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Hudson River Almanac March 2 - 8, 2004

OVERVIEW

On the flood tide in the Hudson Highlands the river is clear; on the ebb, an avalanche of floes is drawn downriver. The Hudson is flushing its winter ice. Red-winged blackbird and pussy willows are appearing further north in the watershed with flocks of geese and pairs of eagles. The river is gaining a degree of warmth about every other day, but it still has some more to go before arousing the interest of migrating fishes.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/5 - Cold Spring, HRM 53: On our Woodland Trail at Boscobel in mid-afternoon I saw two pairs of bluebirds in an area we call "Bluebird Pass." They were beautiful, singing and tweeting away. Then I heard our pileated woodpecker hammering away promptly at 2:45 PM. It seems he gets busy each day between 2:30-3:00 PM.
- Andra Sramek

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/2 - Eagleville, HRM 188: I just stepped outside to the sound of blackbirds, a small flock of eighteen red-winged blackbirds in several sugar maples. The maples just started running sap as of yesterday. Two great signs of spring!
- Doug Reed

3/2 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: The river's heavy ice mantle started to soften and break up today, producing some of the first open water in two months. An adult and an immature bald eagle were fishing the mirror-like pools, and the gulls were out in force. The ice was translucent. Tugs were moving with vigor - and a great deal of noise - after creeping along all winter. It strengthens my soul to see ice floating, and evidence of the tides. Welcome back river.
- Rene VanSchaack

3/2 - Ulster Landing, HRM 97.2: The ice finally broke up north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, making the mergansers and gulls happy but not the ice boaters who stared forlornly at the ever opening water. Canada geese were winging back north and the sky over the Hudson was noisy with their calls. Some snow drops were making their spring emergence near the Ulster County park.
- Peg Duke

3/2 - Town of West Shokan, HRM 92: We thought it was too early for redwings but we set out for Olivebridge to take a look. We stopped at the Ashokan Dam overlooking the old measuring-weir pond, a likely spot for redwings in season. But the pond, nestled between the walls of the Esopus Gorge, was completely icebound. In the middle of the ice there was a large bloodstain where coyotes recently finished off a deer with the help of crows and ravens; one of the latter was croaking in the distance. Nearby two turkey vultures were wheeling, the first we'd seen this year. But redwings? Not a trace.
- John Bierhorst, Jane Bierhorst

3/2 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: For the second day in a row, Mama was sitting in the middle of nest, probably on eggs. For the last week, the pair had been bringing soft grass to the nest, a sign that they were building their "egg cup." I found her in my spotting scope just as she swivelled her head toward me. Her yellow eyes and that penetrating stare might scare a rabbit caught out in the open, but I rejoiced in knowing another breeding season was underway.
- Tom Lake

3/2 - Garrison, HRM 52: I watched a common goldeneye in the marsh repeatedly dive and stay under for what seemed like minutes, as two immature bald eagles harassed it from above.
- Eric Lind

[Common goldeneyes often forage along shorelines in water 13-30 feet deep, capturing prey items on the bottom. Most dives last between 10-55 seconds.]

3/3 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby and I were taking our usual morning walk and, amongst the raspy calls of the evening grosbeaks and the harsh cries of the blue jays, I swear I heard red-winged blackbirds. We stopped and waited. Nothing. We kept walking. Then we heard it again. We stopped. Waited. "Con-ker-EEEEE!" Two of them! Our red-winged blackbirds are back. We heard none yesterday; maybe they came in overnight. Lucky them, arriving just in time for the snow and freezing rain. We heard another bird call that I didn't recognize right away - "bzzzz zip," rising in pitch on the zip. It was in a mixed flock of other "sputzies" (as my dad calls these small birds). I'm pretty sure it was a pine siskin.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/3 - George's Island, HRM 39: Today would be the last on which we'd see bald eagles for a while. There were four adults perched in the trees on Dogan Point at dusk.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/4 - Minerva, HRM 234: At 7:30 this morning I heard the unmistakable sound of a gobbling tom turkey in the woods behind my house. I was listening for red-winged blackbirds, but heard the turkey instead. No red-wings yet; this is still the land of evening grosbeaks. We have about two feet of snow in the open, less in the woods.
- Mike Corey

