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Hudson River Almanac January 14 - 22, 2006

OVERVIEW

The annual winter waterfowl counts remind us of the amazing diversity of birds in the Hudson Valley as well as the critical role this corridor plays in seasonal migration and in providing wintering habitat for waterfowl. This week we have overviews and highlights from Dutchess and Ulster Counties.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PAST WEEK

1/16 - Chelsea, HRM 66: Betsy Carswell and I spotted an immature bald eagle on the river ice just north of Chelsea. Then a second immature landed next to the first; there was a fish on the ice between them. Through our binoculars we noticed that one had a blue leg band and the other a red leg band. Within minutes 2 adult eagles joined them, landing not far away. It was getting crowded. A third immature arrived, carrying an eel, and seconds later another adult - 6 birds altogether. Before long they all took off and headed north, and we went back to counting mergansers and geese.
- Barbara Michelin

[Leg bands: The blue leg band was on an immature that fledged in New York State. The red leg band could have come from either Ontario, Canada, or Maine. Pete Nye]

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/14 & 15 - Ulster County: Six groups totaling 17 observers conducted a county-wide survey of significant waterfowl habitat in Ulster County in conjunction with the annual New York State Ornithological Association Waterfowl Count. The survey recorded 13 species and 7,030 individuals. Among the highlights: snow goose 2; Canada goose 3,020; mute swan 48; American black duck 12; canvasback 2; redhead 11; long-tailed duck 2; common goldeneye 2,121; hooded merganser 4; common merganser 92; red-breasted merganser 4; horned grebe 2. The majority of the common goldeneye were observed January 15 from Bristol Beach State Park in extreme northern Ulster County. Five large flocks, consisting of about 2,000 individuals, were seen lifting from the water and flying south over the Hudson River. Weather and field conditions on both dates - rain and very dense fog limiting visibility - were not conducive to waterfowl counting. Major bodies of water were 100% open, but churning vigorously. Moving streams and creeks were very high and flowing strong in their channels. Backwaters were relatively calm and hospitable, but smaller ponds, lakes, and reservoirs were largely frozen. Corn fields were predominantly covered with just a dusting of snow, however, no waterfowl were encountered in traditionally productive fields for the second consecutive year. Seven bald eagles (5 adults, 2 immatures) were spotted during the count, all over the Hudson River.
- Alan Beebe, Lynn Bowdery, Allan Bowdery, Bea Conover, Jayne Dean, Mark DeDea, Ruth Elwell, Lin Fagan, Evelyn Rifenburg, Bob Rifenburg, Peter Schoenberger, Wyatt Smith, Selden Spencer, Hans Weber, Carol Weber, Charles Woodruff, Steve M. Chorvas

1/16 - Kingston, HRM 92: A small, beautiful black-and-white bird that likes the suet at our feeders flew into our window this afternoon. It was stunned and my daughter rescued it from the ground. It was a female downy woodpecker. After a short recuperation, it flew off to feed another day.
- Terri Lemister, Keli Snyder

1/16 - Dutchess County: Six teams from the Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club surveyed the Dutchess County section of the Hudson River and the rest of the county for waterfowl January 14-16 as part of the state-wide NYSOA Waterfowl Count. The Hudson River was essentially open with some ice near the shore and in coves. All streams were high and fast. Most lakes were ice-covered. Ponds with good inflow were partially or completely open. We counted 16 species of waterfowl totaling 12,188 birds. Nearly half of the black ducks were seen in the river from Tivoli. From Mills Mansion we could see a large, tight collection of ducks which we couldn't identify as canvasbacks until we got a closer look from Wilderstein. We estimated 700 there and another 100 north of Rhinecliff. A total of 16 bald eagles were seen by groups surveying the river.

