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Hudson River Almanac February 17 - 28, 2006

OVERVIEW

This late winter has been a strange combination of blizzard-like snowstorms, hurricane-force wind storms, flocks of wintering robins and early arriving red-winged blackbirds. Eagles are readying their nests for the season soon to come even as we are once again finding times and places for snowshoeing and ice skating.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

2/13 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Two days after a strong nor'easter gave us the Blizzard of '06, I came across a good-sized, live horseshoe crab right at the high tide line as I walked on the ocean beach at Sandy Hook. It must have been kicked ashore by a heavy surf - usually horseshoe crabs at this time of the year are well offshore, dug into soft sediments of Raritan Bay. Its shell was well populated with slipper shells. I carried the crab over to a quieter bay side beach and aimed her in the right direction. If all goes well, she'll return to the beach to spawn in May or June.
- Dery Bennett

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/17 - Croton Point, HRM 35: We walked the bathing beach in a light south wind, alternately paying attention to tracks, driftwood and offshore ducks. In a very few minutes towering black clouds swept over, the wind switched to northerly and increased to 40 mph, gusting higher. A flock of goldeneye flying into the wind almost looked like they were flying backwards. "There goes the flagpole!" We gaped at the 40' sturdy pole, snapped off at ground level, flags blowing in the parking lot. I drove my truck out to the seawall where waves were smashing in, and enjoyed a poor man's carwash.
- Charlie Roberto, Christopher Letts

2/18 - Minerva, HRM 284: About 90% of the Town of Minerva has its power back. Ours came back after 27 hours. I had the opportunity to be a Red Cross volunteer at a shelter at the Minerva firehouse and then again at Johnsburg Central School. Pretty quiet, but the shelters served a number of folks lunch, breakfast and showers. The wind was amazing and the air temperature drop was stunning. Just before our power came back, the temperature in our house dropped to about 30°F.
- Mike Corey

2/22 - Round Top, HRM 113: We've had a little run with maple sap, made a few gallons, but the sugar percentage is low.
- Jon Powell

2/23 - Black Creek, HRM 85: Laurie Fila, Jason Novak, and I were searching very carefully under rocks for macroinvertebrates for a school program. We found no crayfish, but we did spot a 7" American eel and Laurie scooped it up in our kick net.
- Rebecca Johnson

2/23 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: I had a group of students at Bowdoin Park for some maple sugaring when we spotted an adult bald eagle fly over the park with a branch in its talons. This was the second time in a week that we had seen this. We're guessing these are the local mated pair with new nesting material.
- Mary Borrelli

2/24 - Saratoga County, HRM 196: It actually looks like a winter day today. Snow is falling quite heavily - big flakes. Maybe we will get enough to go skiing. Though it feels cold, it is only 40°F. I miss the snow this winter and have not had the opportunity to cross country ski; I have only snowshoed twice. Bluebirds are already setting up shop in the backyard. I don't think they have started to nest but they are in and out of the nesting box and are constantly driving away sparrows and other small birds.
- John DeLisle

2/25 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Snow was in the forecast but instead it turned into a sunny afternoon. No eagles were spotted on Esopus Island. However, on the short pier to the pilot boat facing upriver we saw a solitary bald eagle flying across the entrance to the boat marina. It settled in a low hanging tree on the campground side of the marina. We watched it rest and preen for about 15 minutes before it flew over to the west side of the river.
- Pat Joel, Bill Joel

2/25 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: Although in recent days I've seen an occasional chipmunk scooting around in the garden and adjacent wall or nibbling at bird feeder spillovers, many were out and about today doing lots of chasing of each other. There was one group of three, where two seemed to be encouraging the third to leave.
- Nancy P Durr

2/25 - Manhattan, HRM 8: Passing between New York City and Westchester County is often an occasion to do some shopping at Fairway Market near 125th Street on the upper west side. It is, in my opinion, a real destination for folks who get excited about groceries. The parking lot abuts the Hudson, and I always scan the shoreline and river in hopes of something special. Usually I settle for the common gulls, cormorants in season, perhaps a flock of brant in spring and fall. Today, in the bluster and cold, I was rewarded with a small flock of white-winged scoters, diving along the seawall.
- Christopher Letts

