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Hudson River Almanac November 6 - November 14, 2005

OVERVIEW

The cyclonic flow of severe nor'easters can draw unusual birds from the upper Midwest to the Northeast and the Hudson Valley. In the wake of such weather events, we have seen white pelicans, snowy owls, and now sandhill cranes - their second appearance in three years. There are often a string of sightings as the birds make their way south and east.

HIGHLIGHT FROM LAST WEEK

11/5 - Shaupeneak Ridge, HRM 86: The temperature was over 70°F. I was hiking in a short-sleeved T-shirt. Several Canada geese, a drake mallard, and some black ducks were out on Louisa Pond and a ruby-crowned kinglet flew close by. Also seen during the hike were a raven and black-capped chickadees. At the waterfall off of the Violet Trail, Herb Robert (wild geranium) was still blooming in the warm, moist micro-clime and protected niche created by the waterfall and the surrounding rock amphitheater.
- Reba Wynn Laks

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/6 - Putnam County, HRM 55-45: Driving down Route 9D from Beacon to the Bear Mountain Bridge today, the orange color of the foliage made it seem as if I was inside a giant pumpkin.
- Michael Boyajian

11/6 - Croton River Estuary, HRM 34: The tide was low at daybreak, the air warm and humid, thick with mist. A flock of brant bumbled into view over Croton Bay and banked back into the mist, soundlessly, southbound. As we watched a clunk of coot, a flock of gadwall plopped down in their midst. Someone spotted a female hooded merganser and a few common mergansers, the first seen this season. Black ducks and green-winged teal were holding to the north end of the slough. The highlight was the red-throated loon that sped past from above the Route 9 bridge to Croton Bay. The air was 62°F, far from the chilly weather we associate with the arrival of these birds.
- Christopher Letts

11/7 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was a nice total for the day's fishing at Long Dock: 2 carp, 15 and 6 lb., 2 channel catfish 20" and 16", and a small brown bullhead. My sister in California and I are trading curiosities by mail: she's sending me some seeds she says look like horseshoe crabs and I'm sending her some of our Hudson River water-chestnut seeds (with instructions not to plant).
- Bill Greene

11/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Hundreds of red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds were passing through. Jays, robins, cedar waxwings were sharply reduced in numbers from last week, but hordes of kinglets and warblers were busy stripping the fruits from vines and hackberry trees. At the mouth of the Croton River, a small flock of wigeon fed with the black ducks. I counted 44 species this morning, including an adult bald eagle, just hanging in the northwest breeze.
- Christopher Letts

11/8 - Minnewaska State Park, HRM 75: I took a hike out to Gertrude's Nose and, while sitting at the point, watched several turkey vultures soar high overhead on the strong winds riding up and over the cliffs. The blueberry leaves were fire engine red, the maples yellow in the valley below, the hemlocks and white pines a bright, bright green with sunlight shining over the whole scene. As I looked out towards Hamilton Point I wondered how anyone might think the best use of this spectacular valley would be for houses and a golf course. On the way back to the parking area I got a glimpse of a bobwhite bobbing along the edge of the carriage road.
- Henry Atterbury

11/8 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: I was out on the Hudson River sloop Woody Guthrie for my last sail of the year before haul-out. At 3:45 PM, I was sailing south, mid-river, just past the mouth of Wappinger Creek, when I was passed by what I thought was a cormorant, flying fast, 150' off the boat, but it had white on the undersides. In 5 knots of mostly north winds and bucking a maximum flood current, it took me an hour to reach the Chelsea Marina, 2 miles south. In the dark, in a brief period of quiet between commuter and freight trains, I heard the unmistakable sound of a loon's call. I heard it again a few moments later, coming from the north, from the direction of Roseton on the west shore.
- Steve Schwartz

[Both immature double-crested cormorants and common loons in winter plumage exhibit considerable white on their underside, especially in the throat and chest areas. Tom Lake]

11/8 - Croton Point, HRM 34: The giant cottonwood we call the "eagle tree" had dropped its leaves this week. This morning, for the first time since March, an adult bald eagle was perched there, surveying the hundreds of waterfowl in Croton Bay. The bird migration stream was still flowing, and slowing. The cedar waxwings I saw this morning brought the total for the past month to well over 3,000 birds. Jays, grackles, robins, warblers, and kinglets - among others - were passing through. I counted 460 cowbirds on my morning walk.
- Christopher Letts

11/9 - Ulster Park, HRM 87: Just before the rains came, I noticed a small flock of 6 eastern bluebirds foraging in an elm tree near Esopus Meadows. One by one, they took turns exploring a nest cavity, pushing each other out of the way when a turn was up. I suppose there were some tasty insects inside. Those that were not excavating busied themselves by eating the little blue berries of Virginia creeper vines that grew in the canopy. I wonder which was tastier?
- Michael Morris

11/9 - Red Oaks Mill, HRM 73: We spotted our first snowflakes of the season early this morning, just a lazy little flurry that barely left a trace, but it was pretty to see.
- Donna Lenhart, Bill Lenhart

