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Hudson River Almanac March 1 - 8, 2006

OVERVIEW

In the warming sun of March, eagles' thoughts were turning to nesting. You can almost sense that the Hudson River Valley is tensed, on alert, ready for the explosion of spring.

HIGHLIGHT OF A PREVIOUS WEEK

3/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: As always, I am very excited to see otter tracks and slides. Today they were right there on the side of the Rich Lake Trail at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center. We had to be careful not to step on them. Usually we only see otter tracks out on ice or over the side of a bridge, often inaccessible. These, however, took me completely by surprise. The critter must've gone for a jaunt over land and ice, perhaps looking for additional open water beyond the outlet of Rich Lake. At first I just saw tracks in the deep snow that I simply could not place: the feet were large, the gait indeterminate. But then I came around the bend and BAM, there was a slide, and not just one, but three! You could see where the hind feet were dragging in the slides and you could see definite tail drags as it loped onwards beyond the slides. It was a great way to start the day!
- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/1 - Esopus Meadows to Fort Edward, HRM 87-202: Each year about this time, Steve Stanne leads a two day tour of the Hudson for new Student Conservation Association interns working along the river. We started the northern leg of the tour at Esopus Meadows. The sun was shining, the sky blue, the air crisp, and the tide low. We spotted an adult bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk, and 3 common mergansers. We made our way up to Olana, across the river from Catskill, and looked out over the Hudson at the beautiful Catskill Mountains. We spotted a red-tailed hawk and a few crows. Heading north, we stopped at the waterfront in the city of Hudson where we spotted 3 common mergansers, many ring-billed gulls, and a few Canada geese. A few miles upriver at Stockport Flats, we saw an adult bald eagle and a very large nest we assumed was an eagle's. We then stopped by Nutten Hook, another couple of miles upriver, to explore the old ice house. Continuing north through Stuyvesant, we pulled over to watch an immature bald eagle soar over the river. From there we made our way to the beginning of the estuary, the head of tide, the federal dam between Troy and Green Island, river mile 153.4. An adult bald eagle flew over the locks, and a lone black duck sped past to the north. After visits to Cohoes Falls and the mouth of the Mohawk in Waterford, we drove north to the Thompson Island Pool, about 40 miles above Troy, and then on to Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, where General Electric facilities in the past discharged PCBs into the river. We saw common mergansers, 3 goldeneyes, 2 buffleheads, a red-tailed hawk, and a few mallards. By now it was dark, and time to head home.
- Rebecca Johnson

3/1 - Oscawana Island to Tappan Zee, HRM 38.5-26.5: We were on the morning Metro North commuter train to Manhattan when we spotted 2 bald eagles, one adult, one immature, perched in trees on the point at Oscawana. There was a third, another immature, flying south above the river. Minutes later we saw another adult just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
- Michael Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

3/2 - Sprout Brook, HRM 43.5: We were on Sprout Brook just before first light, east of the Hudson two miles from tidewater. We found 5 inches of good ice, and the fish were willing. At this point, tall white pines line the banks of the brook, and each held a half dozen or more vultures. We have counted as many as 140 roosting here in winter, 10-15% of them black vultures, the rest turkey vultures. At dawn the eastern horizon was brilliantly red and gold, a classic "red sky in morning ..." An hour later the snow began. Thirty minutes later it was a whiteout. There is something immensely poetic about a black vulture perched in a white pine shrouded by newly fallen white snow.
- Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

[The New York State Breeding Bird Atlas found no nesting black vultures anywhere in state during the period 1980-1985. When the survey was repeated from 2000-2005, the bird was reported widely in southeastern New York, with probable or confirmed breeding records from Ulster and Dutchess Counties south. The Atlas pages on DEC's website provide species distribution maps showing range changes of New York's breeding birds over the two decades between surveys. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/cfmx/extapps/bba/ to access the maps. Steve Stanne.]

3/2 - Georges Island, HRM 39: I visited the park today at George's Island and spotted several ring-necked ducks bobbing out in the bay.
- Joan Indusi

3/2 - Hastings-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: This afternoon I watched an eagle high up in a tree eating a fish. As I watched, I heard the call of a crow that landed in a nearby tree. Over a period of several minutes, six additional crows joined the first, and they seemed to carry on a raucous conversation. Then they flew to the top of the eagle tree and, one after the other, flew down to harass it. The eagle soon flew away followed by the mob of crows.
- Barbara Morrow

3/3 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: The tall white pine was swaying in a brutal north wind gusting to 35 mph. Mama was in the nest tearing apart and devouring a fish. She'll need the calories; the windchill was -15°F. We had 6" of snow yesterday so the rim of the nest was covered in white. From what I've observed, the pair is not incubating yet. The weather forecast is for a warmup late next week. Maybe that will get them going.
- Tom Lake

