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Hudson River Almanac March 5 - March 12, 2009

OVERVIEW

We did a little "back-casting" this week to capture some entries that arrived late. With just a week until the vernal equinox, the season of greatest variation in the Hudson River Valley is here: we may have a blizzard in the High Peaks while folks in Manhattan, 300 miles south and a mile lower in elevation, are in shirt sleeves.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

3/8 - New Windsor, HRM 58: I was taking advantage of the warm sunny morning to clean the winter's leaves from the small pond by my front door when I was suddenly joined by a flock of white-winged crossbills, three males and five females. They landed in the azalea bush not two feet away, watched me curiously for a moment or two, and then hopped over to the ice on the upper pond to take a nice long drink. They hung around for ten minutes while I watched in amazement, then they were gone as suddenly as they arrived. My two dogs were lying in the grass next to me; I think they were as amazed as I was. None of us moved for a few more minutes until we realized the magic had passed.
- Geri Wildenberg

NATURAL HISTORY NOTES

3/5 - Pleasant Valley, HRM 62: It was very cold this morning, 12 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, yet I noticed the first red-winged blackbirds of the season had returned to my marsh, singing the "kon-ka-ree" call I love so! I also heard a couple of cardinals singing for the first time this year along with a lone song sparrow. The goldfinches were twittering in the trees. Spring can't be far off!
- Kathy Kraft

3/5 - Garrison, HRM 52: While walking my dog on Indian Brook Road, I spotted a mixed flock of juncos and white-throated sparrows foraging around a rock wall. Suddenly, a flash of blue drew my attention: two male bluebirds fluttered into a nearby tree and perched; the first I've seen this year. I would have stayed and watched them but I was blocking traffic and cars were waiting for me to move. I smiled and waved them on but as I looked again for the bluebirds, they were gone.
- Mary Charbonneau

3/6 - Newcomb, HRM 302: We had a winter wren singing in full voice today, about a month earlier than any other year I have recorded. And there was glare ice everywhere!
- Ellen Rathbone

3/7 - Newcomb, HRM 302: I heard my first red-winged blackbirds this morning; they must have come in over night. They are about a month early. I learned some new things in a tracking class with Vince Walsh, of Kawing Krow Awareness Center, like deer sleep facing west, so they can catch the scent of anything approaching from upwind, and red squirrels follow the same routes through the trees, and all those nipped conifer tips are probably from them doing "trail maintenance," not because they are eating the buds.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/7 - Albany to Hudson, HRM 145-120: At least 3 of 4 pairs of bald eagles in nests along the upper 25 miles of tidewater have begun brooding behavior with one of the adults constantly sitting in their nest. The fourth nest, which fledged young last year, is a question only because the sides are too high to see inside. Today we saw the male fly in and relieve the female who stretched her wings and flew in a beautiful flight north over the river. The male then carefully hunkered down, obviously taking great care to protect the precious egg(s) concealed from view in the depths of the nest. This pair successfully fledged three young eagles last year from the same nest, which was new at this location.
- Steve Andreski

3/7 - Norrie State Park, HRM 85: From the Environmental Center, a flotilla of loose ice flowed north on the flood tide. I watched as a mink climbed out of the icy river and up the patio steps just yards in front of me. We startled each other, then checked each other out, his little nose twitching and his wet brown fur glistening in the sun. Deciding that I was harmless but uninteresting, he scampered around the south edge of the patio and then all the way across the icy cove to the eastern shoreline.
- Dave Lindemann

3/7 - Stone Ridge, HRM 83: As if the balmy, sunshine-filled morning wasn't enough, the John Burroughs Natural History Society field-trippers were treated to quite a scene at Mill Dam Pond in Stone Ridge. While the group admired the adult bald eagle soaring overhead, and the northern pintails, wood ducks, ring-necked duck, and snow goose on the pond, an aerial chase suddenly ensued, with a gull trying to capture a bat on the wing. A kestrel swooped in, grabbed the bat, and flew off in victory, followed by the defeated gull. Unfortunately, signs of the distressed bat population abounded, and we saw several throughout the morning at different stops in Rosendale, High Falls, and Stone Ridge, flying about in broad daylight.
- Laura Heady

