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Hudson River Almanac February 1 - February 7, 2009

OVERVIEW

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. It will be held February 13-16. For more information, visit on the web: http://www.audubon.org/gbbc/


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/4 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Today's school group at the Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center was from Schroon Lake. We lucked out with some cool but sunny weather and some great tracks. My favorites were those from the snowshoe hare. This is the first time I have seen the actual toes on the tracks. Usually hare tracks only show the outline of the foot because it is so furry. But the hares that have been out lately have had their hind toes all spread out and you could see them perfectly. Red foxes have also been moving around. I finally got some good shots of the perfectly straight line they leave as they trot along.
- Ellen Rathbone

[Wild canids often trot as their regular gait. When moving at a relaxed pace, the hind foot lands directly in the track made by the front foot, a direct register. The same is true with walking - on the ground a walk looks the same as a trot. The neat thing is that wild canids leave these nice straight lines of tracks - one foot after the other - plop, plop, plop. Rover can't do this. The domesticated dog is generally too fat and cannot get its leg perfectly under its body, so a dog's trot (or walk) does not show a perfect direct register and is certainly not in a nice straight line. Ellen Rathbone.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/1 - Accord, Ulster County HRM 80: I saw my first red-winged blackbird of the season this morning, an adult male on the ground below my bird feeder. With over a foot of snow on the ground, it gave me a good double take.
- Peter Nelson

2/1 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: We had a yellow-bellied sapsucker in our backyard today.
- Stephen M. Seymour

2/1 - Garrison, HRM 51: I saw a bobcat in the woods near my house this evening around 11:00 PM. We often hear bobcat cries at night during the summer but this was a treat.
- Kathleen Kourie

2/1 - Indian Point, HRM 42: I spotted a raft of 6-8 eagles feeding on shad or herring. Some days I can I can look over the sea wall and an eagle will be right there on the ice.
- John Sonikcz

2/1 - Verplanck, HRM 40.5: The Verplanck waterfront looked like a Currier and Ives print on this spring-like afternoon. Most of the river ice had been carried away by the tide in the 40 degree warmth. Across the river at the Stony Point lighthouse the snow and trees made a beautiful black-and-white picture with contrasts of light and dark. Five eagles soared on thermals against the light gray sky, occasionally interacting over the trees near the lighthouse.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

2/1 - Croton Point, HRM 34: I spotted a female harrier hunting over the reed grass southeast of the landfill cap as well as a very dark rough-legged hawk hovering over the hill top.
- Stephen M. Seymour

2/1 - Navesink River, NJ: The rivers and creeks were frozen, the ice skaters and boaters were out, and the waterfowl had all but disappeared. Even the feeder birds were scarce except for a single eruption of blackbirds. After a 3-4 week absence, they attacked the backyard feeders, and each other, today: many common grackles and starlings, twenty cowbirds, and ten male red-wing blackbirds. They arrived in mid-morning, fed noisily for ten minutes, then flew off together and haven't been seen since.
- Dery Bennett

2/2 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: I wonder if others are struck as I am by a diminished number of blue jays this winter and an apparent extra-abundance of juncos?
- Nancy P. Durr

2/3 - Rhinebeck, HRM 92: There was a common redpoll, a winter finch, at the feeder today, the first one I've seen this winter.
- Phyllis Marsteller

2/4 - Town of Cortlandt, Westchester County: Just after sunrise I trekked through a dense forest in search of a new bald eagle nest. Knowing its location would lead to its protection. The overgrown terrain and a foot of snow made bushwhacking a slow go. However, by following a fresh set of coyote tracks, not more than a few hours old, I was able to negotiate my way through the thorny thickets. I knew I was getting close when I could hear the chortling of an eagle as it pirouetted over my head. It was also a message that I had gotten close enough.
- Tom Lake

2/4 - Oscawana, HRM 38.5: A big, beautiful adult bald eagle was perched out on the point gazing toward the river, facing into the sun. As we watched, it turned its head from side to side, intermittently preening its feathers.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

2/5 - Esopus, HRM 87: A yellow-bellied sapsucker has been frequenting our suet feeders. I had never seen one before. It was rather scruffy looking. In comparison, the sleek and dapper red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers all appear to be dressed for dinner in tuxedos.
- Kathryn Paulsen

2/5 - New Paltz, HRM 78: We have had quite a display of song birds at our feeders this winter, up to 10 blue jays, 8 cardinals, half a dozen nuthatches, and several woodpeckers.
- William Murray

2/5 - Highland, HRM 76: Visible from our window, in late afternoon, were five hundred excited crows heading to their roost, fifteen wild turkeys in the trees, six white-tailed deer pawing in the snow, and one immature eagle perched in a tree.
- Vivian Yess Wadlin

