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Hudson River Almanac January 1 - January 10, 2005


Along with Christmas Bird Counts, one of the season's highlights for birders is the annual mid-winter New York State bald eagle census. In the weeks leading up to this year's, there seemed to be little ice and very few eagles about. But on January 10, some ice appeared on the river and many birds obliged by feeding on the floes for all to see and count.


1/6 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: At this time of year I often commute across the Hudson at the same time as the giant flock of common crows that night roost in Poughkeepsie and return to Ulster in the morning. As I crossed the Mid-Hudson Bridge early yesterday morning, the crows and snow swirled and eddied directly overhead. They seemed to be using the bridge as a guide across the river. In a heavier, wetter snowfall this morning, they were still huddled in the trees near the bridge. It was easy to imagine that they felt as reluctant as I had when faced with the prospect of leaving my bed that morning to venture out into the ice and snow.
- Susan Maresca


1/1 - Gardiner, HRM 73: A barred owl flew across Bruynswick Road in front of my car this morning about 7:00 AM. I pulled over to watch this beautiful bird swivel its head back and forth looking for something to eat.
- Rebecca Johnson

1/1 - Croton Point, HRM 34: I made an early morning trip to Senasqua Lodge at Teller's Point to start a fire in the fireplace and deliver cider and supplies for our 20th annual New Year's Day Hike. On the way home for breakfast, I paused to watch a female harrier giving a soaring red-tail hawk a hard time in an aerial action that lasted for ten minutes. With so much more speed, agility and grace, the harrier out-performed the larger buteo on every point of sail. The red-tail finally headed into a tall tree and the harrier soared away over the marsh.
- Christopher Letts

1/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a beautiful, breath-taking sunrise this morning. The clouds started off with pink bellies, and as the sun snuck up on the horizon, the lower clouds slowly turned orange, changing from a red-orange to a bright flourescent orange that bled into the clouds above. Then, all too soon, the sun approached the mountains and treetops, and washed everything in yellow. It was spectacular. Meanwhile, the Hudson is frozen over. Despite the chilly temperature this morning (about 15°F), I heard chickadees singing their spring song. Next thing you know, the buds will be swelling on the trees.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/2 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 74.5: At 9:30 this morning we went to a vantage point on the east shore to look for the bald eagle we had seen the day before. Scanning the opposite side with binoculars, we spotted an adult eagle in the same vicinity where we had seen one the night before. A few minutes later we spotted a second adult sitting in a large tree, a quarter mile south of the first one.
- Judy Lombardi, John Mylod

1/2 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: Since the recent warm front arrived five days ago, hundreds of striped bass have been caught from boats here. Some fishermen are reporting catches (and releases) up to 50 fish per day on a variety of plugs and jigs.
- Christopher Letts

1/3 - Haverstraw Bay, Westchester County: Margaret Eberle was looking for bald eagles but happened to glance down at the pebbles and cobbles along the shore and spotted what archaeologists call a Levanna point, chipped from gray chert, probably dating to between AD 850-AD 1000. This point was slightly larger than average for a Levanna and may have been a dart point, hafted on the end of a small wooden shaft (ash or arrowwood), and used with a spear-thrower called an atlatl. This was the hunting and self-defense technology that preceded the bow-and-arrow. Later Levannas (ca. AD 1000-AD 1300) were smaller and almost all were true arrowheads. The artisans who made these points were the ancestors of those who greeted Henry Hudson in 1609. They were Algonquian speakers, related to the Lenape, Munsee, and Wappinger people who lived in the area around the Tappan Zee and Haverstraw Bay.
- Tom Lake

1/4 - New Hamburg to Beacon, HRM 67-60: It was a warm morning, 48°F, when we drove to New Hamburg to look for bald eagles. We were not disappointed. There were three adults perched in trees near Danskammer Point. Two miles south at Chelsea we saw an immature floating down the river on an ice floe. In Beacon, along Fishkill Creek at Madam Brett's Park, we spotted another adult eagle perched in a tree. What wonderful sightings to start the new year!
- Allan Michelin, Barbara Michelin

1/4 - Bear Mountain, HRM 46: This warm winter is certainly throwing birders a curve. During today's Bear Mountain League of Naturalists winter bird count, we tallied only four bald eagles (quite low for this time of year) and no buffleheads (almost always present during January), but over 100 robins! The warm winter to date seems to have changed the normal schedule of arrivals and departures. That keeps it interesting.
- Dave Baker