11/9 - Hathaway's Glen Brook, HRM 63: We seined in the rain this afternoon at the mouth of Hathaway's Brook. Where there were clouds of young-of-the-year banded killifish a month ago, now there were only a few. We netted for a half hour using a 10-foot kick net and caught a dozen and a half. Then we went upstream and netted a few short runs and tiny pools, catching some blacknose dace. The 200 gallon aquarium at the Museum of the Hudson Highlands would have a nice mix of killifish, small sunfish and minnows this winter. The brook was 49° and the river was 48°F.
- Pam Golben, Tom Lake

11/10 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Strange weather here: worms on the pavement and snow in the air. We got 1.5" of rain yesterday.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/10 - Nyack, HRM 27: The day dawned clear, bright, and breezy. After another overnight of "summer" thunderstorms, brilliant lightning and deafening thunder, 0.57" of rain, this was to be an optimum day for turkey vultures. All along the northern range of the Palisades, scores of them were teetering in 25-35 mph (gusts over 40 mph) winds. It seemed that they might be able to soar all day without flapping their wings.
- Tom Lake

11/10 - Manhattan, HRM 0: After a night of heavy rains, a stiff westerly breeze was blowing the last of the clouds from New York Harbor. A flock of a dozen Canada geese wheeled out over the river before turning southward past Ellis Island. Closer to shore at Battery Park, a cormorant wrestled with what looked like the remains of a perch, and a common flicker perched in a larch for a moment before heading off toward Castle Clinton.
- Sacha Spector

11/10 - Greenwich, CT: Four sandhill cranes were spotted flying over Greenwich today. Yesterday they were seen in Litchfield, CT, 70 miles north. Connect those two points, fly due west 65 miles, and you arrive where Rebecca Johnson spotted 2 sandhill cranes last week (see 11/5 Gardiner).
- Tom Andersen

11/11 - Gardiner, HRM 75: My family and I enjoy hearing howling coyotes at night and occasionally spotting one trotting across the field in the morning. We recently spotted a black coyote in our backyard. They possess an eerie beauty and the black coyote was simply stunning.
- Sharon Gambino

11/11 - George's Island, HRM 39: A doe white-tail deer, possibly being pursued by coyotes, swam swiftly across the bay at George's Island. Exhausted but safe, she was seen by some long-timers who claimed the sight of a deer swimming in the Hudson to be the first in their memory.
- Joan Indusi

[White-tail deer regularly swim in or across the Hudson. Several years ago, in early autumn, I was fishing for striped bass on Diamond Reef midriver off New Hamburg when I heard some soft splashing. Twenty feet away a white-tail was making her way across the river, east to west, over a half-mile wide at that point. I watched as she reached the Orange County side, climbed out, and disappeared in the swale under Cedarcliff. Tom Lake]

11/12 - Fishkill, HRM 61: In the late afternoon of a mild day, I spotted a little brown bat chasing insects overhead. I believe this is the latest in the year I have ever seen a bat flying about my yard.
- Ed Spaeth

11/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We have enjoyed some unreasonably mild weather the last few days, but I think it is about to come to a grinding halt. The birds are all feeding like mad.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/13 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: With cabbage white butterflies fluttering on the hillside, and clouds of midges in my face, it did not seem so strange to see a tree swallow swooping and soaring in the middle of November. Surely this is the latest Westchester County swallow sighting I've enjoyed. Slowly, steadily, the avian exodus dwindles, day by day. Fewer robins, catbirds, blue jays, waxwings, cowbirds, and red-winged blackbirds. I'm seeing more winter sparrows and winter ducks. Almost a thousand mixed waterfowl were on Croton Bay this morning, with ruddy ducks, scaup, and buffleheads in vastly increased numbers.
- Christopher Letts

11/14 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As I approached my feeders this morning, numerous birds flew up and away including mourning doves and several dark-eyed juncos. Most unusual, however, was a male eastern towhee that flew to a perch in a nearby Fraser fir. In 2003, I noted that I had seen a male towhee on November 5 in my yard. The species account for eastern towhee in Bull's Breeding Bird Atlas denotes an extreme sighting of 10 birds in Clinton County on November 2, 1985.
- Ed Spaeth

11/14 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 68: Just as we look for the last monarch, the last hummingbird, the final bat darting about in evening, we also wonder about the last warm day of autumn. Maybe this was it. In mid-afternoon it was 64°F, and just after sundown we could hear a chorus of coyotes coming from along the river. That is more of a winter sound for us.
- Tom Lake

11/14 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Positively balmy weather in the mid-60s continued, and all living things on this peninsula seemed to be having a take-it-easy day. A flock of some 60 bluebirds out-blued the sky, their sweet, soft "dearly, dearly" murmuring through the oak grove as they poked and probed for breakfast. The cedar waxwings have stripped the old Underhill yew of all its fruit, and the latest wave of about 200 birds had to make due with wild grape, poison ivy, and hackberry fruits.
- Christopher Letts

11/14 - Manhattan, HRM 1: I saw my first bluebird, ever, today on West 25th Street off Ninth Avenue. Unfortunately it was a dead one, an apparent window strike. This is a few blocks away from one of the major "strike zones" at the Morgan Mall Processing facility of the Post Office (West 28th Street and Ninth Avenue) that New York City Audubon is monitoring as part of their Project Safe Flight. Since 1997, there have been 467 bird collisions at this facility.
- Regina McCarthy

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