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Hudson River Almanac November 14 - November 21, 2008

OVERVIEW

It is always a welcome story when someone sees one of our more elusive species of wildlife. Few are less frequently seen than the bobcat, and almost never with kittens! A reliable sign of impending winter is the increased number of bald eagles sightings this week. The fate of the bottlenose dolphin continues to be a mystery. Several excellent digital photos showed the dolphin in Peekskill Bay on November 3, and in the Hudson River off Ulster County on November 6. One of the lessons learned from the pursuit of this dolphin is the value of having a camera close when you are near the river.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

11/16 - Town of Knox, Albany County, HRM 153: Returning from deer hunting in my woodlot, I noticed repeated movement and gray color under a small white pine on the hill directly across our freshwater pond. It was too small for a gray fox; I wondered what I was seeing. With binoculars, it was clear - three bobcat kittens were tussling, rolling, playing and running about. My son, Josh, noticed the mother bobcat slinking away into the underbrush; she was too well camouflaged for me to pick out. The kittens were smaller than I would have guessed; perhaps they were a late litter. Their little white-tipped tails stood erect as they stalked and pounced on one another. They, too, were well camouflaged; only their constant movement belied their presence. While we have seen bobcats on our property before, this was our first observation of kittens.
- Dave Nelson

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

11/14 - Town of Newburgh, HRM 62: In surveying the placid waters of Chadwick Lake for waterfowl, I spotted more than 50 Canada geese floating in the waters near the southern end and two mute swans farther north near the lake's wooded western shore. As I watched these birds, three tundra swans flew into view at treetop level, circled the lake overhead and then headed southwestward. My presence on the shore near the park's playground and two sets of fishermen in rowboats probably deterred these wanderers from the north from settling on the lake.
- Ed Spaeth

11/14 - Beacon, HRM 61: Dawn at Long Dock was a slow process. A heavy fog shrouded the land and the river, obscuring any demarcation. My binoculars were of no use. I could sense "sunrise" had occurred when the fog went from gray to white. Three hours later, as the tide rose into the bay, erasing any sign of the beach, the sun was simply a bright patch of haze over Denning's Point.
- Tom Lake

[Beacon Point Park, including Long Dock, a project of Scenic Hudson and Dia: Beacon, is an evolving place. The partners began work there in the early 2000s. The internationally renowned artist George Trakas designed and built, over the course of several years, the decks, docks, boardwalk, and shoreline stabilization, building fishing-friendly features into his installation. The pier is an angler's delight. In spring it is easily within casting distance of migrating striped bass. From ice out until ice in, the carp fishing from Long Dock (see Bill Greene) is unparalleled along the tidewater Hudson. Margery Groten, Tom Lake.]

11/14 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: While I have been frequently birding at Croton Point, my neighbor and expert birder and naturalist, Charlie Roberto, informed me that he has seen a snow bunting, pipits, and vesper, savannah, and white-crowned sparrows at the landfill. I have not seen any of these, but I did see two bluebirds along with several marsh hawks, red-tails, and song sparrows. The long-eared owls that wintered on the point last year have not shown up.
- Jane Shumsky

11/15 - Esopus Meadows, HRM 87: I've been visiting Scenic Hudson's Esopus Meadows Preserve regularly only in the last few weeks, and I've sometimes anticipated how the little woodland pools will be filled with frogs this spring. They didn't wait. It was so warm as I walked at dusk on this November evening that a few stray peepers were fooled into song.
- Dan Shapley

11/15 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75.5: We were just pulling into a space at the Poughkeepsie train station when we noticed a very large bird overhead. Despite the gusty wind on this mostly cloudy day, it didn't appear to have much of a problem holding steady, with nary a flap of its mighty wing to keep it aloft. A break in the clouds illuminated its bright white tail and head, an impressive adult bald eagle. It lazily floated north, then swung back south over the city. A swift movement to the north of the eagle brought us a second treat, a peregrine falcon. While a masterful flyer, it did seem to be having difficulty with the wind, but flew off over the river in the direction of the Mid Hudson Bridge.
- Bill Lenhart, Donna Lenhart

