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Hudson River Almanac January 7 - January 15, 2007

OVERVIEW

There were not many surprises during the 29th annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Census in New York State on 1/10, when we tried to count the eagles in all of the major state flyways, wintering, roosting, and congregation areas. Owing to the relatively warm, storm-free weather, most of the wintering birds were still in Canada and northern New England. We spent the day, for the most part, counting local resident birds... and we even missed most of those. Still, a day besieged by bluebirds is not one to complain about.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/12 - Round Top, HRM 117: While it was two days late for the winter eagle count, I saw an immature bird today rising out of a pond with a muskrat. So I did get to spot an eagle, just not in the place I expected.

- Jon Powell

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/7 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: While scouting the New Hamburg area for the snowy owl seen yesterday, we spotted an adult bald eagle flying near White's Marina. It disappeared behind the boats and then came up again with a fish in its talons. It flew away with a greater black-backed gull in pursuit.

- Barbara Michelin, Allan Michelin

1/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Snow and rain overnight yielded an inch of melted slop this morning. I would have been better off with a shop vac than a shovel this morning to clear the giant "slurpee" out of the driveway.

- Ellen Rathbone

1/8 - West Park, HRM 81: When the rain stopped nearly an inch had fallen (0.9"). The going along the river was sodden and slow. Examining an eroding embankment, Bill Burger found a oblong piece of chert that had been flaked (56.2 mm long) into a prehistoric stone tool. If was a broken third of a Petalas blade.

- Jack Hansberry, Larry Roberto, Tom Lake

[Petalas blades have frequently been found in association with Atlantic sturgeon remains along the Hudson River in Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, and Greene Counties, within the approximately 50 mile spawning range of these fish. As a result, archaeologists have theorized that Petalas blades were specialized tools used by river Indians to process these giant sea sturgeon. Unlike filleting shad, herring, and striped bass, large sturgeon are butchered much like white-tailed deer, requiring a tool of substantial heft. Most radiocarbon dates associated with the sturgeon remains, and by extension Petalas blades, range from AD 700-750. Tom Lake.]

1/9 - Kowawese, HRM 59:

The River

So many rocks, big and small,

The river flowing to another world.

Fog is covering the river like a blanket.

Geese and ducks finding a place to go,

Coyote and deer and squirrel roaming

Around looking for water.

The river thaws, thaws;

It will flow freely again in spring.

- Michelle Moreno, Grade 6, Vails Gate Elementary

1/10 - Fort Edward, HRM 202-186: A flood warning was issued for the Hudson River from Fort Edward to Schuylerville. Spring-like condition prevailed with rain, snow, and snowmelt.

- National Weather Service

1/10 - Cairo, Town of Purling, HRM 125: The long lost winter finally arrived in Greene County today. The ground was white at dawn and the roads were very slippery. After late afternoon chores, I got a chance to check the bird feeders and right on cue saw the first tree sparrow of the season.

- Larry Biegel

1/10 - Round Top, HRM 117: We got our first snow of the season, a big one inch. It got to a bone chilling 15°F overnight. I hope it stays cold so we will have a good maple sap season. The poor sugar maples have no idea what's going on. The robins think it is spring.

- Jon Powell

1/10 - Catskill, HRM 113: In mid-afternoon an adult bald eagle was sitting in a tree along the southern shore of Catskill Creek.

- Larry Federman

1/10 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: It was clear and cold (27°F) just after 8:00 AM, and the tide was about half-way out. I could spot no eagles from the Norrie Point Environmental Center deck, just the usual assortment of gulls, mergansers and Canada geese. A solitary black-backed gull perched on a rock just above Esopus Island, mimicking a bald eagle. The biting northwest wind brought tears to my eyes and often forced me to hug the building. It was not until an hour later when I returned to the deck that I finally spotted an adult bald eagle perched on the south end of Esopus Island.

- Dave Lindemann

1/10 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: I generally began my eagle survey route each year from this spot on a ridgeline 50 feet over the river with a good view north and south. At first I saw nothing. Then, almost as an afterthought, I lowered my binoculars. An autumn storm has swept a deadfall downriver until it ran aground in the shallows just below Wappinger Creek. On that uprooted tree, a few hundred feet offshore, was a pair of adult bald eagles. The adult on the upper limb, probably a female judging by the size, carried a blue leg band. The second bird was on the trunk, its huge yellow foot clamped on a fish, feeding. I speculated that this was the local pair from nest NY62.

- Tom Lake

1/10 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: From a catwalk atop the Danskammer Power Generating Facility across the river, we spotted the same adult pair, now nestled together in a black locust just above Farmer's Landing.

- Wayne Hall, Mark McLean, Sue Tokle, Tom Lake

1/10 - Newburgh, HRM 60: As is usually the case, and in order to not spook the birds, the best view of the Hudson shoreline is often from the opposite side of the river. From the Newburgh boat launch, two adult bald eagles were spotted across the way, one at the base of Denning's Point, the second just below Fishkill Creek on Hammond's Point. Denning's Point hiking trails, like those at Iona Island and Dogan Point, are closed from December to March to protect sensitive eagle wintering areas.

- Tom Lake

1/10 - Cornwall Bay, HRM 58: A single adult bald eagle was tucked back in the wooded hillside of Sloop Hill. From its day perch on the horizontal limb of a red oak, it had a good field of vision of Cornwall Bay where the tide was low and the prospects for a meal nearly unlimited. This was the fifth, and last eagle of the day, the fewest number sighted in the last ten years. This was also the first year where not a single immature eagle was spotted between Clinton Point (Town of Poughkeepsie) and Iona Island, a 24-mile reach. I thought I might have seen a couple of immatures along the way today, but they were a bit too far away and the view was too fleeting. The wintering birds from Ontario, Quebec, and eastern Canada were simply not yet motivated to come south.

