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Hudson River Almanac November 19 - 24, 2003

OVERVIEW

Northern birds, from pine siskins to bald eagles to common mergansers, are arriving and whispering "early winter" to us. In late autumn, the migration of songbirds, raptors, and waterfowl can be a rather reliable predictor of winter's severity.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/21 - Casperkill, HRM 69: A gorgeous rough-legged hawk glided in front of me, coming out of one stand of hardwoods and then disappearing into another. I had a five-second look - it took that long to eliminate the other "buzzard hawks" (and "woodland hawks") and note enough field marks to say "rough-legged" to myself, at which time it dissolved into the oaks and ash.
- Tom Lake

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/20 - Town of Wappinger: On a bright blue-sky morning, in the wake of heavy overnight rains that had left 2.1" of precipitation, we spotted a pair of adult bald eagles in the canopy of a tall black locust overlooking the river. This tree has typically been a day perch for a breeding pair of eagles that we watch each spring. We thought it might be that pair returning early. However, these two did not afford us the opportunity to see and read any leg bands to confirm their identities.
- Francis Raynud, Tom Lake

[The NYSDEC Endangered Species Unit bands most eaglets fledged from New York State nests. As a result, with a spotting scope you can often read their leg bands to learn their origin years later when they are adults.]

11/20 - Croton Point , HRM 34: Two hours before low tide on the south side, the beach was steep and smooth with fewer exposed rocks than usual. The shore seemed more clay then sand. We tramped east through reeds (Phragmites) flattened by the recent storm, surprising a white-tailed deer and a kingfisher. Bufflehead ducks were diving off shore. A flock of pine siskins flew over the water. Retracing our steps, we realized that there was an immature bald eagle in a locust tree above our heads. The bird was all brown with flecks of white on its chest. It didn't move as we crept under it. An adult eagle flew over our heads and across the river. A sharp-shinned hawk followed. Farther west we saw a raft of seventy-five ruddy ducks, more buffleheads, and a small flock of scaup. Another kingfisher was hunting for fish along the shoreline. Golden-crowned kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches and white-throated sparrows were sheltering from the wind in the porcelain berry vines draped over the trees. Two tree swallows were flying above the marsh. A male northern harrier blew over our heads, small and pale.
- Amy Silberkleit, Michael Shiffer, Isis Shiffer, Elijah Shiffer

11/21 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: I spotted my first four canvasbacks of the season today, as well as the first three ruddy ducks in Annsville Creek bay. These joined the other "winter ducks," common mergansers and bufflehead, that had arrived earlier.
- Scott Craven

11/22 - Stony Creek, HRM 231: It has been a beautiful fall. I found a dandelion growing behind the barn today; the weather can't make up its mind. The lilacs look like they want to come out and johnny pop-ups are still in bloom. The flock of Canada geese keeps growing every year across on the golf course. I think they are forage for the coyotes. Early in the morning you can hear the geese, and later the coyotes start yipping. On his way to work, my husband had a bear run across the road not far from our house. The river is high and has been up on the floodplain a couple of times. It sure has been a wet fall - beautiful but wet.
- Karen LaLone

11/23 - Town of Wappinger: After three days of seeing the pair of eagles perched along the river, they have disappeared. They may have been migrants, Canadian birds heading south.
- Francis Raynud, Tom Lake

11/24 - Hudson Valley: Some of our northern bald eagles have begun to move south for the winter, including several of our satellite-tracked birds. One of our golden eagles left way-northern Quebec in late October and has been back down in New York (Delaware County) for a while now.
- Pete Nye

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