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Hudson River Almanac January 15 - January 22, 2009

OVERVIEW

With the watershed locked up in a deep freeze, eagles have run out of options and are flocking to the open water of the lower estuary.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

1/15 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: I love the river with the ice on it and have been seeing more than one eagle pass by on the rafts. It also allows me to see the surface currents. Right before the tide turns, while the channel is still flowing out, there is an upriver current that runs up the west bank in front of the old marina. I assume those are the types of things that the old sloop captains took advantage of to facilitate their passage.
- Scott Craven

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

1/15 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was -15 degrees Fahrenheit this morning at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center. There were reports of minus-thirty near Massena (St. Lawrence County) and Malone (Franklin County).
- Ellen Rathbone

1/15 - Green Island, HRM 153: I was on a mid-day chilly walk (9 degrees Fahrenheit) to the village park on Hudson Avenue overlooking the river. I watched a common goldeneye mix with a group of common mergansers and mallards clustered in the shrinking open water below the power plant and dam. The open water also attracted an immature bald eagle which remained perched above.
- Fred Haverly

1/15 - Milan HRM 90: It was an interesting afternoon of bird activity. I saw what appeared to be either a kestrel or a sharp-shinned hawk on a bird on the ground. The wings appeared to be pointed upon take off (falcon) but can't be certain. Then one of my cats came to me with a feathered "gift." After a frantic chase I was able to "accept" the gift, a cedar waxwing, unhurt and then released. The cat was properly admonished.
- Marty Otter

1/16 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a report of -34 degrees Fahrenheit out the other end of town this morning. We only had -31 at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center, but our sensor is somewhat sheltered. While Toby and I were braving the cold for our walk, we checked out the fox activity from the packed snowmobile trail. We felt like we were standing in the arctic: flat and white snowy expanse, very cold air, the waning gibbous moon high in the western sky, and the dawn light brightening the sky. Later, when I drove across the bridge over the Hudson, clouds of water vapor were billowing up from under the bridge; one could almost imagine a dragon was lurking under there. The birds were feeding in serious flocks. I had more than 50 birds, mostly evening grosbeaks and pine siskins. Pine grosbeaks were seen at the end of our center driveway this morning.
- Ellen Rathbone

1/16 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: We scanned the nearly frozen river with our spotting scope and found a single immature bald eagle and a lone Canada goose facing each other on the ice at ten paces. It was an odd arrangement. The goose would not fly away and the eagle showed more curiosity than hunger. If this was a young-of-the-year bird, it may have never been this close to a goose. The goose was alert but seemed to flounder, possibly injured. The eagle hopped closely around the goose for an hour until a huge container ship, BC Chartering Arrate, sliced its way upriver through the ice directly toward the goose. The ship passed tossing huge blocks of ice on end and we feared for goose pate. But as the turmoil settled, there was the goose still flopped on the ice. The eagle had left the goose to its fate.
- Tom Lake, Wes Ostertag, Margaret Olimpieri, Sandra Fraley, Rich Kirker, Tim Welling

1/16 - Beacon, HRM 61: I also have many more pine siskins fighting with the goldfinches for food this winter. My feeder-watch count in previous years averaged 2-5 pine siskins in January; this year I have 8-15 visiting on count days. Though I added another finch feeder, they are even eating the spillage on the ground.
- Anna Biky

1/16 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: In late afternoon we spotted three adults and one immature eagle on the south side of the point out of the cold wind. The river on the north side appeared dark green with little waves, while the surface off the south side was smooth as glass.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/17 - Ulster County: Twelve observers in six field parties participated in this annual survey of significant waterfowl habitat throughout Ulster County, in conjunction with the NYSOA New York State Winter Waterfowl Count, recording a total of 3,344 individuals of 12 species during a nine-hour effort in the cold (air temperatures ranged from zero to 16 degrees Fahrenheit). Three green-winged teal in the Wallkill River, an uncommon winter resident in Ulster County, constituted the most noteworthy waterfowl observation of the day. Mark DeDea reported white-winged crossbills at Ulster Landing. Six bald eagles (3 adults, 3 immatures) were noted during the count, five on the Hudson River and one on the Wallkill River. Among the other more interesting sightings included American wigeon (2) and common loon (1),
- Steve M. Chorvas

