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Hudson River Almanac March 5 - March 11, 2008

OVERVIEW

As we check off the many signs of approaching spring, one by one, we can add a couple more this week: huge flocks of mixed blackbirds surging up the Wallkill River valley and three more seal sightings. The first of the spring-spawning river herring are in the Hudson and the seals, mostly harbor seals, will soon be acting like kids in a candy store.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/10 - New Paltz, HRM 78: On my way to work this morning I watched a three mile stretch of blackbirds pass over. In the past I have seen large flocks of migrating blackbirds but nothing like I saw this morning. There must of been at least 10,000 of them flying north. It was unreal, like Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds."
- Rebecca Houser


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/5 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68: The air temperature reached 69 degrees F today, a record high for the date. The previous record high had been 59 degrees.
- National Weather Service

3/5 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: Torrential downpours lasting most of the day left 1.5 inches of rain.
- Tom Lake

3/5 - Tarrytown, HRM 27: We recently hung out a small bi-level bird feeder outside the kitchen window. At midday it suddenly cleared out like someone had sounded the equivalent of a bird fire alarm! We looked up in an adjacent tree and spotted the reason: a Cooper's hawk. It hung around for 10 minutes, then took off, and the dining counter at the bird feeder quickly reopened for business.
- Bob Boothe, Mary Ann Boothe

3/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Toby Rathbone and I heard a boreal chickadee on our walk this morning. This was the first of these I've heard in a couple of years. We also had a gray squirrel in the yard eating seed from my bird feeder near where we had seen a black (melanistic) squirrel a few days ago. For a place that rarely has more than red squirrels and chipmunks, these have been interesting surprises.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/6 - Delmar, HRM 142: After a week of snow, sleet, ice and then yesterday's torrential downpours at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, today dawned bright, sunny and warm. In the woods I saw a ball of fur rolling down a hill. It was two chipmunks mating, or maybe fighting, I can never tell with those guys.
- Dee Strnisa

3/6 - Hyde Park, HRM 82: I returned late today from a two day overnight trip. As promised in a letter earlier this winter, the maintenance crew hired by the owners of the power line that separates my house from my neighbor's had paid a visit. They removed every living thing from under the power line, where a thick hedgerow had been, apparently no longer content to just top lop the trees. Not surprisingly, the bird feeders on my deck were eerily quiet this morning.
- Peter Fanelli

3/6 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: Carp fishing has not begun yet, but I have been riding the Metro North commuter train. After many rides with no luck I spotted 8 bald eagles today in the 20 river miles from Cold Spring south to Croton-Harmon.
- Glen Heinsohn

3/6 - Town of Wappinger: At dawn this morning, Mama was sitting on eggs, as she had been for nearly a week. Mama is a female bald eagle with a blue leg band number N42. She was born in a Delaware River nest in Sullivan County in 1995. She and her mate built a nest near the river in 2001 that was designated as NY62. In the six years from 2002-2006, the pair fledged 4 male and 3 female eaglets. Last year they did not produce any offspring. This year they have moved, abandoning NY62 and building a new nest nearby. As I watched, the male came in and switched places with the female, who took off for a morning meal - a changing of the guard. They will share incubation until an egg hatches, Mama doing 90% of the work, not bringing any food to the nest that might attract predators such as raccoons. Often our first indication of a successful hatch is when one of the adults brings a fish to the nest. At that point, there is a third mouth to feed.
- Tom Lake

3/6 - Wappinger Falls, HRM 68: I heard and then spotted a lone red-shouldered hawk circling its way north.
- Steve Seymour

[This sighting was very near two other red-should hawk sightings the previous week (see 3/2). Tom Lake.]

