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Hudson River Almanac December 5 - December 12, 2005

OVERVIEW

As though a switch was thrown, winter waterfowl, wintering eagles, and our first major snowstorm completed the transition of the seasons. Many, if not most, tide marshes are frozen, and the lakes and ponds in the watershed are nearly ready for ice fishing.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

12/1 - Ulster Park, HRM 88: The resident belted kingfisher of the Klyne Esopus Kill was just as noisy as ever, her loud rattling call bouncing off the water as she hunted the shallow flats at the Esopus Meadows Point Preserve. Just as the sun was slowly setting, lighting the Hudson River with a lilac glow, a beaver swam by slowly, silently navigating.
- Michael Morris

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

12/5 - Red Hook, HRM 98: Descending upon a large northern red oak at Poets Walk, a small flock of eastern bluebirds gathered near a long rotting branch with a cavity on its underside. Some moved on but 8 or so stayed and took turns inspecting the cavity and hovering around it ready to push their way in for a turn.
- Michael Morris

12/5 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: The breeding pair from eagle nest NY62 were perched together in a tulip tree. After the fledging season ends in July, we do not see them together very often until winter when they begin to spend more time near the nest.
- Bruce Pung

12/5 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Croton Point has that empty feeling. Over the last few weeks, I've gone from 40+ bird species each morning to no more than 20. The Boyz at the Bridge have caught and filleted their last fish for the season.
- Christopher Letts

12/6 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: In the last remaining minutes of twilight, crossing the Mid-Hudson Bridge toward home, I scanned south looking at the silhouette of bare branches against the glowing orange sky. What I thought at first glance were bunches of staghorn sumac berries turned out to be 600+ roosting crows.
- Michael Morris

12/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: It was late afternoon, getting dark, when I saw a small black bird with a whitish bill bopping around in our lower pond at Bowdoin Park. The adorable little thing was a coot. I've never seen them here before.
- Mary Borrelli

12/6 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: My assignment was a pleasant one: get some fish for dinner. I set up a light spinning rod and made my way to the shore of the little lake I think of as The Store. Every cast brought in a fish, largemouth bass (promptly released), bluegills, crappie, yellow and white perch. They shone like jewels as I lifted them from the black cold water. In half an hour I caught about 2 dozen, selecting 3 fat crappie and 3 golden perch for the evening menu. (The next morning the lake was covered with ice.)
- Christopher Letts

12/7 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: Double-crested cormorants were working the warm-water outflow, coming up with small fish after short dives. By itself, at the tail of the plume, I spotted what I thought was just one more cormorant, a big cormorant. But then I saw it for what it was: a common loon in winter colors. The Hudson River was 39.5°F.
- Tom Lake

12/8 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: I was locating some line-of-sight markers for a new bald eagle day perch in order to view it with a spotting scope from the other (east) side of the Hudson. Directly across the river, almost exactly where I will view the perch in the weeks and months ahead, was a pair of adult bald eagles perched together in a white pine.
- Tom Lake

[A real-time video transmission of the newly constructed bald eagle day perch along the shore at Danskammer Point can be viewed at http://www.dnegeneration.com/ ]

12/8 - Liberty Marsh, HRM 41: The marsh was frozen over. The geese could have played ice hockey except there were no geese. The marsh was silent for the first time in months. Two female harriers were still hunting, a pair of red-tailed hawks wheeled overhead, and an immature peregrine falcon glided past and landed on a telephone pole where it had a panoramic view.
- Tom Lake

12/8 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: I watched a juvenile bald eagle working a flock of coot just outside the railroad bridge. For 20 minutes the eagle circled just above the water and skimmed over the coot, which splashed and skittered and made shallow dives, then regrouped into a tight black ball only to have the eagle make another pass. I counted 15 passes. I must admit I had some doubts about the hunting strategy until the eagle flew to a log projecting from the water and began to tear at a freshy captured coot. An adult eagle appeared and made a half hearted attempt to steal the coot, but was repelled. It flew off, leaving the younger bird in possession of its prey.
- Christopher Letts

12/8 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 27: Two dozen students from Brookside School in Ossining got more than a visit to the Tarrytown Lighthouse today. They walked past a tree with two adult bald eagles perched in the crown. For all of the children and most of the accompanying adults, this was a first viewing of eagles in the wild.
- Christopher Letts

12/9 - Saugerties Lighthouse, HRM 102: The snow was coming down steadily and the flakes were not melting when they hit the water. They were accumulating at the surface in a thick layer that resembled quilt batting. The layers of snow-water behaved like fabric, bunching and folding as it glided with the current and collided with stationary objects such as the stone staircase of the lighthouse.
- Patrick Landewe

