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Hudson River Almanac January 6 -11, 2004

OVERVIEW

Winter returned with a reminder of how bitter cold January can be in the Hudson Valley. The tributaries froze and floe ice was moving out on the Hudson, providing obstacles for barges and convenient conveyances for bald eagles.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/11 - Sprout Brook, HRM 43.5: At first light we stood, chilled to the bone, on five inches of black flint ice. We were a mile from tidewater on a Hudson tributary drilling holes and dropping our bait. The water was so clear that we could see yellow perch and bluegills take our lures ten feet below us. About 150 feet away stood a tall shaggy white pine. On bare branches near the crown were nine black vultures, all perched in a row in their night roost, watching us, looking like a convention of undertakers. The air temperature was +1°F. Those birds had a long wait before a warm updraft would help them get up and out. When they finally emerged a couple of hours later, they looked creaky and acted cranky, scolding each other and carrying on. Not a good morning to be a vulture. If they had any sense they'd be in Virginia looking for roadkill.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/6 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I was delighted today when I saw my first adult bald eagle of the year flying east over DEC's Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center! I was also a bit puzzled when I noticed a couple of birds at our feeders that I did not recognize. After consulting other staff and a few field guides, we concluded that they were common redpolls.
- Kerri Brady

[Common redpolls are another "winter finch," like the pine siskin, evening grosbeak, Lapland longspur, and snow bunting, whose presence in the lower Hudson Valley often portends severe weather or a poor crop of seeds to the north.]

1/6 - Manhattan, HRM 2: The River Project's Pier 26 killifish traps, usually pretty barren this time of year, have yielded three small grubbies in the past five days.
- Chris Mancini, Kerry DiBartolo, and Davan Sooklal

[The grubby (Myoxocephalus aenaeus), a resident bottom-dwelling fish, is a marine species of sculpin.]

1/7 - Croton Point, HRM 35: A brisk northwesterly breeze swept up waves on Haverstraw Bay this afternoon, piled them on the beach at Croton Point, and then whistled up the slope of the meadow covering the landfill. Near its crest a northern harrier - a female or young bird in brown plumage - hunted low over the grass, masterfully sailing the wind and using gusts to hang kite-like while it searched the ground below.
- Jen Dupont, Laurie Fila, Rebecca Johnson, Jean Valla McAvoy, Molly Shubert.

1/8 - Lake Hill, HRM 100: A flock of 28 wild turkeys scratched about in my backyard at sunup this morning. They've been frequent visitors since summer when the majority of them were still small chicks. Now, you can hardly tell the juveniles from the mothers. Sometimes they roost at night in the trees just beyond my property line. It's also been fun watching them establishing a pecking order. There definitely seems to be a runt or two. This morning a white-tailed deer was also in the yard. The turkeys walked casually past it. They are not quite so nonchalant when my two cats are out, but seem to realize that the cats don't pose any real threat.
- Reba Laks

1/9 - Newcomb, HRM 302: At 10:00 AM this morning the thermometer read -15°F. By 3:00 PM it had warmed up to -9°F. Our feeders are flooded with evening grosbeaks and common redpolls.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/9 - Minerva, HRM 234: We woke up this morning to -22°F. The windchill was not bad, all things considered, at -35°F.
- Mike Corey, Sue Corey

1/9 - Upper Owlkill, HRM 175: At 7:00 PM a raven flew overhead without a word but with the unmistakable and characteristic "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh..." of wing beats, invisible in the below zero cold black of night, just before the moon's rising.
- Doug Reed

1/9 - Town of Athens, HRM 116: In mid-morning, two adult bald eagles flew out from trees near the observation platforms at Cohotate Preserve, circled overhead, and headed south. The air temperature was -4°F. The cove north of the icehouse was completely iced over. Two days ago it was almost entirely ice-free! A barge's wake, moving under the frozen surface, set the ice to singing its eerie, ethereal song.
- Liz LoGiudice

