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Hudson River Almanac December 25 - December 31, 2008


A snowy, icy week was punctuated by record-setting warmth. The number of wintering eagles continued to increase as does the presence of winter finches at feeders. The year concluded with a dazzling celestial sky show, although those who waited until New Year's Eve to see it found only a snowy sky.


12/26 - Copake Hall, Columbia County, HRM 114: And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a little brown bat shivering its way up a white pine tree outside the park office at Taconic State Park. The tree is about three feet away from the window, so I had an excellent view as I watched it watching me. Its tiny trembling body gave cause for concern until it suddenly dashed away, dashed away, dashed away all [with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore].
- Fran Martino


12/25 -Town of Chatham, HRM133: While opening gifts this Christmas morning, a loud smack turned our attention to the windows near the feeders. A sharp-shinned hawk dropped an already-dead blue jay when it hit the window, and went careening off into the woods, apparently still very mobile.
- Cris Winters

12/25 - Columbia County, HRM 118: We saw a piebald (actually almost all white) red-tailed hawk by the Columbia County airport on Christmas Day.
- Steve Seymour

12/25 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: On Christmas Day, we took a drive to the river and spotted two immature bald eagles on the ice in Wappinger Creek. We could clearly see that one of them had blue and silver bands on its legs. The other bird had almost all of its adult coloring, probably a four-year-old approaching maturity. There was also a great blue heron feeding from a log with mergansers swimming nearby. At the mouth of the creek we spotted an adult eagle perched high along the south side of the creek.
- Malcolm Castro, MaryAnn Castro

[The blue and silver bands are indications of a New York State fledged eagle. They are applied when the eaglets are 8-10 week old nestlings and the diameter of their legs has reached adult proportions. The blue band has a NYSDEC unique serial number and the silver band is for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracking. Tom Lake.]

12/25 - Fishkill, HRM 61: The first pine siskins (3) of the winter showed up at our feeder. This is the third year that we've had them, although they disappeared last year as soon as the common redpolls, another winter finch, showed up. The redpolls had an irruptive year last year, which I wouldn't think would happen again so soon (?), so, hopefully the siskins will stay!
- Irene Penney

12/25 - Brewster, HRM 52: On this mild Christmas Day, I watched a common loon in winter plumage afloat in a calm, ice-free, sheltered backwater of the Diverting Reservoir of the East Branch of the Croton River. Snow still blanketed the ground.
- Ed Spaeth

12/25 - Croton River, HRM 34: A large congregation of gadwalls continued their winter residence in the lower reach of the tidal Croton River.
- Christopher Letts

12/26 - Town of Chatham, HRM 133: As I watched the sun rising, movement along the swamp below our house caught my attention. After a mad dash to grab my binoculars (always too far away, it seems) I proved my guess: two bobcats wandering the edge of the ice. A neighbor saw one a couple of months ago, so I assume they are residing nearby. What a thrill to spot such wildness in what feels like a very un-wild place, consisting of farmland, woodland patches, and houses.
- Cris Winters

12/26 - East River, New York City: As a post-Christmas treat, we took the tramway to Roosevelt Island (formerly Blackwell's), a sliver of real estate in the middle of the East River. The southern end is dominated by the gothic ruins of the Smallpox Hospital, built in the 1850s from stone quarried on the island by inmates from the Blackwell Island prison. A single brant roamed the long grassy slope next to the hospital.
- Chris Bowser, Laura Weyeneth

12/27 - Milan, HRM 90: The wild turkeys were really active. The big toms were attempting to drive off the jakes (immature males) with spurs and beaks. Two were locked beak-to-beak for such a long time I thought they were stuck. The younger bird broke free and headed for safety with the tom in hot pursuit. Blood on the snow proved it was not just a show.
- Marty Otter

12/27 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: Probably in response to the warmer weather, we heard a great horned owl calling near Stony Kill Farm tonight.
- Steve Seymour

12/27 - Monmouth County, NJ: A group of bottlenose dolphins have been causing concern since they took up residence in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers six months ago. Now that it's winter, some people are worried they'll never make it out. Three dolphins have died out of the original group of about fifteen.
- Dery Bennett

12/28 - Staatsburg, HRM 85: I was walking at the Mills Mansion down by the river when I spotted a bald eagle gliding over the Hudson River. It was an adult with the tell-tale brown body and white-cap head.
- Amy Daftmonark

12/28 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: As I scouted the riparian area of Vassar Farm in mid-morning looking for a northern shrike, I learned why I probably will not see one, at least in the short term. I watched as an adult merlin - a mid-sized falcon, smaller than a peregrine, larger than a kestrel - landed with a fresh kill and begun plucking feathers. I saw flashes of reddish plumage and believed the prey to be a house finch. The merlin had almost completely de-feathered its kill when suddenly it took off (holding prey in one talon). This attracted a sharp-shinned hawk; the hawk flew in pursuit though I could not tell if it got anything. Minutes later the merlin returned to the same dead tree and finished the rest of its brunch. Walking back, I detoured uphill through conifers and came upon a tree with much wash (bird excrement) at the base. Looking up, I saw a barred owl staring down at me.
- Bill Lenhart

