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Hudson River Almanac January 1 - January 7, 2007

OVERVIEW

A warm, foggy New Year's came as no surprise. Sightings of immature snowy owls, our second or third of the season in the Hudson Valley and a decidedly winter occurrence, reminded us that this is January. With the warm days and - even more importantly - the mostly mild nights, birds from tiny sparrows to large raptors are finding it a bit easier to keep their furnaces stoked.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/6 - Manhattan, HRM 5: A record high air temperature for the date of 72°F was set today, replacing the previous record of 63°F. This also tied the record for the warmest January temperature. With no snowfall, another record was established as well. The old record for the latest measurable winter snowfall in Central Park had been January 6, 1892.
- National Weather Service

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/1 - Croton Point HRM 35-34: The new year began just as the old year ended: fog, rain (nearly an inch), and unseasonably warm (56°F ). Our 21st annual New Year's Day natural history walk drew 38 people. Over the years we've hiked through bitter cold, frigid winds, dangerous ice, and knee-high snow drifts. Today we walked the point in an atmosphere of London fog and Sherlock Holmes. The near total lack of waterfowl and eagles mattered little since we could not see much beyond100 feet anyhow. The warm fire at Senasqua Lodge coupled with sassafras cider and toasted marshmallows made up for any disappointments.
- Marc Silverstein, Robin Fox, Barry Keegan, Christopher Letts, Tom Lake

1/1 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Our 29th annual New Year's Day three-mile hike drew 30 people in fog and a heavy mist. In our annual attempt to contact fellow hikers at Breezy Point, eight miles away across the Lower Bay on the New York side, we signaled with a slingshot-launched smoke bomb attached to a one-ounce bay sinker that served as a weight for a homemade parachute (red bandana with minted dental floss shrouds). Given the 150-yard visibility, I think we failed to communicate partly because the fuse burned through the floss, the parachute never opened, and the bomb's trajectory was basically horizontal. We managed to lessen our disappointment with hotdogs (mustard, catsup, sauerkraut, and relish at no extra charge), ham, hot chocolate, and mulled cider.
- Dery Bennett

1/2 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We enjoyed a lovely, sunny day but, brrrrrrrrr, the wind was cold! We had some crusty snow, still about 4", with a dusting on top, good enough for some beginner tracking. There were lots and lots of squirrel tracks, 1-2 foxes, and some mink - two, I think - traveling together.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/2 - West Park, HRM 81: There is a line of huge old sycamores along the river here. In an average first week of January, wintering bald eagles would be lined up on their limbs. Not so this year. In their place were two widely spaced red-tailed hawks and a Cooper's hawk, more inclined to appreciate the adjacent woodlands and fields than the river.
- Tom Lake

1/2 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: The river remained unusually warm, at least 40°F. By the first week in January, it is normally in the low 30s. I wondered if the fish would mistake this January day for April. I saw a small carp breach the surface and I was hopeful. I was not familiar with the winter habits of the Hudson River carp and I was happy to see a second one breach as well. Sadly, my dough bait was not attractive enough to draw attention. As always, it was still a good day of fishing even without catching a single fish.
- Glen Heinsohn

1/3 - High Peaks, Adirondacks: I spotted an immature bald eagle between Long Lake and Newcomb this afternoon. I was headed toward Newcomb when I noticed a raven cruising about railing-height on the far side of the guard rail. It put on its brakes, so to speak, tail and wings down and open, feet forward, reaching down. Then the eagle flew up from the ground from where it had been hidden from my view and flew back the way I had come. It may have been on a deer carcass.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/3 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: A dull "first light" turned into a spectacular sunrise, a vivid pink, red, and light blue sky. With a 180° turn, I was able to watch the full moon as it set 15 minutes later over the low hills of Orange County. From every quarter chickadees were singing spring songs. On the other side of the river, a large, dark silhouette came gliding on flat wings across the top of Soap Hill. It was a bald eagle on its way from a night roost to a day perch. The low tide would help produce breakfast.
- Tom Lake

1/4 - Stuyvesant, HRM 127: The reflection of the branches of red-osier dogwood on the water matched the red of my kayak. As I paddled from the river into Mill Creek at the Lewis Swyer Preserve, a hundred Canada geese seemed a bit unsure of their destination. First they headed west, then south, then west again. When I returned to the boat launch, I could see that they had decided to just stay put, resting to greet my return.
- Fran Martino

1/4 - Manhattan, HRM 5: No snow today. The old record for the latest winter snowfall, even a trace in Central Park, was January 4, 1878.
- National Weather Service

