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Hudson River Almanac January 21 - January 28, 2007

OVERVIEW

A bitter cold week led to the first ice on the estuary and the promise of a real winter at last.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/25 - North River, HRM 263: Sally Murray today reported the first ever northern cardinal at Garnet Hill, elevation 1870' (Newcomb is 1650').

- Ellen Rathbone

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/21 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I heard a flock of evening grosbeaks this morning as we were walking. There were lots of tracks: snowshoe hares, squirrels, mink, marten, fox, mice, voles, ruffed grouse, and lots of sputzies (little birds).

- Ellen Rathbone

1/21 - North Germantown, HRM 109: Today I understand what Rudyard Kipling meant when he wrote, "Now I know what it is to sit enthroned amid the clouds of sunset." This evening it was the clouds that made the celestial phenomenon a wild and natural work of art.

- Fran Martino

1/21 - Cheviot, HRM 106: Out beyond the pier, one lone bufflehead enjoyed its space of open water. A short distance away, a chunk of ice transported an adult bald eagle northward. What a treat to share with my friend, a newcomer to the river.

- Fran Martino

1/21 - Tivoli, HRM 100.5: I watched a man build a "house of cards" on the shore from sheets of ice he took bare-handed from the river. His structure grew to about 3' high, after he patiently started over again each time a sheet broke into tiny crystals. He told me he was just amusing himself, and he hoped it would still be standing the next day. I hoped so, too.

- Fran Martino

1/21 - Bear Mountain to Croton, HRM 46-34: I took a group from Highlands Falls along the stretch of river between Bear Mountain and Croton. We spotted one eagle at the Annsville circle kayak livery, one at Fleischmann's Pier [China Pier], 5 doing some great aerials over Stony Point, and 2 more perched nicely at Dogan Point - 9 birds, by far our best count to date.

- Dave Baker

1/22 - Kowawese, HRM 59:

A Storm is ...

Drips and drops,

An airborne ocean,

Thunder and lightning's chariot.

The wrath of clouds,

Nature's 9V battery,

And a city's breaking point.

- Kyle Schroeder, Grade 6, Vails Gate Elementary

1/23 - Town of Esperance, Schoharie County, HRM 153: Today was a good birding day. I watched a red-tailed hawk fly around from fence row to fence row for a half hour. Several bluebirds, 6-8 at one time, came around, some settling on my 3 bluebird houses. I also saw a hairy woodpecker and a male cardinal. I continue to see the wild turkeys feeding in an open field behind my house, a dozen each time I see them.

- Gary Ovitt

1/23 - Albany, HRM 145: In a panoramic view of the Albany area in mid-afternoon from the 40 story Corning Tower, one could see for 10 miles on this clear, crisp day. There was no visible snow cover and there were just a few small ice floes in the Hudson north of the I-90 bridge. Indicative of the calm air, emission plumes from distant smokestacks ascended vertically straight.

- Ed Spaeth

1/23 - Cheviot, HRM 106: A spontaneous stop at Cheviot Landing in Germantown yesterday afternoon yielded the surprise of 3 bald eagles, two adults and one immature. I went to do my regular duck check and a resident at Cheviot pointed them out. One adult was out on a tiny rock outcropping. The second adult was perched on an overhanging branch. The immature skimmed the treetops on the west side of the river, lifted up, and disappeared toward Roundtop.

- Mimi Brauch

1/23 - Saugerties, HRM 102: As we traveled north on I-87, the sky overhead was an azure blue and there was virtually no snow in the near view along the side of the highway. However, off to the west, the distant peaks of the Catskill Mountains were covered in snow and surrounded by low-lying clouds. To my imagination, they looked like sugar cakes with a topping of whipped cream.

- Ed Spaeth

1/23 - Newburgh, HRM 61: As we traveled north route 9W, we spotted literally thousands of crows on the grounds and greens of the Powellton Country Club. Many others were perched in the trees on both sides of the road. This area is a known wintertime night roost for these corvids.

- Ed Spaeth

1/23 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: This year we didn't spot our first eagle until January 7. Since then every couple of days, usually in the late morning, a lone eagle, a medium-sized adult, cruises by just inshore of the railroad tracks, heading north. Three days ago, we watched a pair glide by heading south, then swing east and land in our neighbor's tree, about a block inland from the river.