- Tom Lake

1/10 - West Point, HRM 51.5: The South Dock at West Point has been a good place to spot wintering eagles, but not this year. At the far north end of the parking lot, in a brief snow squall, I was visited by a flock of bluebirds. For pure beauty and a sense of wildness, bluebirds with a dusting of snow give eagles a run for their money. In the even light of the overcast day, the bluebirds glowed. Somehow the term blue seems far too ordinary. A blue jay is blue, a bluebird is something else.

- Tom Lake

1/10 - Peekskill to Croton, HRM 44-34: I was totally ignored by bald eagles today. I tried in vain to put the white head on various flying objects including turkey buzzards, seagulls and other airborne creatures flying around within my sight. Zilch, not one eagle.

- Bobby Vargo

1/10 - Croton Point, HRM 34: In mid-morning, a solitary adult bald eagle was perched in a tree on the south side of Croton Point, just west of the railroad bridge. It may have been one of our local birds, nest NY124.

- Scott Craven

1/10 - Staten Island, Upper Bay, New York Harbor: I have not seen an eagle today, but did spot a Cooper's hawk that made a scathing (and exciting) run across the gazillion lanes of traffic on the Staten Island entrance to the Verrazano Bridge. I can't believe the bird made it!

- Dave Taft

Hudson Valley 29th annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Census summary. There was absolutely no ice whatsoever anywhere along our helicopter route. I cannot remember that ever being the case in the 29 years we have been conducting the survey. Along the Hudson River, in the 125 miles from Troy to the Tappan Zee, we spotted just 8 birds (7 adult, one immature). The rest of our route included the Delaware River and the Catskill reservoirs. Our total counted was 97 eagles (51 adult, 46 immature). Almost all of the "winter" birds are still far to the north. Last year, 2006, in a more winter-like setting, our totals were 219 (101 adult, 118 immature).

- Pete Nye

1/11 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: The river temperature went up a degree over the past two days, from 38° to 39°F.

- John Mylod

1/11 - Beacon, HRM 61: There was a merry chase in progress along the waterfront as a peregrine falcon pursued a ring-billed gull. Both were diving and turning as the gull performed evasive measures to escape. I'm sure the falcon could have had its way, but it broke off the chase and the gull flew away. This recalled a similar chase at the Galleria Mall in Poughkeepsie 13 years ago. On that occasion the peregrine caught the ring-billed gull. Laboriously, the falcon lugged the heavy gull to the top of a tall light tower where it feasted, saving the head for last.

- Tom Lake

1/12 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: It was a mild mid-afternoon, 47°F, as I sat along Wappinger Creek in the Town of Poughkeepsie watching a large flock of Canada geese grazing on the playing fields of Greenvale Park. A few were afloat in a quiet bend of the otherwise fast moving creek. As I watched the geese, a large bird with undulating flight flew across the scene and landed on the trunk of a tree. With binoculars in hand, I marveled at the pileated woodpecker's stunning markings as it proceeded to shed tree bark right and left, or drill to the tree's core and extract insects. Nearby, a red-bellied woodpecker was probing in a different tree for insects. High up in that tree there also was a round nest hole presumably made by the red-bellied woodpecker.

- Ed Spaeth

1/13 - Saugerties, HRM 102: On an overcast and misty morning north of the Saugerties lighthouse, a dozen or more common goldeneye congregated, black-and-white feathered bodies against a uniform gray background. Aside from paddling around and occasionally diving underwater, the males stretched their necks and performed back bends, touching head-to-tail, a courtship display for a few seemingly disinterested females. Frightened by a passing tug and barge, they all flew away, disappearing into the mist.

- Patrick Landewe

1/14 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We are getting some snow today, but may get 4-9" tomorrow. Our snow stick reads a measly inch as of 9:30 this morning.

- Ellen Rathbone

1/14 - Jersey City, NJ, New York Harbor, Upper Bay: I noticed 2 small birds diving near the back of the cove by the boat ramp at Liberty State Park. I had never seen birds like these before and was intrigued by them. From a distance they looked a bit like loons, but far smaller. I got closer by walking towards them while they were under diving for food. Upon closer inspection one of them was more brown and white. The other had a black-and-white head, a black back and a white bottom. I concluded that it was a pair of buffleheads.

- Steve Cherry

1/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It turns out it was too warm for all snow, so we are getting rain, sleet, snow, ice, the whole works. Shoveling the back deck a short while ago seemed like I was shoveling piles of minute glass beads. Sounded like it, too. The chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, and nuthatches are all busy at the feeders. I put out some extra for them; they seem to sense they might be in for a rough stretch.

- Ellen Rathbone

1/15 - Kowawese, HRM 59:

The Way I See It

The view captivating from where I sit,

The weather is foggy, icy, and cold.

Smells like winter, cold and bitter,

Feels peaceful, calm and quiet.

Water is chilly, icy, it is low tide,

It seems that no one is here,

To see me put a poem into words.

The rocks look untouched by any person,

But I know someone was here,

Deer, turkeys, dogs, foxes, coyotes.

Birds are watching, maybe others,

Their tracks are by the water.

- Kendra Stepp-Davis, Grade 6, Vails Gate Elementary

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