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Hudson River Almanac November 7-November 16, 2004

OVERVIEW

While the Adirondacks felt the touch of winter earlier, this was the week that the first snow and first ice of the season came to tidewater. However, precipitation was light overall, and the salt front continued to hang well upriver near the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. Our naturalist's notes about wildlife and its behavior especially come to life when set in context, examples being Jon Powell's snowy morning in the woods, Ellen Rathbone's recollection of tracks in the snow, and Steve Seymour's walk on Denning's Point.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/4 - Jamaica Bay, New York Bight: A cold group of ninth graders from the New York City Lab School huddled at the edge of the Big Egg Salt Marsh, part of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Despite our best attempts to discuss the ecology of the salt marsh, eyes kept wandering to the air above it. Students recorded a pair of merlins chasing each other, a peregrine falcon, several snowy and great egrets, a great blue heron and, to top it off, an American bittern. The bittern flew towards us and landed just yards away, only to disappear in the Spartina grass. It seemed unnecessary to belabor the subject; I'm sure the students would agree that it was well illustrated.
- Dave Taft, National Park Service

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/7 - Minerva, HRM 284: It was 13°F this morning.
- Mike Corey

11/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I heard that northern lights were visible the last two nights. This afternoon I had a snow bunting in my yard.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/10 - Kowawese, HRM 59: At frigid first light, the surface of the river was lost in white vapor. At 21°F, the air was nearly thirty degrees colder than the water. Mist rising continously off the water obscured the land, producing a surreal effect. Some mute swans flew low overhead. I could not see them but could hear the swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of their wingbeats.
- Tom Lake

11/10 - Brockway, HRM 63: Riding the Metro North train this morning at 8:20, just above Beacon, I spotted an immature bald eagle, brown with white patches, flying low over the Hudson. The river was so still and reflective that it resembled old Colonial era glass.
- Mike Boyajian

11/10 - Beacon, HRM 62: At Riverfront Park in Beacon I was shocked to see an adult bald eagle standing on a grassy area where train commuters park their cars. Thinking it might be hurt, I stopped my car and looked at it for at least a minute. Then I bent over to get my camera; when I looked back up the bird was gone. It was pretty amazing. I had never been that close to an eagle in the wild.
- Linda Houlihan

11/11 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: During the Romantic era, estate owners strived to enhance the inspiring scenery of the Hudson through landscape design. Today, twenty landscape designers, horticulturists, and landscape historians toured the grounds of Springside, a National Historic Landmark created by the famed landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing for Matthew Vassar in the 1850s. We enjoyed a sunny, crisp day, strolling and trying to imagine carriage roads and the romantic and picturesque vistas and vignettes that Downing designed to enhance the natural beauty of our Hudson River geography. Although invasive plants and equally invasive noises of nearby Route 9 traffic threaten to engulf the site, a dedicated group of volunteers continue to uncover and replant many of the elements of the original design. Harvey Flad, a retired Vassar professor, gave some background information about Downing's life and work. Accompanied by anecdotes from volunteers Karen Cowperthwaite, John Mylod, and Dagni Senzel, we examined animal tracks and wildflowers, cobblestone drainage formations and stone walls.
- Naomi Brooks

11/12 - Round Top, HRM 113: I got up at 4:30 this morning and was greeted by the first snow of the season. As I did my morning farm chores, the snowy air mixed with the light smell of wood smoke from my stove made it seem like 100 years ago. At that moment, there were no planes or vehicle noises, just the sounds of the snow and my horse breathing. I was in heaven. After chores, I grabbed my bow and headed out the back door to the woods; a morning like this should not be wasted. It was absolutely beautiful. I saw the buck that had been playing hide and seek with me. But there were also the chickadees and creepers and woodpeckers. Although we had just 2" inches of snow, it was a great morning.
- Jon Powell

11/12 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: A snow squall turned into a morning-long snowstorm. Before long it looked like a February white-out. Standing along the river in the face of a bitterly cold north wind, I thought to myself, had it been February, I would not even go ice fishing on a day like this. By the time it ended in mid-afternoon, we had 4" along the river.
- Tom Lake

11/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Brrrr! First ice on the Hudson and Toby Rathbone and I walked down to see. The slower parts of the river were iced over. The open water was moving v-e-r-y sluggishly. Standing there, we heard an unusual sound and looked around for its source. It turned out to be open water moving slushy water against mostly frozen water - the grating between the partially and mostly frozen portions. The air was brisk, the wind was bitter, and it felt like February.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/13 - Mingo Hollow, HRM 88: The sun rose as a red fox pounced on a vole. The strike was surgically clean; almost none of the 1½" inches of snow at the kill site was disturbed. Then the fox sniffed our raspberry patch and marked the base of the bushes. Later, several ravens tumbled in thermals on the western side of Huzzy Hill. - Andy Bicking

11/13 - Scarborough, HRM 32: An adult bald eagle has been flying around the Scarborough train station for a week, and my husband and I - avid bald eagle watchers - saw it again this morning. This may be a migratory bird since we do not see any in the area during the summer months. If so, this is the earliest we have seen bald eagles that have returned for the winter.
- Mattie Varvaro

11/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: There was ice on the river this morning at the Route 28N bridge. The snow is gone but it certainly feels like mid-winter. Last week, when we had snow on the ground, I spotted tracks of mink, fisher, fox, coyote, snowshoe hare, deer and mouse (perhaps deer mouse). It's funny how we assume that animals are "finally on the move" when it snows because their tracks are now visible. These animals are out and about all the time, but with our nearly non-existent sense of smell, we are unable to note their passage without the aid of snow. How vision-dependent we are, while unobservant on so many other levels.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/14 - Denning's Point, HRM 60: There was a new moon low tide this morning and a skim of ice along portions of the shore inside the point. Three deer - all bucks - came toward me as I walked on the trail; they stopped about 100 feet away. One was a spike, one a four-pointer, the third a small eight-pointer. The eight and four-pointer sparred for a few minutes before moving off. A few southbound grackles flew over and I spotted a common loon and a pied-billed grebe out on the river.
- Steve Seymour

11/15 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: An pair of adult bald eagles has been perching and fishing in Cornwall Bay for the past week. I've seen them in the usual day perches along the south face of Sloop Hill near Kowawese. I suspect that this is the pair that has been wintering here for the past several years. If so, they are here very early this year.
- Chip Putnam

11/16 - Beacon to Peeksill, HRM 61-43: The air temperature was below freezing with a diminished coating of snow still on the ground this morning. It was sunny with a faint vaporous mist rising from the river as the Metro North train out of New Hamburg moved south. Just past the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge I spotted a great blue heron with vibrant and contrasting coloration. Near Peekskill, a Cooper's hawk was perched in a tree near the tracks.
- Mike Boyajian

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