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Hudson River Almanac December 6-December 13, 2004

OVERVIEW

The removal of red-tailed hawk Pale Male's nest on 5th Avenue in Manhattan made headlines in the daily newspapers. A blast of Arctic air has brought serious winter to the northern areas of the watershed and, as a result, bald eagles are moving south.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

12/11 - Beacon, HRM 61: A merlin cruised over a small gathering of Canada geese in the river along the shore. The geese did not seem to notice. This small falcon, sometimes referred to as a "pigeon hawk," may have been wishing it were an eagle. A mile south at Denning's Point, an adult bald eagle was perched by the river - there were no geese there.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

12/6 - Croton River, HRM 34: I spotted the big, dark birds from the Route 9 bridge and took the next exit, ending up in front of the Croton-on-Hudson Highway Department garage. Three immature bald eagles were soaring low over the tide flats only a hundred feet from where I stopped my truck. Three Village of Croton employees were watching the birds, yelling exuberantly, jumping up and down. The birds paid no attention, but I was tickled to see so much enthusiasm on the part of these young men.
- Christopher Letts

12/7 - Croton River, HRM 34: For the second day, there was no little blue heron. Perhaps it has moved on, or perhaps those low-flying eagles yesterday... At any rate, where the heron had been foraging, there was a new white bird to marvel at, a lone snow goose, swimming with a contingent of Canada geese.
- Christopher Letts

12/7 - Manhattan, HRM 5: A nest constructed by red-tailed hawks, twelve stories above Central Park at 927 Fifth Avenue, was removed today by workers for its host co-op apartment building. The nest was built amid metal spikes that were placed on the 12th-floor cornice to discourage pigeons from roosting. The spikes had the unintended effect of providing a strong structure to brace a nest, that of the famous Pale Male red-tailed hawk, against the wind. The nest had been active for the last 11 years, fledging 23 immature red-tails. The nesting season for Pale Male and his current mate, Lola, does not begin until January, but even now, Pale Male, Lola and other red-tailed hawks can be seen performing courtship rituals, flying in circles over Central Park.
- Frederic Lilien, Regina McCarthy, Joe O'Connell

[Pale Male became a New York City celebrity thanks to Marie Winn's 1998 book "Red-Tails in Love," many newspaper articles, and a PBS documentary.]

12/9 - Round Top, HRM 112: It warmed to 52°F in Round Top today. There are still wood ducks on the beaver ponds and I saw golden-crowned kinglets and white-throated sparrows happily bouncing around in the woods. There are lots of ravens up high in the Catskill Mountains.
- Jon Powell

12/9 - Gardiner, HRM 73: I was on my porch early this evening trying to figure out what kind of animal was running up and down the tree to our suet feeder. At first I thought it was a bird, then a chipmunk. Getting my flashlight, I focused its beam and and there it was, a flying squirrel. It spent 30 minutes running up and down the tree.
- Rebecca Johnson

12/9 - Croton River, HRM 34: Witch hazel has been in bloom for more than two weeks. Today the crinkly yellow blossoms on one giant plant were enhanced by the presence of four male cardinals.
- Christopher Letts

12/9 - Town of Wawayanda, HRM 46: We looked up from our work, a 4,000 year-old Stone Age workshop, to watch an immature bald eagle fly over. It was heading southwest, away from the Hudson watershed, toward the Delaware. The chill was numbing but the glow from the sighting warmed us up.
- Tom Lake, Pat Sabol, Ann Marie Hess

12/9 - Manhattan, HRM 0: A beautiful Chanukah greeting from my friend Esther Beredjick arrived in this evening's mail. Inside, she told of finding a dead American woodcock, a window strike, in her neighborhood of Battery Park City. Not one to dwell on the sad part of a story, Esther described her surprise at finding a long bill attached to what she initially thought was a dead robin. Certainly beats the heck out of my usual holiday greetings.
- Dave Taft

12/10 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: On November 29, my wife and I were out trying to catch the first wave of bald eagles into the Mid-Hudson Valley when we spotted a mute swan with a numbered collar - EA49. Today we discovered that this swan is part of a study by the NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife and Cornell University. This past summer, Robin Holevinski and her colleagues marked 80 mute swans with white collars during their molt in coastal areas of Long Island, along the Hudson River, and in bays on the south shore of Lake Ontario. EA49 is an adult female, captured and marked in Annsville Creek on September 3, 2004.
- David Baker

