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Hudson River Almanac February 1 - February 7, 2005

OVERVIEW

The maple sugaring season has begun in the Hudson Valley. Warm days and cold nights are the key to a nice, even flow that is collected and then boiled to concentrate the sap into maple syrup. The roots of this traditional activity can be traced back thousands of years in the Northeast. With little precipitation in the period, and continued cold weather in the watershed, tributary runoff has been nil. The salt front remains well upriver at Newburgh.

HIGHLIGHT OF A RECENT WEEK

1/21 - Danskammer Point, HRM 67.5: A 376 mm (14.8") kokanee salmon was collected at 9:00 AM from the Danskammer Point Dynegy NE impingement net. The fish was dead at time of capture, but in good shape and very fresh. It had been impinged sometime after 3:00 AM.
- James J. Reichle

[Kokanee, a landlocked form of the sockeye salmon of the Pacific Ocean, is one of ten trout and salmon species that are documented in the Hudson River watershed. The most common are the brown, brook, and rainbow trout. Kokanee are occasionally stocked in lakes and reservoirs as gamefish. There are only three previous records of kokanee for the Hudson, all from the cooling water intakes at Danskammer: 12-17-74 (8.7"); 12-5-86 (13.7"); 1-19-97 (12.0"). Tom Lake]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/1 - West Shokan, HRM 92: A flock of 50 cedar waxwings, passing through, had settled on neighbor Mackey's privet hedge and were finishing up the last berries, while a hundred yards away a group of three black ducks (the first we'd seen here all winter) were just rising off the Bushkill where it meets Maltby Hollow Brook.
- Jane Byers Bierhorst, John Bierhorst

2/1 - Fishkill, HRM 63: A ruby red cardinal was at our feeder today. It looked so bright against the snow.
- Mike Boyajian

2/1 - Garrison, HRM 51.5: While out in Constitution Marsh Sanctuary with a group of sixth graders from Haldane School in Cold Spring, we saw something unusual flying around. Our suspicions were confirmed when we looked it up in our field guide: a dark-phase rough-legged hawk.
- Pete Salmansohn, Eric Lind

2/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Another cold one. It was -8°F this morning. B-r-r-r-r-r.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/2 - Saugerties, HRM 102: The fall line is reached and tidewater ends on the Esopus just below the dam in the village of Saugerties. We were fishing on the creek above the dam, through 14" of good, hard, snow-covered ice, looking for dinner fillets. The fishing was good; we hooked, landed and returned most of the 150 small panfish we caught: black crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch. Before leaving, we laid prone on the ice over the holes we had cut and pulled our parka hoods over our heads to watch some fish TV. With noses an inch from the surface, halfway down in 8' of clear water we could see small congregations of various and elegant sunfish, milling around wondering where the supply of grubs had gone. As Chris Letts likes to "the bluegills were nibbling and the crappie were " at whatever was offered.
- Tom Lake

2/2 - Sandy Hook, NJ, New York Bight: I heard the "trilling" of the first red-winged blackbird this morning. Poor guy. He is really early. We still have a heavy snow cover but the ice on Sandy Hook Bay has begun to break up.
- Pam Carlsen

2/3 Newcomb, HRM 302: We found some wonderful tracks around the Sucker Brook Trail while leading a group of high school students from Johnsburg. We had otter slides (a high point of my day, as any otter signs are), mink tracks from my "friend" under the bridge, fox tracks galore complete "skunky" urine marks (markng territory), and even a scat deposit. There were also the typical squirrel tracks, and some mice tracks, too.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/3 - Brandow Point, HRM 117: I was distracted by a barge that suddenly stopped as it was traveling north past Brandow Point this morning. We were having a veritable heat wave, so I couldn't imagine that it was stuck in the ice. I grabbed my binoculars and headed down to the river. Sure enough, the barge and its tug - both "K " vessels, were completely motionless in the water. The vessels were pulled over, awaiting the arrival of a barge heading south - a behemoth named The Patriot, being pushed by a tug. The Patriot dwarfed the K Sea vessel as it passed slowly by.
- Liz LoGuidice

[In some areas of the river, especially north of Kingston, where the width and depth of the channel diminishes, large vessels heading in opposite directions must cooperate in timing their passage. It is not uncommon to see one wait on another, off on the shoulder of the channel, until it passes. Tom Lake]