12/28 - Gardiner, HRM 73: Walking out of the house in early afternoon I spotted a little brown bat flying around. I suppose the 65 degree F air temperature prompted this guy to come out and look for food. Too bad there were no insects flying around
- Rebecca Houser

12/28 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: In shades of April, Mama eagle sat near her nest facing southwest into a warm 62 degree F breeze, a nice respite from winter.
- Tom Lake

12/28 - Croton Point, HRM 34.5: On this very mild winter day I was delighted to see several bluebirds on the south side of the Croton Point landfill.
- Jane Shumsky

12/28 - Croton Point, HRM 34: There was a group of at least 75 swans in Croton Bay west of the railroad trestle. I heard a couple of very uncharacteristic (for mute swans) calls that leads me to think there were a couple of tundra swans mixed in.
- Steve Seymour

12/28 - Crugers, HRM 34: Record high air temperatures today must have confused the flock of gulls that circled over our backyard. Although we're only a half-mile from the Hudson, we've never seen this phenomenon. The gulls, mostly ring-billed, resembled turkey vultures, as they glided around in a "kettle," high in the sky. The balmy evening brought another surprise, the mournful call of a great horned owl that pierced the still night air.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

12/28 - Westchester County, HRM 25: The air temperature reached 63 degrees F today, tying the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

12/28 - Manhattan, HRM 5: The air temperature reached 65 degrees F today, also tying the record high for the date.
- National Weather Service

12/28 - Manhattan, HRM 4: Walking through Central Park we were greeted by a gentle "snow," of pigeon feathers! A red-tailed hawk sat in a tree not twenty feet above our heads, industriously plucking its prey, oblivious to the gawking tourists below. I don't think this was the famous "Pale Male" of Central Park, but possibly a relative.
- Chris Bowser, Laura Weyeneth

12/29 - Town of Chatham, HRM 133: We had several pine siskins show up at the feeders today, an unusual occurrence for our location.
- Cris Winters

12/30 - Ulster County, HRM 83: I spotted an adult bald eagle flying along Rondout Creek in Kerhonkson, where Routes 44-55 cross the creek. The bird was heading toward Kingston.
- Sarah Underhill

12/30 - Farmer's Landing, HRM 67: With the forecast calling for cloudy skies on New Year's Eve, tonight seemed close enough to view the spectacular assemblage of moon and planets shortly after sundown. Winter sunsets can be a show of their own, and this one was a fiery red fading to pink as shadows crept across the river. Even at last light I could still make out the glowing white head of an adult bald eagle perched across the river at Cedarcliff. The only brighter point of light was in the sky to the southwest, Venus, and close by was the waning crescent of the moon. Below them, near the horizon but viewable through binoculars, were Jupiter and Mercury.
- Tom Lake

12/31 - Albany, HRM 145: Our Hudson River breeding bald eagle population expanded significantly again in 2008, adding four new pairs (three on the lower river and one mid-river), a 24% increase over the record number of pairs in 2007. The total number of young fledged was also a record, with 31 new eagles plying the powder-blue skies over the Hudson this year. Eighty percent of the pairs nested successfully, fledging nearly 1.5 young per occupied nest. Only 4 of the 21 occupied nests failed this year: one new pair, two established pairs due to nest damage/collapse, and one more established pair due to unknown causes but perhaps due to the loss of one of the breeding pair. We still have two breeding pairs on the upper Hudson above Albany, both of which were successful, fledging four young.
- Pete Nye

12/31- Croton Point, HRM 34: The snow was pounding hard this morning and visibility was poor. However, we were determined to look for eagles on the last day of 2008. Things looked bleak as we traveled out to Sarah's (south) Point; nothing was stirring but a small raft of buffleheads out in the bay. Our determination was rewarded as we descended the lower road along the marsh: a large adult eagle perched about sixty feet high, back to us, facing Croton Bay. A second adult was perched a couple of hundred feet to the east. They looked at us several times, displayed their tremendous wingspan, and flew off into the gray and heavy snow over the bay.
- Barry Keegan, Sarah Keegan, Mark Magner, Bill Graham, Scott Horecky

< The Dancing Dream >
It was a cold winter day,
The wind shushing like it was saying
"Don't tell my secret."
The wind moved with the waves
like they were dancing together
and the wind kept on saying
"Dance with me, dance with me!"
- Briana Taylor, 6th Grade, Vail's Gate School

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