Among the highlights: Canada goose 8,729; wood duck 1; American black duck 280; northern pintail 11; canvasback 803; ring-necked duck 39; bufflehead 3; common goldeneye 12; hooded merganser 27; common merganser 663; ruddy duck 23, pied-billed grebe 2; American coot 58.
- 14 members of the Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club; compiled by Barbara Butler

1/16 - Bronx River, New York City: It was a cold, blustery morning, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2006. We were looking for wood ducks and hooded mergansers along the Bronx River. Instead, Ed Higgins called our attention to a red fox scampering up the rocks on the opposite shore of the river. This is the first time any of us had seen a fox in a New York City park; some of us have been wandering through these urban parks for 25 years. Historically both red and gray foxes had been reported from the northern Bronx into the late 1950s. The red fox seemed to be the more common of the two. In the 1990s, I've heard that grey foxes were still resident in Douglaston, Queens. Others say that those few individuals are now gone. To see a live red fox dashing up snow-covered rocks in the Bronx was as amazing as it was brief.
- Robert DeCandido

1/17 - Saugerties, HRM 102: The eagle has a scheme for getting fish for itself by frightening the common mergansers to give up their catch. At first glance, it looks like the eagle is swooping down to prey on the mergansers, but it really wants the mergansers' fish. The juveniles don't seem to quite have the hang of it yet, but an adult showed how it was done. With talons outstretched, it swooped down on a group of mergansers. The mergansers performed an aquatic duck-and-cover, diving underwater to avoid the attack, dropping any fish in their beaks. Then, in a clever maneuver, the eagle turned, swooped down, and snatched an abandoned fish off the water. Immediately, a chase ensued as four immatures and two adults tried to get in on the action. Eventually, the eagle dropped the fish in the marsh. Which bird ended up with the coveted fish? It may have ended up in the mouth of an opportunistic gull.
- Patrick Landewe

1/17 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: There was a single common redpoll at the thistle feeder outside my window this morning. This is the first time I've seen one at the feeder in the five years I've lived here. They are usually a symbol of a cold winter.
- Phyllis Marsteller

1/17 - Dennings Point, HRM 60: Day one of bald eagle monitoring at Dennings Point proved very productive. Eagles were in view the entire morning with up to 7 individuals seen together at one time. Birds were aggressively hunting common mergansers during early morning hours in groups up to 6 (one adult, 5 immatures) although I did not see any successful kills. The first birds seemed to appear in and around the point as candle power increased. An eagle was heard calling pre-dawn from the point. This makes me wonder if they are night roosting on Dennings.
- Martin McGuire

[Night roosting: In milder winter weather, bald eagles will often spend the night along the river in sheltered areas. On typically frigid winter nights, they tend to fly well inland to stands of conifers where they form communal roosts. Pete Nye]

1/17 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: We spotted an adult bald eagle flying north along the river between New Hamburg and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. With not much ice on the river in this area, we have not seen any eagles on ice floes.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

1/17 - Hastings on Hudson, HRM 21.5: A pair of eastern towhees has taken up residence in our backyard. The male hangs out with the sparrow flock in the forsythia or the sprawling rose bush hedge. When the sparrows go to the feeder, the towhees scrabble about on the ground below. A Cooper's hawk has made an appearance, perhaps the same bird that haunted our feeder for about a month last winter. It plummets into the juniper bush and flushes out small birds and squirrels.
- Barbara Morrow

1/18 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: When you have a low tide in January coupled with sustained winds of over 40 mph, it brings to mind a blowout tide where the river level drops dramatically. But instead of a typical winter north wind, this was a summer south wind, a storm wind, with air temperature in the low 60s. Trees had fallen over powerlines, transformers were popping like fireworks, and stout branches were blowing across the road like tumbleweed.
- Tom Lake

1/18 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: After nearly an inch-and-a-quarter of rain (1.23") the creek was clear of ice. A half-mile west, out in the Hudson, there were 3' rollers from a strong south wind gusting over 50 mph. In the lee of that blow, the bald eagle pair from the local nest were making strafing runs up the tidewater creek in a driving rain. Even at low tide, the water was high and muddy, and the eagles were having no luck finding a meal.
- Tom Lake

1/18 - New York Lower Bay: A Water Taxi from Monmouth County, NJ, to Manhattan had an exciting adventure at the height of the storm. As the Water Taxi cleared Sandy Hook and headed northeast toward the Narrows, they were hit with the full brunt of wind gusts to 60 mph, and what were described at "ten-foot seas." A news reporter likened it to something from the movie "The Perfect Storm."
- Tom Lake

1/19 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: We have a beautiful, feathery "mascot" of sorts at the Culinary Institute, a big red-shouldered hawk that sits in the oak trees of the Jesuit cemetery parking lot just about every day, squawking as it watches the bustling scene down below on campus. Today an adult bald eagle flew right over the campus, no more than 60' above me, heading southwest towards the river. The sun made its white head and tail stand out even more than usual.
- Andra Sramek

