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Hudson River Almanac February 15 - February 22, 2009

OVERVIEW

This is the most sensitive time of the year for resident Hudson Valley bald eagles. Each pair, and there may be as many as two dozen active nests, will soon to be incubating, if they have not already begun. Human disturbance can be the downfall of any nesting effort. The adults will abandon their nest if disturbed because they instinctively know that they can breed again, but if they stay to protect the nest, their eggs, or even their nestlings, their lineage could die along with them. So the hard and fast rule (state and federal law) is to stay away from any bald eagle nest. If you happen to be inadvertently near one, stay inside a closed vehicle. On foot, they will take off when you are no closer than 300 yards, and that could spell the end of their nesting season.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

2/18 - Highland, HRM 76: I sometimes wonder if there are wolves in Ulster County. I was driving toward Highland on Routes 44-55 and saw what looked like a large coyote run across the road into an apple orchard. It was large, had a beautiful coat, and seemed healthy. When I explained this wonderful sight to someone, they wondered if it could have been a wolf. I always thought coyotes were mangy-looking but this one looked very healthy.
- Kim Ward

[Kim most likely saw an eastern coyote (Canis latrans). While we can never say never, when it comes to wildlife, it is highly unlikely that it was a wolf (Canis lupus). We have not had a bonafide wolf sighting in New York State for about 100 years. We consider them to be extirpated. Wolves are in Canada, and quite likely in the provinces of Québec and Ontario, though probably not near the New York State border. Most of the time, wolves tend to stay away from highly urban areas like the northeast United States. Biologists believe there are eastern and western races (a loosely defined taxonomic classification) of coyotes. On average, the eastern coyote is the larger of the two. They can weigh up to 50 lb. though the average is less. Still, they are a striking-looking dog! While the somewhat smaller western coyote tends to be a uniform tannish-brown, our eastern coyote comes in a variety of colors from light to dark to cinnamon brown, to a very light tan. Among my favorites are the charcoal gray coyotes that will make you think "wolf." And, contrary to popular belief in some areas of Ulster County, coyotes do not snatch little children off bus stops! Tom Lake.]


NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

2/15 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: It was a cold 18 degrees F but there was open water on the river. The mated pair of eagles was at their nest (within spotting scope distance): one was perched, the other arrived with a stick and maneuvered it into place in the nest.
- Dave Lindemann

2/15 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: During our morning commute from Bear Mountain to Montrose, a group of immature bald eagles were hanging out on the ice of Annsville Creek bay.
- Alan Groth, Janice Groth

2/15 - Town of Warwick, Orange County, HRM 41: A sandhill crane was at Liberty Marsh today and, at dusk, two short-eared owls appeared.
- Rob Stone

2/16 - Town of Wappinger, HRM 67: At an hour before midnight it began: the call of coyotes. Within minutes it came closer and I quietly stepped out onto my deck and looked into the treeline not more than 100 feet away. I could see nothing but I could hear the voices of 3-4 coyotes as they passed through the woods; the acoustics of the night echoed their chorus. At 3:00 AM, they came back, passing more quickly and quietly this time. I welcomed the feeling that there was still some wildness in this urban corridor.
- Tom Lake

2/16 - Stony Point, HRM 40: In late afternoon, fifteen eagles came in and perched in four trees a short distance in from the point - a night roost. With my spotting scope I was able to view this from a safe (non intrusive) distance.
- Bonnie Talluto

2/17 - Roeliff Jansen Kill, HRM 111: We were watching for birds this morning along the banks of the Roeliff Jansen Kill, about a third of a mile upstream from the Hudson, when a large shadow suddenly appeared from behind us. As we looked up, a sun-lit adult bald eagle came soaring over our heads on its way to the river. What an amazing sight!
- Jess Andersen, Stephanie Delano

2/17 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: The icy grip of winter on this reach of the river was loosening. More and more floe ice was appearing in the channel. Two immature bald eagles and one red-tailed hawk were spinning circles in the sky overhead. The red-tail, being very territorial as is its habit, was trying to impress on the eagles that this was his air space.
- Tom Lake

2/17 - Crugers, HRM 39: In late afternoon, we were treated to a view of a great blue heron, standing quietly with its head tucked in, and three male and two female hooded mergansers floating around on Ogilvie's Pond. As we watched, the heron opened its wings and flew over to the mergansers. What a wing span! It flew low over the surface of the water and landed right next to the ducks, who just continued to float around, obliviously unconcerned.
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

2/18 - Milan HRM 90: I just spotted my first red-winged blackbird of the season this morning, a solitary female picking at the cracked corn I just put out. Can spring be far behind?
- Marty Otter

2/19 - Rhinebeck, HRM 88: A whole flock of blackbirds arrived with yesterday's light snow cover as well as a big, beautiful bluebird, sitting, of course, on the very top of the cupola!!
- Joanne Engle

