Hudson River Almanac February 6 - 12, 2006
The Blizzard of '06 overshadowed what was an interesting week on the water. At least one and possibly two harbor seals appear to be thinning out the carp population in Greene and Ulster Counties. Several tundra swans passed through and, with the backdrop of fresh snow, the flight of bald eagles was still giving us chills.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
2/7 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: I finally found the perfect situation for both viewing and reporting Almanac eagle observations. I arrived home to Poughkeepsie today, from work, turned on my computer, and opened up the Dynegy cameras on Danskammer Point. Lo and behold, at 5:04 PM, I had an adult bald eagle spotting. It was perched on the southernmost tree in the frame (Video 3) facing east, but turning its head south, north, and west back to the camera. Even though I was only inches from it, I am fairly certain I was outside of its "alert distance" as well as its "flight distance!" Still, I moved not a muscle. It flew away at 5:22 PM, or rather, it simply disappeared from its perch, as if by magic. Ain't technology grand?
- Steve Schwartz
[The Dynegy bald eagle cameras can be viewed at www.dnegeneration.com . Click on Dynegy Eagle Cameras, and choose Videos 1 through 4. Bald eagles in the wild have an "alert distance," with regard to humans, of 250 yards, and a "flight distance"of 125 yards. This would seem to suggest that eagles do not notice you until you are within 250 yards. More typically, eagles are aware of you before you even see them. The alert distance is purely an average. Some eagles will be long gone at first glimpse; others will remain on their perch at a much closer distance. In viewing eagles, by far the best bet is to use binoculars when on foot; otherwise, stay in your vehicle. Harassing an eagle is a Federal offense. Tom Lake]
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
2/6 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: I was driving south on Route 9 this morning through Annsville Circle when an adult bald eagle rose up from Annsville Creek. It was only ten feet above and a few feet out from the road barrier, and hung there long enough for me to get a good look.
- Bennett Gray
2/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our friendly neighborhood barred owl is back at the Visitors Interpretive Center. It arrived about 2:00 PM, perched on a stick above the remains of the VIC's Christmas tree for 5 minutes, then pounced and took off with a mouse. Swallowed it whole. Now it is sitting in a tree digesting and contemplating a second helping. We also had 20 evening grosbeaks at the feeders around noon.
- Ellen Rathbone
2/7 - Stockport Flats, HRM 122: It was cold and blustery with whitecaps on the river. With 10x binoculars I scanned the west shore across the way and spotted a straight-necked swan. It took flight as two others flew by and, just my luck, they headed my way enough for me to see the black bills of tundra swans.
- Larry Biegel
2/7 - Battery Park City, HRM 1: It's commonplace to see Canada geese grazing on lawns in urban settings, but I was a bit surprised to see brant doing the same along the Battery Park City waterfront esplanade today. The biggest flock numbered 35-40 birds.
- Steve Stanne
2/8 - Saugerties, HRM 102: Brian La Dolce spotted a seal resting on shoreline rocks at the river's edge. It was feared that the seal might be sick or injured. But when a barge came by and its wake splashed onto the rocks, the seal swam into the river and appeared to be fine.
[It is not an uncommon reaction to see a seal out of water and wonder if it is injured. This was a case of normal seal behavior being initially mis-diagnosed. Seals are adapted for living in water; out of the water they often look like they are in distress. Seals on ice floes or hauled out on docks or rocks along the river often look less comfortable. It is just their resting posture. If you do spot a marine mammal that is genuinely in need of assistance, call The Riverhead Foundation's 24-Hour Stranding Hotline: 631-369-9829. Tom Lake]
2/8 - Crum Elbow, HRM 79: In the late afternoon we followed the nameless brook that flows out of the old ice pond on the Franklin D. Roosevelt estate, tumbling down to a marsh at its mouth. There the brook took a shallow winding course across mud flats laid bare by low tide. Just above the flats, in a deeper part of the stream perhaps 7 feet wide and high in the intertidal zone, a school of thousands of killifish lazed in quieter water along the northern bank of the brook. Densely packed over about 30 feet of the stream's course, they seemed to be conserving energy, or were slowed by the cold water temperature. Only a few swam vigorously in the high velocity portion of the stream. Most looked like banded killies, though we couldn't begin to examine closely all the individuals in this multitude.
- Linda Richards, David Hayes, Steve Stanne
2/9 - Peekskill Bay, HRM 44: From our Metro North window, on the way to Manhattan this morning, I saw a magnificent adult bald eagle flying over the river on the north side of Peekskill Bay. Its white tail and head were clearly visible.