1/5 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: On a walk in the woods at home, I came upon a "porcupine tree" that I had never noticed before. I was drawn to the large hole at the base of an oak, and noticed quills and scat spilling from the cavity. Moving on, I was surprised by fresh, green hepatica leaves emerging from the leaf litter. I don't know why this should startle me, as the temperature was a spring like 50°F. Cresting the hill, I approached another oak, one that I know to be a porcupine tree. The porcupine was sitting in a high branch and I paused to watch it. I heard a "caw alarm" from nearby and subsequently a murder of crows chased a raven across the treeline. Heading home, I stopped at a vernal pool that was filled with water. I can only hope that it looks so appropriate when the salamanders migrate there to lay their eggs.
- Liz LoGiudice

1/5 - Columbia County, HRM 118: Given our spring-like weather and rainfall, we decided to drive some roads after dark to see if any amphibians were fooled. We caught one small male wood frog in Hillsdale, Columbia County. We were actually relieved that we only saw one critter.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt, Kathy Schmidt

1/5 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 60°F today, breaking the old record of 54°F.
- National Weather Service

1/5 - Manhattan, HRM 5: There was a new record high temperature for the date today of 64°F, eclipsing the old record of 62°F.
- National Weather Service

1/6 - Albany, HRM 145: It was yet another warm, record-setting day in the Hudson Valley. A record high for the date of 71°F occurred today, easily exceeding the previous high of 60°F.
- National Weather Service

1/6 - Hannacrois, HRM 132.5: I went back to the porcupine tree today and spied two porcupines. There were also newts swimming at the surface of the pond, stoneflies, and Canada geese flying north. More signs of spring and I'm still hoping for winter!
- Liz LoGiudice

1/6 Saugerties, HRM 102: It was 5:30 AM, two hours from sunrise and the thermometer outside read 60°F. There was a mild, but steady rain; the bird monitor was broadcasting several spring peepers vocalizing from the direction of a small pond in the back woods.
- Steve M. Chorvas

1/6 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: A record high air temperature for the date of 70°F was set today, far exceeding the previous record of 57°F.
- National Weather Service

1/6 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: With eyes, binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras, members of the R.T. Waterman Bird Club and others watched an immature snowy owl sitting on a boat davit along an open stretch of Hudson River. His large head seemed to pivot 360° as he looked at other things of more interest, surveying the open water. We all wondered what food source this handsome bird would find here and how long he would stay. It was there from mid-morning until late afternoon, but gone the next day. What a beautiful bird!
- Mary Lulu Lamping, Dee Rod, Steve Golladay, Bill Case, Ed Connelly, Carolyn Plage Barbara Michelin, Allan Michelin

1/6 - East Fishkill, HRM 63: Snowdrops were blooming and daffodils were up a couple of inches.
- Carolyn Plage

1/6 - Beacon, HRM 61: It was late afternoon along the River Walk trail in the warmth of a 70°F January day. The west wind had waves lapping at the shore. The strong breezes felt warm to hot but now and then a chilly wind reminded us that temperatures were predicted to be dropping soon.
- Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly, Chance Plage

1/6 - George's Island, HRM 39: We held a party but the guest of honor failed to appear. This was our first public bald eagle event of the winter. A stiff west wind blew in our faces and the river was capped over in white. A raft of Canada geese made like a roller coaster in the chop on the bay side of Dogan Point. There were 15 of us present, free to tell stories of winters and eagles past without distraction. After nearly an hour, just as we were about to call it a day, an immature bald eagle appeared in the sky to the southwest, hovering on huge flat wings over the river, facing into the strong west wind.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson, Jill Kolodin, Joel Davis, Tom Lake, Christopher Letts

1/6 - Westchester County, HRM 27: An air temperature of 69°F today tied the record for the date.
- National Weather Service

1/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: After over an inch and a quarter of rain, the Hudson River was in spring-like flood conditions. Yet, this morning I saw three ice fishermen on the bay next to the river at the Route 28N bridge in Newcomb. The sun was shining but the wind was blowing enough to rock the trees. Snow was in the forecast.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: This evening, after dusk, my wife and I spotted an owl in the stand of pines on the south side of the Point. After a while it took off. We were very impressed with the size of its wing spread and we were able to follow it as it flew from tree to tree along one of the service roads. At one point we thought we saw two of them in a tree. In addition to the "who, whoo-ing," we also heard a "chuckling" sound. Later on, 2 white-tails bounded up toward the top of the landfill. A minute later, unaware of us, a coyote followed them on the same route.
- Bob Elliott

[Great-horned owls are known to be on Croton Point, they frequent that grove of pines, and are consummate hunters of the night. This may have been one. Tom Lake.]

1/7 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I took my snowshoes and ice fishing rods out of my truck today and replaced them with my snorkeling gear. That ought to conjure up a snowstorm!
- Tom Lake

1/7 - Piermont, HRM 25: Paul Oehrlein spotted an immature male snowy owl at Piermont Park this morning. This may have been the same owl that was spotted in New Hamburg, 43 miles upriver, the day before. The snowy owl was still there in late afternoon.
- Joe O'Connell

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