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Hudson River Almanac March 7 - March 16, 2007

OVERVIEW

Ah, the vagaries of winter's end: one day we have record high temperatures, the next we have a near blizzard. The Hudson went from looking like part of an April landscape to being an ice-choked and frozen mid-winter river. With just a few days until the vernal equinox, the net movement of life is northward.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/8 - Columbia County, HRM 105: I stopped on Woods Road, just south of Cheviot, to let a small herd of white-tailed deer cross. One was a piebald, as spotted as a circus pony! As she crossed the road I thought how bright and visible she was, a sure mark for a predator, but when the herd entered the snow covered woods with patches of fallen leaves, she instantly disappeared, blending perfectly with the browns and whites of the late winter landscape.

- Jude Holdsworth

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/7 - Glens Falls, HRM 208: I spied a Carolina wren at my feeder today, a repeat visit from middle of last week. My Peterson field guide seems to show this as about their northern winter limit.

- Jack Freeman

3/8 - Red Oaks Mill, Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: Several days ago, when the ponds on my lower property were fluid, I saw a single mute swan feasting on the winter's thaw under the water. I used my camera to catch the swan, half of the resident great blue heron pair, and mallards all in one frame. Today the ponds were frozen and the birds have moved out to the main Wappinger Creek and flowing water.

- Victoria Powell

3/9 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: I went out this morning to watch and listen to the large flock of blackbirds taking up residence. Much to my surprise, a gorgeous fox, with mixed gray and red luxuriant fur right down to its bushy tail, paced under an apple tree. Its ears were constantly swivelling, probably due to all the chatter from the flock. We saw one a month ago, perhaps the same one. It does seem to be afraid of the 30-odd wild turkeys that are about.

- Donna Lenhart, Bill Lenhart

3/9 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: At dawn it was +3°F. You could just sense that the watershed, from the river to mountain ponds, was further locking up in ice.

- Tom Lake

3/9 - New York City, HRM 0 - 13: Areas of New York City had an overnight air temperature of +11°F, tying the record low for the date.

- National Weather Service

3/9 - Yonkers, HRM 18: I glanced out my window this morning and was excited to see an immature bald eagle landing on a small ice floe. I had been up to mouth of the Croton River a while ago looking for eagles but with no luck. It seems that I don't have to travel, but only look out my kitchen window at the river.

- Bob Walters

3/10 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: In early afternoon at Norrie Point an adult bald eagle was sitting on the rocks exposed by the ebb tide at the north end of Esopus Island. As I watched, the eagle took off, flying low over the ice. Circling north over a moored pilot boat, it then passed back, snatched a muskrat off the ice, and flew toward the west side of the river where it settled on the ice to feed. It ate for 15 minutes as the ice receded downriver.

- David Lund

3/11 - Town of Espous, HRM 87: Snow on the ground or not, there were well over 50 robins foraging in our yard this morning.

- Bill Drakert

3/11 - Beacon, HRM 61.5: As we walked just north of the Metro North train station, we met a young man poised with a camera looking up into a tree that overhung the river. There we saw an immature bald eagle. We saw no identifying tags. Continuing north into the park, we noticed many assorted gulls out on the ice. Suddenly they rose up as one and banked away. Left behind was an adult eagle with something in its grip, a very large fish, nearly as long as the eagle. The big bird made swift work of the meal and apparently left little for the 3 black-backed gulls that gathered in wait for remains.

- Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly

3/11 - Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, HRM 52: We had visited this wonderful location twice since January and both times were saddened in not spotting any eagles. Today, however, they did not disappoint us. With binoculars in hand, viewing a line of trees between the marsh and the Hudson River, we spotted 4 of them, 2 adults and 2 immatures. What a show they put on for us. The immatures seemed to frolic among the gulls in hopes of landing a fish. In fact, all 4 were very active in the early afternoon.

- Audrey Hinck, Mike Tizekker

3/12 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We were inundated with evening grosbeaks today, hundreds of them at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center.

- Ellen Rathbone

3/12 - Town of Cortlandt, Westchester County, HRM 43: Despite warm temperatures there was an honest 20" of ice beneath me as I angled for one last supper of sunfish fillets on Loundsbury Pond, an impoundment of Dickey Brook, a Hudson River tributary. The fish were obliging, and I put 40 in the bucket in 45 minutes. Only 10 went home with me; the rest swam free. Robins and bluebirds flitted along the shore and a dozen flocks of high-flying geese passed overhead, all headed northwest, while I fished. Later, George Hatzmann told me he lay awake much of the night listening to goose music.

- Christopher Letts

3/13 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I heard my first red-winged blackbird of spring this morning. He sounded like he had a bit of a sore throat; his call was rough, not quite the melodic "conk-er-eee" that they usually sing. Spring is close.

- Ellen Rathbone

3/13 - Round Top, HRM 113: I was working our sugar bush in a tee-shirt today, as it was 66°F.

- Jon Powell

3/13 - Newburgh, HRM 61: Upon returning from a summer-like week in Florida, we were welcomed back to the Hudson Valley by a pair of adult bald eagles soaring over the New York State Thruway entrance at Newburgh. Home sweet home.

- Jeff Anzevino, Michele Corso

3/13 - City of Poughkeepsie HRM 75: It had been warm enough to prompt me to cast my doughbait into the river between ice floes. I had no nibbles from carp or anything else for that matter. Chicken hot dogs were next and I tried a few pieces. No luck. I've caught catfish before as well as eels on hot dogs but the water is still too cold.