3/4 - New Paltz, HRM 78: With a little bit of nighttime drizzle, we went to our neighborhood vernal pool this morning to see if the spotted salamanders had been out while we were sleeping. The snow was melted in the surrounding woods, but the pool was still completely covered in snow and ice - no place for a salamander to get into the water. The water temperature was 39.5°F degrees, the same as it was last year at this time when the salamanders were breeding. My daughter, Lia, looked under logs to see if any "sallies" were hiding, but the ground was still crusted with ice.
- Fran Dunwell, Lia Natzle

3/5 - Albany, HRM 145: We had just begun our run north along the Hudson River bike path from the Corning Preserve Park when I spotted an eagle tacking north along the west side of the river. I knew it was an eagle from its size and flat wings, but couldn't be sure what species or the age. My running partner exclaimed that I was inventing it, and it was just another herring gull, numerous along the semi-open river this day. As we proceeded north, however, I was vindicated as the adult bald eagle turned and began lazy, slow circles back south, less than 150' over our heads. It wasn't until we hit the two-mile mark and had headed back south that I realized how strong the south wind was - perfect for a flight north.
- Pete Nye

3/5 - Brandow Point, HRM 117: I checked the river this morning: There was about 20 feet of open water along the shoreline with large chunks of ice floating in it, but open water nonetheless. Green shoots are emerging along the shoreline, maybe spatterdock or an arum, as I did see some that are submerged. Spring!
- Liz LoGuidice

3/5 - New Paltz, HRM 78: The first spring peepers could be seen and heard crossing the road.
- Rebecca Johnson, Brian Houser

3/5 - Cornwall, HRM 58: A dozen hooded mergansers rested on our pond this morning at Kenridge Farm. We have many robins, red-winged blackbirds, mallards, and a pair of red-tailed hawks to keep things moving toward spring.
- Ann Szigethy

3/6 - Ulster Park, HRM 85. I took a break from jogging to sit by the river. The ice had been steadily receding and the chunks of ice were getting smaller and less numerous every day. Fifty feet offshore a muskrat was hauled out on a small ice floe the size of a screen door, heading south in the ebb current. At first the muskrat acted as if it was troubled and confused, marooned on a barren island. Then, perhaps bored with its castaway fantasy, it slipped into the water and struck out for land.
- Chris Bowser

3/6 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 68: Today may not have been the first day they appeared, but it was the first day I noticed that the furry little catkins on the pussy willow had emerged.
- Tom Lake

3/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have returned to winter with 3"-4" of very fine snow so far and more falling. It has made everything nice and white again. The birds are all clustered around the feeders. The river opened last week - open water on both sides of Route 28N in Newcomb.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/7 - Minerva, HRM 284: It was up in the forties today and still no luck with the redwings. The mud season has begun, though. I managed to tap a sugar maple today using my extremely low-tech method: a used plastic half-gallon milk jug, sumac twig for the tap, and Yankee drill to get into the tree. Got a small flow of sap.
- Michael Corey

3/7 - Town of Northumberland, HRM 200: It was mid-morning when I got to the river. The new arrivals were 200 Canada geese spread out along the river in groups of 20-40 birds. Skirting the edge of the geese were some common goldeneyes and a few mallards. It was a great sunny day, very spring-like.
- Charles Maurer

3/7 - Saugerties, HRM 102: In mid-afternoon, from the Saugerties Lighthouse, we spotted an adult bald eagle (very white neck and dark yellow bill) and, about 30 seconds later, an immature (2-3 years old, mottled dark and light), both flying south.
- Dan Marazita, Jan Marazita

3/7 - Kingston, HRM 92: It was a perfect late winter day as we headed out to Kingston Point. The tide was very low. Curiously, the ice cubes were heading north along the shore but things were headed south midriver. There was much bird action: V's of Canada geese, high and loud, heading north. We heard song sparrows and flickers for the first time this year. There were the usual robins, mockingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, juncos, both common and hooded mergansers (our first hoodeds this year), and a million ring-billed gulls. Later we went out to pick pussy willows, a sure sign of spring.
- Fran Drakert, Bill Drakert

3/7 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: The adult pair of bald eagles that have wintered here since December remain. However, the several immatures who have shared the bay with them seemed to have left.
- Chip Putnam

3/7 - Croton River, HRM 34: We were driving south on Route 9 over the Croton River in mid-morning when we saw what we thought was a Canada goose flying towards the Hudson. With a closer look we realized that it was almost all white - a snow goose.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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