2/19 - Town of Poughkeepsie, HRM 68.5: A mid-afternoon walk at Dutchess County's Bowdoin Park allowed "eagle watching for dummies." Binoculars permitted sharper looks, but one didn't really need them. Three eagles, two briefly "sky dancing," required simply looking up. A fourth and fifth showed up, and on the return to the car there was a sixth. We were probably there no more than twenty minutes.
- Mimi Brauch

2/19 - Foundry Cove, Putnam County, HRM 53: In mid-afternoon, with today's air temperatures in the 40s, there were about 25 common mergansers actively swimming and diving in the mostly ice-free tidewaters of Foundry Cove.
- Ed Spaeth

2/20 - Blue Point, Ulster County, HRM 74: In late afternoon, I spotted three eagles, two adults and one immature perched on the side of Blue Point. I do not usually see eagles there in winter, especially with all the ice we've had on the river. It makes me wonder if our wintering birds are slowly making their way north to their nesting areas.
- Tom Lake

[You can follow the seasonal migrations of radio-collared, satellite-tracked eagles by going to
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/ Click on Pete Nye who will be holding two adult bald eagles in his arms! Tom Lake.]

2/20 - New Paltz, HRM 78: Red-winged blackbirds were singing on the marsh behind my house this morning.
- Steve Stanne

2/21 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: We heard our first red-winged blackbird this morning! And we've already picked our first pussy willows.
- Bill Drakert, Fran Drakert

2/21 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: Upon arrival at Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial State Park, I spotted two eagles circling overhead. They seemed to be checking me out for several minutes, their white heads and tails shining in the bright morning sun. After a little bit of cavorting, they both drifted off to the north eventually landing on the ice just west of Esopus Lighthouse.
- Dave Lindemann

2/21 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: Upon arrival at the Norrie Point Environmental Center, I spotted an eagle on the ice no more than 100 yards offshore. The size seemed very large and the color seemed much more golden and less mottled than an immature bald eagle. After considering all the field marks, in particular the coloring on the tail, I'm guessing it was a golden eagle.
- Dave Lindemann

2/21 - Town of Wappinger: A strong early-morning north wind made the windchill feel like -5 degrees. The female of the mated pair sat huddled in the nest (NY62), only the top of her head showing above the rim; she may have spent the night there as her white head was the last thing I saw as twilight faded last evening. The new nest is in a mature tuliptree, rock solid, and the wind makes no headway. Their previous nest (2001-2007) was huge - it looked as though someone had placed a large dining room table in the crown of a tall white pine. On windy days like this, it would list several degrees, loose branches would spill out, and it must have felt like being on a carnival ride. That nest was abandoned last spring and finally collapsed on November 16, 2008.
- Tom Lake

2/21 - Highland Mills HRM 50: We had new visitors near our bird feeding station today: two pairs of pine grosbeaks. They seemed very tame sitting on the ground and eating seeds out of hemlock remains. We worry about their safety because of the number of neighborhood cats around. The males are much darker red than in the photos in our bird book, but the very evident white wing bars on both sexes gave them away.
- Alan Groth, Janice Groth

2/21 - Town of Warwick, Orange County, HRM 41: A quick stop at Liberty Marsh, near the headwaters of the Wallkill River, was all it took to spot a flock of at least fifty snow geese circling the area before settling down in the dry stubble of the high marsh. Alan Wells and Della Wells reported seeing two tundra swans as well.
- Tom Lake

2/22 - New Baltimore, HRM 131.5: Cute little red squirrels have joined us along the Hudson River. We have had one in our back yard all winter and two neighbors have also reported their first sightings ever. Maybe they have migrated to us from the Catskill Mountains.
- Jean Bush

2/22 - Town of Wappinger: Both adult eagles were at the nest (NY62) today, but it seemed like an odd setting. I am pretty sure they are not incubating yet - too often the nest is being left unattended - the male was hunkered down in the nest while the female perched alongside. It is so easy to project human attributes on these birds: It was almost like Papa was practicing for the 20% of the time he'll be incubating in the weeks ahead. In the nine years that this pair has been nesting in and near this location, I have never seen them more focused than they are this year.
- Tom Lake

2/22 - Annsville Creek, HRM 43.5: I saw nine eagles in the trees and on the ice along Annsville Creek bay this morning. Another was flying with a fish in its talons.
- Julia.Warger

2/22 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: These last few days, I've noticed goldfinches joining the crowd at the bird feeders. They must be the females and the young scouting for habitat. They are soft gray/olive colored. It's when they dart off, that I can see an occasional flash of daffodil-yellow under their wings.
- Robin Fox

2/22 - Westchester County: The wintering eagles have been entertaining quite a number of visitors from as far away as Buffalo and Philadelphia. Between February 14-21, I was fortunate enough to see 12-20 eagles at Annsville Creek bay, China Pier, Charles Point, Verplanck, George's Island (Dogan Point), Furnace Dock (Oscawana), and Croton. (That's at least a dozen birds at each location!) There seemed to be far more immatures than adults.
- Bonnie Talluto

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