3/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The wind was blowing so intensely that, even though it was snowing, no snow was collecting in the measuring can. I was happy to be sitting in the house next to the wood stove, toasty warm.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/4 - George's Island, HRM 39: I visited the park today at George's Island and spotted a gorgeous male wood duck.
- Joan Indusi

3/4 - Oscawana Island, HRM 38.5 This afternoon we spotted a pair of adult bald eagles in one of the day perch trees at the end of the point. They were sitting on adjacent branches, preening their feathers and turning their heads around as they looked up and down the river. They were not perched as high as usual; we guessed since it was so windy. On our way home, we passed Ogilivie Pond where 3 pairs of hooded mergansers were floating around with 2 mallard couples. Three Canada geese were standing on a high spot that stuck out of the pond, while the ducks milled around them. What a beautiful sight on this cold, windy winter day.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/5 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The chickadees have been vocally sparring these last few days, filling the air with their "dee-dee" calls. The sun was out, the sky was blue and if it weren't for the wind with its biting edge, it would be downright balmy. Our barred owl was back, sitting up in a white pine next to our building, catching some rays. At the moment I envy him, dozing in the warm sun.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/5 - New Baltimore, HRM 113: Today at New Baltimore, and yesterday 18 miles south at Catskill Point on our Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club field trip, I noticed mergansers and gulls consistently feasting on a specific fish species. I was looking through binoculars or a spotting scope, and they looked like catfish, possible channel catfish (forked tail), each about 3" long. I wondered if channel cats, being non-native, may be vulnerable to the elements this time of year. Has there been any documentation of channel catfish of this size and age group following ice-out?
- Rich Guthrie

[DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit occasionally captures young of the year channel catfish in its beach seining surveys in summer and fall, but doesn't have data for this time of year. Steve Stanne.]

3/5 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Early this morning there were 8-9 wild turkeys looking for some birdseed detritus from my backdoor feeder. In the field beyond were three white-tailed deer. The deer moved away in a hurry at the presence of a coyote. The turkeys were not in the least worried about the coyote, but the deer scampered off when it appeared.
- John Mylod

3/6 - Chelsea, HRM 66: At first light, at the top of the flood tide, the river had a lot of scattered skim ice in the six-mile reach from Newburgh north to New Hamburg. By mid-morning, the combination of warm March sun and ebb tide had dispersed the ice downriver.
- Tom Lake

3/6 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: We saw two adult bald eagles perched on the same tree branch out at the end of the point again today. (They are becoming as predictable as our train schedule.)
- Michael Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

3/7 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: This morning I saw and heard my first male red-winged blackbird of the season on a sugar maple tree outside my house.
- Liz LoGiudice

3/7 - Sprout Brook, HRM 43.5: We always try to arrive before first light, before the curtain rises on the show. This is a small tributary just east of Hudson tidewater. At one place the brook is lined with tall white pines where it widens and freezes (this morning: 6" of ice). We go there for the vulture roosts. One side is mostly turkey vultures, the other, black vultures. Just after dawn the black vultures emerged first from their cozy perches. Many head to a derelict white pine to warm up. Soon, there were 3 separate thermals working, each with 2 dozen birds, each rising like a staircase. With their heads and bodies as black as coal and white wing patches reflecting the first sunlight, they were spectacular. They seemed to fly in pairs, and every so often we'd see some courtship behavior. Nearly an hour later, the turkey vultures began to rise in wobbly flight, 10, 20, 50 of them, even more. Soon we had 100 mixed vultures overhead. As we watched them, two huge brown raptors approached from the south, flew overhead and continued north: golden eagles.
- Christopher Letts, Tom Lake

[This is definitely the time of year. We get numbers of golden eagles moving through our area that most people are totally unaware of. Matter of fact, I've been at the Route 6/202 pull off overlooking Iona Island in March, and watched golden eagles heading north along the west ridge. Pete Nye.]

3/7 - Oscawana Island, HRM 38.5: In mid-morning we saw 2 adult bald eagles sitting on adjacent branches at Oscawana Island. When we put our scope on them, we could see that they were looking down river. They seemed to be enjoying basking in the sunlight, out of the wind. When we went back to the same spot later in the day, they had left.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

3/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The red-winged blackbirds must've arrived during the night, for this morning they were sitting and singing in a tree across the street from my house: "Conk-a REEEEEE."
- Ellen Rathbone

3/8 - Eagle Nest, Dutchess County: Mama was fidgeting around all day until mid-afternoon, when it appeared that she took the Big Sit. I think this might be it. She may be on egg(s). I'll check at first light tomorrow to see if she is still there.
- Tom Lake

3/8 - Annsville Bay, HRM 43.5: From our Metro North car this morning, we spotted an adult bald eagle perched in a tree on the east side of the tracks just north of Peekskill.
- Michael Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

3/8 - Georges Island, HRM 39: In late afternoon there were 4 adults in the trees out on Dogan Point, 2 of them sitting very close to each other. It's great that we're still seeing them around. We will be disappointed in a week or so when they've left for their northern breeding areas.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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