1/17 - Danskammer Point, HRM 66.5: I was just looking at the Dynegy Eagle Cameras and counted nine bald eagles perched in the cove just below Danskammer.
- Lee Banner

Note: The Dynegy Bald Eagles cameras can be viewed at www.dnegeneration.com. Click on Dynegy Eagle Cameras, and choose Videos 1 through 4.
- Tom Lake

1/17 - Fort Montgomery, HRM 46.5: We were awakened by one our favorite sounds this morning. The McCallister tug Rowan McCallister was pushing what looked like an empty fuel barge upriver through the ice. It struck the ice with a BOOM, a bass, metallic, reverberating sound, one we only hear during the coldest weeks of the coldest years. Later, the Coast Guard's Sturgeon Bay came crunching up through the ice, a great looking ship surging through the ice like it was nothing.
- Scott Craven

1/17 - Manhattan, HRM 14: A Cooper's hawk perched on my top floor fire escape this morning and preened for a half hour. I think it was a male because it was rather small. I've only seen red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons around here. What a treat!
- Barbara Pressman

1/18 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: Over the last six weeks there have been four sightings of a solitary black squirrel within a few acres of my residence and two reports of a solitary one in the Teatown vicinity. Clearly, there are two in the area. I'm truly impressed with juncos being the first at the feeders in the dimmest of morning twilight.
- Nancy P Durr

1/18 - George's Island, HRM 39: This last week's deep freeze has put a halt on any attempt to launch a kayak. The access to the river was full of ice. Today I counted eleven eagles perching in trees on Dogan Point, just to the north, periodically soaring and landing on ice floes or flying back to their branches.
- Steve Butterfass

1/18 - Crugers, HRM 34: This morning we were happy to see a red-bellied woodpecker on one of the suet baskets with a female downy, while a Carolina wren clung to one of the other baskets. Juncos, mourning doves, sparrows, grackles, brown-headed cowbirds, European starlings, cardinals and blue jays vied for the rest of the food.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/19 - Greenport, Columbia County, HRM 120: Just north of the Greenport Conservation Area sits a tiny town park with its usual recreational amenities: picnic pavilion, playground equipment, ball fields. Few people know about the trail behind the town park that connects to the Greenport Conservation Area, a great place for a quiet snowshoe walk where I enjoyed a sighting of three immature bald eagles and the hoot of a barred owl.
- Fran Martino

1/19 - George's Island, HRM 39: In late afternoon, we spotted three river otters while eagle watching at George's Island Park. We initially sighted them when they jumped up on an ice flow in the middle of the river. Five minutes later they came ashore on the park's northern point where the eagles roost for the evening.
- Bill Cherry, Martha Cherry

1/19 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: We were rewarded with the sight of seven eagles across the river frolicking over the Stony Point Lighthouse, swooping, diving, locking talons, and seemingly enjoying the relatively warm, cloudy day. Three more eagles were perched on the trees near the lighthouse and another two flew over the river. Scanning the Rockland County side again, we saw four more immatures on a long strip of ice, south of the channel marker, bringing the total to sixteen birds.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

1/19 - Brooklyn, New York City: Staring off through a waning snowstorm at Manhattan, thick white snow outlined the heavily bulkheaded Brooklyn waterfront. I stopped to wonder when the old warehouses and waterfront buildings which once blocked this view will give way to the new park I hear about so often. It seems like real work is being accomplished now. As I watched from the promenade, the snow clouded over the Battery and the bulkheads, and a woman approached, towing two sleds. One sled bore a young girl dressed in a red hat, the other had a young boy dressed with the perfect head of a snarling wolf. Seemed like the perfect twisted little Grimm's tale for a snowy Martin Luther King.
- Dave Taft

1/20 - Green Island, HRM 153: It was high tide at the head of tide, just below the federal dam. With so much ice along the shore it was difficult to tell where the river stopped and the ice began. Below this point the river was solid, snow-covered ice, bank-to-bank down to Albany and beyond. There were wide open leads in the ice just below the dam where the river rushed over and spilled into the plunge pool. Below the eagle, a single female common merganser drifted backwards in the current.
- Tom Lake

