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Hudson River Almanac December 26 - December 31, 2006


Usually, the weekly Hudson River Almanac celebrates wildlife and natural history as observers tell of their sightings. As I read through this week's entries, it seemed to me that the wildlife are almost a backdrop to our observers' enjoyment of these special moments as the year came to a close. Happy New Year!


12/27 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: We stood outside tonight enjoying the relatively cold weather and the beautiful snow showers. The snow seems to call to the very soul of those of us native to the northeast, providing a sense of quiet comfort. We heard the musical whir of wings in the dark sky above and after a few moments of searching, saw a flock of ducks circling above us.

- Liz LoGiudice, Ross Burnell


12/26 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Enormous snowflake were plummeting to the ground outside the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center. When they are that big and falling that hard, you just know they are loaded with water. We had about 2" of snow last night, followed by rain and sleet. Another "kitten" has fuzzed out on my giant pussy willow. Maybe this snow will convince Mother Nature that it is actually winter, not spring, and she will set trees and birds back on the right track. We are expecting upwards of a foot of snow today.

- Ellen Rathbone

12/26 - New Paltz, HRM 78: I noticed several large black shapes in the trees at the edge of our yard. Black vultures. More kept arriving, so I decided to go out and see what they were up to. As I approached, a cloud of vultures rose up from the woods like a swarm of gigantic black flies. I counted at least 15. They remained perched in nearby trees while I investigated, discovering the carcass of a large 4-point buck. I felt bad for the unfortunate deer, but I was happy for the chance to see black vultures up close. They are just beautiful.

- Sharon Gambino

12/26 - Hasting-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: What are the signs of spring going to be in 2007? Today, a flock of robins gobbled the red berries on the bittersweet vine growing over an old mulberry tree next to my house. A multiflora daffodil is blooming in my garden and quince blossoms are out in a nearby yard.

- Barbara Morrow

12/26 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Today was spring-like, calm and sunny. This evening, driving off Sandy Hook in the dark, there were moths in the headlights. Moths the day after Christmas? It's been a weird winter. Sea herring are running close to shore and anglers are still catching small striped bass in the surf. But I see very few winter ducks. I may not even have to put cinder blocks - New Jersey snow tires - in the back of the pickup.

- Dery Bennett

12/27 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We didn't get the foot that was forecast, just a measly 3" of snow. At least the last inch was fluffy so that makes up for the 2" of sodden snow. I expect we will get a lot of calls today for skiing and snowshoeing. I hate to disappoint them. At least it is white out there.

- Ellen Rathbone

12/27 - Highland, HRM 78: Confused crocus and daffodils have sprouted through the soil in my garden. The daffodil sprouts are about 3" high topped with two well-formed flower buds.

- Jeff Anzevino

12/27 - Chestnut Ridge, Town of Dover, HRM 77.5: I live near wetlands at the watershed divide between the Hudson River and Housatonic River watersheds. As I walked to the mailbox on this 45 degree F sunny day, I first thought that a brightly colored child's toy had been discarded in the middle of the road. But, unfortunately, it was a 7" spotted salamander, deep purplish-black with bright yellow spots, that had tried to cross the road but did not make it. After a steady rain the previous day, the salamander must have thought that spring breeding season was near.

- Barbara Kendall

12/27 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: A strong north wind butting heads with the bottom of the flood tide had the river capping over in a white froth. For the first time in memory, a winter MetroNorth train ride from New Hamburg to Manhattan provided not a single bald eagle sighting.

- Tom Lake

12/27 - Croton River, HRM 34: We live on the banks of the Croton just above tidewater and have been observing the river for over 30 years. Though we have never kept written records, this fall has been an extended period of high water and mild temperature. Mute swans, up to 17 in winters past, have not returned this year. We have just one, almost tame, single adolescent, a pale grey cygnet whom we have named Steve.

- Sandy Plotkin

12/27 - Manhattan, HRM 0: A hen wild turkey, hunched over and preening, appearing like Big Bird among the gulls and rock doves of Battery Park, has been a fixture here for over a year now. Some birders believe she flew over from New Jersey. Others point to the fact that Staten Island is crawling with wild turkeys these days. On this day, as over a thousand people stood in line to buy a ticket for the boats to Liberty and Ellis Islands, this "wild" turkey seemed like just another pigeon or squirrel, waiting for hot dog buns, pizza crusts, and other Manhattan delicacies. Dave Taft, leading bird walks in the park, has seen the turkey pick up an acorn or two, so it retains some of its wild appetite.

- Tom Lake

12/27 - Staten Island, New York Harbor Upper Bay: For late December, it seemed odd that the Upper Bay was empty except for gulls. Conspicuous by their absence were any winter ducks, loons, even cormorants. Scores of gulls followed in the wake of the Staten Island Ferry; all but a very few were ring-billed, with a couple of greater black-backs and the occasional Bonaparte's gull.

- Tom Lake, Brandon Sedillo

12/28 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Chickadees were singing their spring songs. We had quite a wind gusting away this morning and the birds were noticeably absent from the feeders.

- Ellen Rathbone

12/28 - Ghent, HRM 123: While watching the feeder this morning and recording birds for Project Feeder Watch, I was treated to a surprise bird. At first, I thought it was a wren crossed with a goldfinch; it had coloring similar to a goldfinch, but moved quickly like a wren. Upon closer study, I realized it was a ruby-crowned kinglet. It stayed briefly, sampled some suet, and then left.