2/26 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Winter is here at last. We got over 10" at the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center, and at the other end of town over 11". All very, very fluffy. It is great! We can finally wear our snowshoes again as snowshoes, rather than as ice picks to keep from skidding downhill on the trails.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/26 - Minerva, HRM 284: When the storm ended our snowfall total was near 11". The snowmobilers, skiers, and others who really depend on snow were pretty happy. To celebrate, I put sunflower seed in the feeder and was rewarded with the usual bunch of chickadees and a persistent and noisy group of evening grosbeaks who hung around until most of the sunflower seed was gone. That noisy "grosbeak group" sound is very welcome here in Minerva. I also took a quick hike into the woods behind the house this morning and spotted red squirrel and snowshoe hare tracks; the usual white-tail signs were everywhere. Fresh snow is just great, no question.
- Mike Corey

2/26 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: The Adirondack Mountain Club held an eagle viewing gathering this afternoon. We spotted two adults fishing from the north tip of Esopus Island and a third, an immature, flew directly overhead, providing a spectacular close-up.
- Pat Joel

2/26 - Georges Island, HRM 39: Bald eagles have been around the wintering areas since late fall, but certainly not in the numbers seen in recent years. The fluky warm month of January allowed them to pretty much feed, and therefore to winter, where they wanted to. I was pleased to find 8 of them in a single tree here today, 7 of them adults. A stunting raven played with the wind, seemingly oblivious to the perched eagles.
- Christopher Letts

2/26 - Haverstraw, HRM 36: Some people seem disappointed by the fewer eagles this year. I know they are scattered because things aren't icing over, but I've enjoyed it. Rather than specifically going to look for eagles in one of several different places I knew they would be, they've become part of everyday life. I've seen them going across the highway over downtown Haverstraw. I haven't seen as many, but it must be like it was hundreds of years ago when they were here all the time and were just part of the scenery.
- Scott Craven

2/26 - Manhattan, HRM 7.5: Braving the blustery cold for a quick walk, I set out on the West Side of Manhattan along the wide upper promenade of Riverside Park at 109th Street. The sun was setting fast over the distant Palisades, sending a warm glow down the choppy Hudson River. This unassuming stretch of park (96th to 120th streets) contains one of the last great stands of mature American elm left in the northeast, after the toll of Dutch elm disease. As I wove through these grand trees, I came upon a red-tailed hawk looking for supper. Despite the frigid breeze I took the time to watch as it soared low among the trunks of red oak and sweet gum trees, working to ambush a gray squirrel. After several thwarted attempts, it soared high and shot down quickly at the flocks of European starlings congregating in the dense crowns of honey locust along Riverside Drive, but was still unsuccessful. As I returned home to my warm nest, I was grateful for the easy procurement of my dinner to come.
- Michael Morris

2/27 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The air temperature dropped to -11°F overnight, but by 10:30 AM today it has already warmed up to +6°. It is bright and sunny but very windy; the wind chill is near -25°.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/27 - Saugerties, HRM 102: The air temperature dipped into the teens overnight. More ice formed on the creek and coves. The regular crowd of gulls, Canada geese, mallards and common mergansers congregated in the open water at the mouth of Esopus Creek and at the edge of the ice in the cove to the south of the Saugerties Lighthouse. Among them I spotted three different ones: hooded mergansers, two drakes and a hen. The drakes sported a distinctive white crest with a black outline. The hen was a general brown color. Diving for small fish, they favored the area beside the lighthouse dock for a fishing spot.
- Patrick Landewe

2/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At sunrise it was 8°F; the breeze made it feel below zero. The inshore shallows had a layer of shelf ice that was eroding in the current of the ebb tide. Just when you think you might understand bald eagles, they do something unexpected to make you humble. I scanned the west side of the river with binoculars. It was bathed in warming light from Roseton north to Cedarcliff (nearly 2 miles). The trees were empty. I turned and looked along the east side of the river. There, huddled together in the chilly shadows of a tall white pine were the local pair. Just watching them in the frigid breeze made me shiver. Why there and not across the river in the sunlight and out of the wind?
- Tom Lake

2/27 - Town of Cortlandt, HRM 38.5: After several bitter days and nights I was able to walk out onto the ice of Loundsbury Pond, scouting possibilities for an ice fishing trip in the coming days. The wind was boisterous and chilling, but I lingered long to watch two pairs of black vultures scoring the blue sky with what seemed to be courtship flights, reminiscent of late winter flights of some of our other raptors.
- Christopher Letts

2/28 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The air temperature dropped to -14°F over night. Br-r-r-r. It is very windy here today, but the sun is out and the sky is blue. Foxes have been moving around the trails at the Adirondack VIC and we may have seen some ermine tracks.
- Ellen Rathbone

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