2/3 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: For the last several days, we have had a flock of more than two dozen robins arriving just about at dusk. They were back again this evening, this time at least 50.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

2/3 - Kowawese, HRM 59: Two classes of sixth graders from Vails Gate School in New Windsor had come to Kowawese to see the Hudson River and, specifically, bald eagles. I had spotting scopes set up and binoculars at the ready, but no one was home. There was not a single bald eagle in sight. The river, from Newburgh to Cornwall out to the channel, was frozen over. The half-dozen wintering eagles in this reach of the river had flown south through the Hudson Highlands in search of open water and breakfast. After we confirmed that the park's residents had been on the beach overnight - fox, coyote, and river otter tracks in the snow - we settled by the river to listen. With the ebb tide, the ice shelf that extended a half mile out to the ice-choked channel was dropping for lack of support. From loud cracks to tiny tinkles, it produced "the music of the river." A huge barge - the Antares - high in the water, came down the channel pushed by a tug. After it passed, the wake rippled in under the ice and the crescendo of groans and moans and creaks and cracks increased. It sounded like an orchestra tuning their instruments.
- Barbara Oliver, Eric Buxton, Floydiena Sampson, Tom Lake

Kowawese Park

We took a trip to Kowawese Park,
An intriguing place during the day as well as dark.
There are lots of neat things to see,
Like amazing bald eagles that are soaring free.
There were lots of animal tracks in the snow,
Some were coyotes, foxes, and others I did not know.
I never knew the Hudson was an estuary,
With all its amazing animals, like sharks. Now, that's scary!
Sliding in the snow, all day long,
Along the Hudson, as it sings its song.
Listening to it sing its song was quite nice,
It wasn't an actual song, per se, just cracking ice.
There were other amazing stuff, from beavers and things,
And evidence of birds, with tracks from their wings.
The trip was great, but I was ready to go,
It all was amazing, until I fell in the snow.
Eric Buxton, Sixth grade teacher, Vails Gate Tech Magnet School

2/4 - Kingston, HRM 95: I have been regularly seeing two adult bald eagles out on the river. Today they were feeding on something way out on the ice near the edge of the middle ground flats.
- Tom Turck

2/4 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: My eight year-old son Jake was walking our dog when he came in and said he saw some eagles and wanted to show them to me. He led me to the window where we saw two adult bald eagles perched in a tree above our driveway; one was eating a fish. They were so close I could see that one had a band on each leg: one metallic gray and one yellow with the number 4.
- Scott Craven

2/5 - Kingston Point, HRM 92: While my dog nosed around, deciphering the traces of those who'd left tracks in the snow on Kingston Point, I watched the ice boats gliding silently back and forth on the frozen river. The sails caught me by surprise, and the moment's notion of summer was welcome even on a relatively warm day in the heart of winter.
- Dan Shapley

2/5 - George's Island to Croton Point, HRM 38-34: The Hudson was virtually clear of ice, except for remnants around the north side of Croton Point. With a bright, clear, sunny day it was possible to kayak again. A stiff, chill, northerly breeze made the current dance and reminded me that it was not spring, despite the sun. I spotted several bald eagles, including an immature, circling over the river. One flew near my boat, not more than 10' over the water.
- Stephen Butterfass

2/5 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5: I joined a group that included members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, Urban Park Rangers, and passersby for a stargazing session in Riverside Park at 98th Street. For the first hour a procession of ice chunks or slabs, from a few feet to a few meters across, drifted past. In the night sky, comet Machholz continued its trek from the head of Perseus north towards Polaris. It showed up as a large, fuzzy patch in binoculars, while a telescope at high power brought out its bright, central core. Saturn was a big attraction, its rings small, yet perfect. To the planet's left was a small, bright dot: Titan, which we now know as a world in its own right, with rocky plains, drainage channels, and liquid methane. Several telescopes were trained on the Orion Nebula, with the Trapezium, a quadruple clump of stars, surrounded by a haze in which new stars are forming. We also looked at several star clusters, including the Pleiades, the Hyades, and the Double Cluster in Perseus..
- Tony Hoffman

2/6 - Round Top, HRM 113: Well it snuck up on me this year, but the maple sap season is here. This is the earliest that any of my family has ever tapped. We began yesterday and even boiled a little just to check out our new evaporator. The huge sugar bushes in Vermont and Canada (25,000+ trees) started in late January.
- Jon Powell