11/15 - Chelsea, HRM 65.2: In late afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the lower estuary, so a visit to the river became obligatory, even in the dark. It was an impressive atmosphere, with 40-45 mph winds ripping up the river from the south. The tide was dead low so the effect was not as great as a full flood current would have been. On these occasions, the sky often has an H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" look. It is most surreal when huge, black "wall clouds" slowly drift over, the kind that spawn tornados. But in the dark, one could have dropped on my head and I would not have been the wiser until it swept me up into its vortex, the "Dorothy in Kansas" syndrome.
- Tom Lake

11/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It rained and rained, though very mild, and by this morning our rain gauge had collected 1.1 inches, more than we had all the rest of November combined.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/16 - Town of Wappinger: The bald eagle nest that we designated as NY62 has come down. The nest had sat in the crook of huge white pine limb, nearly 100 feet off the ground, since 2001. In strong northwest winds today, gusting over 40 mph, the limb snapped. Now it is in a heap on the forest floor. The eagle pair built the nest in late winter 2001. No eggs were produced the first year. Then, from 2002- 2006, the pair fledged 7 eaglets: 4 males, 3 females. In the last two years, for unknown reasons, they have had no success. The pair is now committed to a new nest (NY62B) near the top of a tuliptree, or yellow poplar, to the west of the old nest.
- Tom Lake

11/17- Town of Wappinger: As I drove past the local bald eagle nest [NY62B] at about 7:00 AM this morning, I was happy to spot an eagle sitting quite erect in the middle of the nest. It was a great treat as I haven't seen one in quite a while. Now that the leaves are down I hope to see more of them as winter wears on.
- Bud De Nicola

11/17 - Tenafly, NJ, HRM 18: I saw 4 adult bald eagles today from Overpeck Preserve; two were interacting with each other. Another adult was spotted at Bald Eagle Point in Greenbrook, our northern vista. This is the first time I remember seeing the real thing at that point.
- Nancy Slowik

11/17 - Shrewsbury River, NJ: My clam digging friend heard a thrashing noise on his screened side porch and went to investigate. He found a hole in the nylon screen and a healthy hawk inside. He got the screen door open and the hawk (his description fit sharp-shinned or a Cooper's) departed. He said the hawk looked like an immature, and the nylon screening was about five years old. And, yes, there are bird feeders nearby.
- Dery Bennett

11/18 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I went out this afternoon with Charlotte Demers, wildlife biologist at SUNY ESF's Adirondack Ecological Center, to look for beaver signs. Charlotte said that there are two colonies on Rich Lake but that the staff from the AEC have been unable to locate their feed piles this fall. We went out on the Rich Lake Trail and I showed her all the new beaver chews I've been seeing these last couple of weeks, and 2-3 trails where they've been dragging their sticks to the water. She scanned the water all around, but there were no signs of sticks stuck into the mud anywhere, so she's now going to have to head out with her kayak and see what she can find. At least now she has a rough idea of where to look.
- Ellen Rathbone

11/18 - Town of Wappinger: In the gray and fuzzy pre-dawn light I could make out two silhouettes in the new eagle nest along the river. I did not approach any closer than necessary (a 30x scope allows much flexibility). The female was in the nest and the male was perched alongside. I have been shadowing this pair for almost eight years and if I could be allowed to sound a little anthropomorphic, they seemed content.
- Tom Lake

11/19 - Kowawese, HRM 59: This was winter in November. At dawn the air was 25 degrees F and it coupled with the west wind to make the windchill feel like it was below zero. As I watched an adult bald eagle making tight circles over Cornwall Bay, I thought of my test for measuring conditions on days like this: "Would I go ice fishing today?" The answer was no.
- Tom Lake