- Doug Maass, Diane Maass

1/24 - Wappinger Lake, HRM 68: I decided to check Wappinger Lake and the creek below before the next Arctic cold blast arrived. The lake was partially iced up and I counted 8 mute swans, 30 mallards, 14 common mergansers and 5 Canada geese resting on the north side. A Cooper's hawk flew into a yard and perched above some bird feeders as I drove by. The creek was half iced as well. I found a large group of mergansers, 30 common mergansers and 8 beautiful hooded mergansers.

- Barbara Michelin

1/25 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We were holding steady at 6" of snow. After a low of -13°F overnight, it had "warmed" to -7° when I came to work this morning. Saranac Lake reported -26°. The birds are busily feeding at the feeders and the blue jays are looking particularly portly as they sit there all fluffed up.

- Ellen Rathbone

1/25 - Schenectady County, HRM 153: It was the coldest day of the year, 7°F when I left home this morning. The snow was squeaking underfoot, the sun was trying to shine through a mist of snow and my bird feeders were mobbed. It was the first day I've seen the ice fishermen out on Mariaville Lake.

- Dee Strnisa

1/25 - Sandy Hook, NJ: I spotted 8 harbor seals on the south tip of Skull Island at Sandy Hook this morning. I've known them to toy with my kayak, but no boat in the water today, although conditions were favorable.

- Ray Douglas, Jim Peck

1/26 - Town of Esopus, HRM 89: We watched an immature eagle steal compost from one of our resident winter gulls this morning. It was 9°F and there was finally ice on the river. Another immature joined in and the games began. Watching the two younguns slip and slide over the ice was quite entertaining. They flew off, in a game of keep-away, to mid-channel between the Kingston and Esopus lighthouses where an adult joined them and kept watch at a distance.

- Jeanie Antonelle, Tom Burt

1/26 - Kowawese, HRM 59: It was a bitter cold morning, 3°F at dawn, with a windchill of -20°F. In a few hours, this woodland trail would have had two classes of 6th graders from Vails Gate Elementary on a riverside hike, engaged in winter tracking and bird watching, taking in the sights and sounds of the season along the Hudson. But the windchill would have made them "kid-sicles" in no time, so we canceled for three days until it "warmed" to the low 20s.

- Tom Lake

1/26 - Anthony's Nose, HRM 46: We spotted a pair of adult bald eagles from our Metro North commuter train this morning. They were perched on adjacent branches of a tree on the east side of the tracks just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge. The looked quite comfortable in the 4°F cold.

- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

1/27 - New Baltimore to Coxsackie Flats, HRM 131-124: I watched as early signs of spring unfolded. There were 4 or more common ravens, 3 of which were engaged in a spectacular aerial courtship display flight for which the species is well known. Four adult bald eagles were also on display flights visible from the yard here in New Baltimore. In the yard, a house finch was in full song! The species may be here in the northeast, but their hearts are still in the Arizona-Mexico time zone. How many weeks left ...? Around the Coxsackie Flats and Grassland Preserve were 12 red-tailed hawks and 6 northern harriers. Finally, 6 bluebirds were eating boxwood berries at the Coxsackie Boat Launch.

- Rich Guthrie

[Thirty years ago, ravens began to appear in the Adirondacks of New York. They arrived in the valley about ten years ago. Since then, the ravens have become more and more a river valley resident. They are now regular even here in my yard on the river in New Baltimore. Rich Guthrie.]

1/27 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: I was enjoying an early afternoon run and about to approach Old Troy Road. My eyes were scanning the trees when I saw a large bird perched to the side. I was thinking bald eagle because of the size but wasn't positive. My gaze left the bird to answer a question for a passing motorist and when I turned back, it was gone. Then I saw something in the corner of my eye and it flew right in front of me, 30' from where I stood. It was amazing, a beautiful adult bald eagle! It circled back to the same tree and perched. I stood there smiling and said "Thanks for the closeup" and continued on my run.

- Kerri Brady

[We're going to guess that the adult bald eagle mentioned here was the female (blue band N42) from our local nest (NY62). She hangs out near there, especially now when she is doing some early spring housekeeping. N42 was one of 3 nestlings fledged from a nest on the Delaware River in Sullivan County in 1995. She will be 12 years old this summer. If she remains healthy, and she probably will, she can live to be 30, producing young for another 12-15 years. Tom Lake.]