- Michael Boyajian
2/9 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Our feeders and suet have had quite a number of visitors recently, including cardinals (not nearly as many as last year); blue jays, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house sparrows, tree sparrows (among others), slate-colored juncos, one robin, a male and female downy woodpecker, a red-bellied woodpecker, northern mockingbirds (some of them fat and puffy), and European starlings. The starlings fight with the red-bellied woodpecker for the suet. We also have a peanut feeder that the woodpeckers love. Today, feeding on the ground under the feeders, we saw our first red-winged blackbird of the year as well as, for the first time this season, a male and female purple finch.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson
2/10 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: At 6:12 AM, it was still dark, 20°F, overcast with scattered flurries. The morning of eagle monitoring was slow with a total of seven sightings from 3 immatures and one adult. Six of the seven sightings were between 6:40 and 7:30, and then it got quiet. Most of the activity consisted of birds flying from one side of Denning's to the other. The only adult of the day was perched on a dead tree at the north end of Hammond Point in mid-morning. There was a large raft of mixed mallards and black ducks in the bay, along with 25-30 common mergansers. Along the tracks was a sizable flock (35+) of cedar waxwings.
- Marty McGuire
2/10 - Rockland Lake, HRM 29: There were a half dozen scattered assemblages of Canada geese on the lake; two of them in a group on the north end wore bright yellow neck collars, numbers RP01 and RM70. There was a raft of gadwall on the south end of the lake, drakes and hens, with no fewer than 50 birds.
- Tom Lake
2/11 - Cheviot, HRM 106: For the last three weeks, a pair of adult bald eagles has been frequenting the island in early morning and late evening. Sometimes they sit on limbs of separate trees. Other times they appear very close to each other in the same tree, but on different branches. Only once have I seen them preening each other. On February 2nd, a third eagle appeared. The pair tolerated this almost mature (white head, no white tail, mottled on the underside) bird for about an hour. One of the adults then drove it off. For the next two days they allowed the 4 year-old bird to fly through their area, but seemed to deny it from landing in the trees on the island. All in all, a great month of observing!
- Susan Droege
[The "island" is actually a long, narrow, man-made dock, extending a third of the way across the river, now vegetated with trees, shrubs, and grasses. I refer to it as an island because most of the time, at high tide, the connecting piece of land is under water and the end of the dock appears as an island as I look out my windows. Early 20th century night boats going to New York City with fruit, vegetables, butter, and eggs were loaded while they sat in the channel. My neighbor, 88 years old and living in Cheviot all her life, said that there was once a cider mill and a barrel factory by the river at the beginning of the long dock. She remembers trucks and wagons, loaded with local goods waiting to load their cargo onto the night boats. Susan Droege]
2/11 - Dogan Point, HRM 39.5: Without ice floes this winter, the Verplanck waterfront has not been a playground for eagles. None were in sight until I looked due south at the backside of Dogan Point a mile away. There, nestled back in a stand of pines, I spotted a pair of adult eagles perched so close there was no light between them. This is mating season. A month ago they might not have even perched in the same tree.
- Tom Lake
2/11 - George's Island, HRM 39: The air was heavy, the sky was white, and we knew that we were one step ahead of the blizzard. In late afternoon, 30 of us watched a 4 year-old eagle across the bay on Dogan Point through scopes and binoculars. It had a mostly white head, but the body was a mix of brown and white. And immature and an adult eagle perched nearby, providing contrast.
- Tyler Hoke, Bob Ferguson, Dorothy Ferguson, Christopher Letts, Andra Sramek, Tom Lake
2/12 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: It was a day for roaring fires, comfort food, feeling philanthropic as throngs of birds mobbed the brimming feeders, periodic shoveling, wishing for a New York Times, worrying about the homeless, and hoping all the trees along the power lines remained vertical. The Blizzard of '06 dumped 20" in northern Westchester County. As far as we're concerned, Manhattan can have the bragging rights to this one, and welcome to it.
- Christopher Letts
2/12 - Manhattan, HRM 5: Central Park received 26.9 inches of snow, the heaviest snowfall ever recorded for New York City, far surpassing the Blizzard of '88.
- National Weather Service
2/12 - River of Words is a non-profit organization that aims to "connect kids to water and their imaginations." By February 15 each year, students aged 5-19 submit poetry and art work from around the world to the River of Words Contest. The work is judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate and River of Words co-founder, Robert Hass. Prizes are awarded in several categories, with one Grand Prize winner. In addition, approximately 50 finalists are selected. These students receive prizes of books and art supplies. Every student who enters the contest receives a certificate. River of Words also provides teacher education materials and workshops. See www.riverofwords.org for more information. Here are two examples from the 5th grade at Vails Gate Elementary.
- Barbara Oliver
Near the River
River of frozen ice as wide as it can be,
Far enough for my eyes to see.
When I look at the river, I see an island.
When I listen to the geese, I hear them calling.
The ice is so thick you can walk on it fine.
The river is so wonderful, I'm glad it is mine!
It is so deep.
When the tide goes out I can hear it speak.
- Tanya Vriesema
What I See on the Hudson River
I see ice on the river,
At least two feet deep.
I see tracks along the river,
From way up on shore.
I see lots of things on the river,
but I want to see more.
- Jasmine Snell