1/9 - Farmer's Landing to Cornwall Bay, HRM 67-58: We were out at first light for the 25th Annual NYSDEC Bald Eagle Census. The air temperature was +2°F, the windchill -10°F. Haloed by ice crystals, the near-full moon was setting in the west. Over the next five hours along nine miles of river I counted 12 bald eagles: 8 adults and 4 immatures. The first six were within a mile of the Danskammer power plant: an adult and an immature in cottonwoods along the warmwater outlet, two adults perched on Soap Hill, an immature flying along the river near Castle Point, and an adult in a black locust near the mouth of Wappinger Creek. Seven miles downriver at Denning's Point, I spotted two adults and two immatures. One of the adults was out on the frozen bay at the mouth of Fishkill Creek, hunched over and feeding on either a medium-sized fish or a duck. Across the river along the Newburgh-New Windsor waterfront were two more adults.
- Tom Lake

1/9 - China Pier to Croton Bay, HRM 43-34: In three hours this morning I counted 14 bald eagles, a mix of adults and immatures, along a nine-mile reach of the Hudson in northern Westchester County.
- Christopher Letts

1/9 - Dogan Point, HRM 39: I counted two adult bald eagles on the north side of the George's Island Cove just after sunrise today. One flew north shortly after I spotted it.
- Scott Craven

1/10 - Stony Creek, HRM 231: At 5:00 AM this morning it was -20°F - so cold I didn't have to call the dogs back twice. The Hudson appears to be at a dead stop. The water level is high so the thick ice is level if not over the shore. A week ago we turned our heads toward a shadow only to see an adult bald eagle fly over the barn. The eagle banked to the side and we enjoyed a full view of the bird. It was awesome!
- Karen LaLone, Keith LaLone

1/10 - Village of Coxsackie, HRM 124: The air temperatures have been beyond frigid for three days and the river has been frozen for over 24 hours. As I watched a tug pushing upriver through the ice, the honking of geese began to build. It had to be one of the largest single flocks I had seen - perhaps 200-300 birds - circling over the river and looking for a landing spot just an hour before dusk. They dropped down near the Village of Coxsackie's boat launch parking area just a few hundred yards to my north.
- Rene' VanSchaack

1/10 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: At first light it was -6°F with a windchill of -21°F. The surface of the tidewater creek was frozen. No sense looking for eagles along this three-mile reach; it was devoid of prospects for a meal. The fish were safely below the ice and the waterfowl were gone.
- Tom Lake

1/10 - Indian Point, HRM 42: With the power facility's outflow as much as 15° - 20°F warmer than the river, the volume and effect of steam rising off the Hudson was an incredible sight. An adult bald eagle soared overhead and made several dives into the "soup" looking for a meal. It was a mystery how the eagle could see anything through the foggy vapors.
- Tom Lake

1/10 - George's Island Park, HRM 39: Our public bald eagle program drew fifteen hardy souls in an arctic windchill. They were rewarded by four adults and two immature eagles in various poses: sustained perching (good spotting scope viewing), wing-touches and other aerial acrobatics, and games of "stay off my limb!" and - for the mated pairs - "come a little bit closer." As we left the park, an immature buzzed us at tree top level - we appreciated that.
- Ellen O'Connell, Joe O'Connell, Tom Lake, Christopher Letts, Andra Sramek

1/11 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Down by the river yesterday, things were pretty well frozen. A barge passed Esopus Meadows without an ice breaker. There was still a bit of open water with some geese on it. Today things are noticeably more frozen with no obvious open water and no waterfowl. Ulster County winter has arrived!
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

1/11 - Sprout Brook, HRM 43.5: At first light we stood, chilled to the bone, on five inches of black flint ice. We were a mile from tidewater on a Hudson tributary drilling holes and dropping our bait. The water was so clear that we could see yellow perch and bluegills take our lures ten feet below us. About 150 feet away stood a tall shaggy white pine. On bare branches near the crown were nine black vultures, all perched in a row in their night roost, watching us, looking like a convention of undertakers. The air temperature was +1°F. Those birds had a long wait before a warm updraft would help them get up and out. When they finally emerged a couple of hours later, they looked creaky and acted cranky, scolding each other and carrying on. Not a good morning to be a vulture. If they had any sense they'd be in Virginia looking for roadkill.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

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