3/7 - Croton-on-Hudson, HRM 35: Finches, juncos, titmice - ten, twelve, fluttering, preening, darting little birds crowded the puddles of ice-melt water at the edge of the lawn as they took a communal bath
- Robin Fox

3/7 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Robins and red-winged blackbirds were everywhere. The 80 canvasbacks that were in Croton Bay have left. As I searched for eagles this morning (13), I found hooded mergansers on every woodland pool.
- Christopher Letts

3/8 - Newcomb, HRM 302: It was a glorious spring-like day; I thoroughly expected to see daffodils spring from the ground. A common redpoll was at my office window bird feeder. It was the first one we've had since December.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/8 - Columbia County, HRM 119: We found two frogs, a spring peeper and a wood frog, on the road tonight. I've heard reports of a few peepers in the last day or two.
- Bob Schmidt, Alec Schmidt

3/8 - Rhinebeck, HRM 90: There are still some pine siskins at the thistle feeder, but this morning I saw a few signs of spring: several large Vs of migrating Canada geese, flying high, and two male grackles on a neighbor's maple tree.
- Phyllis Marsteller

3/8 - Ulster Park, HRM 85: They weren't there yesterday, but today the snow drops had blossomed!
- Bill Drakert

3/8 - Croton Point, HRM 34: I saw many fewer eagles this morning; only three, where I had been seeing dozens. The warm days, south wind and increasing photo-period has them leaving for nesting grounds to the north.
- Christopher Letts

3/9 - Glens Falls, HRM 208: What a brutal return to winter weather: heavy wet snow, falling fast in big flakes.
- Ellen Rathbone

3/9 - Cheviot, HRM 106: I heard the first peepers tonight, not the full riot of calls, but a few brave cold little voices were calling out to tell us spring is really here!
- Jude Holdsworth

3/9 - Norrie Point, HRM 86: In mid-afternoon there was a large flock of common mergansers coming out of the mouth of the Enderkill [Indian Kill] into the almost ice-free Hudson. Among the birds was a single male red-breasted merganser, his spiky crest and dark chest standing out unmistakably.
- David Lund

3/9 - Gardiner, HRM 75: We had signs of spring everywhere in our yard this morning: red-winged blackbirds at the feeder, robins digging worms up on the lawn, and a chipmunk I'm sure just out of winter dormancy and looking for food.
- Rebecca Houser, Brian Houser

3/9 - Gardiner, HRM 75: After the rain finally ended, I took a lunch-time walk to see the swollen tributaries of Bridge Creek. We're fortunate that a local hunting club and other landowners have preserved natural areas in the drainage, allowing the creek to expand and retract, and at times flood the small wetlands along its banks. Today, the channels were spilling over from the weekend's snow melt and rainfall. Most of the terraces have had skunk cabbage blooming for over a week.
- Laura Heady

3/9 - Town of Warwick, Orange County, HRM 41: We walked the Loop at Liberty Marsh and spotted three red-winged blackbirds and two beaver swimming. The beaver moved back about three years ago when the Liberty Loop reverted back to wetlands. They are very evident along the Wallkill River that runs adjacent to the Liberty Loop.
- Ann Reichal

3/9 - Putnam Valley, HRM 55.5: The season of flocks is here: over the weekend, I counted no fewer than 29 wild turkeys and about 500 very noisy blackbirds (70% grackles, 30% red-wing blackbirds). This morning, 35 Canada geese, were enjoying the now-exposed grassy area.
- Nancy P. Durr