[We would really appreciate any information on marked mute swan sightings. We are trying to identify mute swan seasonal distribution and abundance throughout New York State, and neck collar sightings are very important to our research. Please contact the Hudson River Almanac if you see a marked mute swan along the Hudson. Robin Holevinski, NYSDEC Fish & Wildlife]

12/11 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There is up to 6" of white stuff on the ground. I don't categorize it as snow. Much of it is ice. Last night Toby Rathbone and I went for our walk and the hardwoods glowed with their jackets of white; every limb, branch, twig and twiglet had a covering. This morning it remains the same, but upon closer inspection, much of the coating is actually chunks of ice, like rock candy. We had marten tracks on the back deck at the Adirondack Park Visitors Information Center this morning. Our beast is back. I must see if we can scare up some suet. They seem to like that.
- Ellen Rathbone

12/11 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: It was late morning at Esopus Meadows. We had never seen the river higher. The water was up to the bridge from the nature center to the trails. It was a new moon, but the tide would not be full high for another hour. You could see that the last tide had been even higher.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

12/11 - Senasqua, HRM 36: The new moon and nearly 2" of rain in the last three days had produced an unusually high tide. The river was out of its banks and into the playground. Several Canada geese were swimming among the swing sets.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

12/11 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: Eagles figure so prominently in the Hudson River Almanac that I joked with my friend Debbie Morrison that we'd have a tough time writing an original sounding eagle entry. But then, looking up at the large adult disappearing into a drizzle soaked river scene, I realized I was missing the point. There is no way to look at an eagle that doesn't inspire, no matter how many times you're lucky enough to get the chance. Years ago, an eagle sighting near New York City would have been cause for celebration. Thinking about it, it still is.
- Dave Taft

12/11 - Crawbuckie, HRM 33.5: We spotted no fewer than 200 ruddy ducks bobbing in the chop well offshore. A few hundred yards south we could see an acre of mixed winter ducks: ring-necked, scaup, goldeneye, and some canvasbacks.
- Tom Lake, Phyllis Lake

12/11 - Yonkers, HRM 18: As beautiful as a painting from the 19th century, the real Hudson still flows outside of the Hudson River Museum's windows. Standing in front of a dark, late fall painting of the river's brown grasses and willows, I turned to the window just in time to watch red-tailed hawk perch on a riverside cottonwood.
- Dave Taft

12/12 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: A juvenile sharp-shinned hawk on our deck rail seemed to pay no attention to us at the window, nor to a very fat gray squirrel only a few feet away on the deck. Not only that, the squirrel was quite confrontational and approached the hawk. They studied each other carefully, but no action. The hawk only left when I tapped the window; the squirrel didn't leave at all!
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

12/12 - Manhattan, HRM 5: There was a rally today in support of perhaps the most famous homeless couple in Manhattan right now, the red-tailed hawks Pale Male and Lola, whose eight-foot nest was removed and destroyed on December 7. The management of the building at 927 Fifth Avenue has suggested spending as much as $100,000 to build a platform elsewhere on the building, but environmental advocates said such a potential solution was inadequate. They want the nest at the original location, on a 12th-floor window cornice above the building's entrance. Since Tuesday, the birds have brought twigs to the cornice in an attempt to rebuild the nest. But they have had little success because the spikes that had been placed there to ward off pigeons and had anchored the nest were also removed.
- Jennifer Lee, Janon Fisher

12/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The new snow overnight, 3" of the fluffy variety, brings us up to 9" total - snowshoe depth at last. It is a very white world out there today, the stuff of holiday greeting cards.
- Ellen Rathbone

12/13 - Hudson Valley: We gained one minute of daylight at sunset today for the first time since July 2. From December 1 to 12 we have our earliest sunsets of the year, 4:29 PM. Beginning today, sunset at 4:30, our evenings start to last longer. However, our days do not lengthen overall until after the winter solstice on December 21, because the sun is rising later each day. Sunrise will occur later each morning until December 30, but after the solstice we start adding more daylight at the end of the day then we lose at the start. Enjoy that extra minutes and use them well.
- Tom Lake

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