1/19 - Rockland Lake, HRM 31: There were large rafts of common mergansers, as well as hooded mergansers, redheads, mallards, Canada geese and mute swans. Two of the swans were tagged with tags similar tags to those we've seen along the Hudson near Croton and Annsville Creek. These two were EA43 and EA00.
- David Baker

[Mute swans: This is a call for sighting information on collared swans. If anyone has seen collared birds in the last few months that you haven't reported, please let me know. Any information is useful, even if you are not sure of exact dates or numbers of birds. The important information is the collar ID, the location (water body and town would be fine), and an approximate date. This information is to be used for survival and seasonal distribution analysis. It is greatly appreciated. Kevin Clarke, NYSDEC kgclarke@gw.dec.state.ny.us ]

1/20 - The Ice Meadows, HRM 245: The Ice Meadows, along River Road between Warrensburg and Route 28, were ice-free, frazil or otherwise. The Hudson was open water north past The Glen as well. Water levels weren't particularly high, either, which they have been in Newcomb, thanks to all the rain.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/20 - New Paltz, HRM 78: A pair of low flying black vultures crossed over the intersection of Main Street and Manheim Boulevard in mid-afternoon. The white "wrist" patches on one of the birds was clearly seen.
- Reba Wynn Laks

1/20 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 54°F today, one degree shy of the record high for the date. -National Weather Service

1/20 - Balmville, HRM 63: On a very clear and mild day, over 500 crows were feeding on the greens of the Powellton Country Club along Balmville Road and Chestnut Lane. In years past, the trees on the south side of this golf course served as a wintertime roost for thousands of crows.
- Ed Spaeth

1/20 - Manhattan, HRM 5: The air temperature reached 61°F today, one degree shy of the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

1/20 - Washington Square Park, Manhattan, HRM 2: All of the otherwise brazen squirrels had vanished. The local squirrel feeder was shocked. He shouldn't have been. If he'd only looked up, he'd have seen the adult red-tailed hawk circling low over the locust trees.
- Dave Taft

1/21 - Saugerties, HRM 102: At lighthouse cove, just north of the Saugerties light, there has been a large congregation of Canada geese this winter. Today I counted 130+ along with a couple dozen gulls and several cormorants. The mild weather is playing a role as the cove is, typically, long frozen-over at this point.
- Dan Marazita

1/21 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: Amid wind gust over 45 mph, the air temperature reached 60°F, tying the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

1/21 - Croton Point, HRM 34: There were swarms of buffleheads all around the point, along with a few ruddy ducks and a pair of goldeneyes. The high winds had stranded piles of rangia clams on both the north and south shores; I tossed back a couple dozen of the larger ones that were still alive. A female merlin buzzed the gulls twice near the railroad bridge. The temperature hit 65°F in the afternoon.
- Steve Seymour

1/21 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The resident screech owl was still present, in the tree hollow. A short-eared owl was also around. The real treat was seeing 2 great horned owls in the same Norway spruce off the lower road.
- Scott Horecky, Kathy Sutherland

1/21 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 27: I heard a great clamor above me as I walked the dog this morning drawing my attention to the top of my neighbor's oak tree. What appeared at first to be 2 large squirrels' nests with birds flying about, turned out to be 2 adult bald eagles sitting in the tree with several small blackbirds harassing them. One eagle glided south toward Kingsland Point Park; the other one following a minute later.
- Doug Maass

1/21 - Manhattan, HRM 5: The air temperature reached 63°F today, breaking the record high for the date by 3°.
- National Weather Service

1/21 - Manhattan, HRM 2: I checked the river's salinity in late afternoon at Pier 40, less than 2 hours from low tide, and it was fresh water. No detectable salinity.
- Mike Levandowsky

1/22 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: On what has become a typical warm winter's day, 66 Manhattan school children from the Youth Environmental Science Society (YESS) program explored the wilds of Croton Point. They marveled at the grace and beauty of a pair of harriers working the landfill and a flock of Canada geese being watched over by a killdeer (this relationship has been going on for over a month - see 12/14). To us it seemed that the killdeer might feel some sort of kinship; to the killdeer, it might just be a case of hanging out with the big guys.
- Tom Lake

1/22 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: We spotted 2 long-eared owls over the landfill as well as the now-famous eastern screech owl.
- David Baker

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