1/4 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: I needed a hike this morning, but as rain splattered on my windshield en route to the point, I mumbled and cussed, turned on the wipers, and considered just going home. I parked anyway, left eyeglasses and binoculars on the seat, and headed out. Wiser folk than I have pronounced "without a binocular, there is no birding." I was not just birding. Without the demand to stop and spy on every thing that moved, I enjoyed the new regimen, moving faster, using my nose and ears, becoming a true "inspector of snowstorms," for now the rain had mixed with sleet and was turning to snow. What I would have railed against had it been spattering my three sets of optical aids was now a refreshing spritz. I missed some of the fine points; the broader strokes were perfect for this morning. The creatures I encountered were less likely than usual to flee. I walked into a field of robins. They were everywhere, lining the thickets, foraging on the ground, trouping overhead - perhaps 200 of them - and when they flew, they flew north! I had hoped to sight the short-eared owls wintering here but that did not happen. I did sight a red-tailed hawk early on, perched on a pole near the park office. A Carolina wren "tea-kettled" at me as I rounded the east slope of the landfill. Then there was a big hawk, in the hovering flight pattern that said "rough-legged." Through all of this, I felt a bit like the short-sighted character in the James Thurber sketch, where a wind-tossed bag becomes a tiger cat, and failing eyes simply play tricks. A harrier wavered on the crest, a brown wafer in the falling snow.
- Christopher Letts

1/5 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: There was just enough floe ice in the current to make life easy for eagles. Like an escalator or a moving sidewalk at the airport, ice floes allow eagles to conserve energy while patrolling for a meal. A pair of adults were perched on floes a quarter mile apart, surrounded by small congregations of common mergansers. With fish in the river and ducks on the water, it must seem like an all-night deli.
- Tom Lake

1/5 - Garrison, HRM 52: Constitution Marsh Sanctuary was visited by four adult bald eagles today.
- Eric Lind

1/5 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: On this snowy, slushy morning I rejoiced to hear a loud "gronk-gronk" as a raven flew high overhead, circled Pine Lake three times, called again, and flew off. I had seen the same performance while doing some early morning chores at dawn on New Year's Day. I wondered where the bird had come from and if it was traveling alone.
- Christopher Letts

1/6 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: In the aftermath of seven inches of snow, a steady sheet of sleet was beating down, coating everything with a heavy crust of ice. The open water at the mouth of the tidewater Wappinger was congested with common mergansers.
- Tom Lake

1/6 - Fishkill, HRM 62: The snow and icy rain brought birds in droves to the feeders this morning. Among the many visitors were a Carolina wren and a red-winged blackbird.
- Ed Spaeth

1/6 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: But for a brief summer appearance, the delightful fish crow, a fixture in the neighborhood for our 20 year tenure, has been gone for two years. Common crow numbers are much reduced; they are not common any more. When fishing on the ice at Blue Mountain Park in Peekskill, my pastime for many years has been to count the stream of crows commuting from a roost in Rockland County to day jobs in Westchester. Last year they were much reduced. This year there is no morning flight and no afternoon flight. Are they all gone, or has there been a shift in flight pattern?
- Christopher Letts

1/7 - Glasco, HRM 100: The Hudson was free of ice here, yet ten miles downriver it was choked with floes. As we watched through binoculars, an adult bald eagle peered back at us from the crown of a white pine across the river on Cruger Island. We could hear a soft buzzing noise in the trees around us. We finally located the source - a flock of perhaps twenty cedar waxwings in a nearby white ash - but within seconds they took off and flew inland.
- Tom Lake, Carolyn Rounds

1/7 - Manhattan, HRM 2: Dropping off some artwork for a competition, I passed through Washington Square Park and heard the unmistakable call of a red-bellied woodpecker. I took this for a good sign, and set out to find the bird. I never did spot it, amid the dozens of screeching starlings, cooing pigeons, and brazen squirrels, but I was offered some disturbing deals on pharmaceuticals. I guess without binoculars, bird watching looks a lot less convincing. Or perhaps I simply needed a shave.
- Dave Taft

1/8 - Peekskill, HRM 43: The view from China Pier was limited through a heavy fog. Eight snow-covered traprock barges were headed downriver, going with the tide and scattering a large raft of common mergansers.
- Tom Lake

1/8 - George's Island, HRM 39: For the first time in nine years - approximately 50 events - we had a public bald eagle viewing program and none showed. However, as is often the case, the river provides. A stone's throw offshore was a raft of no fewer than 150 canvasbacks, hens and drakes, diving and bobbing in the soft swells. A heavy rain fell, nearly 2".
- Tom Lake, Andra Sramek, Christopher Letts

1/8 - Furnace Woods, HRM 38.5: Even after the huge month-long fall exodus of migrating blue jays, several family groups have always remained to dominate our battery of backyard bird feeders all winter. They are gone. If I see or hear a blue jay once a week, it is remarkable. On Croton Point, always home to a couple dozen wintering jays, there are none. I wonder what other Almanac contributors are experiencing in this regard.
- Christopher Letts

1/8 - Yonkers, HRM 18: Both yesterday and today we spotted a common redpoll, a winter finch, at the Lenoir Nature Preserve bird feeders.
- Joe O'Connell, Ellen O'Connell