12/9 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The Mid-Hudson Valley received about 10" of snow from the first real winter storm of the season. Amounts varied through the watershed from 6-12". Late fall snowstorms are not rare. Three days ago was the second anniversary of a 14" blizzard.
- Tom Lake

"The Hudson River"

I see snow,
I hear the wind blow,
It's cold; I shiver,
It's beautiful looking at the River.
In the bright early morning
I'm happy to be learning
About the Hudson River
And every day when I look at the river
Inside of me, I quiver.
- Sharon Conejo

12/9 - Westchester County, HRM 39-34: I was out checking bald eagle spots, looking for early arrivals. They were few and far between, with one immature at Stony Point and a nice adult at George's Island. George's Island also provided some other nice finds including 7 wood ducks (2 drakes) and an immature yellow-bellied sapsucker that we watched and photographed for 10 minutes. At Croton Station, we had over 30 mute swans. One of them had a neck tag similar to those I reported last winter. This one was EA12. I have a photo of the same tagged swan from February.
- David Baker

12/10 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: When there was almost a foot of snow on the ground, Berit Pettersen and I snowshoed through the Dinsmore golf course and downhill to Mills Mansion, going up the front lawn and down the back lawn to the Hudson. We often took advantage of deer tracks because the snow was powdery. En route, we saw four eastern bluebirds exit a roosting box on one of the trees. The weather was cool, the skies were clear, and the only breezes we felt were in an open area of the golf course. From the lawn behind the Mills Mansion there is a wonderful view of the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, its wooden dock removed for the season.
- Phyllis Marsteller

12/11 - Delmar, HRM 143: My wife, Char, and I were walking at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center when we spotted a young-of-the year great blue heron standing on the ice of a pond. It was watching a hole in the ice that was about a foot in diameter. As we watched, a river otter poked its head up from the hole, munching on a sunfish. When the otter finished its snack and dove back underwater, the heron walked over to the hole and carefully stepped into the shallow water, one foot, then the other. Realizing it could not go anywhere in the small hole, the heron flew back to its spot on the ice several feet away. The otter soon came up with another fish but did not leave any scraps for the waiting bird. We watched the otter eat a third fish before we backed off and quietly left the scene. (The next day the otter holes in the pond were frozen up.)
- Alan Mapes

12/11 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: Well, it took them four days, but a flock of about 10 robins picked clean the cherry tree in our front yard. It was wonderful seeing them flitting about the branches, and especially nice hearing them call to each other. Their flashes of orange stood out against the newly-fallen snow. Now that the tree is bare, they've moved on to more hospitable lodgings.
- Donna Lenhart, Bill Lenhart

12/11 - Georges Island, HRM 39: I was scanning for bald eagles and winter waterfowl when I heard a chorus of "Dearly! Dearly!" It came from down near the boat launch, so I walked that way. There, in a 20' crabapple tree, was a lovely sight. This small tree is not much on spring blossoms, but in fall and early winter it wears a golden helmet of fruit, all out of proportion to the average crab. As a rule the robins, cedar waxwings, and blackbirds strip it before fall migration has ended, but today, with fruit still thick and 2 dozen bluebirds feasting and calling, it was a sight that brightened the rest of the day.
- Christopher Letts

12/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: After my report two weeks ago, we have had several more northern shrike reports and several reports of horned larks. We've seen plenty of snowshoe hare tracks, so they seem to be doing well. We are up to 6" of fluffy snow; that sure beats the rain of the last two Decembers. There is ice on the river although it is not completely frozen over. I certainly wouldn't trust the ice to hold any significant weight yet.
- Ellen Rathbone

12/12 - The Glen, HRM 245: Outside Warrensburg, just below the Ice Meadows, the river is running full tilt. I've heard folks comment on how it seems almost like spring levels.
- Ellen Rathbone

12/12 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: About 40% of the tidewater Wappinger was frozen. The winter residents are arriving: buffleheads, ruddy ducks, hooded and common mergansers. For the common mergansers, as is the case in early winter, most of them are hens, with only one in a dozen a drake.
- Tom Lake

12/12 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: As with Wappinger Creek, about 40% of the tidewater Fishkill was frozen. Mallards and black ducks were scattered about as well as some Canada geese. The three of us were reconnoitering an observation point for wintering bald eagles. We spotted an immature eagle across the bay, perched in a hardwood on the tip of Dennings Point. A ring-billed gull swooped and snatched a small struggling fish off the water. The bird lost its grip in flight, but in a quick and agile move, dove and caught the fish before it hit the water.
- Karen Timko, Gary Baum, Tom Lake

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