2/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I have been watching deer on the Hudson River ice. Yesterday when I drove home from work there were 4-5 trying to make their way across just downstream from the open current and this morning I saw one crossing upstream from the Route 28N bridge. None fell through.
- Ellen Rathbone

2/6 - Coxsackie, HRM 124: I stopped at the Coxsackie Creek Grasslands Preserve to see if I could catch a glimpse of the snowy owl. While the owl was a no show, I did see several red-tailed hawks. As I scanned the open fields, a female northern harrier flew right into my binocular sights, at close range. She covered the field in leisurely harrier fashion, finally diving down behind a rise, hopefully to catch her dinner.
- Jude Holdsworth

[The Coxsackie Creek Grasslands Preserve is just off Route 9W, north of the light in Coxsackie, on the east side of the road before you cross the New York State Thruway. Jude Holdsworth.]

2/6 - North Germantown, HRM 109: The river appeared to be frozen, a solid white expanse, all the way across to Inbocht Bay. With a little effort you could convince yourself that it was a broad snow-covered valley at the foot of the Catskills. Except for the layered ice along the shore, there was little evidence that a river flowed beneath. Stepping off shore and heading out I managed to get a third of the way across before the groaning of moving ice reminded me of the current flowing a few feet under my boots. It was very much like walking on a glacier. The channel was not frozen but rather a tightly compacted ribbon of floes edging slightly upriver in the last of the flood tide. Having gone further than I probably should have, I eased my way back off the slippery ice.
- Tom Lake

2/6 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: I spotted a number of dark spots sitting on brash ice in the middle of the river this morning. They were eagles, eight of them, two adults and six immatures of varying spottedness, the most I had ever seen in one place. One by one they lifted off and headed south toward the Tappan Zee Bridge.
- Doug Maass

2/6 - Oscawana to Spuyten Duyvil, HRM 38-14: While heading to Manhattan on the Metro North commuter train, we saw three adult eagles on the ice off Oscawana, three immatures at Croton-on-Hudson, two in the air at Dobbs Ferry, four over the Hudson at Yonkers, and one spectacular adult flying over Spuyten Duyvil. As we exited the train at Grand Central Station, after a thirteen-eagle trip, we noticed that, ironically, the name on the outside of our car was "American Eagle."
- Dianne Picciano, Amy DeLousia

2/7 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: The Poughkeepsie waterfront is a well-known winter night roost for crows. In that hour between sunset and last light, today, thousands of crows arrived. But rather than fill the sycamores and cottonwoods along the shore, they headed out onto the ice. The river was dotted in black all the way across to Blue Point. Ice floes an acre in size held hundreds of birds; smaller floes were covered wing-to-wing giving a new meaning to the term "black ice." An immature eagle on one patch of ice seemed dwarfed by the sheer number of crows crowded about. Just as visibility faded, they came ashore in waves, thousands of birds, filling every branch in every tree for more than a mile.
- Tom Lake

2/7 - Town of Fishkill, HRM 63.5: I have two male and three female wild turkeys that you can almost set your watch by. At sunset they fly up to roost for the night in the tallest of trees; at sunrise, down they flutter. It always amazes me how they can negotiate the trees with that huge wingspan.
- Carol Coons

2/7 - George's Island, HRM 39: We counted sixteen eagles today as they put on an acrobatic show for the crowd, fishing, flirting, soaring and diving.
- Dianne Picciano, Phil Picciano

2/7 - Croton Dam, HRM 34: When we looked out over the dam we were struck by the stark beauty of the snow-covered reservoir against the vivid blue sky. A thawed portion above the spillway held a large group of common mergansers and Canada geese. On the ice, we counted seven eagles, six immatures and one adult, feeding on a deer carcass. They kept hopping around, seemingly taking turns with their feast. We were surprised to see that three ravens had also joined the group and were patiently waiting behind them to get a share of the meal. Occasionally, they would venture closer but then hop back to give way to the eagles. At the same time, we counted two more adults and three immatures soaring above on thermals.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

2/7 - Sleepy Hollow, HRM 28: My personal record for the most eagles seen in one place lasted one day. This morning I counted fourteen all on or above the floating river ice. We also spotted an immature feasting on the remains of a deer. The carcass was black, with short fur, and two skinny legs stuck out with cloven hooves. Two other immatures stood nearby waiting their turn and a third was chewing on a fish.
- Diane Maass, Doug Maass

In This Moment
Hear the geese,
Hollering to find a mate
Today. Smell the ocean, taste
The potion, of this winter wind!
Touch the trees, feel the breeze,
See some leaves, feel relieved
On this winter day!
- Rhazianae Lewis, Grade 6, Vails Gate Elementary

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