Hudson River Almanac January 12 - 17, 2004
Another bitter cold week that brought a cover of ice to the upper Hudson River and the estuary south to Kingston. Like magic, the numbers of bald eagles grew each day until the shoreline in some places looked like a scene from Alaska.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
1/14 Roa Hook, HRM 44: On the late afternoon train home from Manhattan, I spotted an adult bald eagle flying alongside the train, keeping up very nicely, off Roa Hook just below Fish Island. I had to tell someone, so I said, half outloud, "There's a bald eagle." Immediately six heads and twelve eyes came up from newspapers, crossword puzzles, and corporate reports to see the bird. The woman in the seat behind me was enraptured! "Wow! Just like the movie Winged Migration." Except this one recurs every day.
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES
1/12 Newcomb, HRM 302: It may have reached 15°F today, a veritable heat wave. We are enjoying it while it lasts because it is supposed to plunge to -25° again starting tomorrow night.
Town of Athens, HRM 116: Not surprisingly, the river was completely iced over today. I saw a Coast Guard cutter go by this morning. It is a white sheet out there, whereas Friday it was its customary brown open water everywhere but the bays.
Ulster Park, HRM 87: Some years we have lots of white-tailed deer activity in the yard, some very little. This year there are lots of deer tracks in the snow and any seeds they can reach have disappeared by morning.
Cold Spring, HRM 53: In late afternoon we were walking on Boscobel's Woodland Trail, our director, our arborist, and I, when we stopped at the southern-most point on the trail to discuss some winter tree work. We were overlooking an ebb tide at Constitution Marsh Sanctuary which was completely frozen in. We spotted two bald eagles on the ice, feeding on something we could not make out. A pair of binoculars confirmed it: an adult eagle and an immature bird were taking turns pecking at their tasty morsel.
1/13 Stissing Mountain, HRM 96: In the grip of a gusty west wind, a golden eagle soared over a grassy field covering it from end to end without a single wing beat. It must have spotted something because it suddenly dove almost straight down and out of sight.
[On January 5, we received a call to our birdline of two golden eagles at Stissing Mountain. Late fall and winter is the only time, to my knowledge, that the golden eagles are there. Barbara Loucks, NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit. Barbara Loucks, NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit]
1/14 Newcomb, HRM 302: Ttthis mmmorning ttthe ttthermometer sssaid -30°F! The wind was brutal on any exposed skin, like cheeks and noses. But with two sets of long johns, layers of fleece scarves, and hats, it wasn't too bad. No open water on the Hudson River up here. That is going to make it rough on the otters and mink. We have tons of evening grosbeaks and they are cleaning out the feeders. The common redpolls are still around.
Thurman Station, HRM 237: At dawn it was -23°F. Driving to work this morning and passing over the Thurman Bridge, I could see potholes of steam escaping through holes that have not yet frozen in the Hudson River. Karen LaLone
Saratoga County, HRM 196: The morning air temperature was -18°F. That made the windchill about -30°F. The river flows on, as is evident from the myriad pressure ridges pushing and shoving frosty shards of ice upward toward the brilliant, winter blue sky. John DeLisle
New Hamburg to Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 67.5-21.5: The Arctic blast that had brought ice to the river had also brought us bald eagles. Their options were limited upriver and upland, and they were heading south for open water. It was -3°F at 7:30 AM. My first sighting came before I had even given the conductor my ticket on the MetroNorth train to Manhattan. Out on frozen Diamond Reef, two adult eagles and one immature were sharing breakfast, maybe a duck. The half-ebb tide was screaming seaward but the river was still. A mantle of ice cloaked all movement. A small raft of 50 goldeneye were in a mid-river lead off Danskammer Point. Approaching Beacon, there were two adults, one in the air, and one immature, out on the ice feeding. After a long, cold night in their roosts these birds were stoking the furnace for the cold day ahead. Just below the mouth of Fishkill Creek, in shoreline sycamores that have been holding eagles all winter, was a pair of adults, side-by-side. Just north of Pollepel Island along the shore in cottonwoods was another pair of adults, fifty feet apart. Thirteen miles downriver there were 50 canvasbacks in the lee of Fish Island. Another eleven miles south, 60-65 black ducks were milling around Crawbuckie in the sparse open water. The Tappan Zee was frozen 1,000 feet offshore. There was floe ice all the way to Peekskill Bay, then south of the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Upper Bay. My final three eagles, bringing the number to 23 for the trip, was an adult and two immatures on the ice off Otis Elevator in Hastings.
