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Hudson River Almanac March 1 - March 6, 2009

OVERVIEW

In the entire first volume of the Hudson River Almanac, 1994-95, bald eagles were mentioned 45 times. In the soon-to-conclude fifteenth Almanac, 2008-2009, eagles have been mentioned 384 times through just over eleven months. They have, in effect, become emblematic of the ecological recovery of the Hudson River estuary.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/1 - Croton Reservoir, HRM 34: In late afternoon I heard some dog-walkers cry out, "Did you just see that?" Something big had just come out on the ice. I looked through my binoculars and there was a coyote on the ice feeding on a deer carcass. I went and got my scope. Suddenly, an adult bald eagle dove on the coyote, twice, striking it. The coyote beat it to a rocky outcropping and made it off the ice. What a way to end the day.
- Bonnie Talluto

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES


3/1 - Newcomb, HRM 302: Evening grosbeaks have been numerous all winter. They've earned their nickname "gross pigs," by emptying my feeders daily. Actually, the pine siskins have been "gross pigs" as well, and even more numerous. Neighbor Charlotte Demers reported more than 150 siskins at her feeders.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/1- Knox, Albany County, HRM 153: We have overwintering robins in significant number, so I watch for returning red-winged blackbirds as a sure sign of spring. Today I saw a flock under a bird feeder in my town, nestled atop the Helderberg Mountains. Add to this sighting the first cooing of a mourning dove this weekend and the heart is filled with optimism for the coming spring.
- Dave Nelson

3/1 - Rondout Creek, HRM 87: A cold day on the Rondout didn't disappoint us. The creek had just enough water for a pleasurable white water run, and the bird life was second to none. We saw an immature bald eagle, two bluebirds, mallards, common mergansers, Canada geese, and a new white water observation for both of us, an American coot. We also spotted a bat swooping near the river.
- Scott Cuppett, Richard Shands.

3/1 - Andes, Delaware County, HRM 92: Following the sightings of the migratory birds as they move north up the Hudson Valley as posted in the Almanac, red-winged blackbirds are of great interest to us as they are our sure sign that spring has arrived here in the Catskills, 50 miles west of Kingston. I believe we may be at one of the confluences of migratory currents, the Hudson and Delaware valleys. We are in the Delaware River watershed, but since we have no Almanac for that river, we offer it here. This year they arrived on 2/28, which was about five days later than usual. The question shall remain: are they Hudson or Delaware birds, or are they overland migrants making my theory a figment of my imagination?
- Jack McShane

3/1 - Town of Wappinger: I have been convinced that the adult eagles are incubating at NY62 since 2/25 (this is day four). However, at midday, after watching one of the adults sitting low in the nest, the second adult arrived with a live fish. Through the scope it looked like a foot-long gizzard shad. The adult stood on the rim of the nest and began to tear at it. This seems to violate my eagle/predator-safeguard theory that they "do not bring food to the nest until there is a hatch." (Pretty much the same reason we do not eat marshmallows in our tent when we camp in the Catskills.) So they are either simply not as consistent in their behavior, or they are not incubating yet.
- Tom Lake

3/1 - Anthony's Nose, HRM 46: This was "breakout day!" Large numbers of adult and immature bald eagles moved through the gateway between Anthony's Nose and Bear Mountain today heading north. There has been a feeding frenzy along the west side of the river for two days. At least a dozen birds each remain at Verplanck-Dogan Point, Stony Point, the Annsville Creek-Peekskill area, and ten at the heading north staging area on Iona Island.
- Doug Traudt

3/2 - New Scotland, HRM 148: On our morning commute, the first woodchuck of spring lumbered across the road in front of our car at the base of the Helderberg escarpment, narrowly escaping the end of his days. My sons and I wondered, given the cold temperature and the impending snowstorm, what cues had roused him from his slumber.
- Dave Nelson

3/2 - Wappinger Creek, HRM 67.5: Five inches of new snow covered the grassy areas with lesser amounts elsewhere. Two days of strong north winds had produced a blowout tide. The tidal mud flats were frozen and the thin layer of ice crinkled like broken glass as crows and gulled walked over it foraging.
- Tom Lake

[Blowout tides are not common. They occur most frequently following several days of strong and steady north-northwest winds. The daily tidal flushing of the estuary begins to accumulate a net loss of high water as the progression of flood tides are unable to compensate for ebb tides that are being lengthened in duration and effect by the wind. If this happens around a new or full moon (spring tides) the result can be even more spectacular. This scenario culminates in an ebb tide that seems to go seaward forever, draining tidemarshes and inshore shallows until prehistoric flood plains and a glimpse of the "bottom" of the river is exposed. Tom Lake.]