3/6 - Dutchess Junction, HRM 59: From our morning Metro North car we spotted our first red-winged blackbird of the season perched on a reed in a marsh near the tracks.
- Mike Boyajian, Jeri Wagner

3/7 - Minerva, HRM 284: Today we saw the first real sign of spring, for us, as far as I can tell. Despite 3' of snow on the ground and 10' snow piles in driveways, they were here, on the wing, and in the treetops: a dozen red-winged blackbirds. Their "conk-a-reeeee" call was in the air.
- Mike Corey

3/7 - Northumberland, HRM 161: The usual gathering of common mergansers, buffleheads and mallards was joined today by a pair of black ducks that came drifting down stream on an ice floe. Wisely, they disembarked shortly before reaching the Northumberland Dam, paddled ashore, and then flew back up stream. Later I had a rare visitor to the feeder, a red-bellied woodpecker. Though shy, it found opportunities to feed with the chickadees and a single white-breasted nuthatch.
- John Guyer

3/7 - Cheviot, HRM 106: This afternoon the Hudson was covered in waterfowl. I can only estimate the stream of canvasbacks, at least 300. There were nearly as many ring-necked ducks and Canada geese three miles south toward Clermont. There were common mergansers and some goldeneyes as well.
- Mimi Brauch

3/7 - Gardiner, HRM 73: Late tonight, I spotted our first spring peepers of the season, only a few, hopping across the road.
- Rebecca Houser

3/7 - Bronx, New York City: We still have some winter visitors. Outside the Bronx Zoo on the river walk there were 10-12 common redpolls, all females. Maybe the males have gone north.
- Walter McNaturally

3/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I heard my first red-winged blackbird today. With all the snow, sleet and rain that came yesterday, I got to wondering if birds ever turn around and head back south. But this morning I heard a whole flock of them, so I guess they've decided to tough it out.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/9 - Town of LaGrange, HRM 76: While out on a drive we spotted a large owl hunting in a wooded area near Sprout Creek Farm. It was a big specimen of a normally nocturnal hunter. He sat for a few minutes, an impressive and rare sight, as we watched. The wing span was impressive. I think it might have been a great horned owl.
- Jen Kovach

3/9 - Beacon, HRM 61: Lots of folks were pulling into Madame Brett Park's little parking lot to see Beacon's "Niagara Falls" and what an wonderful sight it was! Fishkill Creek was a-raging, and a-roaring over the Tioranda falls and down to the river. We drove home to East Fishkill, passing as many bridges over the creek as we could think of, and at every one we could see that the creek had flooded far over the banks, leaving many trees and shrubs with very wet feet.
- Carolyn Plage, Ed Connelly, Chance Plage

3/9 - Senasqua, HRM 36: In this small park on the river at Croton-on-Hudson, I spotted a flock of 30 cedar waxwings in migration. I never tire of looking at these beautiful birds.
- Jane Shumsky

3/9 - Sarah's Point, HRM 34: The southern tip of this peninsula is also known as Teller's Point, or just Croton Point, and it was from here, this afternoon, that I spotted a seal in the Hudson. Croton Bay was calm at just past 3:00 PM, the ebb tide was halfway out, and I had a good look with binoculars. Just beyond was a raft of buffleheads.
- Larry Trachtenberg

3/10 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: We had a brief serenade from a great horned owl tonight, always good to hear.
- Bill Drakert

3/10 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: On this beautiful, sunny morning, there was a little ice slush washing against the shore. Three hundred feet out in the bay I spotted there a strange looking "duck." Upon closer inspection with the binoculars, it turned out to be the head of a seal. It dove and reappeared at intervals of 3-4 minutes. That sight, and 3 immature bald eagles perched nearby, made my morning walk a special one.
- Tony Usobiaga

3/10 - Sandy Hook, NJ : Woodcock were doing their "peent" calls at dusk today.
- Dery Bennett

3/11 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: As I was out for a short walk on a perfect March day, an adult bald eagle circled over our house. That is always good! The tufted titmice were singing and the crocuses were peeking out, but not quite time to blossom yet.
- Bill Drakert

3/11 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: A personal harbinger of spring, one that goes back to my childhood, is the emergence of the furry little catkins on the pussy willow. They were fully out today, right on time.
- Tom Lake

3/11 - Scarborough, HRM 28: As I was riding the Metro North commuter train south this morning I saw a seal, maybe the same one as I spotted two days ago, hauled out on a rock outcropping 20' offshore.
- Larry Trachtenberg

3/11 - Sandy Hook, NJ: The first killdeer of the season that I've seen, or heard, came as a loud-calling flyover of a patch of bare sand surrounded by a field. These are just the kind of nesting habitats these big plovers zero in on. They are early nesters, laying their eggs in a scrape and fledging their young around Memorial Day. The kids are so precocial they seem to almost run out of their egg shells as speedy long-legged puffballs.
- Dery Bennett

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