- Glen Heinson

3/13 - New Windsor, HRM 59: It was a mild day, 55°F, as a large raptor perched prominently on a perimeter fence pole at the west end of the main runway of Stewart Airport. At 500' elevation, it was quite a bit higher than the surrounding area. The large bird had a head and neck that visibly glowed in the waning sunlight with a golden hue. The beak was substantial. I think it may have been a golden eagle.

- Ed Spaeth

3/13 - George's Island, HRM 39: The comparatively mild weather has enabled me to get out on the river with my kayak each day this week, though the winds on the river have been fairly strong. Each day brought new eagle sightings. As luck would have it, I have been in the right place at the right time as they have flown over me, no more than 30 feet above the kayak, to shoreline perches. I also watched an adult pair flying above in tandem, diving and somersaulting, touching and breaking off, only to reappear together - a typical late winter courtship display.

- Stephen Butterfass

3/13 - Croton River, HRM 34: Dozens of tree swallows were swirling outside the railroad bridge at the mouth of the Croton River feeding on who knows what tiny insects. On the inside, the 2 green-winged teal of a few days ago had become a flock of 20. Progress towards spring, we hope.

- Christopher Letts

3/14 - Saugerties, HRM 102: With air temperatures in the 50s this week, ice was leaving Esopus Creek. Today, the open water attracted some visitors: a mixed flock of waterfowl numbering in the hundreds. Included were canvasbacks, ring-necked ducks, over 50 green-winged teal, 3 buffleheads, and 2 pairs of northern shovelers. Faint cooing was audible from the flock. A couple dozen of the teal preferred to stand on the edge of remnant ice. They went along for a ride as the ice floated down the creek, past the Saugerties Lighthouse, and into the river.

- Patrick Landewe

3/14 - Rhinebeck, HRM 91: Just a week before the start of spring, the air temperature hit 70°F and a great blue heron in breeding plumage stood along one of the ponds in Rhinebeck. This prelude to spring didn't last very long. Today, a friend and I snowshoed at Poets' Walk about a mile north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge. There was a foot of powdered snow with a thin icy crust. Despite a bright blue sky, the Hudson was slate gray, almost a muddy gray, with large patches of snow-covered ice.

- Phyllis Marsteller

3/14 - Gardiner, HRM 73: I saw my first morning cloak butterfly today. Rebecca Johnson

3/14 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: The air temperature reached 75°F today, just one degree shy of the record for the date set in 1990.

- National Weather Service

3/14 - Beacon, HRM 61: The season began. I hooked a decent-size carp or very large channel catfish. But as I was reeling it in, the fish got into the rocks and broke off. This was the first day this year that Long Dock was fishable. The ice was down to a few scattered lumps thrown up along the shore.

- Bill Greene

3/14 - Town of Cortlandt, Westchester County, HRM 43: This was perhaps the last ice fishing excursion of the season. It was almost balmy, and I was out on the ice wearing shorts and a light sweater. Bluebirds and robins were singing, and the geese were in full career - such squabbling and wing beating! Four pairs of geese were contesting for "hot" real estate, a little cove on an island in Loundsbury Pond. The ice was slick, and deprived the big birds of their dignity as they executed one pratfall after another.

- Christopher Letts

3/14 - Sandy Hook, NJ: It was a warm and muggy day and time to hit the beach. But when we got there, the southeast wind was blowing hard across a 40°F ocean. Watery eyes and aching ears drove us 50 yards back where the temperature was 65°F. Two fishermen came off the beach empty handed and shivering; yet another instance of rushing the striped bass season. One of them said, "I just can't help myself."

- Dery Bennett

3/15 - East Fishkill, HRM 63: For two days now I've been seeing Canada geese flying high in the sky, looking like strands of black pearls against the blue. Today there was no blue and heavy cloud cover had the geese flying lower and their honking cries were thus louder. At one point during a morning walk I could see 3 separate large V's of 30-50 birds. As I watched, the V's became W's, then broken lines, then back to V's, constant undulating, all heading north.

- Carolyn Plage

3/15 - Croton River, HRM 34: As I was driving along the Croton River this morning, I noticed a half dozen cones of ice floating along. I slowed the car to look more carefully, and saw the "ice cones" were a flock of white mute swans, tail-feathers to the sky, feeding in the high waters. Quite a funny sight. Not the way one usually thinks of the sublimely elegant bird of ballet fame.

- Robin Fox

3/15 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The first osprey of the season was spotted this morning, perched on a platform nest in a cove on the bay side of the Hook, at the beginning of a warm, hazy day. This arrival is on the early side; we've had first sightings as late as March 27. We will celebrate the appearance with our annual all-you-can-eat Squid (loligo) and Spaghetti Supper on Monday, March 26, when we also sweep the Hook for a bird species count.

- Dery Bennett

3/15 & 16 - Minerva, HRM 284: The big storm dropped 30 inches of snow on us!

- Mike Corey

3/15 & 16 - Round Top, HRM 113: When it had ended, we measured 28-30 inches of snow from the storm.

- Jon Powell

3/16 - Town of Esopus, HRM 87: Snow certainly brings a mob to our feeder. We had more birds today than at any other time this winter, even a fox sparrow, first time ever on our deck.

- Bill Drakert

3/16 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 73: Just two days after near record air temperatures, a coastal storm blanked the lower Hudson Valley with between 12-32 inches of snow.

- National Weather Service

3/16 - Croton River, HRM 34: We were watching the snow swirl down and grousing about the late winter storm due to deliver a foot of very unwanted snow by tomorrow morning. Three immature bald eagles appeared and did some swirling of their own, hi-jinking, and putting the waterfowl into a panic. We felt a little cheerier. The 2 killdeer, the first of the season, landed just a few feet from us and began their ablutions in the frigid Croton estuary. Suddenly, spring seemed right around the corner.

- Christopher Letts, George Hatzmann

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