2/6 - Norrie Point, HRM 87: I spotted an adult bald eagle perched offshore on Esopus Island. A Coast Guard icebreaker came down river and I wondered if that would bother the bird. While I was watching the icebreaker the eagle left its perch and flew straight at me before flaring off to the north. I wondered if the eagle knew that there would be new open water, and maybe fish, behind the icebreaker?
- Dave Lindemann

2/6 - Gardiner, HRM 73: Traveling down Tilson Lake Road in late afternoon, we spotted an adult barred owl perched in a large oak tree. We pulled the car over and watched the owl turn its head back and forth.
- Rebecca Johnson, Lora Kishel

2/6 - Cornwall, HRM 57: Heading out along the trail to check on the sugar maples in preparation for sugaring season at the Museum of the Hudson Highlands, I was excited to know that the sap would be running strongly today and that all these trees were busy in spite of the stillness in the winter forest. I stopped for a moment to enjoy the sun's strong warm rays, and noticed a red maple that appeared to have a stream of sap flowing down its trunk. I found some tell-tale small holes, placed in a perfect row, that were dripping fresh sap. A yellow-bellied sapsucker had been there recently and probably had a nice full belly! They enjoy the sap and cambium of the tree, but are sure to return for the insects attracted by the sweet and sticky sap now covering the bark. I guess the original maple sugar farmers were feathered after all.
- Ann Szigethy

2/6 - Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn, New York Bight: Word gets around fast in the birding community. Pete McCarthy, Gateway National Recreation Area District Ranger and I headed out to confirm a reported thick-billed murre in this inlet of Jamaica Bay. As we arrived, one - maybe two - eared grebes mingled with a small group of far more common horned grebes. A pair of wintering loons swam past an assortment of black ducks, wigeon, and gadwall. Bufflehead floated like corks as males performed for small groups of females. The murre was basking in the beautiful February light, just as promised, its black and white plumage reflecting in the water, not more than 100 feet away. We weren't the only gawkers - members of the Mohawk Valley Audubon Society had chartered a bus and driven five hours, having heard about it yesterday. We recommended the local diner, the one with the monk parakeet nest on their parking lot's telephone pole.
- Dave Taft

[Murres belong to a group of northern seabirds called alcids that includes auks and puffins. With their black and white plumage and ability "" underwater, stroking with their wings, alcids are the northern oceans' closest equivalent to penguins. Murres come to land only to nest, and do so no closer than Canada. They generally winter at sea; thus a sighting near land here excites birders. Steve Stanne.]

2/6 - Alpine, HRM 18: The afternoon was warm and sunny, 50°F, no breeze, so we took a walk to the Alpine Boat Basin and then north past the old Excelsior Dock area. The water's surface was completely calm and what little ice was present was clustered within 50 feet of shore. On the walk down the cliffs we passed close to a perched sharp-shinned hawk. North of the boat basin we spotted nine black ducks near shore, all standing on small blocks of ice. At slack tide, we saw a pair of common goldeneyes off the old pier at Excelsior Dock, a mile north of the boat basin.
- Bob Rancan, Janet Rancan

2/7 - Garrison, HRM 51.5: We had six bald eagles today at Constitution Marsh Sanctuary: four immatures and two adults. Both fourth grade classes from Garrison School got to see them. The adults were perched in a tree; one was pulling apart a fish. We also heard a winter wren singing.
- Pete Salmansohn

2/7 - West Point, HRM 52: What an absolutely gorgeous early afternoon! The air temperature was comfortable, lots of ice on the river, a blue sky with few clouds and no wind. Above West Point's North Athletic Field, the Pendragon pair of red-tail hawks - Uther and Igraine - glided off the light towers and flew in a courtship spiral above the field. In another month, they will begin preparations on the nest to raise the next brood of red-tails from this site. And, of course, what river scene would be complete without ring-billed gulls - 60 of them looking for feeding opportunities on the floes, on the water, gliding through the calm air or just standing on the shore. It reminds me of the scene in the movie "Finding Nemo" where the gulls all look at a food item and start saying "Mine, Mine, "
- James Beemer, Kaylee Seagraves

2/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: In mid-afternoon three harriers were skimming over the brush on the landfill. From an evergreen branch across the road from the landfill a long-eared owl peered down at us. Later, we also saw a short-eared owl perched on a post on the landfill.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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