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Hudson River Almanac January 26 - February 4, 2004

OVERVIEW

Our run of 27 days with air temperatures below freezing in the Mid-Hudson area finally ended. Nonetheless, much of tidewater remains covered with ice in thick shelves or scattered floes. The Coast Guard has had lots of work to do. Some of the floes have drifted all the way to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, showing the net seaward flow of the estuary. With precipitation in the watershed remaining frozen as ice and snow, there is little runoff to the Hudson. As a result, the salt front has been creeping up the estuary just as it does in dry summer weather; it reached Newburgh Bay (HRM 60) on February 2.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/3 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I passed the cow pasture this afternoon on my way from the barn to the Manor House at DEC's Stony Kill Farm. One day after the official Groundhog Day, Mr. Woodchuck was up and out of his hole, peering around, perhaps trying to see his shadow again. Instead, he was looking at sleet, rain, and snow. It certainly seemed wise of him to flee back down the hole for six more weeks! - Jim Herrington

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/26 - George's Island, HRM 39: We were delighted to count 38 bald eagles in view at one time, all of them perched in shoreline trees on Dogan Point. - Andrew Courtney, Christopher Letts

1/26 - Croton River, HRM 34: This hard weather has concentrated waterfowl at the mouth of the Croton River, where open water is almost always to be found. The birds seem to have given up much of their (healthy) distrust of people, and close viewings are the rule. The diversity is pleasing to a bird afficionado - all those species, so closely gathered. The list at midday today included many mute swans, one tundra swan, many Canada geese, and one snow goose. Among the ducks were mallards, blacks, ruddys, buffleheads, canvasbacks, gadwall, goldeneye, and common and hooded mergansers. Four adult bald eagles presided over all. A lone coot did not stray far from the bridge abutments, either because the forage was better, or it wanted a safe refuge in case an eagle decided it was mealtime. - Christopher Letts

1/27 - Green's Cove, Verplanck, HRM 40: The ice sheets that had covered Green's Cove yesterday were gone this morning. The cove is home to a year-round resident population of Canada and domestic geese and mallards. This morning they were joined by a flock of canvasbacks, four mute swans and a great blue heron standing on the little floating dock. This may be the resident heron who normally fishes in Lake Meahagh, now iced-over and converted to a skating rink. - Pat Korn

1/28 - Mid-Hudson Valley: The valley received 10-15 inches of snow as a coastal storm brought moisture in from the Atlantic and drew cold air down from Canada. - National Weather Service

1/29 - Upper Nyack, HRM 31: The "Nyack iceberg" has failed to attract penguins, but my neighbor Gene Brown did spot four bald eagles sitting on it. Perhaps if we bought them tuxedos? - Dan Wolff

1/30 - Ramshorn Creek, Town of Catskill, HRM 112.2: On a cold day (15°F) I spotted the usual birds: black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, golden-crowned kinglet, and a common flicker. The highlight was a lone hermit thrush. At the bridge over the Ramshorn was a rather large muskrat, probably making its way home. It waddled out from under the bridge - the tide was low - and scurried under the shelf of ice just south of the bridge. - Larry Federman

1/31 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: On this frigid morning (air temperature 12°F, windchill -9°F) forty of us gathered to view bald eagles at Bowdoin Park. In the first hour we spotted five adults and one immature. A highlight was having the two adults from our lower Dutchess County nest in the spotting scope. A month ago they would have been perched in separate trees. Today, nearer the breeding season, they were so close together in an oak across the river that you could not see light between them. - Barbara Butler, Barbara Michelin, Lori McKean, Tom Lake

1/31 - Clermont, HRM 103.5: We got a great look at a light phase rough-legged hawk. They really are a spectacular bird. Our first winter here eleven years ago was cold and there were quite a few rough-legs around. Since then sghtings have been few and far between. Fran spotted the light head and we immediately knew it wasn't "just" another red-tailed hawk! We also saw a flock of two dozen horned larks. - Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

1/31 - George's Island, HRM 39: In late afternoon we spotted six eagles (2 adults, 4 immatures) in the trees on Dogan Point. There was a lot of "bumping" going on as one bird would claim a perch already taken, and that bird would have to move to another. There were also eagles riding on ice floes out in the river across to the Rockland County side as well as some close flyovers. - Dorothy Furgeson, Bob Furgeson

2/1 - Mid-Hudson Valley: For the first time in 27 days, the air temperature rose above freezing (32°F). - National Weather Service

2/1 - Town of Newburgh, HRM 67: Four adult bald eagles and one immature were perched across the face of Soap Hill. Two of the adults were still cozily in each other's shadow. The channel was free of ice. It is amazing what a little February sun can do; it's shirtsleeve weather by comparison to past weeks. A mile upriver an oil barge was unloading at New Hamburg, shepherded by a tug. A short distance offshore an icebreaker, the Powhatan, stood by. In the rising tide, the heavy ice could move inshore, trapping the barge. - Tom Lake

2/1 - Alpine, NJ, HRM 18: From the State Line Lookout on the Palisades Parkway, I spotted an immature bald eagle working its way north just above the Palisades. From that height I was able to look down on the backs of two adults soaring below. - Dennis Minksy

2/1 - West Haverstraw, HRM 38.5: From Grassy Point we aimed our binoculars across the river. The trees along the south-facing side of Dogan Point were adorned with eagles. We counted at least a dozen adults and, without a scope, missed many immatures. A half dozen more (three adults, three immatures) were riding ice floes in the river. Near the Bowline Point Power Generating Facility we had our closest look at three adults and three immatures. Out in the river we saw canvasbacks, common mergansers, bufflehead, scaup, and a single goldeneye. - Dennis Minsky, Daniel Wolff

2/4 - Riverdale, HRM 14: We had an adult bald eagle soar past us, fifty feet off the ice, at the Riverdale Railroad Station. It is amazing how much lift those great wings generate. After a moment, just hanging there, it made a beautiful wing-over maneuver and disappeared amongst the ice floes. We yelled and pointed, but not one person even bothered to look up. - Ned Ames, Jane Sokolow

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