thirteen species competing for the sunflower hearts in the feeder today: Cardinals, chickadees, house finch, goldfinch, blue jay, junco, white-breasted nuthatch, pine siskin, American tree sparrow, white-throated sparrow, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, and red-bellied woodpecker.
- Jason Taylor

pair of adult bald eagles perched on a tree branch

2/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie: It was Valentine's Day and quite appropriately Mom and Dad from eagle nest NY62 were perched side-by-side in a tulip tree. This is the only time of the year when they get this close as their mating season slowly turns to nesting. [Photo of pair of bald eagles courtesy of Deborah Tracy-Kral.]
- Bob Rightmyer, Deb Kral

[On a Valentine's Day dawn at New Hamburg a decade ago, I watched a pair of eagles shadow each other over the ice with loop-de-loops and wing-touches. At the apex of a long arc in the sky they locked talons - one turned on its back in the air, the other mirrored it from above - and they went into a free-fall for well over a hundred feet before releasing and flaring out over the ice. At the climax of each acrobatic move they fell away in synchronized flight - flap-flap-glide - both wheeling and banking away in perfect form. It was like an exquisite ballet performance. At times they flew so close to each other that they cast only one shadow, drifting across the limestone face of Cedarcliff. Their effortless yet powerful wing beats moved them through the air as a single bird, communicating more through instinct than any utterance. Tom Lake.]

2/14 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was the bottom of the afternoon ebb tide, following several days of persistently high northwest winds. All we could see, in all directions, was ice. Where was the river? We walked 300 feet offshore looking before we finally heard murmurs and felt a slight lift that may have been ice shifting in the shallow water. With no open water to measure, a blowout tide was practically invisible. We saw dozens of nervous gulls in the air but not one on the ice; an immature bald eagle was perched close by in an open canopy oak, a common sign this winter.
- Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

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