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Hudson River Almanac February 4 - 9, 2004

OVERVIEW

The Hudson remained frozen nearly all the way south from Newcomb in the Adirondacks to northern Ulster and Dutchess Counties, a reach of over 200 miles. Along tidewater, the snow cover on the ice cloaked the fact that a river flowed beneath, especially at slack tide when the ice was silent. The salt front stayed well upriver, in the vicinity of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. Conservative estimates of the number of wintering bald eagles, still being pushed south by the lack of open water, exceeded 150 birds.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/7 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: Claudia, our husky-collie mix, and I walk the fields daily; lately I've been on snowshoes. We both enjoy looking for tracks, and have been tracking a bobcat for quite some time. As the winter has progressed, the prints have reflected the gait of an animal bounding through ever-deepening snow. Today we were lucky enough to see the bobcat in the flesh, about thirty yards away as it ran from the cover of a hedgerow, through a field and into the woods.
- Liz LoGuidice

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/4 - Troy, HRM 153: Near twilight I was checking out the river along Route 797 near Troy. I saw a large flock of birds sitting on the ice, then a second. By the time the third flock appeared, I realized it was a murder of crows massing to go to their evening roost. There were a few groups of birds in trees on the river's edge, but the vast majority of them were gathered in the middle of the river. There were hundreds of crows. I wondered at their choice of gathering spots and came up with two possible motives: There may have been a lot of springtails or stoneflies on the ice and snow due to the relatively warm weather of the day; perhaps the birds were enjoying an evening meal. Or perhaps they were seeking a safe massing location. Albany and Troy have undertaken a campaign to deter crows from gathering in winter night roosts in urban settings. Perhaps the frozen river is a refuge for this congregation of crows.
- Liz LoGuidice

[The phrase "a murder of crows" is one of the many colorful terms applied to groups of specific birds and animals. Examples include a murmuration of starlings, an exaltation of larks, and a raft of ducks.]

2/5 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: We had four white-tailed deer looking for food in our yard at dusk. While deer are common enough, we do not ever recall as much activity as we have had this winter. There are tracks all over the lawn whenever there is snow and they even seem to be eating evergreen shrubs. Blue jays have been very numerous and the spring songs of the chickadees and titmice are starting to be heard as the days get longer.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

2/5 - George's Island, HRM 39: In late afternoon, an hour from low tide, we spotted nine immature bald eagles floating downriver on a single ice floe. An adult was nearby, drifting on its own private mound of ice. None of them seemed to be fishing; they were just knocking one another off the ice from time to time. In the trees on Dogan Point were at least twelve more, four of them adults. Two of the adults were perched very close, preening each other's feathers.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

2/6 - Stissing Mountain, HRM 96: It was late afternoon when I spotted two golden eagles in a bare deciduous tree on a hillside. One was an adult, the other an immature. Nearby were three ravens harassing an unfortunate juvenile red-tailed hawk.
- Larry Federman

2/7 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: When a juvenile red-tailed hawk sat in a tree in our yard today, the songbirds totally ignored it and were feeding and moving all about. Several hours later a sharp-shinned hawk was sitting near the same spot and there were no songbirds to be found. Do you suppose they know which raptor is a threat and which is not?
- Bill Drakert

[Red-tails are not inclined to pursue small birds, preferring small mammals. The sharp-shinned, much more agile in the air, is a woodland "bird hawk" well known for snatching birds at backyard feeders.]

2/7 - Hudson Valley: An organized effort was made to conduct a census of bald eagles in night roosts along the Hudson tidewater south of Beacon (HRM 60). Several teams of observers visited known roosting locations at dusk and counted no fewer than 140-150 birds.
- Ed McGowan

[Wintering bald eagles have distinct perching locations. During the day they have observing, feeding, and loafing perches, often in tall white pines or deciduous trees with open spots in their canopies for easy in-easy out access. At night, depending on the weather, they may move inland to communal roosts in sheltered stands of conifers. Often, an accurate count can be made in these night roosts just before total darkness.]

2/8 - Catskill, HRM 113: In late afternoon the sun was disappearing behind the Catskills. Except for the narrow ribbon of tightly packed ice floes in the channel, the Hudson was a wide, glowing expanse of snow-covered ice from bank to bank. High tide had brought the river under the ice to a stop. It was totally silent. An adult bald eagle was perched on the west side of Rogers Island and a second adult was across the way at Greendale.
- Tom Lake

2/8 - Garrison to China Pier, HRM 50-43: We encountered a beautiful female northern harrier at the Castle Rock Unique Area fields along Route 9D. The bird tilted and banked its way quite close, its owl-like face clearly in view, as we watched for several minutes in marvel. At China Pier we met ten birders from New Jersey who were counting eagles at the edge of the ice in Peekskill Bay. They had concluded there were at least twenty.
- Marc A. Breslav, Arlene Seymour

2/8 - George's Island, HRM 39: It was difficult to get an accurate count because of all the activity, but I'm sure we saw a dozen eagles going in and out of the trees on Dogan Point. Most of them were adults. Two of them were perched so close together that I thought I was looking at one bird. While we were watching, a chubby robin alighted ten feet away as if to suggest that the eagles were not the only show in town. Later, a half dozen bluebirds appeared from the wetland on the north side of the parking lot, flitting between the lawn and the birches.
- Peter Fanelli, Diane Fanelli

2/8 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: We walked up the icy slope to the top of the landfill where the wind was blowing. It was very cold, but worth the effort. We saw two short-eared owls roosting on the ground. Later, along the lower road in a stand of white pines, we spotted a great horned owl. We were also pleased to see an adult male Eurasian wigeon in the Croton River a quarter mile upstream of its confluence with the Hudson. Other waterfowl present included wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, mallards, gadwall, and common mergansers.
- Joe O'Connell, Ellen O'Connell

2/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: During our walk this morning, Toby and I encountered a small flock of pine grosbeaks gathering grit on Santanoni Drive near the Hudson River pump house. A "life bird" for me! I've been finding many, many snowshoe hare tracks all over Winebrook, a suburb of Newcomb. Though I have yet to actually see one, I remain hopeful. The pine marten visits here almost nightly. We see its tracks all over. I think it even snuck in yesterday during the day. I was busy enough that I never looked out the window to notice, but there were more marten tracks at 4:00 PM than there were at 9:00 AM.
- Ellen Rathbone

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