Manitou Landing, HRM 46.5: The 7:36 AM MetroNorth out of New Hamburg to Manhattan stops at Manitou. As we sat there I looked out at the river. Fifteen feet offshore, frozen in the ice, was a Canada goose.. It looked as though it was sleeping, head and neck tucked back into its wing. But the bottom 20% of the bird was frozen in the ice. Maybe it died in its sleep? It was a somber and sobering sight. What's one goose out of millions? But this one had died right outside my window.
Danskammer, HRM 66.5: We were traveling south aboard CSXT C712, the local freight from Kingston, watching bald eagles. We saw two adults on the ice at Danskammer Point. There was also one in the air but we could not see if it was an adult or immature.
Earl Pardini, engineer, Jay Laraway, conductor.
Yonkers, HRM 18: It had been a month since we last saw them, but today some canvasbacks were back again in the river off our beach in front of the Beczak Environmental Education Center. The river's salinity 7.6 ppt. I took the temperature this morning, lucky to find a hole in the ice where I could drop the probe, and it was 33.2°F.
1/15 Saratoga County, HRM 196: This morning it was -8°F with a windchill of 28°F.
George's Island, HRM 39: The first snow day of the New Year. It was 5°F with 5" of snow! In mid-afternoon we bundled up and ventured to George's Island. There we saw two eagles, one an adult, the other an immature, sitting side-by-side in a perch at Dogan Point. With binoculars we spotted three more eagles deeper in the trees. The immature took off and began to fly in our direction, flying low over our heads in the parking lot. It actually turned its head and looked down at us. What a great experience!
Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson.
Pier 26, Manhattan, HRM 2: The river temperature finally dropped low enough to bring ice. It is a beautiful sight. The Hudson looks completely still, yet the tide still goes up and down, silently and evenly. The temperature on the river bottom is 32.72°F.
1/16 Minerva, HRM 284: This morning a flock of evening grosbeaks descended on my black oil sunflower feeder. These colorful and noisy birds do a great job of making quick work of the seeds. With the cold air (-12°F), stiff wind, and about a foot-and-a-half of snow on the ground, I suspect that these birds are pleased to find the seeds.
Ice Meadows, HRM 237: The frazil ice is once more setting up in the Ice Meadows on the Hudson south of The Glen in Warren County. The intense cold over the past week or two has resulted in a quick and impressive build-up of this bizarre ice form.
Poughkeepsie to Spuyten Duyvil, HRM 75-13.5: This may be the best way to see the Hudson River in the winter. The 9:33 AM MetroNorth train from Poughkeepsie departed 15 minutes late due to the cold weather. It was a bright, sunny morning and the river was full of ice. As we pulled out of New Hamburg I could see two adult bald eagles standing on an ice floe near Danskammer Point with a third flying nearby. I spotted more eagles at Peekskill, Oscawana, and Croton-on-Hudson. By the time the train left the shoreline at the mouth of the Harlem River, I had spotted at least eight.
Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: As we neared Poughkeepsie on the afternoon train home from Manhattan, the cottonwoods and sycamores on the south end of the DeLaval property were festooned with what seemed like a million crows. New arrivals from the west were clambering for space in this winter night roosts.
Oscawana Island, HRM 38.5: Bob Ferguson stopped by the overlook to Oscawana Island in early afternoon, just after low tide, to look for bald eagles. By counting the white heads in the trees along the river, he spotted ten adults and two immatures.
1/17 Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: I made my rounds along the river in early afternoon, an hour from low tide. What a difference it was from yesterday. The air temperature was 27°F and the river had some open leads and much floe ice. Across from Farmer's Landing and halfway up Soap Hill, were two adult Bald Eagles huddled two feet apart on a limb. Five hundred feet away was one adult, probably the female of the "Cedarcliff pair." The real eye-opener was a half-mile south at Danskammer Point. Six adult eagles, their white heads glowing, were perched in two side-by-side cottonwoods. They were all facing the power generating facility's warm-water discharge. There was no evidence of any territoriality. There may have been some immatures around, but I could not find them. From zero eagles yesterday to no fewer than nine today, within a half-mile of each other, was quite a turnaround.
China Pier to George's Island, HRM 43-39: At China Pier I spotted two adult eagles on the inshore shelf ice. At Verplanck, there was an immature on the east side of the river and one adult on a floe near the west side. That one joined four others across the river perched high in the trees at Stony Point Battlefield. Georges Island seemed to be the refuge for most of the birds. I counted 20 eagles, mostly adults. After a while more than half of them took to flight north over the top of the point. One of the remaining eagles swooped low over the water several times until it finally caught a fish. The inshore shelf ice was the perfect feeding platform and it was quickly joined by two others looking for a free meal. I had seen 28 bald eagles in just 4 miles.