3/9 - Sandy Hook, NJ: Several pairs of turkey vultures tested the afternoon winds on the mainland just west of Sandy Hook. And then two more, slightly different looking birds headed for a tall dead tree. Something in the look of the vultures led me to the road's shoulder, blinkers on, window down, binoculars out and focused, and, yes, two black vultures - another sighting-from-vehicle without a traffic accident.
- Dery Bennett

3/10 - Staatsburg, HRM 86: There was a large black bird in the northwest corner of the wire mesh screen on the south side of the front portico of the Mills Mansion this afternoon. It had a heavy beak and long tail. It walked the length of the screen and took flight flying to an oak in a stand of trees that separates the house lawn from the old greenhouse area. No sooner had it landed there than it was mobbed by crows. After putting up with the crows for a few minutes, it took off. As it flew, it was apparent that it was almost half again as big as the pursuing crows. A raven.
- Dave Lund

3/10 - Fishkill, HRM 61: If was still pre-dawn dark when I went to retrieve the morning newspaper from our drive. I was mesmerized by the full "worm moon" as it glistened in the western sky behind the stark bare silhouettes of the trees. For a brief while, I stood there in the cool morning air and in the mystical glow of this moon, just listening to the quiet, knowing the good old earth is finally warming in these parts and that earthworms would soon be about.
- Ed Spaeth

3/10 - Westchester County, HRM 28: There was a group of thirty people at Teatown Reservation this evening for training on the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program. As we left the building, a light chorus of many spring peepers greeted us. Spring can't be far away!
- Mary Charbonneau

3/11 - Germantown, HRM 110: While taking the dogs for a walk in Palatine Park, I spied a large bird displaying "woodpecker-ish" behavior. I knew we had a resident pair of red-bellied woodpeckers in the neighborhood, having seen them at my bird feeder, the trees around my yard, and also in these same woods. This bird seemed larger though. Although the light was fading a bit, I stood still and watched until I got a clear silhouette. A pileated! This is the first one I've encountered in my own back yard.
- Laurie Fila

3/11 - Tivoli, HRM 100: It was a joy to see thirty wild turkeys gathered in the waning light of late afternoon, with 6-8 of them jumping around puffing out their feathers and spreading their tails. When I came around half an hour later, the turkeys had disappeared back into the forest. I walked over with my little girl, Samiha, to see if we could find a turkey feather. There were none to be seen, but our reward was a hawk feather instead.
- Jeff Golden

3/11 - Norrie Point, HRM 85: At first we thought we were seeing the impressively-large beaver that periodically shows up in the cove adjacent to the environmental center. Jean Valla McAvoy and I trained our binoculars on the efficiently-swimming mammal to make sure. We both watched for several seconds when Jean voiced what I'd noticed as well - the white chin. We waited for the dive and that confirmed it! A long, sleek body followed by a long, sleek tail. Definitely not a beaver. After working on the river over five years, I had finally seen my first river otter!
- Laurie Fila

3/11 - Croton Point, HRM 34: Last week I found the front half of an 18" eagle-killed striped bass on the beach directly under a white oak feeding perch. Today, from the same spot, I watched an immature chase cormorants, making them dive, for a half hour before it plucked a 20" eel out of the water and flew off.
- Christopher Letts

3/11 - Breezy Point, Queens, New York City: As of today, the piping plovers are back. It seems earlier each year. Last year the first plover arrived March 23.
- Kim Tripp, Jamaica Bay Institute

3/12 - Town of Wappinger: I was out checking on the eagles at first light and for the first time in many months, the river looked like spring. No ice in sight.
- Tom Lake

3/12 - Beacon, HRM 61: To paraphrase a song, "Down by the station, early in the morning, See the Metro-North trains as they go." The Metro-North trains weren't the only things going. Winds were out of the west at 15 mph with gusts to 28 mph. On this very chilly morning, a house sparrow with a mouthful of nesting material was starting to build a nest in a sheltered stairwell light; several gulls were huddled on a small remaining ice pack in a quiet cove on the river.
- Ed Spaeth

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