11/19 - Fishkill, HRM 61: I was nose-to-beak with a white-breasted nuthatch. While filling my seed feeders suspended from a double shepherd's hook, the brave nuthatch came to a suet feeder hanging less than six inches from my face. It pecked at the suet, consumed some, pecked at it again. I stopped filling the feeder and stood motionless for awhile. Undaunted, it continued pecking at the suet. Other birds flew overhead and in towards another feeder I had just filled on the other hook. Some circled back to distant safe perches. A lone titmouse braved the distance coming to the filled feeder on the second hook, but it was the spunky little nuthatch that I most admired. Even when I started refilling the seed feeder that I had been filling, it continued feeding at the suet just six inches from my face. Only when I inadvertently tilted the feeder toward it did the nuthatch fly off and break my spell of being St. Francis of Assisi. What a wonderful encounter.
- Ed Spaeth

11/19 - Manitou, HRM 47: We saw the largest raft of gulls riding the incoming tide this afternoon. Although we are not gull "experts" by any means, they were on the small size with a definite black tail. At first we saw a raft of about 50. Then, coming behind them, was a raft of around 200. They were all facing the southerly wind. As soon as they passed us, they all took flight to the south. Although we see flocks of many gulls flying behind a passing tug or ship, we can't recall ever seeing so many in a raft floating on the river.
- Owen Sullivan, Zshawn Sullivan

[It is not uncommon to see congregations of gulls on the river numbering dozens to scores and more. Most of us take a quick look and assume they are the more common ring-billed gulls, with maybe a greater black-backed or herring gull mixed in. But the real curious birders among us take the time to really look, and they find that our gull population can be pretty diverse at times. In our 15 years of the Almanac, we have recorded 11 species of gulls along the tidewater Hudson. Tom Lake.]

  • black-headed gull
  • Bonaparte's gull
  • Franklin's gull
  • glaucous gull
  • greater black-backed gull
  • laughing gull
  • lesser black-backed gull
  • herring gull
  • Iceland gull
  • ivory gull
  • ring-billed gull

11/20 - Newcomb, HRM 302: The songbirds were feeding like crazy this morning. This does not bode well - is a storm on the way? My little crabapple by the house and my clothesline were loaded with goldfinches this morning as they checked out the feeder set up. A blue jay was busily snarfing up sunflower seeds that had fallen to the ground. And the little feeder outside my office window is getting several chickadees a minute!
- Ellen Rathbone

11/20 - Town of Wappinger: I stood in a concealed blind for a half-hour this morning, watching Mama perched at the edge of the "new" NY62, preening. In mid-morning she took off, glided out over the river (the sun on her head and tail was pretty impressive) circled over a patch of river for five minutes, and then settled into a cottonwood along the shore. I'm guessing by mid-February we'll see some serious house-cleaning in the new nest. We hope.
- Tom Lake

11/21 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: There is a "resident" red-tailed hawk that frequents one of the large trees next to my husband's office building on Davis Avenue in the city of Poughkeepsie. This past week, however, the resident was joined by two others. The three of them stayed in the tree for more than a half hour, just watching what was going on. As you can imagine, the resident squirrels in the area kept away during that time
- Irene Penney

[Our best guess is these three were kin. It is not uncommon for red-tailed hawk fledglings to hang around the nesting area where they will run into Mom. Jim Beemer, at West Point, has had a decade-long relationship with adult red-tails and their progeny. Tom Lake.]

11/21 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67.5: It was 1:30 AM when the chorus began: First a single coyote, then two more, no more than a hundred yards away. These were not the usual yips; they were full-throated howls. The locals dogs never seem to mind the yips but howls had them up and responding. Fifteen minutes into the performance a screech owl began its "whinny." Thirty minutes after it began, they all stopped, as if on cue. Pretty haunting stuff.
- Tom Lake

11/21 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: For a couple of hours this morning, both adults were at the NY62B nest. The female was inside, the male perched alongside, again seeming to be content. I have to admit that the location of this nest gives it much sunlight and a great river view. The downside will be when Mama is incubating eggs in March and the frigid northwest winds, with a long, long fetch from the low hills of northern Orange County, blow across the river and make the effort an endurance test.
- Tom Lake

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