3/2 - Beacon, HRM 61:

We Got It Right

Forests kept forever green
Trees as far as can be seen
For us this task is not too tall
Cars don't pollute along their way
Use no fossil fuel today
One healthy world here for us all

Recycling in every home
Packaging without Styrofoam
For us this task is not too tall
No more trash down the storm drain
All we see is good, clean rain
One healthy world here for us all

We've stopped supporting factory farms
Our food's supplied from local barns
For us this task is not too tall
The Hudson runs free of PCBs
Safe fish to eat whenever we please
One healthy world here for us all

Electricity from wind and sun
Clean energy for everyone
For us this task is not too tall
We're taught our planet to protect
The earth we share we now respect
One healthy world here for us all

- Written by the students in Room 12, James V. Forrestal Elementary

3/2 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: In the winter of 2005-6, an unexplained decline of gray squirrels was noted in Putnam and Westchester; casual long-term follow-up indicates that populations are back to normal. Solitary black squirrels have been observed irregularly this fall-winter in Putnam and Westchester. The grays and black feed happily together on spillage from my bird feeder.
- Nancy P. Durr

3/2 - Croton Bay, HRM 34: I counted 20 bald eagles in the vicinity of Croton Bay; two of them were "white extremes" on the flats at low tide. I almost took them for snow geese.
- Christopher Letts

[White extreme is a color phase described for some three year-old bald eagles. As immature eagles approach adulthood, their plumage eclipses from mostly brown, to mottled brown-and-white, to a showy-white display with some brown (white extreme), to the final white head and tail of the adult. Peter Dunne.]

3/3 - Knox, HRM 153: At our latitude (42.7 degrees north) and elevation (1,240 feet), below zero air temperatures are infrequent in the month of March. On this day, with a fresh snowpack courtesy of the previous day's nor'easter, the thermometer read minus one degree Fahrenheit at sunrise.
- Dave Nelson

3/3 - Esopus, HRM 87: A commotion outside our kitchen window caught my husband, Lee's, eye this morning. A large bird was doing aerial acrobatics five feet off the ground. It was swooping and maneuvering among the chickadees and juncos, which all scattered at once. It was over in seconds and the bird had not caught anything. Then it settled on a branch just above a bird feeder, looking around with great interest. Lee was able to take photographs; the early morning sunlight showed the beautiful plumage of a Cooper's hawk! Wisely, none of the little birds returned and, upon later inspection, no scattered feathers were to be found. When I got home from work I immediately feasted my eyes on his photographs. As much as I cherish my feathered friends at the feeders, I can't help hoping to see the hawk. Everyone gets hungry.
-Kathryn Paulsen

3/3 - Town of Wappinger: The morning sun was strong and bright but the north wind was still brutal. The wind chill was single numbers. Through the scope I could see that one of the adults was still in the nest (NY62). With a genuine sigh, I realized that they had truly weathered the storm.
- Tom Lake

3/4 - Poughkeepsie, HRM 75: We watched as a young white-tailed deer chased seven wild turkeys across a snowy field at Shadwood until they reached a hedgerow, whereupon the wild turkeys turned and began to chase the deer ... until they reached the middle of the field, where the "tide turned" once again, and off they went the other way. It was all in play.
- John Mylod, Clay Hiles, Helena Andreyko, Peg Olsen, Jamie Cameron

3/4 - George's Island, HRM 39: The Hudson River was quite choppy in late afternoon, driven by a gusting north wind. Yet the sun was still strong and its comparative warmth pleasant. As I paddled my kayak, two bald eagles flew past me chasing one another. A pair of adult eagles perched close to each other in a tree on nearby Oscawana Island. Just below them perched an immature, watching the river.
- Steve Butterfass

3/5 - Town of Wappinger: Driving to the nest (NY62) at dawn today I counted five adult bald eagles in a quarter-mile overlooking the river in the usual day perches. I was sure the adults were off the nest and that two of these were the NY62 pair. But when I got there, Mama was hunched down in the nest and Papa was on a limb nearby just watching. Those five were probably migrants, heading north.
- Tom Lake

3/5 - Washingtonville, HRM 53: We spotted our first great blue heron of the season, among some Canada geese, on the still icy edge of Moodna Creek.
- Betsy Hawes

3/5 - Cold Spring, HRM 55: A lunch break for me on the dock afforded another spectacular river scene: the sights and sounds of drifting, crashing, grinding, and shattering masses of ice, breaking up, and scattering hundreds of resting ring-billed gulls.
- Richard Balint

3/5 - Ossining, HRM 33: We looked up into the clearest of blue skies around noontime today (air temperature in the 40s) to see two immature bald eagles flying with a red-tailed hawk. Is this usual?
- Dorothy Ferguson, Bob Ferguson

[Red-tails have no great love for eagles and usually have little tolerance for them, especially if an eagle inadvertently ventures too close to a nest. They are smaller, more agile, and are prone to harassing eagles primarily because they can get away with it. But my guess is that you saw two eagles and a red-tail on a cold day, both having captured the same thermal, sharing an elevator ride to the top. Tom Lake.]

3/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I spotted my first winter wren of the season today.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/6 - Palenville, HRM 109: We saw several black vultures circling overhead. Larry Federman made the sighting and we noted the whitish wing tips. Like the turkey vulture, the black vulture is expanding its range northward in response to climate change. The North-South Mountain ridge could be a potential nesting location.
- Leslie Zucker

3/6 - New Hamburg, HRM 67.5: The river was locked solid with ice; you could barely discern the last of the flood tide creeping upriver. The warming days and stronger sun had loosened the ice in the tributaries and upriver, and the ebb current was drawing it all down river. Over a few hundreds yards of the channel, I counted six immature eagles perched like sentinels on ice blocks turned on end, offering them a view.
- Tom Lake

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