1/20 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: Midway through watching the presidential inauguration, I glanced out in the backyard to see that my crabapple tree, laden with fruit, was once again visited by robins. This time there were only 3- 4 of them, looking fat and feisty.
- Joanne Engle

1/20 - Cornwall, HRM 57: Four bluebirds (3 males and 1 female) have been dropping by to drink at the heated bird bath in my yard every morning for a month. They have been enjoying the berries of my deciduous holly as well. Three days ago they were accompanied by a flock of cedar waxwings. In true waxwing style, all of the berries were devoured within minutes. I haven't seen the bluebirds since.
- Mary Lewis

1/20 - Blooming Grove, HRM 55: As I sat down to watch the oaths of office being administered to President Obama this morning, a red fox crossed our back yard. It paused once or twice, then trotted out of sight. This is only the second fox we've seen here in 40 years.
- Betsy Hawes

1/21 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: The flood tide was still carrying upriver just after dawn. The east half of the river was frozen, unmoving; the west half was completely open. Six eagles were spread across a few hundred feet at the edge of the ice, watching the current, looking like commuters waiting for their train.
- Tom Lake

1/21 - Albany County, HRM 145: If you hear the "teakettle calls," the state bird of South Carolina will come to your feeders. Put out a hanging small gauge wire feeder of unsalted shelled peanuts. The birds can't get large pieces and will contentedly peck small fragments and you shouldn't have to refill it that often. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and even woodpeckers will patronize it also, but it seems especially attractive to my Carolina wrens and their comparatively long beaks. My feeder is hung from an eyelet hook from the center of an outdoor porch roof that is relatively immune from acrobatic squirrels. A pair of wrens will work it over, one clinging to the feeder, pecking away, while the mate hops around beneath getting the spilled residue.
- Pete Corrigan

1/21 - Gardiner, HRM 75: I have a pair of Carolina wrens that are interested in the suet feeders and are here frequently. I had them last winter as well.
- Roland Ellis, Gardiner

1/21 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: It was a cold, clear day with lots of ice on the Hudson. From Battle Road to Steamboat Dock I counted seven eagles in the sky and on the ice. What a beautiful bird to watch. I also had a Carolina wren at my feeder!
- Becky Makelainen

1/21 - Croton Point, HRM 35-34: Since most of the Hudson access points are clogged with ice, I have been unable to launch a kayak for over a week now. Instead, I have been taking long, late afternoon walks in Croton Point. I walked down to the shore area that is part of the bay leading to the Hudson and onto the beach there. Almost immediately I heard an unusual clamor and turned to see a red-tailed hawk hastily emerge from a thicket where it had caught something, and take flight only six feet from me, landing in a nearby tree.
- Steve Butterfass

1/22 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At 3:00 AM the great horned owl began its spooky "Who's awake, me Too!" call. Within minutes the local coyotes began their mournful chorus and the duet lasted for a half hour. It was one of those rare occasions where being woken up in the middle of the night had its reward.
- Tom Lake

1/22 - Fishkill, HRM 61: As we crossed Fishkill Creek on Route 84 an adult bald eagle with a shimmering white-feathered head and tail rose up from the creek bed, winged its way across the Interstate and headed southwestward along the ice-covered creek channel. It was totally unexpected and just awesome!
- Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth

1/22 - Town of Newburgh, HRM 60: There was a frozen pond in a back corner of Stewart Airport that looked as if it were a cake with so many unlit candles, stark bare dead tree snags emerging from the ice glaze with soft snow frosting. In other seasons, this pond, hidden away in a wooded area of the airfield, is alive with bird life. Today, however, we did not expect to see much. Yet, to the rear of the pond were five plump tom turkeys placidly strolling across the ice. Not too far away, a red-tailed hawk was perched in a tree surveying a snow-covered grassy field. In still another nearby area, hovering above the grassy borders of the airfield, was a rough-legged hawk, flashing its huge wings with white undersides. It then kited effortlessly across the snowy field and landed in some pine trees.
- Merrill Spaeth, Ed Spaeth

1/22 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: As the setting sun painted strips of pink across the ice-strewn river, three bald eagles seemed to come from out of nowhere, flying over the inlet and disappeared behind the point.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

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