- Leanna O'Grady

12/28 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: We never get tired of watching the interaction between eagles and waterfowl. An adult bald eagle was perched on the low limb of a cottonwood, not 50' off the water. Almost in its shadow was a small raft of Canada geese. Nearly under the limb, several mergansers were foraging along the shore. Somehow the eagle was communicating the message: I'm not hungry.

- Tom Lake

12/28 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Spring housekeeping can come early for bald eagles. While the refurbishing of their nest (NY62) will begin in earnest in late February, the mated pair have been around almost daily replacing a branch, a stick, a twig.

- Bruce Pung, Rosalie Pung

12/28 - Town of Goshen, Orange County, HRM 52: We were investigating a huge open field along the Otter Kill for signs of prehistoric occupation and finding nothing at all. Our attention quickly shifted to a wet, marshy area in the middle of the field where some Phragmites stalks stuck up a couple of feet. Perched on the tiptop of 5 or 6 of them were bluebirds. What a gorgeous sight. At least that many more bluebirds were foraging in the grass and we guessed there may have been 12-15 in all. Without notice they all dove into the grass and completely disappeared from sight. At nearly the same time a Cooper's hawk silently glided low over the Phragmites patch and with hardly a wingbeat continued on into the tree line across the field. This was a scene that transcended time - bluebirds and Cooper's hawks were a part of the valley before Indians or us.

- Tom Lake, Brandon Leyba, Leah Redding

12/28 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: I went out today, just hours before the turn of the year, to plant some bulbs given to me for Christmas. In other years, I would have to had used an hatchet to turn the ground. But the earth, though cool, was moist and loose. As I pushed aside the leaf covering next to the spot I had chosen, I found daffodils sprouting - daffodils in the final days of December - with 2-3" of green showing!

- Robin Fox

12/29 - Town of Esperance, Schoharie County, HRM 153: I recently put up two bluebird houses and have had several bluebirds around them at different times. Today, 4 of them were sitting on the roofs and hanging on the openings to the houses. Perhaps they were searching for nesting spots for spring. I have also had up to 50 wild turkeys near my home with as many as 13 at my back door.

- Gary Ovitt

12/ 29 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 76: I spotted an adult bald eagle today, perched at the edge of the woods at the Culinary Institute of America, just looking out over the river.

- Peter Banks

12/29 - Fishkill Creek, HRM 60: It was still dark at 6:40 AM for Day Four of our winter bald eagle monitoring. The morning was calm and eagle activity was non-existent. Not one sighting! Pray for colder weather.

- Marty McGuire

12/29 - Cornwall Landing, HRM 58: I spotted 8 great cormorants on a navigation tower across the river off Bannerman's Island. Great cormorants seem to becoming more common. They are bigger, at least seem bulkier, than the double-cresteds. One had a white lower body patch usually seen on summer adults. Other birders saw great cormorants in similar numbers (4-6) in the same spot during the December 16 Christmas Bird Count.

- Wayne Hall

12/29 - Jersey City, NJ, Upper Bay, New York Harbor: I took a break from the daily grind to stroll out along the pier. A strong outgoing tidal current rushed past the pilings as I scanned the surface for signs of life. There was a gentle northeast wind blowing and the air was unseasonably warm, as it has been now for the past few weeks. I saw no splashes, no fishermen, only the rushing turbid river.

- Steve Cherry

12/30 - Newcomb, HRM 302: A female cardinal was seen today at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center, so we will keep our eyes open to see if we can spot it again. Cardinals are a rarity in Newcomb.

- Ellen Rathbone

12/30 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: It was a mid-afternoon low tide and Wappinger Creek was emptying into the Hudson. The wooden skeletons of old barges were emerging like ghosts along the shore and the shallows were becoming mudflats. From a black locust perch 100 feet over the creek an adult bald eagle dropped down in a spiral flight and made three passes over the channel. This was N42, the female of the local mated pair and she had seen something, probably a fish, from her high vantage. Whatever it was, the three passes convinced her it was gone. With barely another three wing beats she rose back up the hill and into her perch where her watch continued.

- Tom Lake

12/31 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Our December 2006 snowfall total was 9.4". While this might seem like a lot for areas lower in the watershed, it was far less than we have seen in recent years (2005: 26.25"; 2004: 13.8").

- Ellen Rathbone

From Kowawese, HRM 59:

<<< My Trip to the Hudson River >>>

Footprints all around -

Rabbit, deer, coyote, squirrel, wild turkey -

Eyes watching all around.

Fog in the distance

Rocks on the shore

Sounds of crows in the background

Smell of snow in the air

Water sits calm and quiet.

Fog disappearing slowly

Buds in the tulip trees

Sound of footsteps in the snow

Shadows of the trees in the water.

- Devin Felter, 6th grade, Vails Gate Elementary, New Windsor

[Devin' poem was a Grand Prize Poetry Winner, grades 3-6, in the national 2006 River of Words competition. River of Words connects students to their watersheds and imaginations through poetry and art. The watershed art and poetry submitted to River of Words is exhibited around the globe and is seen by millions of people each year, both in person and reprinted in magazines, books, annual reports, and other media. Every painting, every poem contributes to an informed appreciation of the natural world. For more information or presentations about River of Words here in the Hudson Valley, contact Rich Parisio at DEC's Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center rfparisi@gw.dec.state.ny.us

12/31 - Hasting-on-Hudson, HRM 21.5: A sign of spring: I spotted skunk cabbage poking up through the leaf litter.

- Barbara Morrow

12/31 - Manhattan, HRM 5: This was the first December without a trace of snow in Central Park since 1877.

- National Weather Service

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