1/9 - Newcomb, HRM 320: While leading a snowshoe class along Sucker Brook Trail, we found very fresh beaver activity. At first, I thought it was snowshoe tracks where visitors had gone off the trail. But then we saw the obvious marks of a tree being dragged. As I wondered why someone would be dragging a tree when there is no evidence that a tree fell across the trail, I saw the beaver-chewed stump of a sapling. Ah-ha! The rascals had been climbing the hill from the Rich Lake outlet, cutting down some nice juicy saplings, and hauling them back to the water to stash for snacking later. There were bungee sticks all over the place! I did not see any activity at the beaver pond, so I suspect they are living either in the outlet or the lake itself, and then denning up in the banks. We also saw otter slides and very fresh mink tracks, as well as those of marten, deer, fox, lots of mice, and I think even shrews! It was a good day to be out.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/9 - George's Island, HRM 39: In late afternoon we stopped at George's Island in search of eagles. The tide was out, not a bit of breeze was blowing, and the river was like a sheet of glass. We saw four buffleheads fishing close to shore. There was a group of people at the shoreline with binoculars and scopes aimed at Dogan Point. They had found an immature bald eagle on the hillside. From over the treeline an adult eagle flew in, "pushed" the immature off the branch, and then chased it. This gave us a wonderful fly-over, after which the adult eagle took its place on the branch in place of the immature. With a little closer inspection, we spotted seven more immatures in the trees on Dogan Point.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/9 - Jamaica Bay, Queens, New York Bight: It was a warm, still day on the West Pond at the National Wildlife Refuge. Pintails, gadwalls, hooded mergansers and widgeon all sailed across unruffled water. It is a good thing that we have a pond; I had never seen Jamaica Bay so low. At 1:00 PM, the new moon spring tide was way out, and it seemed as if you could have walked from the main refuge island to the Rockaway peninsula.
- Dave Taft

1/10 - Mid-Hudson Valley, HRM 69-45: This was the day of the 26th Annual NYSDEC Bald Eagle Census. The air temperature, 36°F, was a far cry better than the 2°F of last year. Distant ridgelines had some lingering fog, but visibility was good. Ice cover varied from 10% at the start to less than 5% at the end of the 24-mile trip. All of it was floe ice hustling along in the current. The new moon spring tide was ripping up the river and in shallow areas had crept into the flood plain. While the official count would be taken by helicopter, many teams of volunteers make ground surveys to verify numbers, locations, and ratios of adult to immature birds.
- Tom Lake

1/10 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 69: It was a very exciting day at Bowdoin Park. Dave Beck and I watched four adult bald eagles soaring overhead. They put on such a show. A little later we saw another pair of eagles that may have been one of the first pairs we saw. Add in two pairs of red-tailed hawks, and it was an amazing day!
- Mary Borrelli

1/10 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: Across the river on Soap Hill I could see a pair of adults perched very close, almost touching - probably the breeding pair from the eagle nest (2002) in southern Dutchess County (NY62). Just north, another adult perched on the side of Cedarcliff, a dolomite ridge parallel to the river, dotted with red cedar. I had not seen the so-called "Cedarcliff pair" this season. For seven winters the pair had used day perches on that cliff face. Last year only the female wintered here; maybe she is alone this year as well.
- Tom Lake

1/10 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: From River Road I spotted an immature eagle flying south, close to the ice, with an eel in its beak. That struck me as unusual; I think of eagles carrying food in their talons. This looked like a dead eel. The immature landed on an ice floe alongside another immature and began to tear at and eat the eel. Seconds later an adult arrived from the west side of the river. Less than a half-mile south, another adult was riding the ice.
- Tom Lake

1/10 - West Point, HRM 52.5: The North Dock was popular with eagle census takers today. My crew was there at 9:00 AM to see one immature and one adult flying plus two adults perched together on the south side of Constitution Island. At 12:35, Kaylee Seagraves and I went there for lunch. We saw two adults soaring, one to the east near the Metro North railroad tracks and one above the center of Constitution Island. An adult sat low in a tree at the southeast corner of the island and an immature flew downriver from that corner. Around 1:00 PM, Dave Baker stopped to look for eagles as part of the census as well. I told him that one was still sitting in a tree in the southeast corner of the island. When we looked, however, the adult had snuck off and an immature was sitting low in a tree close by.
- Jim Beamer

1/10 - West Point, HRM 51: The South Dock at West Point provides a three-mile panoramic view of the river from Constitution Island south nearly to Con Hook. At 9:45 AM there were four adult eagles in view: a pair across the river above Garrison, another just upriver at the south end of Constitution Marsh, and a fourth halfway along the marsh toward Constitution Island. All four were perched in riverside hardwoods.
- Tom Lake

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