1/27 - Town of Cortlandt, Westchester County, HRM 43: Rafael Betances, a 12 year-old from the Bronx, had never walked on a frozen pond. He had also never caught a fish as we stepped out onto the 6" of hard, clear, "black ice" of Loundsbury Pond, an impoundment of Dickey Brook, a Hudson River tributary. After a couple of shaky moments, having accomplished his first milestone, he promptly caught two 10" black crappies in his first ice fishing experience.

- Tom Lake

[Black ice is a colloquial expression for new, hard as flint ice. It is frequently associated with the first ice of winter, ice that has not thawed and re-frozen with odds and ends like sticks and twigs, debris, litter, and other impurities embedded, ice so transparent that the dark depths of the lake or pond are visible, making the ice seem black. Walking on it can give you the unsettling feeling of walking on water. Tom Lake.]

1/27 - Croton to Peekskill, HRM 34-44: My father and I followed our usual trail ranging from the Croton train station to the kayak center north of Peekskill with a half a dozen stops along the way to watch for eagles. While we spotted eagles at most locations, a total of 13 adults for the morning, our best sighting happened on the road. Just as we were pulling into a ball field, an adult flew into a tree right next to the road. We pulled behind the dugout and watched the eagle feed on a large fish in a tree no more than 10' from the road. It stayed for 15 minutes and then left with a dozen crows right behind.

- Malcolm A. Castro

1/28 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We are up to a whopping 7" of snow this morning and the temperature was pushing 20°F - sweater weather for us! There are reports of white-winged and red crossbills all over the park, but not too much in the way of other northern winter birds (evening grosbeaks, common redpolls, purple finches). There are tons of goldfinches still, and juncos.

- Ellen Rathbone

1/28 - LaGrangeville, HRM 72: We saw our first robin of the season yesterday, and then even more today.

- Lucy Johnson, Tracy Johnson

1/28 - Cold Spring, HRM 53: It was a very pleasant late afternoon for January. On our walk about the Foundry Cove Preserve we noted some rim ice along the edges of the fast moving Foundry Brook while there was extensive ice in the cove itself with a few open pools which attracted various waterfowl. Some of the ducks included mallards, mergansers, and lesser scaup. Cedar waxwings were still finding berries. Other birds included cardinals, black-capped chickadees, goldfinches, a red-bellied woodpecker and a northern flicker. There was evidence of a pileated woodpecker's work in rectangular holes in a snag. As crows called, we watched a belted kingfisher winging its way across the cove. Ice floes on the incoming tide passed under the railroad trestle.

- Ed Spaeth

1/28 - Town of Somers, Purnam County, HRM 43: Several friends and I fished on that rarest of lower New York commodities, ice! We were on Muscoot Reservoir, an extension of the New Croton Reservoir, thus the Croton River and the Hudson. I must admit that standing on a frozen lake is still a strange thrill for me. The sound of the few perch and bluegill I kept (thumping in the plastic bucket at my side) assured me that dinner would be wonderful. We also caught 1-2 black crappie, a golden shiner, and a largemouth bass or two (released). Nearby a set of tracks got me thinking about one brave gray squirrel crossing the cove on a moonlit night. A raven passed by, calling. That night, cooking the fresh fillets in a warm kitchen, I wondered if the squirrel was making another attempt out in the cold. (Dissecting the fish, stomach contents revealed a diet exclusively made from tiny snails and scuds; though small, there seemed to be no shortage, and these fish had been fat and happy).

- Dave Taft

1/28 - George's Island, HRM 39: I pulled into the parking lot at George's Island this afternoon with four New York City Parks Department vans in tow. The vans carried 70 city kids, ages 10-15, none of whom had ever seen a bald eagle. There were two eagles across the bay in the trees at Dogan Point. Perfect viewing. But by the time they piled out and we got the spotting scopes set up, the birds had flushed and disappeared. Under the huge black oak where they had been perched were three hikers, merrily trudging along, talking loud enough that we could hear their voices. They were hiking illegally: Dogan Point's hiking trails, like those at Iona Island, Denning's Point and Stony Point State Park, are closed from December to March to protect sensitive eagle wintering areas. The children from the Bronx left still having not seen a bald eagle in the wild.

- Tom Lake

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